RICARDO IN PARLIAMENT
Economic Journal volume 4 (1894)
After his retirement from business, Ricardo, as McCulloch's preface to his collected Works tells us, `determined to extend the sphere of his usefulness by entering the House of Commons.' That an economist and retired stockjobber worth three-quarters of a million should have any difficulty, in carrying out This plan probably never occurred to any one at that time, and. McCulloch continues without a break, `In 1819 he took his seat as member for Portarlington.' The electors of Portarlington are said to have been about twelve in number. Probably Ricardo never saw them.(1) All that we know is that he was elected on February 20, 1819, in place of Richard Sharpe, Esq., of Mark Lane, who had accepted the Chiltern Hundreds, and that on the dissolution of Parliament at the death of George III he was re-elected for the same constituency, and continued to represent it till his death on September 11, 1823.
For his time Ricardo was a very active member. His speeches number 126, and though many of them are merely brief, casual remarks, occupy together 177 columns of Hansard. The Han- sard of that period seldom gives the list of the majority in parliamentary divisions, but from February 21, 1819, to September 10, 1823, there are 237 lists of minorities, and Ricardo's name occurs in 166 of them. It also occurs in eight out of the nine lists of majorities. That he voted in many of the majorities of which the names are not recorded is improbable, but even if he voted in none of them it is clear that he must have attended divisions most conscientiously.
As regards the miscellaneous questions of general politics which concern an economist no more than any other citizen, Ricardo invariably acted with the most liberal section of the House. The very first vote which he cast (March 2, 1819) was in favour of Sir James Mackintosh's motion for a committee to inquire into the criminal law with a view to reducing its excessive severity. He voted for the Forgery Punishment Mitigation Bill in 1821, and for the Abolition of Punishment by Whipping Bill, and also for Mackintosh's resolutions in favour of the abolition of capital punishment for a number of offences, in 1823. In the autumn session of 1819 he voted steadily against the repressive measures which became known as the Six Acts. Against one of them, that for the Prevention of Seditious Meetings. he made a speech in which he maintained that the people's right of public meeting `was a right of meeting in such numbers and showing such a front to ministers as would afford a hope that bad measures would be abandoned, and that public opinion would be respected.' Such meetings were inconvenient, he admitted, and were not `the sort of check which ought to exist in a well-administered government,' but till Parliament was reformed it was necessary.
`He had read with surprise the abhorrence of radical reform ex- pressed by several members of that House. He believed there were among the advocates of that measure wicked and designing men. But he also knew that there was a great number of very honest men who believed universal suffrage and annual parliaments were the only means of protecting the rights of the people and establishing an adequate check upon government. He had the same object as they professed to have in view; but he thought that suffrage far from universal would effect that object, and form a sufficient check. He therefore thought it would be madness to attempt a reform to that extent, when a less extensive reform would be sufficient.'(2)
He always voted for Reform whenever the subject came up, which was not very frequently. Speaking briefly in favour of Mr. Lambton's motion for Reform in 1821, he `regretted that his hon. friend did not propose the introduction of voting by ballot, which he thought would be a greater security for the full and fair representation of the people than any extension of the elective franchise.' It might be supposed that if they were able to vote freely' the effect would be that in time the people would get rid of the lords.' But
`The people would never, when left to their own free and unbiassed choice, be anxious to get rid of that which they considered the instrument of their good government; and unless gentlemen were prepared to assert that the lords were an instrument of bad government, which he believed nobody would assert, they could not entertain any rational fear that the people would be anxious to get rid of them.'(3)
In a longer speech delivered on Lord John Russell's motion in 1828, he divided the subject into three parts: (1) the extension of the suffrage. (2) the mode of election, and (3) the duration of Parliaments.(4) The suffrage, he said, ought to be extended, but `the other two points appeared to him to be of deeper interest.' He inquired, `Of what use was it that the power of choosing its representatives should be given to the people, unless the free exercise of that right were also secured to them?' The only way to give them this free exercise was to introduce the ballot `Unless the system of ballot were resorted to, it would be in vain to attempt any reform at all of Parliament.' The `wisdom of our ancestors' argument he brushed away with scorn. `He thought the present generation possessed not only as much wisdom as any of those which had preceded it, but a great deal more.
On questions of foreign policy he did not speak, except once on March 18, 1828, when he rose to protest against the inference that those who, like himself, had attended a dinner given to the Spanish minister, were in favour of war. `He felt a deep sympathy with the Spanish people,' but `had no hesitation in declaring his opinion that it would be wise in this country to keep out of the war.' He voted consistently against the Foreign Enlistment and Alien Bills.
As to the Queen, he voted against the Government but did not speak.
A subject on which he seems to have expended some study, and to have felt very keenly, was the policy of prosecutions for blasphemy. He was in favour of the mast unrestricted liberty of expression, as well - as of opinion. Speaking on March 26, 1823, in favour of the prayer of Mary Ann Carlile for the remission of the exorbitant fine, non-payment of which was detaining her in gaol after the expiration of her sentence of imprisonment, he protested against the Attorney-General's demand that the woman must first express contrition for her offence, or, as he preferred to put it, `must commit an act of the most shameless duplicity, in order to become a proper subject for the mercy of the Crown.' This led him to denounce the practice of asking a witness in court whether he believed in a future state, and declining to take his evidence if he said he did not.
