330.: ricardo to trower1[Reply to 327.—Answered by 339] - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
First published by Cambridge University Press in 1951. Copyright 1951, 1952, 1955, 1973 by the Royal Economic Society. This edition of The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo is published by Liberty Fund, Inc., under license from the Royal Economic Society.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
ricardo to trower
[Reply to 327.—Answered by 339]
Gatcomb Park 25 Sep—1819
My dear Trower
I was well pleased to see your well known handwriting after the very long interval which had elapsed since I received your last letter. I was on the point of writing to you, to shew you that I was not disposed to relinquish my intercourse with you, imperfect as it is; when your letter arrived, and my murmuring ceased.
By rising early in the morning I have two hours to myself for any object I may have in view, without interruption even when visitors are in my house, of course when I am alone or when my visitors are those who are nearly related to me there is much more time in the course of the day that I can call my own. It is easier to find time, than to use it profitably. I have been very much drawn away from all serious occupation since I have been in the country by the desire I have felt to enjoy the fineness of the weather. I cannot often refuse the solicitations of my two little girls to accompany them in their morning rides and we are often to be met with in full canter on our respective ponies.
For the last fortnight I have confined myself a good deal to my desk, endeavouring to put my thoughts on paper on the subject of the Sinking Fund. I was requested to do so by Mill, who had been applied to by Mr. Napier to forward such a request to me. Mr. Napier is the Editor of the Supplement to the Encyclopedia Britannica, and he wished for an article on the Sinking fund, from me, to appear in the next half volume of his work. I, at first, refused, but on being strongly urged to do it by Mill, I consented to make the attempt. I have made it, but I have not succeeded, and it is now a very doubtful matter whether I shall persevere in my task. The truth is that Dr. Hamilton’s book on the Sinking Fund is so good that very little of original observations can be made on the subject. It would be unjust not to refer to him on all occasions, and if you do so it may be asked whether you have done any thing yourself? The only point of difference between Dr. H and me is this,—he would I believe support the Sinking Fund, I would get rid of it entirely, or leave it at that small amount as to give security that if the revenue suffered any unexpected defalcation there was this surplus to apply to. I am equally impressed with Dr. Hamilton with the importance of diminishing our enormous debt, the question with me is, will the Sinking Fund effect it? I am persuaded that it never will, for it will never be safe from the gripe of ministers. Have you virtue enough to pay a great part of your debt by the sacrifice of a portion of your property? This is the question to be put to the country—if they answer in the negative, then I say the next best thing is to submit to the burden of your debt without aggravating it by new imposts which will certainly be misapplied. But I must remember that I am not now writing my essay, and that I must not forestal the only point on which I think I am entitled to attention.
I have pretty nearly discarded the subject of bullion from my mind. Every thing regarding its price and the foreign exchanges is going on so much to my satisfaction that I have nothing to wish for. I repose in full confidence on the wise checks which have been put on the Bank Directors—if they had been unrestrained they would again have mistaken the object which they ought to have in view; instead of taking measures to equalise the value of paper and gold they would have been thinking of the public good, and under a mistaken idea of promoting that, they would have administered an increased dose of paper.
On the subject of taxation a wide field is open for those, who will patiently think, to give instruction to the Public; but the first step must be to make the first principles of Political Economy known, and that remains yet to be done. Without correct notions of rent, no man can be made to understand that a land tax does not ultimately fall on the landlord, and it would be in vain to talk to him, till he did admit the new doctrine on the subject of rent. We are advancing, and the discussion which Malthus’ new work will provoke as well as the other productions which we lately have had, and which we shall have, will tend to the diffusion of right principles. I am very much mistaken indeed if the delay in the publication of Malthus book will not have had the effect of very much improving it. I think I perceive in him a very sensible approach, under different words, to opinions which at first appeared to him most preposterous and extravagant.
This is as it should be. Even Sismondi’s errors will be of use to the diffusion of correct opinions. Why do not you give your assistance? It is a path in which much may be done, and in which the stimulus of public opinion and public approbation for success, is not wanting. The truth is you are an idle fellow, and are glad to avail yourself of any excuse, such as a want of time and an abundance of other occupations, rather than undergo the toil of writing.
One word on the Manchester proceedings. I am glad to find that the opinion is general amongst all those whom I meet or converse with that the interference of the Magistrates at the late meeting was unwise and inexpedient. I hope it will appear too that it was illegal, for I hope that no law can be produced to justify the violent interference of magistrates to dissolve a meeting of the people, the avowed object of which was to petition legally for a redress of real or imagined grievances. If the right to petition is only to be exercised at the discretion of magistrates, or of any other body in the state, then it is a farce to call us a free people. These large assemblages of the people may be regretted—they may in their consequences be productive of mischief, but if the security of our freedom depend on our right to assemble and state our wrongs, which in the absence of real representation I believe it does, then we must patiently suffer the lesser evil to avoid the greater.
Accept my sincere wishes that Mrs. Trower may pass through her time of anxiety with safety. My friend Malthus would not have thought your case one which required his skill, had he been a physician, and possessed of a remedy to prevent the too great increase of population. You would be only legally and beneficially employed in furnishing citizens to the state, whose exertions might benefit, but whose reasonable wants could not injure the rest of the community. Mrs. Ricardo and my family are well they unite with me in kind regards to Mrs. Trower. I am ever my dear Trower