381.: ricardo to mcculloch1[Reply to 377] - 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
[Reply to 377]
Gatcomb Park Minchinhampton 15 Septr. 1820
My dear Sir
I have read your article on Tithes with great satisfaction. You have made that clear which to many minds was before obscure, and I hope have laid the foundation for some beneficial change in this most oppressive and irritating tax. I do not quite agree with you in the justice of subjecting those to the tax whose lands have hitherto been exempted from it. Many tithe free farms are yearly brought to market, and an additional price is paid for them in consequence of the peculiar advantage they enjoy. It would surely be very unjust to subject such a proprietor to a tax after his paying a valuable consideration to be exempted from it. I think that it would be almost equally unjust to impose this tax on those who have retained the property in their own hands for the three hundred and fifty years of which you speak. I also differ with you on the expediency of substituting for the tithes, a poundage on rents; this would be to tax exclusively a particular class of the community. I speak without any consideration of my interest as a landholder, and I assure you that I am not possessed of any tithe free land.
I am glad that you are about preparing an article on the National Debt, and on the different plans suggested for paying it off. I am not well acquainted with the objections which are made to the discharging ourselves from this heavy burden. The principal one that I have heard, is the large quantity of land which a proprietor would be obliged to part with in order to redeem himself from the payment of his annual taxes. It is difficult to make these men understand that the payment of £1000 pr. annm., is a heavier burden than the payment of £20000 once for all. I suspect too that they imagine their consequence would be lessened by so great a diminution of their landed property as the payment of the debt would require, and perhaps they might be in some measure right in this opinion if the payment did not affect them all and did not leave them when made precisely in the same relative situation to each other as that in which they now stand. Another objection which I have heard, and which I think is the most plausible, is that it would relieve from taxation all those who are in professions, and whose incomes are derived from wages or salaries. This I have endeavored to answer in my article, but it requires your talents to give it weight. There is some difficulty with respect to the time required for such an immense operation, and the means of effecting it. I have sometimes thought that it would be desirable to issue a particular paper money to facilitate the payment. Suppose Government were to commence the business by issuing exchequer bills to the holders of 50 millions of stock, which bills should be receivable in payment of the contributions of capitalists, and if not used for that purpose, then payable in money on a day to be fixed; fifty millions might by these means be paid off without any considerable demand of the circulating medium of the country, and by immediately reissuing the bills, and renewing the operation from time to time, the whole payment might be effected in a moderate time. Some precautions would be necessary to prevent people from concealing their property, or sending it abroad, to withdraw it from a share of the burden. Mr. Brougham made an objection in the house to the plan, that it would throw the landed property of the country into the hands of low and designing attornies, but his objection is I think easily answered. By act of Parliament the title of all land sold for the purpose of raising money necessary for the landholders contribution should be held to be a perfect title, whatever might be its insufficiency for any other sale. Suppose A paid it, and that hereafter it should appear to be the property of B—B would suffer no injury or injustice, for had he been before possessed of it, he must have equally with A, have contributed the portion to which the act has given a good title. No landed property in the country would have a better title, and it would therefore be preferred above all other by a purchaser—it could never require the interference or advice of low attornies. Nothing further offers itself to me on this subject at the present moment.
I receive the Scotsman regularly here. When Parliament meets for business I will thank you to send it to me again in London. I have not seen my brother Ralph since I received your letter. As he is become a father as well as a husband, we do not see each other out of the neighborhood of London so often as heretofore.
I agree in every thing you say about the Queen. The question of her innocence or guilt is not the important one,—she has been abominably treated, and no grounds have been, or can be stated, to prove this disgusting enquiry either just, or necessary for the public good.—
I am with great esteem Very faithfully Yours