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malthus to sismondi1 - 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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malthus to sismondi1
E I Coll March 12th 1821.
If you knew the inveterate habits of indolence which frequently overcome my best intentions towards my correspondents, and how much in consequence, I am in arrear to my friends in Paris, America, and the East Indies, at this moment I might perhaps indulge in some hope of forgiveness for my delay in answering your very kind communications. As it is, I must appear to you quite inexcusable, and I have only to throw myself on your mercy for pardon: I at first waited for an opportunity of sending a letter to Geneva by a friend and I have often observed that, when the opportunity does not readily occur, there is no knowing how long such a plea for indolence may last.
I can assure you most sincerely that your letter gave me great pleasure. It was very gratifying to me to find that you thought me on the whole successful in my controversy with Mr Ricardo, and that the points on which you differed from me were fewer than I had supposed. I was aware however from the conversations I had the pleasure of having with you at Sir James Mackintosh’s that there were many points of the subject on which we should not disagree, and on that account perhaps I was the more surprised at some observations which I found in your work on the subject of population. But you have explained the source of them. So many misconceptions have been in circulation respecting what I have said in my work on population, that without referring to it, it is very easy to receive impressions, that it contains opinions and doctrines which are not to be found in it.
I have lately been attacked, after a delay of twenty years, by my old antagonist Mr Godwin; but it is a very poor and feeble performance, and the only semblance of an argument in it is founded upon a miscalculation.
The Edinburgh Review has so entirely adopted Mr Ricardo’s system of Political Economy that it is probable neither you nor I shall be mentioned in it. I know indeed that a review of your work was written and sent, but it appears to have been rejected through the influence of the gentleman1 who is the principal writer in the department of Political Economy, and who is known to have adopted fully and entirely all Mr Ricardo’s views. The article however which you have so ably controverted in the sheet you were so good as to send me was written by another convert of the name of Torrens.2 In general however I should say that though Mr Ricardo’s doctrines have certainly captivated some very able men, they are not [? spread]3 very much among the great body of political Economists4 and I am inclined to think that many of them will not stand the tests of examination and experience.
You will be rather pleased to hear that he has altered his opinions on the subject of the effect of machinery on the labouring classes of society, and in a new edition which he is about to publish of his work, will I believe go so far as to say that it may not only for a time, but permanently injure the labourer, although it may increase the neat produce. This is going just as far or perhaps a little farther than I should go, but the view which he takes of the subject is somewhat different.
I am glad to hear that you are preparing a new edition.1 Iamengaged in a similar occupation.
I hope you are right respecting the effects of the equal division of landed property among children, as it seems to be the tendency of Europe at present. It may be excusable in an Englishman to be prejudiced in favour of a different system of property which for so long a time has appeared to be productive of favourable results. There is one part of the economy of Italy which I cannot understand. How does it happen that so many farms are let at half produce, when the difference of their fertility must be very great. The half of the produce which might be easily paid from a rich soil, I should think impossible to be paid from a poor soil.
I am sorry you are not likely to settle in Paris, as I should have had a better chance of seeing you.
Believe me dear Sir with great respect and esteem truly Yours,
T. R. Malthus]
[1 ]Addressed: ‘A Monsr / Mons Simonde de Sismondi / Geneve / Suisse’.—MS in Biblioteca Comunale, Pescia (Tuscany). [Published by P. Jannaccone in Rivista di Storia Economica, 1942, p. 104–5.]
[2 ]The article on Owen in the Edinburgh Review (see above, p. 159, n. 2) contained also a lengthy criticism of Sismondi’s views. Sismondi replied with an article entitled ‘Examen de cette question: Le pouvoir de consommer s’accroit-il toujours dans la société, avec le pouvoir de produire?’ in Annales de Législation et de Jurisprudence, tome 1, 1820, pp. 111–144. He refers to the author of the Edinburgh Review article as ‘le disciple de M. Ricardo’ and remarks: ‘On dit, que le maître luimême l’a approuvé, et que les autres disciples y reconnaissent leur profession de foi la plus claire.’ (p. 112.) It is curious, in view of Malthus’ statement, that in reprinting his article in the 2nd ed. of his Nouveaux principes, 1827, under the new title ‘Examen d’une réfutation des Nouveaux principes d’économie politique, publié dans la Revue d’Edinburgh, par un disciple de M. Ricardo’, he added a footnote identifying the author with MCulloch. (‘J’ai appris depuis que c’était M. Macculloch, qu’on peut regarder désormais comme le chef de l’école fondée par M. Ricardo.’ Vol. ii, p. 376.)
[3 ]Covered by seal.
[4 ]In the article in the Annales referred to above, n. 2, Sismondi had written: ‘Le chef de la nouvelle école, M. Ricardo, a, dit-on, déclaré lui-même qu’il n’y avait pas plus de vingt-cinq personnes en Angleterre qui eussent entendu son livre. Peut-être de ce qu’il a fait profession d’obscurité, est-il résulté que ceux qui l’ont entendu, ou qui ont cru l’entendre, se sont déjà regardés comme des adeptes, et ont apporté un esprit de secte plus obstinéà soutenir, presque exclusivement avec ses propres paroles, tout l’ensemble de son système.’ (p. 112.)
[1 ]Of the Nouveaux principes; the second edition was not published till 1827.