`Blasphemy,' he said, `was an offence which it was quite impossible to define. - Nobody, in committing it, was aware of what he was offending against. It was one thing in this country and another in France. . . . He must now inform the House that after a long and attentive consideration of the: question, he had made up his mind' that prosecutions ought never- to be instituted for religions opinions. All religious opinions, however absurd and, extravagant, might be conscientiously believed by some individuals. Why, then, was one man to set up his ideas on the subject as the criterion from which no other, was to be allowed to differ with impunity? Why was one man to be considered infallible, and all his fellow men as frail and erring creatures? Such a doctrine ought not to be tolerated; it savoured too much of the Inquisition - to be received as genuine in a free country like England. A fair and free discussion ought to be allowed on all religious topics. If the arguments advanced upon them were incorrect and blasphemous, surely they might be put down by sound argument and good reasoning, without the intervention of force and punishment.' - -
Wilberforce was. scandalised by this speech, and complained that `the hon. member for Portarlington seemed to carry into more weighty matters those principles of free trade which he had so successfully expounded.' He appealed to Paley's teaching that ridicule, invective, and mockery on religious subjects might be suppressed without violating religious liberty. -
On July 1, 1823, a petition was presented from certain minis- ters of religion and their congregations deprecating the prosecutions for blasphemy. Joseph Hume delivered a long speech and proposed a resolution to the effect that Free discussion has been attended with more benefit than injury to the community, and it is unjust and inexpedient to expose any person to legal penalties on account of the expression of opinions on matters of. religion.' Wilberforce opposed, objecting to `ribaldry and indecency,' and again quoting Palsy. Ricardo followed in support of the motion. Paley, he thought, was more liberal than Wilberforce, and `he, as well as the other chief ornaments of the Church, for instance, Dr. Tillotson and Dr. Porteous, had asserted, in the largest sense, the right of unfettered opinion.' As in his speech of March 26, he drifted into an attack on the plan of asking a wit- ness whether he believed in a future state. He read a long passage from Tillotson
`for the purpose of showing, and from a great authority in the Church. that the obligation of religion was not alone considered as the influential test of moral truth, and that a man might be very sceptical upon doctrinal points, and yet very positive in the control of -- moral impressions distinct from religious faith. For instance, there was Mr. Owen of Lanark, a great benefactor to society, and yet a man not believing (judging from some opinions of his) in a future state. Would any man, With the demonstrating experience of the contrary before his eyes, say that Mr. Owen was less susceptible of moral feeling because he was incredulous upon matters of religion? Would any man pretending to honour or candour say that Mr. Owen, after a life spent in improving the condition of others, had a mind less pure, a heart less sincere, or a less conviction of the restraint and control of moral rectitude than if he were more imbued With the precepts of religious obligation? Why, then, was such a man (for so by the law he was) to be excluded from the pale of legal credibility? Why was he, if he promulgated his opinions, to be liable to spend his days immured in a prison?'
As for making the reservation that attacks on religion must not be made with `levity and ribaldry,' he asked
`What was it but to say" You may discuss, if you please, in the most solemn, most serious, and therefore most influential manner, any topic of religion you please; but the moment you discuss it With levity or ribaldry, that is, in such a manner as to be sure to offend the common sense of mankind, and therefore deprive you of really acquiring any serious proselytes, then the law takes cognisance of your conduct and makes your imbecility penal."'
Later in the debate a member protested against the allegation that Owen disbelieved in a future state. Ricardo was ready to apologise if he had misrepresented Owen, and explained that it was a matter of inference
`It was one of the doctrines of Mr. Owen that a man could not form his own character, but that it was formed by the circumstances which surrounded himthat when a man committed an act which the world called vice it ought to be considered his misfortune merely, and that therefore no man could be a proper object for punishment. This doctrine was interwoven in his system; and he who held it could not impute to the Omnipotent Being a desire to punish those who, in this view, could not be considered responsible for their actions.'
Ricardo's name appears in neither of the two lists of votes on the Roman Catholic question which are given in Hansard during the period covered by his parliamentary career. As one of these lists(5) gives the names both of the majority and minority, we must conjecture that he remained neutral. This is curious. Can it have been due to some compact with the power which gave him his seat for Portarlington?
One of his earliest speeches (May 4, 1819) was in favour of a motion for abolishing state lotteries. It is unfortunately reported in a very brief form
`Mr. Ricardo supported the motion and pointed out the evils which arose from the drawings of the lottery so often in the year. He quoted the resolutions of a society to which many of the ministers belonged, deprecating the lottery; and observed that they were thus condemning, as individuals, the law which they came to support by their votes.'
No one had a word to say against the motion except Canning, who delivered a shamefully cynical speech, Castlereagh, Vansittart, and Huskisson, but it was lost by 133 to 84.
Coming now to economic subjects proper, we may put in the first place that great currency question which had first exercised Ricardo's powers of economic exposition. Here the Government had adopted his views, so that he was of course one of their strongest supporters. When he took his seat in Parliament the Bank was apparently drifting into difficulties in consequence of an undertaking into which it had rashly entered to pay in specie all notes dated earlier than January 1, 1817. A committee of secrecy reported that a stop should be put to its proceedings, and Peel brought in a bill for the purpose on April 5, 1819. Ricardo spoke shortly in favour of this bill, urging that before the Bank could safely give cash for notes it should bring the notes to par value by reducing their number. When Peel proposed his resolutions for the definitive resumption of cash payments (May 24, 1819), Ricardo, as McCulloch tells us, did not rise till he was called on loudly from all sides of the House. Hansard sprinkles his speech with an unusual number of cheers, and records that `the hon. member sat down amidst loud and general cheering from all sides of the House.' There is however nothing remark- able in the speech, which merely recapitulates the views which Ricardo had been advocating for many years. It expresses without much reserve his extremely poor opinion of the capacity of the Bank directors. `The House,' he remarked, `did not withdraw its confidence from the Bank from any doubt of its wealth or integrity, but from a conviction of its total ignorance of the principles of political economy.' When the resumption had once been decided on, Ricardo's task was to defend the measure against the attacks of those who attributed the depression of trade and agriculture to it. He had frequently to urge that the appreciation of the currency caused by it was much less than it was represented to be, to show that the fundholders had not been benefited by it to any very great extent, to argue that the depression was due to the corn laws and the national debt, and to bring forward objections to bimetallic(6) and other proposals for producing a depreciation. The most interesting of the speeches which he delivered on the subject is that of June 12, 1822, against Western's motion for a committee. In it he went thoroughly into the distinction between `depreciation' and `diminution of value,' quoted the pamphlet of 1816, and declared in italics that `quantity regulated the value of everything.' This was true, he added, of every commodity, but `more perhaps of currency than of anything else.' This speech occupies fifteen columns of Hansard and is Ricardo's longest. Nothing daunted by a defeat in a division of 194 against 30, Western reopened the question on July 10 with eighteen lengthy resolutions. Ricardo was the first speaker against them, and in the end they were negatived. On June 11, 1823, the indefatigable Squire again returned to the charge, and Ricardo was again his first opponent. In his speech on this occasion there are traces of the discussion between him and the Squire becoming slightly personal. In a pamphlet the Squire had referred to him some- what unpleasantly
`Without naming him, the hon. gentleman alluded to him and his opinion in a way that no one could mistake the person meant, and said that it required the utmost extent of charity to believe that in the advice he had given he was not influenced by interested motives. The hon. gentleman would have acted a more manly part if he had explicitly and boldly made his charge, and openly mentioned his name. He did not pretend to be more exempted from the weaknesses of human nature than other men, hut he could assure the House and the hon. member for Essex, that it would puzzle a good accountant to make out on which side his interest predominated. He (Mr. Ricardo) would find it difficult himself from the different kinds of property which he possessed (no part funded property) to determine the question. But by whom was this effort of charity found so difficult? By the hon. gentleman whose interest in this measure could not for one moment be doubtedwhose whole property consisted of land and who would greatly benefit by any measure which should lessen the value of money. He imputed no bad motive to the hon. gentle- man. He believed he would perform his duty as well as most men, even when it was opposed to his interest; but he asked the hon. gentleman to state on what grounds he inferred that he (Mr. Ricardo) should, under similar circumstances, be wanting in his.'
