Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ricardo, John Lewis

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RICARDO, JOHN LEWIS (1812–1862), free-trader, the son of Jacob Ricardo, financier, and nephew of David Ricardo [q. v.], was born in 1812. In early life he showed great athletic prowess, on one occasion riding a spirited horse, barebacked, up a staircase and into a dining-room at Aylesbury. He had chosen the army as his profession, when he was induced, on the death of his father, to continue the financial business in which the latter had been engaged. In 1841 he became M.P. for Stoke-upon-Trent, and, in conjunction with Charles Pelham Villiers and others, advocated the repeal of the corn laws and the navigation laws, of which he made a special study. It was partly owing to his exertions that the stade tolls on the Elbe were abolished. He retained the seat for Stoke until his death.

An able administrator, Ricardo took a leading part in the promotion of the electric telegraph. He established in 1846 the Electric Telegraph Company, of which he was chairman for ten years. While acting in that capacity he introduced franked message papers and the employment of female clerks. He was chairman of the North Staffordshire Railway Company from the time of its construction until his death; of the Norwegian Trunk Railway, for the construction of which he contracted jointly with Sir Samuel Morton Peto [q. v.] and Thomas Brassey [q. v.]; of the Metropolitan Railway Company; and director of the London and Westminster Bank. He died at Lowndes Square, London, on 20 Aug. 1862. He married, in 1841, Katherine, daughter of General the Hon. Sir Alexander Duff, and sister of James Duff, fifth earl of Fife, leaving a son, Augustus Lewis Ricardo, captain in the grenadier guards, who died without issue in 1871.

Ricardo published, among other pamphlets, 1. ‘The Anatomy of the Navigation Laws,’ London, 1847, 8vo. 2. ‘The War Policy of Commerce,’ London, 1855, 8vo.

[Gent. Mag. 1862, ii. 495; Athenæum, 1862, ii. 278; Electrician, 1862.]

W. A. S. H.