trower to ricardo
[Reply to 447.—Answered by 461]
Unsted Wood. Sept 13. 1821
My Dear Ricardo
I have received, and read through, the bulky volume of evidence , which you have had the kindness to order to be sent to me.—It is a most valuable body of interesting and important information; and is well worth all the time and labor, it has cost the Committee. I have risen from the perusal of it, with a stronger conviction, (if possible,) than I had before, of the inexhaustible resources of this active, intelligent, and enterprising people. It is glorious to see how the Vessel of the State has righted itself, and You, my good friend, have the gratification of reflecting, that it is mainly owing to your able and judicious suggestions, that She has been steered safely through the shoals and quicksands by which she was surrounded—Every opinion I have entertained upon the subject is fully confirmed by the evidence before the Committee, and I have no doubt, not only that the Corn trade ought to be thrown open for the benefit even of the Agriculturists themselves; but, that no long period will elapse before the mischievous Corn Act will be repealed. The evidence of your friend Mr. Tooke is excellent, and proves him to be a very able man, and thoroughly master of the subject. Mr. Wakefields evidence is also good, and that of Mr. Jacob contains some interesting and important information relating to foreign agriculture. It is impossible to turn over these pages without being struck how inferior an animal, in point of intelligence, and information, the Farmer is to the manufacturer or the agent. They have afforded as little information to the Committee as possible; and have exhibited very exagerated pictures of their distresses. Take for Instance, the evidence of the Elmans, and the statement of account produced by the younger —No account is taken of live stock on the Farm, whereas it is well known, that every farmer looks to his Stock for the payment of his Rent; and that no man, in his senses, would so farm an estate as to keep no stock; or take a farm, which did not admit of his keeping them.—
From this subject the transition to the weather is very natural which, bad as it is, I believe is more conducive to the interests of the farmer, than a fine harvest would have been. Another abundant supply would have visited him severely. Whereas, at present, there is a good deal of old Corn in hand, which will fetch good prices, and we have it in evidence before the Com:, that the variations always exceed the proportions of surplus or deficiency, of which I have no doubt.—
I must now refer to your last letter, and to the observations you make on the subject of exchangeable value. You say, that “in speaking of exchangeable value, you have not any idea of real value in your mind. I invariably have.” No doubt, this is the source of the difference between us. But, then, I say you ought not to express by the same term two different ideas. For you will not deny, that there is a real difference between exchangeable and real value. They do not always coincide—Exchangeable value is the market value of a Commodity—Real value is its cost. The market value, tho’ governed by the real value, and constantly gravitating towards it, scarcely ever corresponds with it. Why then should not these two ideas be kept perfectly distinct, and be expressed by different terms. Surely, by so doing the subject is made more intelligible.—I have not seen the pamphlet you mention, nor several others which I observe advertised—vzt. Lord Stourtons Letters to Lord Liverpool —Torrens’ new publication. Are these, or any others, which I have not noticed, worth my reading. I confess I feel, that, now, the subject, with respect to Principles, is set at rest; although, no doubt, there are many minor points still disputed by some writers. But, what I am anxious to see is an ample application of these Principles to the practical operation of Taxation. What we now want is a Text Book, to which Statesmen may refer, at once, to regulate their financial operations. Hitherto, Taxes have not been levied upon any settled principle, on the contrary, for the most part, they have been at war with all principle—Convenience has been the only guide. Whatever article seemed capable of bearing the burden of Taxation, and was likely to prove productive has been selected. But it is time to abandon this disgraceful, and ruinous mode of proceeding, and to avail ourselves of the benefits to be derived from the vast body of light, which has been lately thrown upon this important subject. The Time will come when our purse strings must be pulled again; and we ought to be prepared with a knowledge how best to wield our resources. For such a task I know nobody better qualified than yourself; indeed, you have already opened up the subject, in your excellent work; and I should rejoice to see you compleat what has been so ably begun.—
When are we to have Mill’s Book out. I see no notice of it in the papers.
A great deal of the harvest in this part of the Country, is still out, and of course considerably damaged. The prices are getting up, but as there is so much inferior corn, I think what is good will fetch a high price, without any fear of reaching the importation prices. I think the best Wheat might sell for £27 or £28 whilst the average would remain under £20—
The curious proceedings of the Coroners Inquests are no doubt preparing amusement for you in St. Stephens after Christmas.
I have purchased my Tithes at 28 years purchase, and they certainly are not set at a rack Rent; so, upon the whole, I am very well satisfied.
What you say about Tithes is very true, but, it is rather too speculative an opinion to act upon. In calculations for the investment of ones money, it is, unfortunately, necessary to take a much more limited view, than what would include the probable variations of half a century hence. It will be very little matter to either of us how the case may stand then. Our account will be wound up, I imagine, long before that, and the Balance struck; and God grant it may be satisfactory.
I think, therefore, that the purchase of Tithes should be considered as the buying off from the land a disagreeable Tax, and should be estimated in reference to the value of money. Land possesses many advantages, which its produce in the shape of Tithes does not. Influence, enjoyment, amusement, residence &. &.
Besides, although it is true, that tithes are always the same proportion of gross produce, whilst rent may bear a smaller, and a smaller proportion to that produce; still that will depend upon circumstances. It is not a necessary condition, as far as the purchaser of Tithes on any particular portion of Land is concerned—
If in the progress of wealth inferior land should be taken into cultivation, no doubt, on that land the Rent would be a diminished proportion of the gross produce, as compared with the land of a better quality—
But, this circumstance would not necessarily affect the Rent upon land previously in cultivation. That Rent would not thereby become a less proportion of the gross produce. On the contrary the improvements in agriculture, which would be, I may almost say, the inevitable consequence of such a progressive state of society, might occasion that Rent to become a larger proportion of the gross produce.
You will say perhaps, that any additional produce drawn from the old land, the result of improvements, might bear a less proportion than the former produce did, to the gross produce, and that upon this additional produce the Tithes would equally operate.
But, supposing this to be the case, I shall derive upon this additional capital so employed the average rate of interest, or I should not so employ it, and if I had invested my money in Tithes I should have received no more.—
But it is time for me to close this long letter. So pray make Mrs. Trower’s and my Compliments to Mrs. Ricardo, and believe me My Dear Ricardo—
Yrs very truly