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351.: ricardo to trower1 - 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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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.
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ricardo to trower1
London 28 Decr. 1819
My dear Trower
At length we have obtained a little breathing time, and I am enabled to sit down and have a chat with you. All the important business in the house has been dispatched, and we are now to look forward to a long holiday: indeed I think we deserve one for our labours have been incessant during the last month, and it is matter of surprise to me how ministers undergo the fatigue of midnight watchings, added to their other duties. Mr. Tierney is evidently much the worse for it, although his attention to the business, even of the House, is by no means unremitting he declares himself that he can no longer undergo the harassing duty of a close attendance at the debates of the House of Commons. You, I have no doubt, approve of all the measures which have been adopted to suppress the public discontent2 —I consider them as serious infringements on our liberties, and deprecate them because I expect that they will not allay the causes of discontent, but increase them. The people complain that they have not a due share in the formation of their government, and they are deprived of a portion of that which they really had. To me it appears that3 the radical reformers are very unfairly treated—they are all lumped together—without proof or even examination they are declared to be revolutionists in disguise, and on this assumption they are condemned without being permitted to say one word in their defence. That there was cause for apprehension from the large meetings of the people, and from the publication of atrocious libels, no one can deny, but the efficiency of the laws already in force was never fairly tried, and ministers were not justified in adopting new measures of rigour until the old measures had failed of remedying the evil complained of.
Our finance does not seem so very bad as had been represented—the deficiency this year must be serious, but not so great as to absorb the whole of the Sinking Fund, and unless the whole is absorbed I do not see either the policy or necessity of imposing new taxes. I suppose we shall now go on without any important measure in finance till a new war breaks out, and then it appears to me impossible, if faith is to be kept with the public creditor, to raise the annual supplies for the expences of such war, but by taxes equal to such expenditure.
There must I think be an end of loans; we cannot go on adding to a debt of 800 millions. A great deal more has been said than I intended there should be of an incidental observation of mine respecting the payment of the debt,1 as it usually happens I am attacked by the most opposite parties. By some stockholders I am accused of not doing justice to them, by suggesting that they are not fairly entitled, in ready money, to £100, for £100–3 pcts., but to the market price of £100 stock, or £70. By another party—the landholders, I am accused of wishing to give the lands of the country to the stockholders, and it is more than hinted that I have an interested view in making the proposal. I may be ignorant or prejudiced, but I am not conscious of being influenced by any motives of interest, and it would really be very difficult for me to determine how my particular interest would be affected by the adoption of the measure.
The most serious obstacle which I see against the adoption of the plan is the state of the representation of the House of Commons, which is such as to afford us no security that if we got rid of the present debt, we should not be plunged into another.
The debates have been very interesting—those of the last week1 afforded an opportunity for the display of great eloquence and great talent, both on the part of Sir J Mackintosh and Mr. Canning. This display was admirable, and I am told by those who have long had seats in parliament, has not of late years been surpassed. Plunkett and Brougham also have shewn very great abilities.—
I hope Mrs. Trower and your children are well, and are enjoying without alloy the festivities of this season, usually devoted to mirth and chearfulness. Pray give Mrs. Ricardo’s and my kind regards to them.
I suppose you will be selected for the Sheriff for the ensuing year, in your County. I hope you will find the office an agreeable one, and that it will not be attended with any unusual portion of responsibility from the unsettled state of the times. Adieu my dear Trower,—Believe me ever
Most truly Yrs.
[1 ]MS at University College, London.—Letters to Trower, XXXIII.
[2 ]The ‘Six Acts’.
[3 ]‘even’ is del. here.
[1 ]‘Ricardo’s notion of repaying the National Debt by a tax on real property seems at best a wild sort of notion; and it was not very discreet to let it out in an accidental manner, in a speech upon the employment of the poor. It is after all something of a radical notion, and is not unlikely to be taken up by the Reformers as a happy scheme to get rid of taxation.’ (J. L. Mallet’s MS Diary, entry of 19 Dec. 1819.) See Ricardo’s speech of 16 Dec. 1819, above, V, 34–5.
[1 ]On the Blasphemous Libels and Newspaper Stamp Duties Bills.