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Summary.I. The Writing of the Principles, p. xiii. II. James Mill’s Contribution, p. xix. III. Arrangement and Subdivision, p. xxii. IV. The Chapter On Value in Edition 1, p. xxx. V. Principal Changes in Chapter On Value in Eds. 2 and 3, p. xxxvii. VI. Edition 2, p. xlix. VII. Edition 3, p. liii. VIII. The Present Edition, p. lx.
The Writing of the Principles
The plan from which the Principles of Political Economy, and Taxation originated had taken shape soon after the publication of the Essay on the Influence of a Low Price of Corn on the Profits of Stock in February 1815. At first Ricardo’s intention (at James Mill’s suggestion) had been merely to produce an enlarged version of the Essay. As he writes to J.-B. Say from his country house, Gatcomb Park, in August 1815: ‘Mr. Mill wishes me to write it over again at large’, adding immediately, ‘I fear the undertaking exceeds my powers’. Mill, however, as he tells Ricardo in the same month, is determined to give him no rest till he is ‘plunged over head and ears in political economy.’ Six weeks later (on 10 October) the larger book is already being treated by Mill as a definite commitment: ‘I expect you are by this time in a condition to give me some account of the progress you have been making in your book. I now consider you as fairly pledged to that task.’ On the 29th of the same month Ricardo is writing to Trower of his determination to ‘concentrate all the talent’ he possesses upon the subject on which his opinions ‘differ from the great authority of Adam Smith, Malthus &c.a’, namely ‘the principles of Rent, Profit and Wages’. ‘For my own satisfaction I shall certainly make the attempt, and perhaps with repeated revisions during a year or two I shall at last produce something that may be understood.’ On 9 November we find Mill, in reply to a discouraged letter from Ricardo (‘Oh that I were capable of writing a book!’ ), assuming the role of ‘schoolmaster’ and commanding Ricardo ‘to begin to the first of the three heads of your proposed work, rent, profit, wages—viz. rent, without an hours delay’.