ricardo to trower
[Reply to 445.—Answered by 456]
Gatcomb Park 22 Aug 1821
My Dear Trower
It is nearly a month since your letter to me was written, and it ought long before this to have been answered, but the fact is that in proportion to my time being unoccupied by business, I become more and more idle, and feel more and more disposed to indulge in excursions of pleasure and amusement. Since I have been here I have always had some friend with me, and a great deal of my time has been passed in visits to my son, who lives in a beautiful country, which I always shew to my friends, and to other places within a moderate distance of my own habitation.
I am glad you approve on the whole of the Report of the Agricultural Committee. I had no other hand in its construction than using the best arguments I could in support of those doctrines which I thought correct, and never sparing the doctrines of my opponents when I thought they were unsound and could be shewn to be so. When the Committee broke up there were very few points on which Mr. Huskisson and I differed.
The Committee has done, and will, I think, do good, by giving information to the House itself. The agricultural gentlemen will soon have enough of committees. I feel quite sure that if we had a committee every year, the restrictions on the trade of corn, instead of being increased, would be after a very few years wholly abolished. Mr. Huskisson justly observed to me that the landed gentlemen entered the committee as plaintiffs and left it defendants. I am quite astonished that the evidence is not yet published—it must appear soon, and when it does a copy of it shall be sent to you.
With respect to our difference of opinion on the subject of exchangeable value it is more an apparent difference than a real one. In speaking of exchangeable value you have not any idea of real value in your mind—I invariably have. Your criticisms on passages in my book are I have little doubt correct, because they are also the criticisms of others on the same passages. A pamphlet has appeared “On certain verbal disputes in Polit. Econ.” where the same ground of objection is taken as you take; the fault lies not in the doctrine itself, but in my faulty manner of explaining it. The exchangeable value of a commodity cannot alter, I say, unless either its real value, or the real value of the things it is exchanged for alter. This cannot be disputed. If a coat would purchase 4 hats and will afterwards purchase 5, I admit that both the coat and the hats have varied in exchangeable value, but they have done so in consequence of one or other of them varying in real value, and therefore if I use the word value without prefixing the word exchangeable to it, it will be correct for me to say that the coat has risen in value whilst hats have not varied, or that hats have fallen in value while coats have remained stationary. With this explanation look at the passage (Pages 3 /4 and 12) which you quote and tell me why they are objectionable.
The troubles of the poor Queen are now at an end, and if ministers had not grossly mismanaged the business she might have been carried to her grave, with the sympathy of the people indeed, but without any increased odium to the Government. Her will, directing where her body should be buried, had removed all difficulty from the question of her interment—why then should not ministers have humored the people in any wish they might have formed respecting the course of the procession? Can there be the least doubt that the public tranquility would not have been disturbed if the strongly expressed opinion that the Queen’s remains should go through the city had been complied with.
From the high price of the English and French funds we are I suppose to conclude that the peace of Europe is not to be disturbed by the disputes between Turkey and her greek subjects. I hope that peace will be maintained, but considering the great effect which war would have at the present moment on the price of the public securities, I think it quite astonishing that with such appearances of angry discussions being likely to take place between Turkey and Russia they keep at their present elevation.
Mushet has published a curious set of tables, to prove that the Stockholder has, on the whole, derived no advantage, first from the depreciation, and then from the restoration in the value of money. He has in his methodical manner, and with great labour calculated the advantage or disadvantage from year to year, has considered each loan separately, and shewn what ought to have been, and what actually has been paid to the public creditor. The result is, and I believe it is a correct one, that the Stockholders as a body if they had received uniformly what was really due to them, might now have been entitled to £72,704 pr. annm. more than they actually receive, in money of the standard value.
You ask me how I should value tithes—whether I should value them in reference to monied or landed capital. I differ with you, and think in reference to the latter. I think Tithes at 28 years purchase is a much cheaper purchase than Land at 28 years purchase particularly if you contemplate the increasing prosperity and population of the country. In an improving country Tithes always increase in a greater proportion than rent, because they are always the same proportion of the gross produce of the land; rent, even when it increases, is probably always a diminished proportion of the gross produce. Should the rent of your land in 50 or a hundred years rise 50 pc, I have no doubt whatever that the Tithes on the same land will rise very considerably more than 50 pc. If your Tithes are at a fair valuation, and not unusually high you would do well I think to purchase them at 28 years purchase.
Matters are bad enough in this part of the country. Rents are falling, and tenants much distressed. Poor rates, wages and tradesmen’s bills also fall, but tithes I believe keep up. Labourers appear to be well off, no scarcity of work, and wages fully adequate to obtain for them more than the usual quantity of necessaries and comforts. Manufacturing labour is also fully employed, but the masters say they do not get their usual profits—by usual I suppose they mean unusual and exorbitant profits.—
I did not know that your brother was a country gentleman, or rather that he resided in the country. I should not expect that he could enter much into country amusements but what enjoyment can be greater to a man fond of Books than a good library in a beautiful and healthy retirement—particularly if it be varied with the pleasures of society in London for 2 or 3 months in the year. I hope your brothers eldest son will realise the expectations which he has raised—it will be very gratifying to his father.
Mrs. Ricardo joins with me in kind remembrances to Mrs. Trower.
Ever truly Yrs.