ricardo to trower
[Reply to 397.—Answered by 410]
Gatcomb 26 Novr. 1820
My Dear Trower
Hardly a day passes, without some new and extraordinary circumstance occurring, to keep up the agitation in the public mind, respecting the Queen. What could induce ministers to prorogue parliament without finally concluding their proceedings against this persecuted woman? If they thought the bill expedient, why did they not send it to the commons? If they thought a vote of censure necessary, as appears to be your opinion, why not now propose it to parliament. What good can be expected from putting off this question, which so engrosses the public attention, for two months longer, and put it off too in such a manner, by proroguing the parliament without a speech from the throne? Can the Queen do otherwise than court the mob? Has she any hopes of safety from the malignancy of her enemies but in the support of the people. To that she has hitherto been indebted for protection;—without it she would have been crushed by her enemies; and while these proceedings are hanging over her head she will be greatly to blame if she suffers the spirit which has been raised in her favor to subside.
I am glad that you are pleased with the proceedings in the House of Lords stopping where they did. For my part I think they should never have commenced, and never can I consent to hold up my hand to censure or degrade the Queen, with the knowledge I have of the means which have been used to ruin her. If she has had an adulterous connection with Bergami, which I think is by no means proved, never had woman so many reasons of justification to urge in extenuation of her fault. Considering all the circumstances, a veil of oblivion should have been thrown over her conduct, instead of employing the basest means for detecting and proving her guilt. I most heartily join in feelings of indignation against all the Queen’s persecutors, and of compassion for her. Though it is to be lamented that she is the rallying point of the discontented and disaffected—she is absolutely driven to such an alliance, and the only way of detaching her from her present connections is to cease to persecute her.
I very much fear that we shall have no change of ministers, and I am not sanguine, if we have, in my hopes of their adopting the wise measures which you think so essential to our safety, and future prosperity. What ministers, with the present constitution of the House of Commons, can succeed in sweeping away many of our commercial restraints, particularly the greatest, the restraints on the importation of corn? What ministers will dare to encounter our financial difficulties, in the only way in which they should be met, or will seriously commence the work of retrenchment in our expences? We may probably find men who will remove the disabilities from the Roman catholics, and make some amendments in our criminal laws, but this will be all, we must not expect much more improvement, and when we are involved in another war, then will come the time for those efforts which, if we were wise, we ought to make now.
I am glad to find that you do not think our difference great on the question which we have lately been discussing.—I fully expected that we should approximate in our opinions when we came fully to understand each other. I have been lately employed in writing notes on Mr. Malthus work, with a view to defend my opinions, when fairly attacked—to place them in a true light, when unintentionally mistated—and to detect the fallacies which appeared to me to lurk under the author’s arguments. My task is now ended, but with what success must be left to the judgment of others. The whole might occupy about 150 pages if printed. It is not however probable that I shall publish them, because they are not in an inviting form, and would consequently have few readers. Wherever I have met a passage against which I have an objection to make I have quoted the few first words of it, and then written my comments,—in this way for example Page 103 “If we were determined &c. &c.” [“]If equal capitals yielded commodities of nearly equal value, there might be some grounds for this argument; but, as from a capital employed in valuable machinery, such as steam engines &c. a commodity of a very different value is obtained, than from a capital of the same value, employed chiefly in the support of labour, it is at once obvious that the one term thought to be the more correct by Mr. Malthus, would be the most incorrect that could be imagined.” This being a short comment I have copied it as a specimen, and you will from it be able to judge how little interest general readers would take in such a performance. I have also added a few comments on M. Say’s letter to Malthus, which I think is written with more self satisfaction than its merit deserves. I remember a remark of yours on a passage in Page 128 of Malthus work, and as I fully agree with you in your comments, and you will only have the trouble of reading what I write, I am tempted though it is long to copy what I have said as another specimen of my labours. Page 128. “Though neither of these two objects, &c. &c.” “A complete fallacy seems to me to be involved in the whole of this argument. Corn is a variable commodity says Mr. Malthus, and so is labour variable, but they always vary in different directions: if therefore I take a mean between the two, I shall probably obtain a measure of value approaching to the character of invariability. Now is it true? do corn and labour vary in different directions? When corn rises in relative value to labour, labour falls in relative value to corn, and this is called varying in different directions. When cloth rises in price, it rises as compared with gold, and gold falls as compared with cloth; but this does not prove that they vary in different directions, for at the same time gold may have risen as compared with iron, hats, leather and every other commodity except cloth. What then would be the fact? that they had varied in the same direction;—gold may have risen 10 pc. in value compared with all things but cloth, and cloth may have risen 25 pc. compared with all things, excepting with gold, relatively to which it would have risen only 15 pc. We should think it strange in these circumstances to say that we should in chusing a measure of value take a mean between cloth and gold because they varied different ways, when it is absolutely demonstrable that they have varied the same way. This is however what Mr. Malthus has done in respect to corn and labour. A country finds increasing difficulties in supplying the corn necessary for a continually increasing population, and in consequence corn rises as compared with all other commodities. As corn rises, which forms so material an article of consumption to the labourer, though not the only one, labour also rises, but not so much as corn;—if corn rises 20 pc. labour may probably rise 10 pc. In these circumstances, estimated in corn, labour appears to have fallen—estimated in labour corn appears to have risen, but it is evident that they have both risen though in different degrees for they will both be more valuable estimated in all other commodities. A mean then is taken between two commodities which are confessedly variable, and it is taken on the principle that the variation of one, corrects the effects of the variation in the other; as however I have proved that they vary in the same direction, I hope Mr. Malthus will see the expediency of relinquishing so imperfect, and so variable a standard. From Mr. Malthus’ argument in this place, one would suppose that labour fell when corn rose, and consequently that with a given quantity of iron, leather, cloth &c. &c., more labour would be obtained; the contrary is the fact; labour as well as corn rises as compared with these commodities. Mr. Malthus says so himself in Page 125 ‘In the progress of improvement and civilization it generally happens, that when labour commands the smallest quantity of food, it commands the greatest quantity of other commodities,’ what is this but saying that when a great quantity of other commodities is given for food, a great quantity of other things is also given for labour; or in other words that when food rises, labour rises?” I would not have troubled you with this if it imposed any heavier task on yo[u than] reading it.
I have not seen Godwin’s answer to Malthus. Mill writes to me that it is a most contemptible performance.
I send you my article on the Sinking Fund. Tell me freely your opinion of it.
I believe they have lowered the price of labour here, but I, as a gentleman I suppose always pay the same. Mrs. Ricardo unites with me in kind regards to Mrs. Trower. Believe me
Ever my dr. Trower Yrs. truly
My man filled my lamp too full of oil I have let 3 drops fall on the first sheet pray take it with all its imperfections.