323.: ricardo to mill1[Reply to 322.—Answered by 325] - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 8 Letters 1819-June 1821 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 8 Letters 1819-1821.
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ricardo to mill
[Reply to 322.—Answered by 325]
Gatcomb Park 9 Sep 1819
My dear Sir
I am to kiss the rod, and take myself seriously to my task! And do you really expect such obedience? I am inclined to shew you a little of my democratic spirit, and tell you plainly that I will not be an author on compulsion, but when I reflect that you have always been a good master and guide to me—that it is to your encouragement that I am indebted for the gratification which my vanity has experienced as an author, I am induced to pause, and not at once rush into open rebellion. If my reasons have not satisfied you, neither have yours removed my objections. I can not agree to enter into any engagement with Mr. Napier to furnish the article required for the Encyclopedia, but I will use my best endeavors to write it. We must both be free as air. He shall himself be convinced, however humiliating to me, that I am not equal to the performance of the task, and he shall be at liberty to reject my work altogether, or to take any ideas from it which may appear to him worth his attention. You must not give him the idea that I can do any thing which he is afterwards to publish, and I confess I should feel more satisfaction if I knew that some other person had undertaken it.
I am not well aware of what I am to do. A history of the Sinking Fund! What has been already done in the work itself on that subject?—I have not my copy here, and cannot send for the particular volume as I do not know under what word the subject is treated. In Rees’ Cyclopedia under the head “Funds” there is an account of the first establishment, and progress of the Sinking Fund; may I depend on the accuracy of that account, and shall I state the same facts in my own words? To me it appears of little consequence to enter into minute details of the state of the fund before 1784, when Mr. Pitt first took it in hand. With respect to the facts concerning this fund I believe there is a great deal of information in Hamilton’s book which I have here, and I expect to meet with much more in the Parliamentary History and Debates, which I have also got here. It would have been of some advantage to me to have been able to consult the annual accounts of finance laid before the House of Commons, but that I cannot do without going to London. If you should think of any book to which I might refer for instruction pray send it to me, and give me your opinion of the sort of arrangement which you think most desirable. Tell me also how long the article should be. Rees has said all he had to say in 4 pages. Will it be necessary for me to go into the subject much more at length?
I came home on tuesday, but at Smith’s earnest request I went over to him again yesterday, and came back at night. We had many discussions on the subject of reform, and I was glad to find that Whishaw conceded so much to me, respecting the non representation of the people in Parliament, as really to give up the whole question. He of course clung to the favorite position of the Whigs that without nomination in some instances the most distinguished talent would be shut out from the House of Commons, which I did not fail to combat to the best of my ability. I pressed him upon the subject of whig reform which in fact is no reform at all, as it proposes to secure to the aristocracy a majority against the people. Some may wish to extend the suffrage more than others, but the test of sincerity is whether they will allow a majority in Parliament to be bona fide the representatives of the interests of the people. On the whole Whishaw was much more of a reformer than he ever appeared to me to be before, and seemed to lament that the Aristocracy were so determined not to yield any thing to their adversaries, he thought the consequences might be serious of the determined resolution of the two violent parties in this contest.
Mr. Mac Donnell, a young Irishman, spoke with admiration of the increased, and increasing knowledge of the people, and he, I am sure is a sincere advocate for at least such a reform as may give to the good sense of the people the choice of their representatives. Previously to our conversation we had been enumerating the different members of the Duke of Beaufort’s family who were in Parliament, and all had expressed indignation at the invariable custom which appears to have prevailed in that family for many generations of palming the younger sons of it on the Public. This was not a bad exemplification of the evils of our present system, as it shewed that the public interest was sacrificed to secure votes in Parliament.—
Mr. Smith has an excellent collection of pamphlets published at the time of the sittings of the “Friends of the
People”. One caught my attention to which there was no author’s name printed, but to which he had put Mackintosh’s name as the writer. It is a Letter to Mr. Pitt on his Apostacy from the cause of Reform, and might with great propriety be now addressed to himself. Smith could not recollect his authority for putting Mackintosh’s name to it, and Whishaw had no recollection of his having written such a pamphlet. Whishaw read it and is now sure that it was written by Mackintosh. There are two or three very strong and able points in it, in answer to the most popular objections to Reform, and when Smith urged these objections in our argument, I opened the book and read the triumphant answers to them. One was that bad as our parliament was in theory it worked well, and therefore it would be unwise to meddle with it. That argument was urged by Pitt in 1792 when the nation was at Peace and prosperous, and then received its proper answer, which can now not be more justly, but more forcibly applied to it. Did you ever see this pamphlet? An old Lady a relation of Mrs. Smith a clever woman enthusiastically attached to the Whigs listened to our discussion with the greatest interest and attention. She has been accustomed to think that the Whigs are the steady supporters of the liberties, and best interests of the people. She told me she agreed in all the opinions I had given in favor of Reform and always thought those were the opinions of the Whigs. I believe her faith in Whig virtue and patriotism is very much shaken by our arguments.
I am exceedingly concerned at what you hint concerning Brougham’s health—I hope that your fears are unfounded and that he may not be another added to the list of able men whose services have been denied to their country by the visitation of one of the most calamitous diseases which afflicts our nature.—
Ever truly Yrs
Do you know where I could get Dr. Price’s work on the sinking fund. Hamilton has really done what Mr. Napier wants, why does he not copy his book? If I write I must quote largely from it. Is there any objection to doing so.