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Letters of David Ricardo to Thomas Robert Malthus, 1810-1823   By:

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LETTERS OF RICARDO TO MALTHUS

London HENRY FROWDE

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS WAREHOUSE AMEN CORNER, E.C.

LETTERS OF DAVID RICARDO TO THOMAS ROBERT MALTHUS

1810 1823

EDITED BY

JAMES BONAR M.A. OXFORD, LL.D. GLASGOW

Oxford AT THE CLARENDON PRESS 1887

[ All rights reserved ]

CONTENTS.

PAGE 1. PREFACE vii 2. OUTLINE OF SUBJECTS xix 3. LETTERS I TO LXXXVIII 1 240 4. CHRONICLE 241 5. INDEX 245

PREFACE.

The following Letters are printed for the first time from the original manuscripts, kindly lent for the purpose by Colonel Malthus, C.B. The representatives of Ricardo have been good enough to make search for the corresponding letters of Malthus, but without success.

The Collection covers the whole period of the friendship of the two men. What is of purely private interest (a very small portion) has, as a rule, been omitted. There is seldom any obscurity in the text; the handwriting of Ricardo is clear and good. The earlier letters have no envelopes. The breaking of the seal has frequently torn a page, and destroyed a word or two. In two cases we have nothing but the fragment of a letter. But fortunately the bulk of the series has reached us in a complete state.

These Letters were evidently known to Empson and MacCulloch, whose references to them are quoted in their proper place. Other letters of Ricardo, as well as his speeches in Parliament, are quoted here and there when they illustrate the text or fill up a gap. The Correspondence with J. B. Say is given at some length, as it is probably little known to English readers.

The Outline of Subjects will be found to contain only a bare sketch of the main positions taken up by Ricardo against Malthus in these Letters. It could not fairly be expanded into an account of both sides of the argument, for, when we are within hearing of only one of the disputants, we cannot with fairness believe ourselves to have the whole case before us. We cannot accept his statement of the terms of the discussion, for, though he had every desire to be just to his opponent, his cast of mind was so different that he can hardly be thought to have entered into his opponent's views with perfect sympathy[1].

These Letters indeed show on almost every page how completely the two economists differed in their point of view. Beginning in a deep mutual respect, their acquaintance with each other grew into a very close intimacy; but it was the friendship of two men entirely unlike in mental character. Ricardo admits that he had been deeply impressed by the Essay on Population (p. 107), but thinks that Malthus is apt to miss the true subject of political economy, the inquiry into the distribution of wealth, and to confine himself to production, of which nothing can be made (pp. 111, 175); Malthus seems to his friend to have too strong a practical bias (p. 96); instead of reflecting on the general principles that determine (for example) the Foreign Exchanges, he tries to get light from Jamaica merchants and City bullion dealers (p. 3, cf. 12); he buries himself in temporary causes and effects instead of looking to permanent ones (p. 127); he gains his point by a definition instead of an argument (p. 237) and, perhaps through the same practical bias, he is too much absorbed in questions of his own College (p. 125), and not eager enough for political reform (pp. 151, 152). Malthus, Cambridge Wrangler and Haileybury Professor, was free from any academical bias in favour of abstract thinking; he had in fact little of the typical University man except his love of boating (p. 158). Ricardo, a self made and largely a self educated man[2] (though he had neither the pride of the first nor the vanity of the second), had no traditions that were not mercantile, and made a large fortune on the Stock Exchange[3]... Continue reading book >>




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