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It is always an unpleasant and a somewhat delicate task to criticise a work, the author of which is not living to answer whatever animadversions may be cast on it; but the disagreeableness of the measure is in the present instance greatly removed by the consideration, that he followed a similar course in treating of the productions of others, and those standing much higher in the literary and scientific world than could ever be expected or attained by himself. A regard for the advancement of the subject on which he wrote, and a desire to clear it from all false impressions, would, however, in themselves, be a sufficient justification for the following remarks on Mr. Ricardo's “ Principles of Political Economy,” which call for the minuter investigation, as coming from a person lately well known in the world, as giving a name to a course of lectures in delivery at the present moment, and as having been often referred to even in Parliament.
From some of his speeches, and the tenets he there held forth whilst attending the House during his existence, the writer of the present observations well recollects his impression at the time that Mr. Ricardo was considerably in error on the various subjects connected with landed property; and a perusal of his work before mentioned has corroborated the opinion which some years ago
began to be entertained by him. It is necessary, however, to premise, that this remark appertains solely or chiefly to that part of his discussion which treats of the price or value of landed produce, and has a general reference to agriculture, a topic which Mr. R., though probably well versed in the currency or foreign trade, did not, and could not, from his generally commercial pursuits, be well
supposed, indeed, to understand or justly to elucidate. The numerous inconsistencies and contradictions displayed on this point throughout his treatise are confirmatory of the foregoing observation, and for the sake of clearness will be hereafter quoted to convince the reader of the truth of what is now advanced, and as a means of reference how far some of his opinions, incidentally expressed, are opposite to his own system, and tally with one, which will be afterwards proposed and recommended. It
not be amiss, though, primarily, to give some outlines of the real and first principles of general political economy, which, if every nation were of equal habits, intelligence and condition, would dictate according to the amount of their communities, an equal distribution of wealth and consequent happiness throughout the world. They would, as regards every distinct country, allot to it those advantages, and to every individual in it that graduated portion of income which would suit his particular station in life, and procure him the full measure of comforts which should belong to it under the common exertions of labor and industry. They would, therefore, be as adverse to any private and great accumulation of riches, as to the individual depression of want and poverty. This, with perfect liberty of the subject, and well-digested laws, would be the acme of political economy, under the supposition that all nations were equally enlightened and free from particular incumbrances and disadvantages. It would matter not, whether America yielded more gold, or India better or more plentiful silk, than other states, or France her superior wines, since a mutual exchange could take place under a complete freedom of trade, and each might thus obtain the native productions of other countries to the benefit of all. But it must be evident to the merest tyro in political economy that these principles can only be applied, in their perfect state, to countries thus situated, and that the whole world is differently circumstanced at the present and has been at every past period. All nations are in an unimproved, irregular, or artificial condition. Some still remain in a state of barbarism, and require not those supplies, which the more civilised produce; others, lately emerged from it, are still so little accustomed to better habits, that they want not, in any quantity, the goods wrought elsewhere, though they neither cultivate their own soil, nor are conversant in manufacture ; whilst a few are too indolent for the promotion of commerce; and where, amongst others, that has been desired the most, it has been for ages rendered difficult, and, in some instances, prohibitory, under the plea of encouraging particular internal manufactures, or a necessity of raising immense supplies for the state. Thus, even amongst the most enlightened nations, every kind of commerce has become disordered from the occurrence of wars and
previous political mismanagement, and their respective habits and conditions are, consequently, in an unnatural and different ratio when compared with each other. The pure principles of political economy, especially as regards a freedom of commercial intercourse, cannot, therefore, be at present applied to them, as if they all rested on the same basis ; and whatever portion is adopted must be entered upon slowly and with great caution, joined with no little share of the principle of expediency. The best guide in such a matter, and which would be most consistent under all circumstances whatsoever, will be that of reciprocal agreement and advantage. England, so burthened with debt, the interest of which must be raised from taxation on every class of her inhabitants, whose habits of life are also more expensive than those of any other people, cannot afford even to try an experiment which might be likely to injure a single class of her subjects. How. ever much her government and every one of her inhabitants may admire the principles of free trade in the abstract, and the adoption of what, under better circumstances, would be held as the most perfect state of comfort and prosperity to the whole world, she, from her past conduct and present indebiture, must approach the Hygeian temple with slow and wary steps. Supposing her at least in a convalescent state, she must not make too hasty or independent strides towards the desired goal, but should rely on the arm of experience, and, above all, of reciprocity. A single false movement may be attended with considerable domestic mischief, especially to her above all nations on earth; for it has been often evinced that no one class of her subjects can suffer without the remainder being seriously affected. Such is the intercourse and perfect knowledge existing throughout every part of her territory, such is the commercial sensibility of her people, that the very breath of even locally deficient credit and confidence bears with it a pernicious halo, which infects the welfare of the whole community. Her government has a very arduous task to perform in its desired progress
