481.: ricardo to trower1[Reply to 478] - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 9 Letters 1821-1823 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 9 Letters 1821-1823.
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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 478]
Gatcomb Park 25 Jany. 1822
My Dear Trower
This day week I shall leave Gatcomb for London, and shall soon after enter with all my energies on my parliamentary duties. I expect that the Agricultural question will occupy a great deal of attention, and I am not without my fears that some injudicious measures may be adopted, in consequence of the general prevalence of error on that important subject. I have read with attention all that has been said at the different meetings, and although I think I see a decided improvement in the public mind on the policy of corn laws, yet it appears to me that very few take a rational and scientific view of the origin of the distress, and of the true means of remedying it. They all concur in attributing the want of a remunerating price to enormous taxation, in which opinion I cannot agree; although I am willing to allow that an immediate repeal of some of the taxes which affect agricultural produce, would materially relieve the farmer. There is an interval between the repeal of a tax which falls indirectly on a commodity, and the fall of the price of such commodity, that is favorable to the producer, and the benefit of this interval would be enjoyed by farmers. It might, if the distress is owing to temporary causes, be sufficiently long to enable them to surmount the difficulty which immediately presses upon them, it would however be quite unscientific therefore to say that it was the burthen of taxation which was the cause of the low price of corn. The cause of the low price is nothing else but the supply exceeding the demand. Why it should do so now, and why it should have done so for 2 years back is an interesting enquiry, and many may have their different theories to account for it. When I say the cause of the low price is nothing else than the supply exceeding the demand, I am not quite correct, for I appear to exclude the alteration in the value of the currency as one of the causes, which I am not desirous of doing. To that cause I ascribe an effect of 10 pc. and in so doing I am making a liberal allowance. I perceive that a meeting of your county is called to consider this subject—I hope you will do, what you are so well able to do, express your own correct views on this most important question, and not let the reveries of a Webb Hall, and the exaggerated, and often wicked, statements of a Cobbett, pass every where uncontradicted . I shall look to the public papers with great interest for a full and correct account of your speech.
I agree with much of what you say about Ireland, but on some points we differ. I think it desirable that small farms, and small tenancies, should be got rid of, but I do not look upon these, and many other things which might be advantageously corrected in Ireland, as the cause of the evils under which that unfortunate country groans, but as the effect of those evils. If Ireland had a good system of law—if property was secure—if an Englishman lending money to an Irishman could by some easy process oblige him to fulfill his contract, and not be set at defiance by the chicanery of sheriffs agents in Ireland, capital would flow into Ireland, and an accumulation of capital would lead to all the beneficial results which every where follows from it. The most economical processes would be adopted—small farms would be laid into large—there would be an abundant demand for labour, and thus would Ireland take her just rank among nations. The evils of Ireland, I, in my conscience believe, arise from misrule, and I hope that during the administration of Lord Wellesley a commencement will be made in the reformation of the enormous abuses under which that country labours. Hume I believe means to attack the Tithe system of Ireland in the House of Commons. I do not know whether he is sufficiently skilful to meddle with so intricate a subject advantageously, but he will not fail I think to do some good. The oftener that abuses of all kinds are stated and discussed the better; it sets able heads to work, and the people become informed as to their real interests. This reacts on the Government, and thus abuses, even on our present imperfect system, are often finally redressed.
You will have received Mill’s article on Government, which I sent you many days ago. —You will not approve of it, but I think it an excellent article, and well reasoned throughout. Since writing that article he has written two others for the Supplement to the Encyclopedia which are I think both very good—one is on Jurisprudence, the other on the Liberty of the Press. If you cannot conveniently get the Encyclopedia, I can lend you the articles, as I have one copy of each in London, and I think you will like to read them.
I am not a good judge of his book on Political Economy, I have thought so much on the subject myself, that I can form a very inadequate idea of the impression which his work is calculated to make on one who is a learner, but I am told by learners that it is very clear, and fully accomplishes the object which he professes to have in view.
I received some months ago a letter from M Say in answer to my last observations on his book, to which I intend very shortly to send him my reply. You will probably like to see both his letter and my answer —I will shew them to you when I see you in London.
The reviews of Godwin’s work both in the Quarterly and Edinburgh were I think very good;—surely in the minds of all reasonable men the principle for which Malthus contends is fully established.
I continue to hear, from time to time, from Mr. MCulloch; he is a zealous advocate for the correct principles of Polit. Economy and is more actively employed in their dissemination than any individual I know. Besides the excellent articles which he writes in the Suppt to the Encyclopedia, in the Edinburgh Review, and the Scotsman, he gives lectures on Polit. Economy in Edinburgh, and contemplates the extending them next year to a general instead of a private class—this is as it should be, notwithstanding the wise observations of Lord John Russell on the little advantages to be derived from a knowledge of this science, in his letter to the Electors of Huntingdon.
Mrs. Ricardo joins with me in kind remembrances to Mrs. Trower. Believe me My dear Trower
Ever most truly yours
I hope we shall see you very soon in London.