533.: ricardo to trower2[Reply to 527.—Answered by 547] - 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 527.—Answered by 547]
Gatcomb Park 24 July 1823
My Dear Trower
The latter part of my residence in London was so taken up by parliamentary business that I had not really time to write to you. Besides the regular attendance which I always give to the House I was obliged to be every day on some committee, which, altogether, entirely occupied my time; but now that I am once more settled in my peaceable retreat in the country, I remember my debt to you, and hasten to discharge it.
I regret that I did not see you oftener in London during my six months campaign, particularly as you give me no hope of a visit here. I know you are usefully employed as a country gentleman;—equitably settling differences between your poorer neighbours, and arresting as far as you can the diffusion of erroneous principles amongst your richer ones, yet I would wish to see you more in London, for that is the place in which we meet a succession of clever men in all branches of knowledge, and in which we gain instruction by the active opposition which all our speculations whether right or wrong encounter. If you had been there lately you would have met Mr. MCulloch of Edinburgh, the writer of many able articles in the Edinburgh Review, and in the Encyclopedia, on Political Economy. Mr. MCulloch is an agreeable, well-informed man, a sincere lover and seeker of truth, and I think you would have been pleased with him. He had a great deal of discussion with Blake but did not succeed in weaning him from his newly published opinions. With Malthus, as you know, he greatly differs, and their conferences have not been attended with the effect of reconciling them to each other’s views. He attended the last meeting of our Political Economy Club and the result of our discussions on that day convinced him, as we all had been long before convinced, that the progress of the science is very much impeded by the contrary ideas which men attach to the word value. When Malthus speaks of a rise or fall in the value of a commodity he is estimating it in the particular measure of value which he himself recommends; MCulloch, Mill and I are thinking of quite a different measure. Torrens and Warburton again have their particular view of a proper measure; and therefore until we can agree as to some common measure by which to estimate the variations in the value of the commodities of which we speak, altho’ it be not, as it appears impossible any can be, an accurate measure of value, we cannot understand each other. To this task several good understandings are I hope at this time devoted, for all appear to acknowledge the necessity of adopting some general measure. I know MCulloch’s attention is turned to the subject and I expect much from his accuracy and precision.—Malthus is I know quite full of the subject but then his views run in a particular direction from which nothing can make him swerve.—As for myself I mean also to turn my thoughts to the subject, but I fear I cannot arrive at any sounder conclusions than the acknowledgedly imperfect ones which I have already published.
In one of the Committees, which I have lately attended, we were directed by the House to enquire into the cause of the want of employment of the poor in Ireland, and into the best means of remedying the evil which all agree exists. It is a favorite plan, with many, for Government to lend capital to Ireland, in order that the people may be employed. Against such a scheme I have the most decided objections, which I never fail to urge. If the greater part of the Irish members could have their way, we should not only grant a vast number of charitable loans but we should encourage all sorts of manufactures by bounties and premiums. Amongst other schemes we have listened with great attention to Mr. Owen, who assures us that if we give him 8 millions of money he will make Ireland now and for ever happy. The Irish appear to me to differ from the rest of the inhabitants of the United Kingdom, and not to take a commonly enlightened view of their own interest. They have no idea of waiting patiently for the profitable result of a well considered speculation. An English landlord knows that it is not his interest to make his tenant a beggar by exacting the very hardest terms from him if he had the power of dictating the rent, not so the Irish landlords—they not only do not see the benefits which would result to themselves from encouraging a spirit of industry and accumulation in their tenants, but appear to consider the people as beings of a different race who are habituated to all species of oppression:—they will for the sake of a little present rent, divide and subdivide their farms till they receive from each tenant the merest trifle of rent, altho’ the aggregate is considerable.—They consider as nothing the severe means to which they are obliged to resort to collect these rents, nor to the individual suffering which it occasions. Ireland is an oppressed country—not oppressed by England, but by the aristocracy which rules with a rod of Iron within it; England could redress many of her wrongs but stands itself in awe of the faction which governs.
What say you to Agriculture and its prospects? Is the distress over? Shall we have a short crop? If we have will the ports be opened? If the ports be opened how will the future prospects of landlords and tenants be affected by it? These are interesting topics. You have no doubt seen Tooke’s publications —they are I think very clever. What is your opinion of that theory of his on which he lays so much stress: the continuance, for a succession of years, alternately, of good and bad seasons. Out of twenty successive years he contends you will frequently find only 2 or 3 good crops, and then perhaps for the same number of years only 2 or 3 bad ones. He makes the scientific part of the subject very difficult, for he will not allow you to reason with a view to practice from an observation of the produce for 10 years; according to him you must look to the a[vera]ge result of a period of from 30 to 50 years.
The country about me is looking beautiful, but it is n[ot] possible to enjoy it amidst the incessant rain which at present prevails; a great quantity of hay will be spoiled.
Will the war in Spain soon be at an end to be renewed at some future opportunity by the friends of liberty there, with greater effect, or will they yet offer so much resistance to the French, as to prolong the contest, and have a chance of ultimately prevailing over their formidable enemy? I fear their case is for the present hopeless, but I trust might will not long continue to subdue right.
Mrs. Ricardo unites with me in kind remembrances to Mrs. Trower.