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An Essay on The Influence of a low Price of Corn on the Profits of Stock;

shewing the inexpediency of restrictions in importation: with Remarks on Mr. Malthus' two last publications...; [bound with:] Proposals for an Economical and Secure Currency; with observations on the profits of the Bank of England, as they regard the public and the proprietors of Bank stock; [And:] On Protection to Agriculture.

London: John Murray, 1815, 1819, 1822 Stock Code: 129283
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Ricardo's refutation of corn tariffs

Second, third, and fourth editions respectively of these three works by David Ricardo (first editions published 1815, 1816, and 1822), bound together in a contemporary binding, sympathetically rebacked. "Following his involvement in the bullion controversy, Ricardo's next significant publication was his Essay on the influence of a low price of corn on the profits of stock... As its title suggests, the Essay was written in opposition to (controversial) proposals for the imposition of new, higher duties on the importation of corn. Ricardo's central argument was as follows. On the assumption that free importation is prohibited, the increasing demand for corn from a growing population would have to be met either by the more intensive cultivation of land already under the plough, or from new, less fertile or more disadvantageously situated land. Either way, the expansion of output would tend to encounter diminishing returns which would in turn lead to a higher price of corn, higher money wages (since corn, or bread, was the staple food of the labourers), and therefore a lower general rate of profits... The Essay was to prove a watershed in Ricardo's intellectual development; it was a transitional work in which Ricardo repudiated some of the fundamental tenets of the prevailing orthodoxy, as derived from Adam Smith and upheld by Malthus, while failing to supply a fully consistent logical alternative" (ODNB).

The next work in the volume, Proposals for an Economical and Secure Currency, was written at the request of Pascoe Grenfell MP. In the pamphlet, "Ricardo inveighed against the large profits made by the Bank of England as a result of their dealings with the government, canvassed his plan for a return to paper currency convertibility with gold bullion rather than minted coin, and intimated his approval for the establishment of an independent central bank (a proposal developed in the posthumous Plan for the Establishment of a National Bank, 1824)" (ibid.).

The final work, On Protection to Agriculture, reiterates Ricardo's opposition to the Corn Laws. John Ramsay McCulloch esteemed this work most highly: "This is the best of Mr. Ricardo's tracts, and is, indeed, a chef-d'oeuvre. The important questions respecting remunerating price, the influence of a low and of a high value of corn on wages and profits, the effect of taxation on agriculture and manufactures, the grounds on which restrictions on importation may be justified, with others of equal interest and difficulty, are all discussed in the short compass of 87 pages with a depth, precision, and clearness that have never been surpassed. Had Mr. Ricardo never written anything else, this pamphlet would have placed him in the very first rank of political economists" (McCulloch, The Literature of Political Economy, p. 78).

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3 works bound in 1, octavo (208 x 130 mm). Contemporary half calf and marbled boards, rebacked and recornered to style, new spine label reading "Essay on corn".


Folding letterpress table to the third work.


Ownership inscription of J. Phillips in pencil to half-titles of the second and third works; bound without the half-title of the first work. Light discolouration to endpapers, sporadic faint foxing. Overall very good copies; the binding, now rebacked and restored, in excellent condition.


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