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of their lands and chattels, and every article from which any gain or profit was derived. In process of time, the first hereditary Saxon monarch that governed the whole nation of England in peace, repeated what had been done in another form about an hundred years before; he gave to the church, by a solemn charter, with the presence and consent of the Lords and Commons, the tithes of the whole kingdom for ever, in the year of our Lord 955, and offered his charter upon the altar of the great church at Westminster, the bishops receiving it from his hands on the part of God. The piety of succeeding benefactors added many lands to the support of the church and religious monasteries; and out of these, churches and colleges were built: strangers and travellers were entertained; the poor were all fed, or set to work, and the sick received into infirmaries and almonries (Or amberies) as they were then called. I do not pretend to say that there was no mixture of superstition in these things; that charity was not carried to excess; and that there were not manv abuses in religious societies. It could not be otherwise; because there never was any good in this world, nor ever will be, without a mixture of evil. In this, however, as a fact, all writers agree, that it belonged to the church for many hundred years to take care of the poor out of their own revenues: and it was computed, in former times, that in all the parishes of England, taking them one with another, one-fourth part of the tithes of the parish would, and actually did, maintain the poor.
Till the latter end of the reign of Elizabeth, there never was any tax laid upon England as a poor's rate. Before the Reformation, the poor were kept by the clergy, with the voluntary contributions of well disposed people; but there was no such thmg as a poor's rate. The bishops and clergy of different kinds, kept open hospitality for the benefit of strangers and travellers, and the poor of the neighbourhood; and were obliged so to do by their foundations: and it pleased God to bless these means to such a degree, that the poor were no burthen to the nation: not a penny was imposed upon any lay-man for maintaining them. But when the sacrilegious encroachments of Popery were confirmed at the Reformation, by the alienation of church' lands, and the clergy were thereby impoverished; the laity who took them did not comply with the conditions of the tenure.
Reason and law suggest to us, that they, who got the lands of the church, took them with the encumbrance that was upon them. Out of those lands the poor had been maintained; therefore, they that took the lands should have taken the poor with them; and they made a great shew of doing it for a time, because that was the pretence with which they took them from the clergy: but when the fish was taken, the net was laid aside.
I need not inform }'ou what state we are in at present, when the poor's rates are come to such an enormous height throughout the kingdom, that about the year 1700 they were computed at a million yearly: and from that time to this they have been more than doubled; so that there is more than twice as much paid to the poor, as is now paid to all the clergy in the kingdom. And in all this expence, there is no charity; no devotion as formerly; it is an involuntary payment, forced from us by law, and squeezed out of many, who are filter to receive something for their own wants, than to contribute to the wants of others.
If there was a time, when one-fourth of the tithes was found sufficient to maintain the parish-poor, and the revenues of the national poor are now twice as great as the revenues of the church, thence it follows, that where they had one poor man we have eight throughout the kingdom, that is, 1000 poor instead of 125. It may please God still to increase the poor, till they swallow up the rich who devoured them: for I think it requires no degree of superstition or credulity to see the hand of God in this whole matter.
Even heathens were persuaded that their gods were the avengers of sacrilege; and if it is a certain fact that the poor have increased as the church hath gone down, they who lessened the patrimony of the church brought upon us such an evil as might be expected; indeed, such as seems to follow naturally and necessarily; for what a man sozveth, that shall he also reap; therefore, he that soweth in sacrilege must expect to reap in poverty. Even in this parish, there is a singular concurrence of circumstances: and if I speak of them, you all know me too well to suspect I have any design in it, but that of following the order of my subject; which has required me to give you a brief and impartial history of collections for the poor} and the nature of them in different ages. It is a fact known to us all, that in this place, no part of the property of the parish is settled upon the service of the church. The rectorial tithes are in the possession of a lay impropriator who is a papist; the vicarial are taken by the minister of another parish; and the only certain dependence of a minister is upon benefactions of a modern date from other quarters. So stands the case with the church. Now look at the poor; and you will find such a charge as occurs but
VOL. IV. M
in few parts of the kingdom; for the sum expended annually upon the poor amounts, one year with another, to three hundred and fifty pounds; that) is, to more than one-fourth part of the whole rents of the parish. Amongst the rest of our national burthens, the single tax upon the land, a new imposition, never thought of till within the last hundred years, takes* more from the landed interest, than would, at the time when it was imposed, have been sufficient to maintain all the poor in the kingdom: and these two* burthens were neither of them felt by the nation while the poor were maintained by the church. So many ways has the providence of God of shewing us, that he is stronger than we are; and how little they are like to gain in the end, who mix sacrilege with their policy, and hope to enrich themselves by any act of impiety.
We can now only lament these things. we cannot correct them. We have no reason to think God will be reconciled to national sin, without national restitution; and there is less hope of that every day. The work of Sir Heni'y Spelman *, shewing the manifest judgments of God upon the violation of churches and the usurpation of church lands, had its effect for a time, in some instances, but it is now almost forgotten. There are, indeed, some other lesser concurring Causes to increase the burthen of the poor, to which prudence might apply some remedy: these are, first the corruption of morals amongst the poor; secondly, the indolence of persons of fortune and influence,
* See the work of Sir Henry Spelman, De non temcrandis Eceksiis. —A Tract of the Rights due unto Churches. A work alarming in its subject, and unanswerable in its argument; the author of it being equally skilled in law and divinity.
who take no care of them; and thirdly, the laying of too many farms together, especially where new enclo' sures have taken place.
As to the first of these causes, When the state of? the poor was inquired into, at the desire of government, by a person of great eminence for learning, in the year 1697; he delivered it, as his opinion, to the Lords Justices, that many of our grievances, in regard to the poor, arose from the toleration of tipling in public-houses; drinking spirituous liquors at private shops; and the wandering about of idle people, asv beggars, without restraint, from their proper parishes. However great these evils might be at the time abovementioned, I fear they grew much worse afterwards. Of late years, indeed, the magistrates have "been so sensible of the increase of poverty, from the increase of public-houses, that the number of them has been much diminished in many parts of the kingdom \ and they are more cautious, than heretofore, in granting licences. I am not prepared to give you an exact history of the inn and the public-house in England. It seems there were no such common sources of corruption to the people, when travellers, in times of greater simplicity, were accommodated by charitable hospitality: and, bad as they are by their nature, they are become still much worse in practice since the common use of spirituous liquors, which is but of the last hundred years.
Another cause of our increasing rates, is that want of public spirit, and that aversion to business, which ha3 prevailed of late years amdngst our gentry; who leave the inspection of the poor wholly to'their inferiors. "I knew a worthy person, of great piety, charity, and extensive learning, who was allowed to have great judgment in all national concerns, and was so well