379.: ricardo to malthus2[Reply to 378.—Answered by 388] - 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 malthus
[Reply to 378.—Answered by 388]
Gatcomb Park Septr. 4—1820
My dear Malthus.
I was very desirous of hearing from you and was on the point of telling you so when your letter reached me from Brighton. Mr. Humpy. Austin a neighbour of mine told me he saw you at Paris, and I had heard of your safe arrival in England. I am quite pleased to hear that your journey has been agreeable to you; it could not fail to be so when it gave you the opportunity of seeing and conversing with the principal literary men of France, and of hearing their opinions on the present state of that important country. I hope in that quarter there will be no interruption of the present order of things for sometime to come, but if they do make a movement I trust it will be for the purpose of securing more effectually the liberty of the people, by perfecting as far as human means can perfect the representative system. There is nothing on which the happiness of the great body of the people so much depends.
I did not expect that I had so many readers in France as the number of copies of the French translation which you tell me have been sold would seem to imply. I am not surprised that you found few who understood my theory correctly, and still fewer who were disposed to agree with me. I have not yet succeeded in making many converts in my own country, but I do not despair of seeing the number increase—the few I have are of the proper description, and do not want zeal for the propagation of the true faith.
I have seen Say’s letters to you ; it appears to me that he has said a great deal for the right cause, but not all that could be said. In one point I think he falls into the same error as Torrens in his article in the Edin. Rev. They both appear to think that stagnation in commerce arises from a counter set of commodities not being produced with which the commodities on sale are to be purchased, and they seem to infer that the evil will not be removed till such other commodities are in the market. But surely the true remedy is in regulating future production,—if there is a glut of one commodity produce less of that and more of another but do not let the glut continue till the purchaser chuses to produce the commodity which is more wanted. I am not convinced by any thing Say says of me—he does not understand me, and is frequently at variance with himself when value is the subject he treats of. In his fourth edition 2 Vol Page 36 he says every thing falls in value, as the quantity is increased, by facility of production. Now suppose that you have to pay for what he calls “services productifs” in these commodities which have so fallen in value, will you give the same value if you give for them the same quantity of commodities as before? certainly not, according to his own admission, and yet he maintains page 33 that productive services have not varied if they receive the same quantity of a commodity, notwithstanding the cost of production of that commodity may have fallen from 40 to 30 francs pr. ell. He has two opposite notions about value, and I am sure to be wrong if I differ with either of them.
I am sorry that the Government of France is prejudiced against Political Economy. Whatever differences of opinion may exist amongst writers on that science, they are nevertheless agreed upon many important principles, which are proved to demonstration. By an adherence to these, Governments cannot fail to promote the welfare of the people who are submitted to their sway. What more clear than the advantages which flow from freedom of trade, or than the evils resulting from holding out any peculiar encouragement to population?—
I have been reading your book a second time with great attention but my difference with you remains as firmly rooted as ever. Some of the objections you make to me are merely verbal, no principle is involved in them—the great and leading point in which I think you fundamentally wrong is that which Say has attacked in his letters. On this I feel no sort of doubt. With respect to the word value you have defined it one way, I another. We do not appear to mean the same thing and we should first agree what a standard ought to be, and then examine which approaches nearest to an invariable standard the one you propose, or that which I propose.
I have not heard of any thing further having been written against you either by MCulloch or Torrens, nor do I know that they have any thing in contemplation. M’Culloch has written me two letters since I saw you last, he does not say any thing about value and it will probably be a year or two before he can publish any thing on that subject in the Supplement to the Encyclopedia. In the next Review there will be an article of his on Tithes which I have seen—his principles are right but I do not like his remedy for the existing evil.
Mill has been with me here for a fortnight and will stay sometime longer. He has it in contemplation to write a popular work on Political Economy, in which he will explain the principles which he thinks correct in the most familiar way for the use of learners. It is not his intention to notice any person’s opinions, or to enter into a controversy on the disputed points.—
I have been looking over my first chapter, with a view to make a few alterations in it before the work goes to another edition. I find my task very difficult, but I hope I shall make my opinions more clear and intelligible. I did intend to defend myself against some of your attacks, but on reflection I think that to do myself justice I must say so much that I should very inconveniently enlarge the size of my book, besides which I should be constantly drawing my readers attention from the [ma]in subject. If I defend myself at all, I must do it in [some] separate publication.
Respecting the trial of the Queen I am more than ever convinced of the impolicy and inexpediency of the proceedings which have led to it, and am quite sure that the plea set up that it is a state question is a false one—it is entered into merely to gratify the resentment and hostility of one individual who has himself behaved so ill that whatever he may have to complain of he so fully merits, that no one is bound to enter into his quarrels or wish for punishment to follow offences to which his own conduct has been so instrumental.
Mrs. Ricardo unites with me in kind regards to Mrs. Malthus. Gatcomb is very delightful, I wish you and Mrs. Malthus could give us your company here before we go to London.
Mr. Mill desires to be kindly remembered