Death of John Lewis Ricardo, Esq., M.P.


The late Mr. Ricardo, son of Mr. Jacob Ricardo, and nephew of Mr. David Ricardo, the well-known political economist, was born in 1812, and was from an early age devoted to commercial pursuits. He was the founder of the Electric Telegraph Company; and it was through his energy and ability that a commercial telegraph system was established in this country. He was also chairman of the North Staffordshire and the Norwegian Railway Companies, and a director of the London and Westminster Bank.

Mr. Ricardo entered Parliament in 1841, as the Liberal member for Stoke-upon-Trent. On the reassembling of Parliament in the following year, he warmly supported a motion of the late Mr. Duncombe’s, directed against the alleged incapacity of the Government to deal adequately with the distress in the manufacturing districts. He appealed to the house on behalf of his constituents, some of whom he described “as a desperate and reckless population, who would brave death and the law, which had no terrors for the starving man.” Then he advocated the abolition of the corn laws, and urged that protection to agriculture meant protection to rents. His speech was answered by Sir J. Graham, and defended by Lord Palmerston, but the motion was lost by 147 noes to 91 ayes. On the 25th of April, 1843, Mr. Ricardo moved a resolution directed against the import duties, desiring that the remission of the duties should be postponed, with a view of making the remission a basis of commercial negotiations with foreign countries. The motion was lost by 135 noes to 61 ayes. On the opening of the session of 1847, Mr. Ricardo seconded the address which had been moved by the Hon. C. Howard, and dwelt at some length on commercial topics.

But it was through the navigation laws that Mr. Ricardo chiefly may be remembered. Five or six years before they were repealed under Lord Aberdeen’s Ministry, Mr. Ricardo had been battering them heavily with Parliamentary shot and pamphleteering shell. In 1847 (Feb 9) he moved for his famous committee on the policy and operation of the navigation laws, stating his case with temper and moderation. Mr. Milner Gibson (for the Government) granted the committee, and it is quite sufficient to say that while Sir Robert Peel supported the motion, Mr. George Hudson and Mr. Benjamin Disraeli opposed it. The motion was carried by 155 ayes to 61 noes. It is well known that the committee’s proceedings and Mr. Ricardo’s pamphlet (published in 1847 by Mr. C. Gilpin, now M.P., and secretary of the Poor-law-Board) had great influence on public opinion, which influence was shown a few years later in the general approbation which hailed Mr. Cardwell’s repeal of the Navigation Laws Act.

During the Russian war, Mr. Ricardo published a pamphlet (1855), insisting that the war should be conducted on principles the least injurious to the commerce of Great Britain.

The hon. gentleman (who was a deputy-lieutenant of Elginshire, and a magistrate for Hampshire) married a daughter of the late General the Hon. Sir A. Duff, K.C.H. His premature death will be very generally regretted in the House of Commons, as though he was singularly unobtrusive, and rarely spoke in the house, his commercial experience, and his practical good sense, were always to be relied on in financial or trade matters.

Morning Post - Friday 22 August 1862
Text reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive.