ricardo to trower
[Reply to 376.—Answered by 384]
I have been here since the 9th. of Augt.
Gatcomb Park 15 Sepr.—1820.
My dear Trower
I learnt with great concern that you had had the misfortune to dislocate your knee. Besides the pain which you must have endured, it was a cruel grievance to one so fond of moving about as you are to be confined for so great a length of time, as you already had been when you wrote, on the sopha. I hope you were able to resume your accustomed active pursuits before that interesting day to most country gentlemen, the 1st. of Septr., and that the next account I receive from you will be that you are quite recovered, and looking after your plantations and improvements with the same interest and enjoyment as hertofore.
I have suffered too long a time to elapse without writing to you, but Mr. Mill is partly to blame. He has been staying with me for more than three weeks, and as he is fond of exercise we have taken advantage of the fineness of the weather, and have been pretty constantly on the move. Our last excursion was down the Wye from Ross to Chepstow—From Chepstow we went to Malvern and passed a few days with my son who is settled in that neighbourhood. Mill speaks well of my house and grounds at Gatcomb, but he greatly prefers those of my son. The soil about us is poor, the trees are chiefly beech which grow very luxuriantly, but we have few oaks. In the country where my son lives the soil is good and oaks flourish better than any other tree; the ground too is beautifully diversified. I wish you would come to see me, and let me shew you the various beautiful spot[s] within a moderate circuit of us. We were greatly delighted with the scenery on the Banks of the Wye. Report has not exaggerated its beauty—my expectations were at any rate surpassed. We travelled in a low phaeton which I have lately bought, and to save a few miles in our journey, and also to see some country which we had not before visited, we resolved to cross the Severn in a boat, instead of going over the bridge at Gloucester. When we arrived at the Ferry, opposite Newnham, it was low water, and by the direction of the boatman I drove first over the dry sand, and then into the water alongside the boat which was ready to receive us. I proceeded with perfect safety till I got within 3 or 4 feet of the boat, when the carriage began to sink in the sand, and the horses to plunge violently in their efforts to extricate themselves from the place where they also were sinking. The men became greatly alarmed at our awkward situation, in a moment half a dozen of them, besides my servant, were in the water, and if they had not united their strength to support us on the side which was sinking fastest, Mr. Mill, two young ladies who were behind, and myself, would have been all overturned into the water. The first object was to disengage the horses from the carriage, the next to carry us into the boat. The poor horses were so exhausted with their struggles that they lay on the ground with their heads just above water without making any further effort to get out and for a short time I thought I should lose them both. At length however they got on their legs, and reached firmer ground, but it was nearly an hour before the carriage was lifted up from the sand in which it had sunk. By the aid of levers and the united strength of the men this was at last effected. With the utmost difficulty the horses were made to get into the boat. The carriage was put in after them, and we all at length landed in safety at Newnham, with the very slightest damage to the harness, and the horses quite uninjured. Our two young ladies behaved like heroines.
I am glad that you have been employing your leisure time in reading Malthus, and examining the grounds of his difference with me. I have turned to Page 125 of his work as you requested and I think it must be admitted that when corn rises from difficulty of producing it, manufactures will generally fall from facility of producing them, which will make a rise of wages on account of a rise in the price of corn often unnecessary. I quite agree with you that the passage in 128 is inconsistent with this doctrine for in one place he says when corn is high, labour will command a great quantity of other things besides corn, and in the other he says that under the same circumstances it will command only a small quantity of them. The passage in 128 is very faulty, and proceeds on the supposition that “when corn compared with labour is dear, labour compared with corn must necessarily be cheap.” But to say that corn rises and will therefore command more labour, is a very different thing from saying that labour falls and therefore will command less corn; for when we talk of a thing rising or falling we always mean in reference to something which we suppose does not move. Because labour falls in reference to corn it does not necessarily undergo any variation in reference to other things, and therefore in fact labour does not fall—it is improper to say it does, the truth being that labour is of the same value, but one of the commodities on which wages are expended has risen in value, not only in reference to labour, but in reference to every thing else. Now if we suppose that the same circumstances which are favorable to a rise of corn are also favorable to a fall of manufactures, which was Mr. Malthus doctrine Page 125—not only will labour not fall in reference to manufactured commodities, when it falls in reference to corn, but it will do exactly the contrary, it will rise in reference to those commodities while it falls relatively to corn. This however would not be the correct way of explaining what was taking place—I should say that labour continued uniformly of the same value, but that corn one of the objects on which wages were expended rose in value, while manufactured goods the other objects on which wages were expended fell in value.