He concluded by declaring that `it was too late to make any alteration in the currency. The difficulties of the measure of 1819 were now got over. The people were reconciled to it.' If agriculture were not flourishing before long, `it would only be on account of the mischievous corn law, which would always be a bar to its prosperity.'
Next to the currency among Ricardo's interests comes the question of the corn laws. His first attack on them in the House was made on December 16, 1819, in the course of a speech on Sir W. de Crespigny's motion for a committee to consider Owen's scheme. `The proportion of the capital to population,' he agreed with Brougham in believing, `regulated the amount of wages, and to augment them it was important to increase the capital of the country.' Low profits led to the emigration of capital to countries where the rate was higher. Profits were naturally smaller in England than on the Continent, but
`the capital continued in this kingdom, not only because persons felt a solicitude to keep their property under their own eye, but because the sane confidence was not reposed in the security of others: the moment, however, other kingdoms by their laws and institutions inspired greater confidence, the capitalist would be induced to remove his property from Great Britain to a situation where his profits would be more considerable: this arose from no fault in the government but the effect of it was to produce a deficiency of employment and consequent distress. Then came the question, had we taken the proper steps to prevent the profits upon capital from being lower here than in other countries? On the contrary, had we not done everything to augment and aggravate the evil? Had we not added to the natural artificial causes for the abduction of capital? We had passed corn laws that made the price of that necessary of life, grain, higher than to other and neighbouring countries, and thus interfered With the article which was considered the chief regulator of wages. Where grain was dear, wages must be high, and the effect of high wages was necessarily to make the profits on capital low.'
Immediate repeal of the corn laws, he thought, was impossible, but notice should be given that `after a certain number of years such an injurious system of legislation must terminate.' A fortnight later (December 24,1819) he repeated this argument when speaking on a petition of the merchants of London respecting commercial distress. On May 12 of the next year he declared that `there was not a more important question than that of the corn laws. Nothing, in his mind, was better calculated to afford general relief than the lowering of the price of corn. It was the first step to that great remedy, the making labour productive.' On May 30 he exposed the absurdity of endeavouring to fix `a remunerating price' for grain. `You might,' he said, `have fifty remunerating prices according as your capital was employed on productive or unproductive lands.' Endeavouring to prove the doctrine of his Essay on the Influence of a Low Price of Corn, and of his speech of December 16, 1819, he said
`The high price of subsistence diminished the profits of capital in the following manner :
The price of manufactured articlesof a piece of cloth, for instancewas made up of the wages of the manufacturer, the charges of management, and the interest of capital. The wages of the labourer were principally made up of what was necessary for subsistence; if grain was high, therefore the price of labour, which might be before at 50 per cent, on the manufactured article, might rise to 60, and being sold to the consumer at the same rate, the 10 per cent. (difference) would necessarily be a reduction from the profits of stock. If food was high here and cheap abroad, stock would thus have a tendency to leave the country and to settle where higher profits could be realised.'
He would grant that the country could grow enough to sup- port a considerably increased population, but he questioned the expediency of attempting to do so:
All general principles were against it. They might as well urge that, as in France, they could grow beetroot for the purpose of producing sugar, as grow grain sufficient for home consumption merely because it could be done. The right hon. gentleman opposite had ridiculed that absurd scheme of Buonaparte in the most pointed language, but all his ridicule applied equally to the growing of corn in this country when we could get it cheaper elsewhere.'
Of the notion that because commerce and manufacture were protected, agriculture should be protected also, he made short work. `The argument of the agriculturist was,' he said, `that the legislature having enabled the shipowner and cotton manufacturer to injure the community, they should give him a privilege to do the same.'
In 1821 Ricardo dealt with the corn laws in a speech on Mr. Gooch's motion for a committee on agricultural distress-(March 7). After repudiating the suggestion which had been made to the effect that he had a personal interest to serve, by asserting that `he was not a mercantile manthat he was not a man of funded property, but that he was a landed proprietor,' he `begged that he might not be understood as advocating an unlimited free trade in corn; for there were circumstances attending that question which rendered it imperative upon the legislature to impose some shackles upon a trade which, more than any other, being once without restraint, speedily required them.' If British agriculturists could show that they had to cope with any particular taxes which foreigners had not, then he would allow a countervailing duty to that amount. The great principle upon which they should go was thisto make the price of their corn approximate, as nearly as possible, to the price which it bore in other countries.' The existing system produced a glut of corn whenever the price rose above 80s.
`The system which had been proposed by the hon. member for Bridgenorth, of duties that should rise as the price of corn fell, and fall as the price of corn rose, he could not consider a very wise one. What would he the situation of the grower, if such a system were put in practice? Supposing he had to contend with the deficiencies of a short crop in one season, he naturally expected to make up for them in the next season. But the adoption of these duties would leave him no such remedy for his misfortunes.
The depression of agriculture was not, he felt sure, due to taxation, for taxation raised the price of products instead of lowering them. `Take,' he said, `the commonest article of trade; a hat, for instance. If the hat were taxed, the price of the hat rose of course.
`The hon. member for Cumberland had asked "Can we grow corn in England on the same terms as the foreign grower?" To this he would answer "No"; and for that very reason he would import it. But what was the proposed end of all capital if it was not thisthat the possessor should procure a great abundance of produce With it? Now if he could prove that by getting rid of all that capital which is employed in land, he could make a more profitable use of it, then he contended that was in effect so much capital gained by him. But here again an erroneous idea prevailed. The House was told of the capital which was employed in land, and told in a manner as if it was absolutely and entirely vested in it. Let them just consider, however, the wages of labour, the price of improvements, the charges of manure, and they would find that the total cost of all these items would be a capital saved.'
Speaking on Brougham's motion for reduction of the taxation of the agricultural and other classes on February 11, 1822, he acknowledged boldly that be wished to see a diminution in the quantity of land under tillage
`His hon. and learned friend had stated that, unless something were done to relieve the farmer, much of the land would be thrown out of tillage. He said so too; and it was to that very circumstance that he looked forward as a remedy.'
On April 3 he made another attack on the doctrine of fixing a remunerating price. A committee on agriculture had spoken of the imposition of duties to `countervail' not only the taxes on agricultural produce, but also the whole additional expense of growing corn in this country as compared with other countries. But to such duties there could be no limit, since as population increased, poorer and poorer lands would be taken into cultivation, and the expense of production would keep on rising. Moreover, effective duties on this principle applied to all com- modities would simply put an end to all foreign commerce. `If,' he said, `on this plan they attempted to give a monopoly to grapes reared in hot-houses, countervailing duties might be imposed on wine, to make it as dear as the produce of the hot-houses.'
