355.: ricardo to mcculloch1[Answered by 358] - 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 mcculloch
[Answered by 358]
London 28 Feby. 
My dear Sir
It is a long time since I have written to you, and now I fear I have little to say worthy of engaging your attention. The death of the King has suspended all public business, and the great object of interest with all those by whom I am surrounded is the approaching election. To some it is an object of hope, and to others of fear, but as far as regards the strength of the two parties opposed to each other, I am told by the learned in those matters, that the ensuing parliament will not materially differ from the present one. My seat I believe is very secure, I shall represent the same place for which I am now returned. There has not been the least foundation for the report that I was to be a candidate for the County of Gloucester; I have not been invited to become such, nor if I had been, should I have consented to embark on so perilous an undertaking as a contest with the family of Beaufort. Coll. Torrens will I fear have little chance of success at Rochester, and the probability, I think, is, that he will decline going to a Poll.
I read with great pleasure the able articles which I see every week in the Scotsman. They continue to advocate the good cause without being betrayed into violence and intemperance of language. For the support which you have given to my hint in the House of Commons about the payment of the National Debt I am grateful. It always gives me satisfaction to find my opinion confirmed by yours, and I am glad to know that you think it desirable that we should submit to the necessary sacrifices, to get rid of the overwhelming incumbrance which palsies all our efforts. The Stockholders are a very unreasonable class, and in all their remarks on my proposal, complain bitterly of my thinking they should not receive more than 70 for their 3 pcts. I do not know what they would say to you, who propose to pay them only at 40. A Reformed House of Commons, if ever we should possess so great a good, and if we should not the debt I believe may as well remain as it is, should on this question of price, do strict justice between the payers and receivers of taxes, and not heed the clamour which the selfish on either side should raise. From what I observe I am confident that this will not be the mode in which we shall get rid of the debt. Our burthens may, and will probably, continue to weigh us down for many years to come, but finally they will be forcibly thrown from our shoulders, and the stockholders instead of complaining, with injustice, as I think, that they were not to be paid at 100 for their 3 pcts., will have justly to complain of losing both their principal and interest.
The landholders and those concerned in Agriculture are loud in their complaints of the present corn laws, and will I expect make a forcible appeal to Parliament for their improvement, as they will call it. If we are to have laws to protect the landed interest I agree with the complainers that they should not be in the form in which they now exist, for they are calculated to produce the most mischievous variations in the price of corn which can neither be desirable to the grower nor to the consumer. A permanent tax on importation, to the amount only of the peculiar taxes to which the growth of corn is subject, would be I think the wisest policy, but it is probable that such a limited tax would be far from satisfying the landed interest. We should then have to chuse between a higher permanent tax, or a tax varying with the price. If the object be to sustain the price of corn at 80/pr quarter it might be allowed to enter duty free when at that price—to pay a duty of 1s. pr. qr. when it fell to 79—2 when it fell to 78, and so on. A serious objection against this latter mode is that 80/- would become in some measure the maximum of price, whilst no means could be adopted to fix a minimum. The corn grower would not have much chance of selling his corn under any circumstances above 80/, but there is no limit to the low price, at which, on other occasions, he might be forced to sell. This is a disadvantage to which no other trade is exposed—if a manufacturer be subject to a glut of his commodity, and consequently to low prices, he is also benefited at times by an unusual demand and high prices. It is true the farmer might make allowances for this peculiar disadvantage, and might therefore insist on a greater general average of profits on that account. If he did so, this would of itself be in its operation a tax on corn, for it would necessarily fall on the consumer, and not on the landlord. Before any discussion takes place in the House of Commons I mean to refresh my memory with the substance of your excellent article on the Corn Laws. I do not at present recollect whether you have made any observation on that part of the subject on which I have now been writing.
I was very much pleased with Col. Torrens essay in the last Edinbh. Review. I do not think there is more than one proposition in it which I should be disposed to dispute. Mr. Malthus, who passed 2 or 3 hours with me last week, was fully persuaded, till I undeceived him, that the article was written by you; he could hardly believe that Col. Torrens agreed so completely with the doctrines which both you and I have advocated. Mr. Malthus continues stoutly to deny that demand is only limited by production—he thinks that capital might be very mischievously augmented in a country, and he intends in his new publication to make some remarks on this which he conceives to be an erroneous doctrine on the part of the Reviewer. His book has been in the press a very long time, and must now be nearly ready for publication. In our conversation the other evening he maintained stoutly the opinions which he has long held, and which I cannot but think very far from being the correct ones. On the whole however he appears to me to have made some approximation to us, and I suspect that in his book the differences between us will not appear so great as they do in our conversations.
I hope your other engagements will not prevent you from bestowing a portion of your time on Political Economy. The science is already greatly indebted to you, but the public mind is not yet so informed as not to stand in need of all the aid which your pen can give it—I hope to see an article of yours in the next number of the Review.
I have lately seen Mr. Leonard Horner. On enquiring of him after you I was glad to find he was acquainted with you, and had so good an account to give of your health. Mr. F. Horner was a great loss to the House of Commons, he was a powerful supporter of all the good principles of Political Economy.
I am with the greatest esteem Yours very faithfully