towards free trade. It has not only to study what might be most safely altered at home, but if it act with caution, since no change can be securely taken without the advantage of reciprocity, it has to induce and persuade other nations to see in the same light, and become aware of whatever mutuality of benefit such approach towards any portion of freer trade might occasion to them. This would apply more particularly to a greater introduction of foreign corn than of any other article whatsoever. The number of persons who would be affected by such a measure, unless very gradually entered upon, is greater than that of any other class in the nation. The production of corn is a natural and domestic manufacture, and land a machinery, (for they may be both
so denominated,) which must be kept working under every disadvantage, which cannot be altered or removed, and which contributes more largely than any other kind to the prosperity and existence of the state; whereas other apparatus might lie idle for a time in case of non-remuneration, and without expense to the owner, or might be easily transplanted to a more profitable spot, whilst the hands it previously employed could be turned to a different and better occupation. That, however, is not the case with agricultural laborers; they are not only more numerous and proportionately more difficult of removal, but from the habits to which only they have been bred, are mostly incapable of a change except in a very juvenile state, whilst every mechanic might be serviceable in the land, and find employment and subsistence for himself and family. The land is also the most spacious kind of machinery as well as the most important; and much of it, even at the present time, lies idle, notwithstanding the great improvements within the last forty years, for want of sufficient encouragement and capital to make it productive to the benefit of the respective proprietors, and consequently of the state. Is this, then, the manufacture which should be discouraged, as some propose, for want of protection against foreign goods? Are the national wel. fare, the individual fortunes of those who have hitherto maintained and ornamented our country, the subsistence of seven or eight millions of its inhabitants, to be tampered with from a too incautious adherence to, or adoption of, the principles of free trade? Is the now cultivated face of our island (and who admires not the beauties of nature ?) to be tarnished and rendered hideous by neglect and unprofitableness, by the wanton growth of weeds and thistles, whilst thousands are every where expended in civic improvements? The latter are not meant to be censured but approved, and the author has been led into the present train of reasoning by several transactions which have lately taken place as well as by the tenor of the work now before him, which evidently inclines to the discouragement of domestic agriculture. After this digression he will proceed to make the intended observations. Mr. R. sets out by agreeing partly with Dr. A. Smith, that the word value has two different meanings-value in use and value in exchange ; this may be generally correct, though exchangeable value is the only one with which the political economist is concerned. He then agrees with him that labor forms the chief component part of all values and prices whatsoever, but differs from him as to what those values or prices are or should be. The point, however, at present meant to be entered on, is the application of the amount of previous labor, and that only to the value of agricultural as well as manufactured produce : from this Mr. R. thoughtlessly deVOL. XXVII. Pam. NO. LUT.
duces the impolicy of cultivating our inferior lands as attended with a greater expense, by which the price of corn in the market is necessarily raised ; thus making such additional cultivation the cause, and not considering it as the effect of a previously high value of agricultural produce. Such a mode of argument, in reference to that species of commodity is not only contrary to experience, but wrong in principle. It might also be attended with a pernicious result, as to its impression on those who think or understand little of the subject, yet whose opinions, from their situation in life, or other circumstances, generally carry some weight, and requires, consequently, the more important necessity to be fully controverted, The intended check it is meant to give to domestic agriculture, by confining it only to the very best lands, and supplying the nation with a great portion of corn from abroad, under the presumption that the culture of our second-rate soils occasions the difference in price, but actually with a view of encouraging commerce at the expense of the landed interest, is, throughout the whole of Mr. R.'s work, very apparent : on these grounds he deviates from the wellknown regulators of values, supply and demand, which are generally applicable to all commodities, and solely to those arising from the land. Yet in many instances, as has before been observed, he is unintentionally compelled to acknowlege their influence. Even at the 2d page in his discussion on values, he says: “There are some commodities, the value of which is determined by their scarcity alone; no labor can increase the quantity of such goods, and therefore their value cannot be lowered by an increased supply.”. It is true he confines this admission to statues, pictures, scarce books, coins, and peculiar wines; but the same ruling principle of supply and demand extends to them as to other things. Were their supply increased, or the demand lessened, they would invariably fall in value ; but the latter being rather more than equal to the supply, their price is kept up. They rest on the same basis as superior articles of other descriptions; as very excellent hunters or race-horses for instance, the supply of which is usually short, and which, in comparison with other animals of the same nature, bear a proportionately high price. The same mode of argument will also apply to corn and cattle; the superiority of either, and of course restricted supply of such superior articles, let the abundance of others, less good, be what it might, will always command in the market a greater price. Mr. Bakewell sold his stock, from the scarcity of cattle of so well-bred a kind, at hundreds a head; and though corn in general admits not of so much variety, the author knows at the present moment an excellent farmer who always gets nearly twenty per cent. more for his produce than those around him, from the superiority of, and demand for, his articles; and this