Since 1815, it will be remembered, the sale of foreign corn in England was absolutely prohibited except when the price had risen above a certain limitin the case of wheat 80s. per quarter. The price had been below this level since February, 1819, but the agriculturists were haunted by a fear that when, as they hoped would soon happen, the price rose again to the limit, there would be such an immense importation that they would profit nothing. The Government proposed therefore that even when the import price was reached the foreign corn should be liable to a heavy duty. Numerous amendments were brought forward, and Ricardo proposed (April 29, 1822) that as soon as the price of wheat had once exceeded 70s. importation should be allowed, whatever the price might be, on payment of a duty of 20s., which should be reduced one shilling per annum till it was only 10s. He also proposed a bounty of 7s. on exportation. The debate was enlivened by a long and vigorous attack upon Ricardo from Matthias Attwood. One passage in Attwood's speech puts forward an objection to Ricardo's theory which those who take their history of economic theory exclusively from J. S. Mill imagine to have been discovered by H. C. Carey. Quoting Ricardo's proposition that `in the progress of society, when no importation takes place we are obliged constantly to have recourse to worse soils to feed an augmenting population,' Attwood said
`He believed that the fact thus assumed was directly the reverse of that which did in reality exist; that so far from the average quality of land becoming poorer as population and wealth advanced, it became richer; and he had no doubt, but the average quality of the land under cultiva- tion in this country at the period of its highest prices, and of the greatest prosperity of agriculture, at the period prior to the close of the last warthat the average quality of land was then more fertile; that it produced more corn on an average by the acre, and with less positive labour; that it yielded a greater surplus produce than at any former period. It was not true that the cultivation of any country proceeded in the manner and according to the calculation here assumed. It was not the best land which was first cultivated, nor the worst land which was last cultivated. This was determined in a great measure by other circumstances; by the rights of proprietorship, by beauty, by enterprise, by the peculiarities of feudal tenure, its remains still existing; by roads, canals, the erection of towns, of manufactories; all those and other obstacles of a similar nature interfered with the calculations of the hon. member; and bad land, when it was once brought into cultivation and subjected to the operations of agriculture by draining, by watering, by the application of various substances, frequently became the best land, and was afterwards cultivated at the least expense.'(7)
`The price of corn,' he proceeded to show, `had never risen in the way the hon. gentleman had supposed.' Ricardo's answer to this portion of the speech was feeble in the extreme
`The hon. gentleman talked of the impossibility of the cultivators of the soil having recourse to land of an inferior quality, but the hon. gentleman did not correctly state the argument. It was not that cultivators were always driven by the increase of population to lands of inferior quality, but that from the additional demand for grain, they might be driven to employ on land previously cultivated a second portion of capital which did [not] produce so much as the first. On a still further demand a third portion might be employed which did not pro- duce so much as the second: it was manifestly by the return on the last portion of capital applied that the cost of production was deter- mined. It was impossible, therefore, that the country should go on increasing its demand for grain without the coat of producing it being increased and causing an increased price.'
These remarks are almost pointless, since Attwood obviously intended to argue not only that there was `in the progress of society' no diminution in the productiveness of land (produce per acre), but also that there was no diminution in the productiveness of labour (produce per man). Ricardo spoke four times in the course of the debate, but his resolutions were rejected by 218 to 25 (May 9). II
To protecting duties and bounties on manufactured articles Ricardo was no less hostile than to the corn laws, and no consideration of self-interest had any influence upon him. He objected equally to taxes on England for the benefit of Irish industry(8) and to commercial restrictions on the colonies for the benefit of England.(9) That his own constituency was in Ireland was a fact which never moved him in the least. His speeches against all kinds of commercial restrictions other than the corn laws were invariably short and pithy. Here, for example, is the whole of his reply to the doctrine often heard even in these days, that the Government ought to buy nothing of foreign manufacture
`Mr. Ricardo thought that if the various articles likely to be consumed at the coronation could be bought cheaper in the foreign than the home market, there could be no objection to their not being home manufacture, seeing that they must be purchased by the produce of our own industry.'(10)
To the argument that the government of England must interfere with commerce because other governments were doing so, he had a sharp retort
`The hon. mover had stated that foreign monarchs were embarking in the corn trade, that they were becoming merchants, and that the King of Sweden was importing oats into this country. Now if this were the fact, he for one should rather rejoice at it, because he should expect to make much better bargains With kings and princes than With their subjects. The hon. gentleman, however, need not be under any alarm; for if, as he represented, these trading potentates would not take back our hardware and pottery in exchange, there was a sufficient security for our continuing to grow our own corn.'(11)
Speaking on the question of the timber duties, he said that by purchasing timber from Canada instead of from the north of Europe the country was losing £400,000 a year, and he would much rather make a direct grant of that amount to the ship- owners,
for in that case the capital thus given to them would be more usefully employed. At present it was a total sacrifice of £400,000 a year, as much so as if the ships engaged in the coasting trade should be obliged to sail round the island in order to give employment to a greater number. He was of opinion that according to the true principles of commerce it ought to form no part of the consumer's consideration to enter into the distribution by the seller of the money or labour which he (the consumer) exchanged for any commodity which he wanted. All the consumer had to consider was where he could get the article he wanted cheapest; whether the payments were to be made in money or in manufactures was matter quite of minor importance.'(12)
Repeating this doctrine in more general terms a week or two later, he said
`It was contended that the interest of the producer ought to he looked to as well as that of the consumer, in legislative principles. But the fact was that in attending to the interest of the consumer, protection was at the same time extended to all other classes. The true way of encouraging production was to discover and open facilities to consumption.'(13)
In a speech on the Colonial Trade Bill on May 17, 1822, he made quite a lively attack on the system by which `vexatious- and unnecessary burdens were cast upon one class, and that class was allowed to relieve itself by preying upon some other.' Some one had asked what became of the million and a half which was said to be taken from England for the sake of the West Indies:
`No one got it. That was what he (Mr. Ricardo) complained of. The people of England paid grievously for their sugar, Without a corresponding benefit to any persons. The sum which they paid was. swallowed up in the fruitless waste of human labour.'
