426.: ricardo to trower1[Reply to 423] - 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 trower
[Reply to 423]
Upper Brook Street 21 April 1821
My Dear Trower
I was very much concerned to hear of the accident you had met with; and yet considering how very near you were to a result much more serious I ought rather to congratulate you on your narrow escape, than condole with you on the slight injury you have received. Since receiving your letter I have heard of you twice; once from Mr. Turner, when you were in town for a day, and another time from your brother, whom I accidentally met in the street. I am glad to find that you are getting well.
Our discussions in the House on the currency question, are I hope now closed—I trust that we shall have no more proposals to deviate from the course which after due consideration has been determined on.
Your view of Godwin’s book exactly agrees with mine. The real question at issue is not whether under favorable circumstances population will double in 25 or in 50 years, but whether it has not a tendency to increase faster than the capital which is to employ it, and if so what measures of legislation should be pursued. It must be manifest that the principle of population is strong enough for human happiness, and it neither wants poor laws nor any other laws to encourage it.
Mr. Mill’s book is not yet quite finished, though in a state of great forwardness. His object is to give a clear exposition of all the elementary principles of Political Economy as they are at present understood. He does not mean to notice any other writer, nor to attempt to controvert the errors into which he may think they have fallen. It may probably be a month or two before his book will be published.
The catholic bill is lost. I am sorry for it, though I cannot but think that it is only delayed. You are undoubtedly right, “the real fear is the ultimate consequences of that spirit of cession in which the measure originates. Test and Corporation Acts, Tithes, Church Establishments these are the real foundation of the alarms.” If by good legislation the resources of Ireland were fairly brought forth, they would contribute greatly to the wealth of the United Kingdom. What a quantity of capital might be advantageously employed in that country, and no doubt would be, if there were not fears for its security in so disturbed a region. This resource is however in store for us. We landholders have formidable rivals in the landholders of that country. Our alarm is excited by the rivalship and competition of Poland, Russia and America, but we never think of Ireland the most formidable of them all. The tillage of Ireland continues uniformly to increase and will I have no doubt for many years to come. When the improvements in husbandry so well followed in England are introduced into that country the effects must be very marked on the price of corn, and on the interests of English landlords.
I have worked very hard in the Agricultural Committee and I hope not without effect in correcting mistaken principles. We have had many farmers before us who have given a sad but I believe a true picture of the great prevalence of distress. These farmers were questioned as to remedies, and were all for protecting duties, amounting almost to the prohibition of foreign corn. It was my business to shew how little they were qualified to be advisers on this important question, by exposing their ignorance of the first principles which should guide our judgments.
Mr. Attwood, a great publisher of Essays on the currency, was called before us, and if he were to be believed, there is no other cause for a fall of prices but an increase in the value of money. His claims to infallibility have been sifted by Huskisson and myself, and I believe it will appear that he is no great master of the science. Mr. Hodgson and Mr. Tooke have been our best informed witnesses. Mr. Hodgson is a merchant and corn dealer of Liverpool, who expends annually a large sum of money in sending people about the country to examine into the state of the crop just before it is reaped. They do so by going from field to field at 2 or 3 miles distance from each other, and actually counting the ears, and weighing the grains in a square foot or yard; by which means they are enabled to compare it with the crops of former years. The last appears to have been an unusually abundant crop, greater than for many years before. This evidence is confirmed by more than one land surveyor. Mr. Tooke who is a good political economist gave us some valuable information of the effect of abundance on price, particularly with such a corn law as is now established, when we are deprived of the markets of other countries, until our prices are below theirs.
This is in fact the present cause of the great depression in the price of corn. A little effect may be ascribed to the currency; but abundance is the great operating cause.
You will have seen that we made a stand for good principles on the question of the Timber duties, without success at the present moment, but not I hope without making some impression. The debate was very briefly and very badly reported.
Mrs. Ricardo joins with me in kind remembrances to Mrs. Trower.