386.: ricardo to mill1[Reply to 385.—Answered by 389] - 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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ricardo to mill
[Reply to 385.—Answered by 389]
Gatcomb Park 25 Sepr. 1820
My dear Sir
The proposition which you have made to me has been incessantly present to my mind since I received your letter.—I have considered it in every way—have not been insensible to the reasons which you urge in favour of it, but after all I cannot bring myself to agree to it. In the first place I cannot believe that I should have the support of the Directors—I am little known to any of them personally, and I cannot think that the sentiments which I have expressed publicly on various occasions, would recommend me much to their favour. I have always understood that support from the Directors was generally bestowed from personal favour and attachment. Secondly,—without any affected modesty, I have not the requisite talents to fill the situation of a Director of the East India Company. My want of information on many points might be removed by study and application, but I have no pretensions to entitle me to take upon myself so important and so responsible an office. You say, or may say, that the present aspirants are more ignorant than I am, that may be true, and yet it would not justify me for thrusting myself into an office for which I am unfit. 3dly. This scheme would not contribute to my happiness. You are mistaken in supposing that because I consider life on the whole as not a very desirable thing to retain after 60, that therefore I am discontented with my situation, or have not objects of immediate interest to employ me. The contrary is the case—I am very comfortable, and am never in want of objects of interest and amusement. I am led to set a light value on life when I consider the many accidents and privations to which we are liable.—In my own case, I have already lost the use of one ear, completely—and am daily losing my teeth, that I have scarcely one that is useful to me. No one bears these serious deprivations with a better temper than myself, yet I cannot help anticipating from certain notices which I sometimes think I have, that many more await me. I have not I assure you seriously quarrelled with life,—I am on very good terms with it, and mean while I have it to make the best of it, but my observation on the loss of esteem and interest which old people generally sustain from their young relations, often indeed from their own imperfections and misbehaviour, but sometimes from the want of indulgence and consideration on the part of the young, convinces me that general happiness would be best promoted if death visited us on an average at an earlier period than he now does. If I were an East India Director I should be kept from my family more than I now am—I should not be able to absent myself from London for six months together as I now do; In addition to the business of the House of Commons I should be almost daily obliged to go into the city to attend the duties of my office. Notwithstanding then that I am aware of the increase of dignity which the situation would give me (though by the by I am no seeker after increased dignities)—of the many advantages which my family or friends might derive from the power which it would give me, and notwithstanding my regard for your welfare, which is, and ever will be, an object of great interest to me, it would be unwise in me to hazard the step which you recommend.
Mr. M’Culloch may be a good judge of the probability of success in such cases as these, and I am very much flattered by the favorable opinion he expressed of my success, if I would undergo the canvas; yet I cannot help thinking that his opinion was formed on a very imperfect knowledge of my qualifications, and of the degree of influence I enjoy in the city, and among East India Proprietors. As to my qualifications he may have derived his information from your too partial report, and of my influence he may judge by my reputed wealth, very unsafe criterions by which to arrive at a correct judgement. I believe that no man with half my real wealth, or with one fourth my reputed wealth, ever had so little influence as I possess. I have never taken the least trouble to obtain it. Under these circumstances my dear friend I must decline moving in this business.