For internal restrictions on freedom of trade he had as little mercy as for protection. Of the usury laws be spoke with con- tempt:
`He had had great experience in the money market, and could state the usury laws to have always been felt as a dead weight on those wishing to raise money. - With respect to those concerned, in the money market itself the laws had always been inoperative, and during the war indirect means had been found of obtaining 7, 8, 10, and 15 per cent, interest. The laws .therefore occasioned inconvenience, but did no good.'(14)
Lender and borrower, he explained on another occasion, conspired to evade the law. These laws operated in precisely the same way as the laws against exporting the coin of the realm. Now, notwithstanding those laws, did not the exportation of that coin take place? The only effect of the statutes in that case was to place the traffic in the hands of characters who had no scruples against taking a false oath. They were encouraged to evade the law, and made a great profit by so doing.'(15)
In 1823 Huskisson proposed to repeal the Acts 13 Geo. III. ch. 68, 32 Geo. III. ch. 44, and 51 Geo. III. ch. 7, commonly called the Spitalfields Acts, which empowered the magistrates- of London, Westminster, Middlesex, and the Tower to fix the wages of journeymen silk weavers within their jurisdiction, and also prohibited masters residing within those limits from employing weavers in other parts of the country at a different rate of wages from that so fixed. When an ably drawn petition was presented on May 9 in favour of the repeal, Ricardo immediately rose. He `could not help expressing his astonishment that in the year 1823 those Acts should be existing and in force. They were not merely an interference with the freedom of trade,. but they cramped the freedom of labour itself.' On May 21 petitions came in from the journeymen silk weavers of London and Sudbury. On the reception of the London petition Ricardo,. in a speech of some length, said
`The hon. member for Weymouth (Fowell Buxton) had observed that the petitioners knew nothing about political economy, the principles of which seemed to change every two or three years. Now the principles of true political economy never changed; and those who did not understand that science had better say nothing about it, but endeavour to give good reasons, if they could find any, for supporting the existing Act. He most assuredly would not utter a word that could be injurious to the working classes; all his sympathies were in their favour: he considered them as a most valuable part of the population, and what he said was intended for their benefit. Bet why should this particular trade come under the cognisance of the magistrate more than any other?'
On the report stage of Huskisson's Bill (June 9) he argued that if the Acts were beneficial they ought to be extended to the whole country and to all manufactures
`But the question was whether labour should or should not be free? The quantity of work must depend on the extent of demand, and if the demand was great the number of persons employed would be in pro- portion.. If these Acts were repealed, no doubt the number of weavers employed in London would be greater than at present. They might not, indeed, receive such high wages; but it was improper that those wages should be artificially kept up by the interference of a magistrate. If a manufacturer was obliged to use a certain quantity of labour he ought to obtain it at a fair price. . . An hon. member for Bristol had talked about political economy; but the words "political economy" had of late become terms of ridicule and reproach. They were used as a substitute for an argument.'
Before the third reading debate on June 11 he had collected or been provided with information on the subject. He was `in possession of a number of cases' showing the inconvenience caused by the Acts, and changed his ground, contending now that the repeal would not reduce the weavers' earnings
`Mr. Ricardo contended that the effect of the existing law was to diminish the quantity of labour, and that though the rate of wages was high the workmen had so little to do that their wages were in point of fact lower than they would be under the proposed alteration of the law. He could not bear to hear it said that they were legislat- ing to the injury of the working classes. He would not stand up in support of the measure if he thought for one moment that it had any such tendency. . . . He was perfectly satisfied that if the present Bill should pass there would be a much greater quantity of work for the weavers in London than there was at present. With respect to wages, he was persuaded that in all the common branches of the manufacture they would not fall; for at the present moment they were as high in the country, with reference to those branches, as they were in London.'
The Bill passed by fifty-three to forty, but was amended out of recognition by Lord Eldon in the Lords, and did not become law. The repeal was not effected till the next year by 5 Geo. IV. ch. 95.
The prohibition of the truck system fared no better with Ricardo than the Spitalfields Acts. In 1822 certain `miners, iron-makers, and coal masters' of Dudley prayed the House of Commons to enjoin a more strict observance of the law
`Mr. Ricardo,' Hansard reports, `thought it impossible to renew so obnoxious an Act. Mr. Owen prided himself upon having introduced the provision system. He had opened a shop at New Lanark in which he sold the best commodities to his workmen cheaper than they could be obtained elsewhere; and he was persuaded that the practice was a beneficial one.'(16)
On June 29, 1820, there was some debate on the motion for a select committee `to inquire into the means of relieving the cotton weavers which may be attempted without injury to the community.' The proposer, Mr. Maxwell, suggested that power looms ought to be taxed because the `articles on which the weaver was compelled to exist' were taxed. If the machine paid no taxes, he thought its competition with the hand worker was unfair. He also urged that the State should expend some money in providing land for cultivation by weavers unable to find employment, and asked, `Was it consistent with the harmony of the universe that one class of men should want the necessaries of life, while another abounded in every luxury and superfluity?' Ricardo's reply was short.
`Mr. Ricardo said that he conceived the duty of government to be to give the greatest possible development to industry. This they could do only by removing the obstacles which had been created. He complained therefore of government on very different grounds from the hon. mover, for his complaint was against the restrictions on trade, and other obstacles of that description, which opposed the development of industry. The recommendations of the hon. mover were inconsistent with the contrast between one class and another. If government interfered, they would do mischief and no good. They had already interfered and done mischief by the poor laws. The principles of the hon. mover would likewise violate the sacredness of property, which constituted the great security of society.'
Immediately after his election in 1819, Ricardo was added to a select committee on the poor laws which was then sitting. The `proceedings' of committees were not published at that time, and in `minutes of evidence' the names of questioners were not given, so that it is impossible to distinguish the part played by any individual. The report of the committee does not show any particular signs of Ricardian influence, and on the general question contents itself with referring the House to the report of the committee of 1817. The evidence which it took was very little and not of a general character, so that Ricardo was not- compelled to make himself acquainted with the subject. When he spoke on it in the House he was quite vague and general. His maiden speech, delivered on March 25, 1819, was on Sturges Bourne's Poor Rates Misapplication Bill. Under this Bill it was proposed to give free board, industrial training, and education to the third, fourth, and all subsequent children of poor fathers, and to prohibit all relief to the able-bodied labourer in employment'a provision which,' Mr. Bourne hoped, `would point out the necessity of granting him more adequate wages.'
`Mr. Ricardo thought that the two great evils for which it was desirable to provide a remedy were the tendency towards a- redundant population, and the inadequacy of the wages to the support of the labouring classes; and he apprehended that the measure now proposed would not afford any security against the continuance of these evils. On the contrary, he thought that if a provision were made for all the children of the poor, it would only increase the evil; for if parents felt assured that an asylum would be provided for their children in which they would be treated With humanity and tenderness, there would then be no check to that increase of population which was so apt to take place among the labouring classes. With regard to the other evil, the inadequacy of the wages, it ought to be remembered that if this measure should have the effect of raising them, they would still he no more than the wages of a single man, and would never rise so high as to afford a provision for a man with a family.'
On May 17, at the second reading stage, `Mr. Ricardo opposed the bill, principally on the ground that it tended to increase the population. If at present there existed a difficulty in supporting the poor, in what situation would the country be placed in [sic) twenty years hence, when these children so educated grew up to manhood? The bill was only the plan of Mr. Owen in a worse shape and carried to a greater extent.'