Mr. Malthus argument for using a mean between corn and labour as a standard and measure of value is full of fallacy when patiently examined. Corn rises because it is more difficult to produce it. In consequence of the rise of this prime necessary, labour rises also, but not in the same degree in which corn rises. Now here are two things which rise in value, and Mr. Malthus, chuses a mean between the two as a good measure of value. Altho’ they both rise in value yet comparing them with each other and making each the measure of the other, one will appear to fall. Here then says Mr. M I have two commodities which vary in opposite directions, and therefore a mean between them is an admirable measure of value. Suppose corn to rise from 80 to 100 pr. quarter, and labour from 10 to 11/- pr. week, nobody would deny that they both rose. Now compare corn and labour, a quarter of corn at 80/would command 8 weeks labour, at 100/- it will command more than 9 weeks labour. Corn has risen as compared to labour and is therefore dear, but if corn is dear compared with labour, labour must be cheap as compared with corn. 8 weeks labour would command a quarter of corn, 9 weeks labour must now be given for it, who can doubt that labour is cheap? Do you not observe that the whole argument from beginning to end is completely fallacious? and that a commodity really become dear is stated to be cheap?
I do not think that Mr. Malthus is wrong in Page 145. I think he means to say that if you diminish the fertility of the land so much that the whole produce must go to the cultivators there can neither be surplus produce to afford profit or rent. If it should be even enough to afford a trifling profit there could be no rent because no worse land could be taken into cultivation. Now says Mr. Malthus if you diminish the fertility of the land one half you will place us in this condition. This is a question of fact and degree, not of principle, and it is one of my complaints against him that he does not answer your principle but wishes to shew that you have taken your case so wide, that it could under no circumstances exist; but however limited might be your case, the same principle is involved, and it is that which should be answered.
No commodity is raised unless there is a demand for it. If it were raised without a demand, it would sink in value, and not afford the price necessary to remunerate the labour bestowed upon it, and to afford the usual profits of stock. If this be true, in what respect is corn different from silk, wine, or sugar? Those who manufacture, or grow, these commodities, will be losers if they produce more than is equal to the demand at a certain price, but is not the producer of corn in the same condition? he will not raise corn if there be no demand for it at the remunerating price. If any man wishes to increase his capital he produces that which he has good reason to think he can sell at a remunerating price. It is with money he is to pay labour, and it is money which he seeks to obtain. He may indeed anticipate that the commodity which will be immediately demanded in greater quantity than before will be corn, but then he will produce that as a means to an end, in the same way as he would produce any other commodity. Corn is produced because it is immediately demanded, or an additional demand for it is reasonably anticipated, but we should not on that account be justified in saying that corn raises up its own demanders, or that its plenty bribes people to come into existence, because that always supposes a price of corn below the natural or remunerating price, and it is no man’s interest to produce it on such terms. An increased demand for labour is not immediately supplied by an additional number of people—higher wages induce the same number of people to do more work. An increase of capital, then, and a demand for labour, does not necessarily produce an increased demand for food, but an increased demand for other things agreeable to the labourer. It is those things which will be produced in the first instance, and corn will not be demanded, in any unusual quantity, till the number of children are increased: then the commodities demanded in the first instance will be relinquished, and an increased demand will take place for corn. I hope you will think this a justification of the opinion which I have given that corn does not raise up demanders, any more than coats raise up wearers, or wine, wine drinkers. A producer has a right to demand either his own commodity or some other. If he intends to add to his capital he naturally seeks to possess himself of that commodity which will be in demand by those whose labour he wishes to dispose of: it may be corn, but there is no more necessity for its being corn than cloth, shoes, stockings, tea, sugar, iron or any other thing. I do not think then with you, that a demand for labour is the same thing as a supply of necessaries. Labour and necessaries may come in additional quantity into the market at the same time in which case neither of them will fall; they will both be supplied and demanded in greater abundance. Suppose the necessaries only to come into the market in additional quantity, that will not occasion any greater demand for labour than if an additional quantity of iron was brought to market, for no one wishes to consume it. The way most effectually to increase capital is to produce a commodity that you know will be demanded and consequently will not fall in value, not one that will not be demanded and will fall in value. Pray understand that I am answering Mr. Malthus who contends that there is something peculiar about corn which gives it a character of being able to raise up demanders different from all other things—I contend on the contrary, that there is no difference between them that nothing is produced until it is wanted unless from mistake and miscalculation.
You must be tired of reading this long letter. One word only about the Queen. Whatever her conduct may have been can ministers shew that the real interests of the country required a bill of pains and penalties under the circumstances of the cruel usage she has received? Every one must answer this question in the negative.
Mrs. Ricardo unites with me in kind compts. to Mrs. Trower.
Very truly Yours
There is nothing new in the second edition of my book.