trower to ricardo
[Reply to 403.—Answered by 415]
Unsted Wood. Godalming—December 11—1820.
My Dear Ricardo
Many thanks for your Essay on the Funding System. I like it very much. The historical part is clearly given; the view of the subject extremely just, and the arguments by which it is supported are ably and forcibly urged. I subscribe to all its doctrines. You have clearly exposed, and justly censured, the unwise and unwarrantable deviations, from the original plan of Mr. Pitt, which have been made by Lord Henry Petty, and Mr. Vansittart. Alterations to which, I feel persuaded, that great Statesman never would have consented. I perfectly agree with you, that a Sinking Fund, wisely arranged, and religiously preserved, is a national benefit. The powerful effect, which it has in silently converting Revenue into capital, is an important consideration. I dont think you have succeeded in answering fully the objections of Drs. Price and Hamilton to the raising of Loans in the 3 p Cts. I doubt, whether the difference of price and difference of interest, at which the Loans have been contracted in 3 p C., and might have been in 5 p C is nearly equivalent to the different terms on which the capital must be repaid. The contracted market of the 5 p C. would soon have become expanded by the operations of frequent funding in that Stock; and the expansion of market would probably have occasioned speculation to be carried on in that Fund, in preference to 3 p Ct.—
I should like to see your Essay in the shape of a Pamphlet; in which form you might enlarge more than you have done, (or perhaps, than was consistent with the object in view, in writing the article,) upon the policy and practicability of discharging a large portion of the Funded Debt.—
I am glad to find you have been at work upon Malthus. It is quite necessary, that the falacies and inconsistencies in his Book should be detected and exposed. The Bulk of our Political Economists take their notions upon that subject, upon trust; and the deservedly high character Mr. Malthus holds in this branch of Science, gives a weight to his doctrines, which will command the assent of those, who will not take the trouble to think for themselves. His refutation, therefore, ought to go forth to the public. And, if I might venture to suggest, what appears to me the most expedient mode of publishing your Notes, I should recommend, that you publish a new edition of your Principles of Political Economy; and that you throw your Notes on Malthus into an Appendix—Perhaps, you may agree with me in thinking, that you might avail yourself of the criticisms which have been made upon your work, to new cast some of your arguments, and to remove the objections, which have been urged against them; and which, in my mind, apply merely to their form, and not to their substance.—There would be a peculiar propriety in your answering Malthus’ Book in this manner; because his publication is avowedly an attack upon your new and important views of the subject. By printing the Appendix in a smaller type than the Text, and by compressing your remarks on his work as much as is consistent with perspicuity, I do not think it would occupy too large a portion of the Volume. And marginal references in the pages of those parts of your work, which he has attacked, might direct the reader to those parts of the Appendix where he would find Malthus’ objections, and your reply to them.—
I quite agree with you in thinking, that your Notes, published by themselves, would not assume a form sufficiently popular to insure them an easy admission into the public mind. Whereas if you publish them, together with your Book, and thus enable the reader to see how your arguments stand, after the objections to them have been considered, and answered, you will not fail to accomplish your object compleatly, and to establish the soundness of your Principles.—Do not let me hear you urge as an objection, that the new modelling of your Book is a work of time and labor. Recollect, that Malthus has disregarded these considerations in his attack upon your Work; and that his elaborate performance is the fruits of 2 years exertions. Your Book is written for Posterity, as well as for the Economists of the present day, and you must not grudge a few months to render it more perfect; and to brush away the cobwebs with which it has been attempted to surround it.—
I wish very much you would let me see these Notes of yours. During my confinement I made some progress in an abstract of Malthus’ Book, which I have not been able to touch for the last 2 Months; but to which I hope to return after Xmas. I should be glad to compare my comments with yours, and to detect and correct any errors into which I may have fallen; by applying to them the touchstone with which you can furnish me.—
I am afraid you think I am become a very idle fellow; as you think it necessary to apologise “for troubling me” with a quotation from your Notes; which you add, “you would not have done had it imposed upon me any heavier task than reading it”!!! The more you trouble me in this way the better. I delight in the subject; and my complaint is, that circumstanced as I am, I have no inducement to pursue it, and thus suffer myself to be led away to the idler pursuits of the Country.—One would gladly imagine, that the love of science is, of itself, a sufficient inducement to its cultivation. But, I fear such is not the fact. The natural byass of the mind is to idle occupation. Industry comes upon the most active, I believe, only by fits and starts. And we require some stronger stimulus, than the love of study, to impel us to exertion. The mere pleasure of existence, which a Country life affords, the various calls of domestic life, the example and solicitations of ones neighbours, the numerous little duties naturally devolving upon a Country Gentleman, all these occupations and interruptions, which fall in so readily with the natural indolence of the mind, are constantly crossing our love of science, and drawing us off from that steady pursuit of an object, which is essential to successful exertion.—To counteract these powerful adversaries, some strong stimulus is necessary; and among these a congeniality of pursuit among those with whom one lives, and moves, is most important. That stimulus I do not enjoy. If you charge me in this fanciful theory, with an attempt of finding an apology for my own individual indolence, I can refer you to some splendid authorities to justify my observations. But perhaps it will be sufficient to remind you, that that Intellectual Giant, the late Bishop of Landaff, tells us in his own life, that influenced by these considerations he sold his Library when he retired into the Country, feeling no longer any adequate motives for those mental exertions, in which he had ardently engaged, as long as any inducements presented themselves!—
Your comments on page 128 of Malthus are quite satisfactory. You have exposed the fallacy of his argument compleatly. With equal propriety might he contend, that when two men are running a race, they are running in opposite directions, because one outruns the other; or because they run an equal pace, they dont run at all!—
I am going next week into Sussex to my brother in law Mr. Slater’s, at Newick Park, near Uckfield; where we shall pass our Christmas; and from thence I shall go to London for a few days; where I suppose I shall not have any chance of seeing you—
I have got Godwins attack upon Malthus; but I have not yet looked into it. It is somewhat curious, that after a lapse of more than 20 years the writer whose work originally suggested Malthus’ Essay, should send forth to the public an attempted refutation of it. Godwin has a powerful and ingenious mind, but he has given no proofs of a sound judgment. The principle for which Malthus contends, is no doubt undeniable, but I think he has laid himself open to attack by the manner in which he has conducted his argument; I shall read Godwin, although Mr. Mills character of it, does not hold out much temptation.
Our indefatiguable friend Mr. Hume is now exerting himself, I see, in a new line. Pronouncing popular declamations from post to pillar; and occupying the few intervals, that can be left him, in presenting ardent addresses to the exalted Lady at Brandeburgh House! What lasting obligations does her Majesty owe to Messrs. Noel, Moor, and Hume!
Adieu My Dear Ricardo. Mrs. Trower desires to join in kind remembrances to you and Mrs. Ricardo and believe me
Yrs very sincerely