The second reading was carried by 47 to 22, and, strange to say, the bill was eventually sent up to the Lords, where, however, it met its fate without the compliment of a division.
In 1821 a bill was brought in by Mr. Scarlett which proposed to establish a maximum beyond which the poor rate could not be raised, to abolish inability to obtain work as a claim for relief, and to do away with removals to the place of settlement. Ricardo supported it (May 8) on the ground that it `proposed to have the labourer paid in just wages by his employer instead of having him transferred to the poor rates'; the effect of the measure `would be to regulate the price of labour by the demand, and that was the end peculiarly desired.'
`With respect to the pressure of the taxes and the national debt upon the poor, that pressure could not be disputed, especially as it took away from the rich the means of employing the poor; but he had no doubt, if the supply of labour were reduced below the demand, which was the purpose .of his hon. and learned friend's measure, that the public debt and taxes would bear exclusively upon the rich, and the poor would be most materially benefited.'
In this age of pension schemes, it is interesting to find that Ricardo advocated a plan for providing pensions.. On June 1, 1821, when the budget was under discussion, he remarked
`He should offer hut a word or two relative to saving banks. He highly approved of them; but a plan had been suggested by a gentleman in the country, to which he thought the House would do well to pay some attention. The name of this gentleman, he believed, was Woodrow, and his plan was one by which a life-annuity income might be obtained in these banks. The plan was that persons at an early age might be willing to make a trifling sacrifice, which, by the operation of compound interest, would in the course, say of thirty or forty years, increase to a considerable sum. At the birth of a child, a father might be disposed to put by a small sum of money for the purpose of procuring to the child an annuity hereafter; a plan of this kind would be productive of great benefits.'
Mr. Woodson evidently read or heard of this speech, and determined to avail himself of the services of so important an ally, for on February 18, 1822,
Mr. Ricardo presented a petition from Mr. John Woodson, who, he observed, had taken a great deal of pains in examining into the best mode of relieving the poor, and who was of opinion that the principle on which the saving banks were at present conducted was not the most beneficial that could be devised. He conceived it would be much better if those who vested their money in these banks were paid by way of annuity, but at a less rate of interest than was now given. Their money might be allowed to accumulate, and thus a comfortable provision would be insured to them when they arrived at an advanced age. He (Mr. Ricardo) thought the plan deserved the attention of the legislature.'
Of Owen's ambitious plans, which played in 1819 almost exactly the same part as General Booth's in 1890, it may be said that the more Ricardo examined them the less he liked them. At a meeting held in Freemasons' Hall on June 26, 1819, he had been nominated to serve on a committee which was appointed to inquire into Owen's `plan.' In accepting the nomi- nation he had thought it necessary to let fall a word of caution.
`Mr. Ricardo begged to trouble the meeting With a few observations. As his name was placed on the committee he should state shortly those circumstances in which be agreed and in which he differed from the preceding speakers. . . . In a limited degree he thought the scheme likely to succeed, and to produce, where it did succeed, considerable happiness, comfort, and morality by giving employment and instruction to the lower classes. No person could admire more than he did, or appreciate more highly, the benevolence that led his friend (Mr. Owen) to prosecute his plan with so much zeal and at the expense of so much time and trouble. He could not, however, go along With him in the hope of ameliorating the condition of the lower classes to such a degree as he seemed to expect; nor should he Wish it to go forth to the public that he thought the plan would produce all the good anticipated from it by his sanguine friend. As a member of the committee he should do everything in his power to forward the objects for which it was appointed.'(17)
This committee eventually recommended the establishment of a kind of experimental Owenite village with the communism left out, which was much like proposing the adoption of General Booth's plans excluding religion and conversion. On December l6, Sir W. de Crespigny moved in the House of Commons `that a select committee be appointed to inquire into the nature of the plan proposed by Robert Owen, Esq., and to report thereon; and how far the same, or any part thereof, may be rendered available for ameliorating the condition of the labouring classes of the community, or for affording beneficial employment of the poor, by an improved application of the sums raised for their relief.' Lord Archibald Hamilton seconded, relying chiefly on the good effects of Owen's government of New Lanark. Brougham spoke in favour of the motion on educational grounds. Vansittart opposed because Owen `looked to the adoption of a plan subversive of the religion and government of the country.' Mr. John Smith `eulogised the character of Mr. Owen,' and drew attention to the fact that no man employed by him at New Lanark had been convicted of crime in a period of fourteen years. Then
`Mr. Ricardo observed that he was completely at war with the system of Mr. Owen, which was built upon a theory inconsistent with the principles of political economy, and in his opinion was calculated to produce infinite mischief to the community. Something had fallen from an hon. member on a former night on the subject of machinery. It could not be denied, on the whole view of the subject, that machinery did not lessen the demand for labour; while on the other hand it did not consume the produce of the soil, nor employ any of our manufactures. It might also be misapplied by occasioning the production of too much cotton or too much cloth; but the moment those articles ceased in consequence to pay the manufacturer, he would devote his time and capital to some other purpose. Mr. Owen's plan proceeded upon thishe who was such an enemy to machinery only proposed machinery of a different kind; he would bring into operation a most active portion of machinerynamely, human arms. He would dispense with ploughs and horses in the increase of the productions of the country, although the expense as to them must be much less when compared with the support of men. He confessed he did not agree in the general principles of the plan under consideration, but he was disposed to accede to the proposition of a committee. Spade husbandry Mr. Owen recommended as more beneficial to production. He was not informed enough on the interests of agriculture to give an opinion, but that was a reason for sending the subject to a committee. For what did the country want at the present moment? A demand for labour. If the facts stated of spade husbandry were true, it was a beneficial course, as affording that demand. And though government or the legislature would not be Wisely employed in engaging in any commercial experiment, it would be advantageous that it should, under present circumstances, circulate useful information and correct prejudices. They should separate such considerations from a division of the country into parallelograms, or the establishment of a community of goods, and similar visionary schemes.'
Ricardo's name is constantly to be found in the short lists of the tiny bands which Joseph Hume carried with him into the lobby after inflicting his dreary collections of figures upon the House. On one at least of these occasions, in spite of the mild- ness of his manners, Ricardo took part in grossly obstructive proceedings. At an early period of the evening of March 12, 1821, the House went into committee on the army estimates. At half past twelve the first division was taken, and strangers were excluded till 3.20 A.M. During this period five divisions were taken, `each of which was preceded by warm discussions.' When the reporters were readmitted, `ministers were at that time sitting on the Opposition benches, their places being occupied by their opponents.' Then there were three more divisions on frivolous pretexts, and `at 4 o'clock fresh candles having been brought in, Mr. Lambton moved that they should be excluded.' This was defeated by 146 to 38, but Lord Castlereagh had to give way and allow the House to adjourn. Ricardo was among the thirty-eight who voted against the fresh candles.
