ricardo to mcculloch
[Reply to 474.—Answered by 479]
Gatcomb Park 3 Jany. 1822
My Dear Sir
I thank you very much for the attention and kindness which you have shewn to Mr. John Austin, the gentleman to whom I lately gave a letter of introduction to you. Mr. Austin has written from Edinburgh, to his brother, who lives in this neighborhood, giving him an account of the kind treatment which he had received from you, and by which he is very deeply impressed: his only regret was that he had engaged too large a portion of your valuable time. In giving a letter to Mr. Austin I by no means wished to call upon you for so great a sacrifice of time as he says you have made to him, and I shall greatly regret, with him, if your kind disposition has in this instance subjected you to inconvenience.
Your letter reached me a few days ago, and as I had a favorable opportunity of sending the notes on Mr. Malthus book, for which you ask, to London on the day that I received your letter, I immediately dispatched them, and I have no doubt that ere this you will have had them. I looked for the pamphlet on money which I formerly mentioned to you, to send with the notes, but without success;—it may possibly be in my bookcase in London, in which case you shall have it when I have an opportunity of sending it; or I may have lent it to some friend, and it may not have been returned to me. I remember I thought it clever, but there is nothing in it which can be new to you.
I am sorry to say that I have no book on the subject of the commerce and finance of Holland,—if I had, it should be much at your service. I agree with you that much valuable illustration might be derived from a detailed history of the commerce and finance of that country.
I am glad to hear that your exertions do not relax in teaching the principles of Political Economy, and that you contemplate giving lectures to a public class, instead of a private one, next session. I do not know any man who has been more useful in disseminating the sound principles of the science than yourself. Your writings are so clear, and your illustrations so satisfactory, that they cannot fail to convince. Your contributions to the Supplement of the Encyclopedia, and to the Edin. Review, contain the most valuable instruction. I shall have great pleasure in looking over the manuscript lectures which you have already prepared, or any other you may hereafter send me, but I have not the least hope that I can give you any useful opinion or advice respecting the conduct of your course. On every point of arrangement I am very ignorant, and am sure that in all I do I make the worst possible. I shall look out carefully for any thing that I shall think an error in principle, and shall submit it to your consideration, in order that I may remove your erroneous opinion if it be yours, or have my own corrected by you, if it be mine. It will give me great pleasure to hear that your arrangements respecting the lectures become a source of permanent and considerable emolument to yourself, as besides the interest which I take in your welfare, a proof will thereby be afforded of the service which you are rendering to others. I shall not be in London till the latter end of this month or the beginning of february, and therefore I shall not see your article on money before that time, unless you would be kind enough to enclose it under separate covers directed to me here. If it should be printed before february I wish you would do so. Cobbett and his followers keep up incessant attacks upon me, for having said in my evidence before the Bank Committee, that the restoring the currency to the ancient standard, would only alter its value 5 pct. He forgets that I was speaking of the plan recommended by me for restoring it, which would not have called for the use of any gold, and which would therefore not have occasioned any demand for that metal; and then, I ask, what there was in reverting to a bullion standard to make prices alter more than 5 pct.? Suppose that in 1819, when gold was at £4. 2 – pr. oz, we had had two prices, a paper price and a bullion price; £4. 2 –, in paper, would have purchased no more than £3. 17. 10 in gold. By raising the value of paper 5 pt. would not £3. 17. 10½ in paper purchase the same, as the like sum in gold? If indeed during the operation of limiting the amount of paper, I make immense purchases of gold, and lock it up in a chest, or devote it to uses to which it had not before been applied, I raise the value of gold, and thereby lower the prices of goods, both in gold and in paper, which latter must conform to the value of gold; and this is precisely what the Bank have done. They have, from ignorance, made the reverting to a fixed currency as difficult a task to the country as possible.
Cobbett forgets too that Peel’s bill absolutely prohibited the Bank from paying in specie till 1823. All the friends of that bill had a right to expect that the Bank would make no preparation for specie payments till 1822, one year before the period fixed, and I for one flattered myself that if from 1819 to 1822 it were found that the system of bullion payments was a safe and easy one, specie payments would be still further deferred, but the Bank had strong prejudices against the plan and immediately commenced purchasing bullion and coining money, and were absolutely forced to come to the legislature for permission, last year, to pay in specie, as they had accumulated a large quantity of coin. After they had been foolish enough to do so, it became a matter of indifference whether parliament agreed to their request or refused it—indeed it was more desirable to comply with it:—the evil had already been done by the purchase and accumulation of gold, and no further mischief could arise from the substitution of the coins (in circulation) for the paper which they were desirous of withdrawing.—Some of Mr. Cobbett’s admirers spoke of my false predictions at Monmouth—the same men were at Hereford, where I had an opportunity of speaking for myself, for I was present, and then they said nothing.
The Lord Advocate’s conduct in the affair of the Beacon has been very reprehensible, but I fear it will not be noticed as it ought to be by the House of Commons. From the little you have said in your letter, it is clear that, bad as the chance is of any one who has a contest with government in a court of law here, for any offence given to them through the press, it is infinitely more so in Scotland, from the manner in which Juries are selected. I will read the article in the Edin. Review which you recommend with attention, and will say a few words on the subject in the House if I do not find at the time that the sentiments which I would wish to express should have been already much better expressed by others.
Mr. Austin says something in his letter of an intention half formed in your mind of paying a visit to London in the Spring—I hope you will give every encouragement to the complete formation of so good a resolution: it would give me the greatest pleasure to see you.
Ever Dear Sir, Yours truly
Will you have the goodness to order the Scotsman to be sent to London as soon as the month of february commences? I will pay my subscription to the agents in Warwick Lane London as soon as I go to town.