صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

benefited by the exemption. An example will set this principle in a clearer point of view.-Suppose that an annual supply of one million of hats is required to meet the demand,--that they cannot be produced for less than 10s. each, and that the Government imposes a tax of 1s., or a tithe, on 100,000 of these hats ;-it is obvious that in these circumstances the price of the whole hats would immediately rise to 11s.; for, if they did not, no person would buy the taxed hats; and their producers not being able to obtain the ordinary rate of profit, would invest their stock in some other employment. In this case, therefore, the Government, by levying a tithe on 100,000 hats would only acquire a revenue of 50001.; but the total extent of the burden thus imposed on the public would really be equal to 50,0001., of which 45,0001. would go into the pockets of the manufacturers of those hats which were exempted from this charge. Now, this is precisely the case with the tithes paid to the clergy and the laity. They increase the price of the produce raised on those lands which are relieved from them, to a par with its price on those from which they are exacted to the utmost extent.

It is easy from this to perceive, that it will not do to consider the additional burden thus entailed on the community, as limited to the increased rents obtained by the owners of tithefree farms in England. The landlords of Scotland must gain equally by being exempted from this charge. The produce of this division of the United Kingdom, is freely admitted into those markets which are chiefly supplied by the produce raised on the tithed lands in the other divisions; and its value must, in consequence, be proportionably advanced. If tithes are really an advantageous tax, they ought undoubtedly to press equally on all qualities of land. As now levied, a very large proportion, perhaps not less than one half of their total amount, is not received by the clergy, for whose use they were originally intended, or by the lay-impropriator, but by the landlords of Scotland, and the owners of tithe-free lands in England.

It is true, that if an equal revenue were raised for the support of the Church by any other tax, which should vary pro. portionably to the expenses of cultivation, its effect, when considered only with reference to the sum taken from the pockets of the public, would be the same. But, as tithes are now levied, they amount, as we have just seen, to a much larger sum than is received by the clergy ;-and, what is still worse, they are a perpetual source of divisions and contentions between the pastor and bis flock. The clergy cannot certainly be blamed for exacting payment of that portion of the produce of the soil which the law has set apart for their support; nor is there any

set of men more deserving of a liberal provision, or whose labours conduce more to the public advantage. It is the manner in which they are provided for, that is vicious and objectionable. Perhaps the circumstance of the provision for the maintenance of the clergy, being chiefly derived from a heavy tax on the most indispensable of all necessaries, is the least revolting part of the system. It will not be denied, that the influence and usefulness of a clergyman must mainly depend on his possessing the esteem and affection of his parishioners. But, so long as stipends are paid by tithes, this esteem and affection, in most cases, if not in all, cannot be acquired, except by a sacrifice, on the part of the incumbent, of a portion of his income. • The rate of tithe is a tolerable barometer of the love or dislike of parishioners; where they are higher than ordinary, you may be certain of finding a turbulent divine, who will have his rights, regardless whether he is liked or disliked. If, on the contrary, they are moderately exacted, the love and respect of his neighbours follows of course. It would be of no use to tell a farmer, that the greater the rigour with which tithe is exacted, the higher must be the price of corn. He only sees the immediate sacrifice he is called on to make; and he does not give himself the least trouble about the ultimate effects which may result from it. Besides, prices would be equally high if the tithe was exacted from the worst lands only; and the farmers of the richer lands have, in truth, a real as well as an apparent interest to reduce the tithe to the lowest possible amount. It is undeniable, that this system holds out a bounty to extortion and rapacity, on the one hand, and to fraud and chicanery, on the other. It has often set the duty and the interest of the clergy in opposition to each other; and has done more to paralyze their exertions, and to deprive them of the esteem of their parishioners, than all the efforts of all the infidels and sectaries that ever existed. In the emphatic language of Mr Grattan, it has made the clergyman's income to fall with his virtues, and to rise with his bad qualities; just as it has made the parishioner to lose by being ingenuous, and to save by dishonesty.' No better plan could have been devised to disseminate the worst vices, and to make the ministers of the Gospel of Peace the unwilling instruments of endless litigation and implacable animosities.

To the credit of the Church of England it ought to be mentioned, that the clergy seldom carry their claim for tithes to its full extent; and that they are, in general, much less rigorous in their demands than the lay-impropriators. But, in despite of this moderation, tithes constitute an extremely heavy burden.

* Survey of the County of Clare, p. 186.

Mr Stevenson, the well-informed author of the Agricultural Survey of the County of Surrey, published in 1809, states (p. 92.), that, although tithes are not more rigorously exacted there than in most other counties in England, it is the common opinion, that a farm tithe-free, is better worth 20s. an acre than. a tithed farm, equally favoured in soil and situation, is worth 13s. This may, at first sight, appear a disproportioned difference; but a little reflection will satisfy us why it should be so great. Considerably more than the mere value of the tithe must be taken into account. The tithe is a variable tax. It increases not only according to the gradual increase of cultivation in general, but it increases proportionably to the greater expenditure of capital and labour on each particular farm. No doubt, in this, as in every other case, the farmer is completely indemnified for the tithe; for otherwise he would not expend this additional capital. But he does not think so. He pays his rent willingly to the landlord; but he considers the tithe-proprietor as an interloper who, without having contributed to raise the crop, claims a share of the produce. The fear of being subjected to this demand, unquestionably contributes to check the progress of improvement, and to cramp the exertions of the farmer. The occupier of a farm subject to this charge, can never be brought to consider himself as realizing the same profit from the capital he employs, as his neighbours in the tithe-free farms; and hence a considerably greater increase of prices is necessary to induce him to lay out additional capital, than would be necessary were he relieved from this tax. În this