He was of course opposed to the absurd arrangements with regard to the sinking fund which prevailed at the time. When the excess of income over expenditure was about £1,600,000, the nation through one agent sold new stock to the value of £13,400,000, and through another set of agents bought £15,000,000 worth of old stock for cancellation. The sole result of the operation was of course to present the Stock Exchange with the brokerage and jobber's profit on the sale and purchase of the £13,400,000 worth of stock. Mr. Pascoe Grenfell moved on May 13, 1819, that the House should go into committee to consider the act on which these proceedings were based. In the course of his speech he remarked that
`loan contractors were not in his judgment exactly that description of persons by whose advice in these matters a Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to be governed. In 1814 the right hon. gentleman (Vansittart) had stated in his place, that, having conferred with a number of gentlemen contracting for the loan with regard to acting on his (Mr. Grenfell's) suggestion, they all, with one exception only, signified their disapprobation of it, and recommended a loan of £24,000,000 instead of £12,000,000. The exception to which he alluded was that of his hon. friend (Mr. Ricardo), who, greatly to his credit, observed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that if he considered his own interest merely he must agree with his brother contractors, but if he were to consult the advantage of the country he should advise the application of the sinking fund, and a loan of £12,000,000 only.' Vansittart of course undertook to support the existing system, but had nothing to say in its favour except that it was supposed to make a market for the funds. `Were it not for the regular purchases made by the commissioners, there would be few real buyers, and persons under the necessity of selling would be at the mercy of stock jobbers.' After Lord Althorp and another member had spoken, Ricardo rose, evidently a little indignant with Vansittart. After explaining that the loss involved consisted of that regular premium which the contractors obtained independently of the events of peace or war, which they were entitled to for undertaking the risk of such extensive undertakings,' he said:
`Any gentleman who supposed that if [the] process did not go on, it would be in the power of the jobbers to make hard terms with the sellers of stock, must have been perfectly iguorant of the stock market (hear, hear)for competition was nowhere carried to such an extent, and nowhere operated with more benefit to the public. His hon. friend had alluded to the opinion which he (Mr. Ricardo) had given before the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1814. He had certainly then given the opinion which he had long entertained. He should have shrunk into the earth before those who had long known his sentiments if he had given any other; hut he knew -that those gentlemen who gave a contrary opinion had given it just as conscientiously; for great and sincere differences of judgment on this subject existed in the City.'
He thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer might just as well attempt to improve the corn market `by sending a commissioner to buy a quarter of wheat, while he sent a contractor to sell the same quantity.' Common sense was heavily beaten in the division, the numbers being, for the resolution 39, against 117.
Ricardo was opposed to any attempt to keep the revenue above the current expenditure with a view of redeeming debt, because he was firmly convinced that the current expenditure would always rise to the amount of the current revenue.(18) Except for the weakness of human and especially ministerial flesh, he thought Pitt's plan of providing for the interest of every new loan and in addition 1 per cent, for the redemption of the capital, was an excellent one. As a matter of fact, some Chancellor of the Exchequer would always, like his predecessors, come down to the House and inform them that some deficiency had been discovered or some emergency had arisen which rendered it necessary to appropriate the whole of the 1 per cent. sinking funds. In reply to one of his speeches to this effect, Baring observed
`His hon. friend said he was not opposed to the principle of Mr. Pitt's sinking fund; but he objected to the preservation of any surplus at all, because he was sure that somebody would take it away; he was afraid that some minister or other would take it away, and, therefore, he was resolved to take it away himself. This reminded him of a Frenchman in some play, who upon being appealed to for his advice as to the best mode of resisting the advances of her admirer, replied that the best way of resisting temptation was to yield to it at once.'(19)
This criticism would have been more properly applicable to the policy of a Chancellor of the Exchequer who argued that he must remit taxes and reduce the sinking fund because if he did not his successor would, and Ricardo was able to retort with unusual wit that
`his hon. friend the member for Taunton had facetiously observed that because he (Mr. Ricardo) thought ministers were going to rob the sinking fund, he would willingly take it away himself. It was, he thought, good policy, when his purse was in danger, rather to spend the money himself than allow it to be taken from him. He did not, he confessed, think the national purse safe in the hands of ministers. It was too great a temptation to entrust them with.'(20)
Holding these views, he followed the simple rule of voting against all increases and in favour of all remissions of taxation by whomsoever proposed. On April 3, 1822, he was able to declare that he had voted for every reduction of taxes that had been proposed during the session. He could even make common cause with Squire Western and the country gentlemen against the taxes on malt and agricultural horses.(21) He did not, he ex- plained, believe that either of them was `in itself a bad tax or pressed with peculiar hardship on the landed interest,' but he voted for their repeal `with a view of compelling the observance of strict economy in the administration of government.'(22) He only drew the line at voting for such a reduction as would have caused an actual deficit. `Enemy as he was to all taxation '(23)he thus describes himself more than oncehe was not much troubled by distinctions between good and bad taxes. In one debate on new taxes he actually declared that `as to the particular taxes, it was unnecessary for him to state his sentiments, seeing he was an enemy to taxation altogether.'(24) Speaking after him in this debate, Mr. Lyttelton mentioned `the argument which had fallen from one of the highest authorities on questions of political economy in this kingdom (Mr. Ricardo)namely, that a tax upon the necessaries of life did not fall heaviest on the poor,' and said that although he might be disposed to admit - the truth of that principle, the malt tax did fall heaviest on them, as it was on `an article the very last, as it might be said, before those necessaries.' Hereupon
`Mr. Ricardo explained. He said that he hoped the House and his hon. friend would understand that he was not contending that the taxing of necessaries was not injurious to labourers, but that it was no more injurious to them than any other mode of taxation. In fact all taxation had a tendency to injure the labouring classes, because it either diminished the fund employed in the maintenance of labour, or checked its accumulation. In the argument which he had used he had supposed that it was necessary to raise a certain sum by taxes, and then the question was whether by taxing necessaries the burden would be particularly borne by the labouring classes. He thought not; he was of opinion that they would ultimately fall on the employers of labour, and would be only prejudicial to the labourers in the same way as most other taxes would be, inasmuch as they would diminish the fund employed in the support of labour.'
Once indeed we do find him moved from his customary attitude of indiscriminate hostility to all taxes. Though the tax on salt, he said,
`was undoubtedly very burdensome, it did not appear to him to be that which most demanded reduction. The taxes on law proceedings seemed to him the most abominable that existed in the country, by subjecting the poor man and the man of middling fortune who applied for justice to the most ruinous expense. Every gentleman had his favourite plan for repealing a particular tax, and this tax upon justice was that which he should most desire to see reduced.'(25)
His own scheme of finance was to reduce the taxes at one blow by paying off the national debt immediately by means of an assessment on all the property in the kingdom, including the funds themselves. He referred to this plan first on June 9, 1819. After objecting to a new tax suggested by a private member, he said --
`He would, however, be satisfied to make a sacrifice; the sacrifice would be a temporary one, and with that view he would be willing to give up as large a share of his property as any other individual. By such means ought the evil of the national debt to be met. It was an evil which almost any sacrifice would not be too great to get rid of. It destroyed the equilibrium of prices, occasioned many persons to emigrate to other countries in order to avoid the burden of taxation which it entailed, and hung like a millstone round the exertion and industry of the country.'
In the discursive speech of December 16, 1819, already mentioned, he was a little more explicit as to his plan, and makes it clear that it involved repudiation of a large proportion of the debt
`With respect to the national debt, he felt that he entertained opinions on that point which by many would be considered extravagant. He was one of those who thought it could be paid off, and that the country was at this moment perfectly competent to pay it off. He did not mean that it should be redeemed at par; the public creditor possessed no such claimwere he paid at the market price, the public faith would be fulfilled.'
No one seems to have thought it worth while to protest against this astonishing view of the nature of the contract between the nation and the fund-holder. On December 24 he again broached the subject. The debt, like the corn laws, he averred, raised the price of food and consequently the price of labour, and therefore reduced profits and tended to drive capital abroad, leaving that which remained to pay more than its fair proportion:--
`To guard against this evil, which was productive at once of individual injustice and national injury, the whole capital of the country ought to be assessed for the discharge of the public debt, so that no more capital should be allowed, to go out of the country without paying its fair proportion of that debt. The execution of this plan might be attended with difficulty, but then the importance of the object was worthy of an experiment to overcome every possible difficulty. The whole of the plan through which he proposed the payment of the public debt might in his view be carried into effect within four or five. years. For the discharge of the public debt he proposed that checks should be issued upon the government to each purchaser, which checks should be kept distinct from the ordinary circulating medium of the country, but should be received by the government in payment of taxes. Thus the debt might be gradually liquidated while the government continued gradually receiving the assessments upon capital to provide for that liquidation. He would not, however, dwell further upon this chimerical project, as he understood it was considered by every one except himself.'
Brougham's unsympathetic remark that `the effect of such a measure would be to place the property for five years at the mercy of all the solicitors, conveyancers, and money-hunters in the country' did not destroy his faith in his project. On May 30, 1820, .he waxed quite enthusiastic over it.
`This,' he said, `would be the happiest country in the world, and its progress in prosperity would be beyond the power of imagination to conceive, if we got rid of two great evilsthe national debt and the corn laws. When he spoke of getting rid of the national debt, he did not mean by wiping it away with a sponge, hut by honestly discharging it. His ideas on the subject were known, and he had heard no argument to show that the measure he would recommend was not the best policy. If this evil were removed, the course of trade and the prices of articles would become natural and right; and if corn were exported or imported, as in other countries, without restraint, this country, possessing the greatest skill, the greatest industry, the best machinery, and every other advantage in the highest degree, its prosperity and happiness would be incomparably and almost inconceivably great.'
Three years later he was still enamoured of `what an hon. friend had been pleased to call his "crotchet,"' and had come to think that the whole business might be accomplished within twelve months.(26) Replying on March 6, 1823, to criticism which had apparently been rather of the `Jupiter and Saturn' order, he waxed eloquent over the advantages of getting rid of the expense and heart-burnings arising from taxation, of the cost and immorality of smuggling, and of ministerial patronage and artificial conditions of trade. `Was this,' he inquired rhetorically, `legislating for men or for stocks and stones?'
Few more drastic `democratic' financial proposals have ever been made than this one of laying an immediate tax of six or seven hundred millions upon property in order to get rid of about thirty millions of annual taxes on consumable articles. That Ricardo could propose it seriously may perhaps be looked upon as confirming the common view that he was an unpractical theorist. But will any one venture to say positively now that the increase in the material welfare of the nation in the next seventy years would not have been more rapid than it was if the national debt had been redeemed(27) by one heroic effort in 1823?
1. The member for Galway said in the House of Commons on April 24, 1828: The hon. member for Portarlington bad talked gravely about the influence of the aristocracy. Now he did not think the hon. gentleman could name one of the constituents by whom he was returned. They were about twelve to number, and he did not recollect that he had ever set foot in Ireland. The hon. gentleman had, therefore he presumed, been indebted to that influence, or to some equivalent one, for his seat for Portarlington. Hansard, vol. viii., p. 1285.
2. December 6, 1519.
3. 21 April 15, 1821.
4. April 24. 1828. In reprinting the `speech on the plan of voting by ballot,' which appears at the end of his edition of Ricardo's Works. McCulloch calls it a `report of one of Mr. Ricardo's speeches in Parliament--most probably the one be delivered on the 24th April, 1828, in the debate on Lord John Russell's motionwritten in his own band.' That McCulloch had not taken the most ordinary pains to verify a haphazard conjecture is shown by his use of the words `most probably'; that he bad not taken the trouble to read the speech which he was reprinting is shown by the fact that It talks of `the bill,' and is particularly addressed to criticism of two clauses' in the bill. If Hansard is to be trusted it was never delivered.
5. That of February 28, 1821. The other list (April 50, 1822) gives the names only of those who voted against the Roman catholic claim,.
6. If there were two standards there would be greater chance of variation, December 24, 1819.
7. May 7, 1522.
8. May 50, 1823, on the Irish Tithes Bill.
9. March 15, 1822.
10. July 3, 1820.
11. April 5, 1821.
12. April 1, 1821.
13. April 16, 1821.
14. April 12, 1821.
15. June 17, 1822.
16. June 17, 1822.
17. The Times, Monday, June 28, 1819.
18. See speeches of June 18, 1819, March 6, April 5, 1821, February 18, 1822.
19. February 28, 1828.
20. March 6, 1822, cf. July 1, 1822.
21. Divisions on March 21 and April 3, 1821.
22. April 5, 1821.
23. March, 7. 1821.
24. June 15. 1819.
25. March 20, 1822.
26. March 11, 1825.
27. The word `redeemed' scarcely covers Ricardo's proposal to pay off the fund-holders compulsorily at the market price; the fund-holder certainly had a right to demand either the continuance of his annuity or £100. Whether it was justifiable to demand that the fund-holders should contribute their proportion of the tax necessary to pay them off is more doubtful. McCulloch, in 1816, it may be remembered, wrote an essay (not mentioned in his Literature) recommending a compulsory reduction of the interest on the debt.