În this way tithes contribute indirectly, as well as directly, to raise prices-directly, by the positive addition which they make to the expenses of the cultivators of bad land—and indirectly, by generating an indisposition to apply fresh capital to the improvement of the soil. Of all institutions,' says Dr Paley, who cannot surely be reckoned unfriendly to the real interests of the Church, • adverse to cultivation and improvement, none is so noxious as that of tithes. A claimant here enters into the produce, who contributed no assistance whatever to the production. When years, perhaps, of care and toil have matured an improvementwhen the husbandman sees new crops ripening to his skill and industry—the moment he is ready to put his sickle to the grain, he finds himself compelled to divide the harvest with a stranger. Tithes are a tax, not only upon industry, but upon that industry which feeds mankind, upon that species of exertion which it is the aim of all wise laws to cherish and promote.

But it is to Ireland, and not to England, that we must direct our attention, if we wish to see the tithe system in its

worst form. In England, the vast majority of the inhabitants are Protestants, and the lands of the rich, as well as of the poor, are equally taxed for the support of the Church. But the reverse of all this has place in Ireland. There, the provision for a Protestant establishment is chiefly drawn from Catholics; and while the potatoe garden of the poor cotter is tithed to the utmost extent, the flocks of the extensive and opulent grazier are entirely exempted! Primate Boulter, whose administration commenced in 1724, and ended about 1742, in a letter to Sir Robert Walpole, thus writes. • Since the Reformation, while the lands were mostly in Popish hands, the clergy took what they could get, thankfully; and very few went near their living to do their duty.' Matters continued in this state until the capitulation of Limerick restored tranquillity to Ireland, and threw almost all the benefices into the hands of Protestant rectors. Subsequently to this period, the clergy began gradually to reassume their constitutional rights; and about the year 1720, formally demanded payment of the tithe of agistment, or the tithe of cattle and other produce of grass lands. But although the right of the clergy to this tithe was equally clear and indisputable as their right to the tithe of tillage lands, it was vehemently resisted by the landlords. The clergy appealed to the Court of Exchequer, who, after a full and patient hearing of the case, decided it in their favour. This, however, did not put the question to rest; for, shortly after the decision of the Court, the Irish House of Commons resolved (18th March, 1735), that any lawyer assisting in a prosecution for tithes of agistment, should be considered as an enemy to his country.' By this extraordinary resolution, adopted when the cultivated land in Ireland was not the hundredth part of what it is at this moment, this honourable assembly robbed the clergy of the principal source of their income, and threw the burden of their support entirely on the proprietors of tillage lands. Such was the footing on which the tithe of agistment stood at the period of the Union, when Sir John Macartney, aware that the resolution of 1735 was not law, moved that the abolition of the tithe of agistment should stand as a part of the act. This propositon was intended only as a stratagem to defeat the Union.

. It was not expected that the minister would agree to such a measure ; while on the other hand it was confidently believed that it would act like magic, in urging the body of landed proprietors to oppose the Union, which would be the means of making this tithe revert to its original owners. The minister, however, instead of resisting the measure, suffered it quietly to pass; and that which, before the U

nion, was only a resolution of the House of Commons, is now a for. mal act of the Imperial Parliament. ' *

Besides the striking injustice of having one part of society relieved from a burden imposed for the common benefit of the whole, this limitation of the tithe has been productive of still greater disadvantages. The clergy, whose incomes being chiefly derived from tithes levied from the poorest class of their parishioners, and who were almost all Catholics, were compelled, as well to save themselves from the odium and even hazard of personal interference, as from non-residence, to let their tithes, or to employ an agent, or tithe proctor, to collect them. It is easy to perceive what an immense field has thus been opened to oppression and injustice. The poverty of the cotters and other small farmers, render them in most cases unable to appeal to the law for redress against the unjust exactions of the tithe proctor. The consequence is, the prevalence of discontent, riot, and bloodshed. The levying of the tithe from potatoe crops led to the protracted and disgraceful outrages of the Whiteboys; and the banditti who, under the names of Steel-boys, Oakboys, Peep-of-day-boys, Carders, Thrashers, &c. have in succession desolated this unhappy country, have almost all had their origin in the same cause. It deserves to be mentioned, that, with the exception of the White-boys, whose depredations were confined to Munster, the others principally consisted of the manufacturing and Presbyterian population of Ulster. Nor is the case very different even at this day. Mr Wakefield, who has left no subject untouched which could throw light on the state of Ireland, and the accuracy of whose information has not been disputed, states distinctly that there is infinitely more difficulty experienced in collecting tithes among the Protestants of the North, than among the Catholics in the South.

We have already shown, that no farmer will lay out capital either in the improvement of old land, or in the bringing in of new, unless the price of raw produce be such as will afford him the common and average rate of profit on the capital so expended. But in Ireland, the occupiers of the small patches of ground into which the country is so very generally divided, are entirely destitute of capital. These patches are sought after because they afford the means of prolonging a miserable existence; and, owing to the excess of population, the competition for them is so great that it is but seldom the rent is limited to what the land is fairly worth. Thirty-five years ago it was no uncommon thing for a cotter to pay 77. per Irish acre

* Wakefield's Account of Ireland, vol. ii. P.


« السابقةمتابعة »