Imágenes de páginas

it, since the tithe would then, of course, devolve upon government, to be appropriated to the general services of the state. To a stipend contributed by the inhabitants of each parish for the maintenance of its respective pastor, the foregoing objections, it must be confessed, do not apply. And if there were no existing endowment in the case, this mode of maintaining the clergy would have our favorable vote in preference to all others, as being the most equitable, and the most likely to secure the honest and assiduous services of the minister. But we must not lose sight of the existing tithe, which forms a mass of public property applicable to the purposes of religious worship, according to the ritual of the Church of England. There being this fund already existing for such an object, no good reason can be given why the people should be subjected to a new tax for the purpose, unless it can be shewn that, by taking the fund and appropriating it to other public purposes, and supplying its place by an assessment, as suggested, a greater portion of benefit would accrue to the community as a whole. We do not deny but that this may be demonstrable hereafter, but we scarcely think it will admit of proof just at present.

Passing over the stipend then as inexpedient, the only other provisions on the principle of commutation appear to be, first, sand; secondly, a rent, to be charged on the titheable land; and thirdly, a sum of money resting on sufficient security. Land unquestionably unites all the requisites of an endowment, possessing, as it does, the advantages of being permanent and secure in its subsistence, whilst its value is always moving, and that, perhaps, in a ratio of increase in relation to all other kinds of wealth, real or conventional. But in many cases it may not be practically obtainable; whenever, for instance, the value of the tithes of any incumbency should not be sufficient for the purchase of any but a very small quantity of land, our readers will readily perceive, without our going into details, that it may, from various circumstances, be impossible either to let that land, or to cultivate, and much less improve it with profit; in which case the clergyman might be left entirely destitute. Besides, we should not wish to see too much encouragement given to clergymen-farmers, and it would at all times be proper, where land is the endowment, to permit the management of a farm to be undertaken by the incumbent himself, only as an unavoidable alternative to leaving it uncultivated.

A very ingenious scheme has been suggested by Mr. Senior, formerly the Professor of Political Economy at Oxford, to ensure the advantages of a landed endowment for the clergy, and at the same time, obviate the above objections to it.* He proposes, that the different incumbents within a given district, say

Letter to Lord Howick on a legal Provision for the Irish poor, Commutation of Tithes, &c., by Nassau William Senior, esq., 1831.

an archdeaconry, or probably some smaller district, should be formed into a corporation, in whom he would vest the revenues of all the benefices in the district, but to be divided between the incumbents in proportion to the value of each respective benefice. Then the corporation should be empowered to sell the tithes of the whole district, and lay out the proceeds in the purchase of land. By this plan an estate, or several estates, might be selected, which would be certain to afford profitable cultivation, while the management of the estates might be conducted by a steward or bailiff of the corporation, so as to release the clergyman as well from the labour and solicitude, as the invidiousness of collecting his own income from his parishioners.

This scheme promises fair, though we foresee many difficulties in the way of its working; and, without wishing to see it altogether rejected, we decidedly think its movements would be too slow for the present emergency.

What debates, committees, surveys, reports, remonstrances, and amendments, must there take place before even the machinery of the corporations is brought into working order! That done, there will still be a great complexity of interests and opinions to adjust between the different incumbents and their parishioners, and the patrons of their livings. And by the time a result may be hoped to be reached through all these impediments, who shall say that the tithe system may not, from the intervening action of public opinion, require a very different mode of settlement, if it shall not already have undergone one?

Where land might not be obtained, a land tax would mostly be found practicable. It would, of course, be equal in value to the relinquished tithe, and charged upon the freehold of the land previously titheable. Its advantage over tithe consists in its certainty, and in its not interfering

with the farmer's produce, or the management of his farm. It is true, that the farmer might, in many cases, have to pay the tax, but this would be a matter of arrangement between him and his landlord, and therefore would not bring about the uncomfortable relation between the pastor and his flock, which is now produced by the tithe. The objections to be urged against a land tax are, that it may, by the variation of values, cut down the incumbent's original income. But this can be wholly obviated, either by making at once the yearly payment a corn-rent, or providing means for correcting the amount as expressed in money, at stipulated periods, by the actual value of corn. It has been also objected that such a provision would be insecure, for that, in process of time, the landlords would find means of withholding the payment or evading it. Without raising an argument on this objection, we think it will be sufficient to say in answer, that the act contemplated would be one of direct spoliation, and we think the clergy may

fairly be called upon to place some trust in the moral sanction actuating the bulk of the community, which it is their professed duty to inspire and strengthen, as some safeguard against such apprehended delinquency.

There remains another mode of provision, namely, money, on sufficient security; and we chiefly have in view government security. Manifold, we expect, will be the objections, and great the outcry, against what will be styled so precarious a provision. For this we are prepared, and must, notwitstanding, retain it on our list, not only for the purposes of temporary investment, (for which, indeed, no other offers,) but also as being, in many emergencies, which we can conceive, a suitable provision for any indefinite period, yet promptly convertible into a more permanent endowment, where circumstances may permit, or occasion shall require. Its deficiencies are two-fold; in the first place, it is peculiarly subject to a depreciation of relative value: but this defect may be cured in a manner already suggested in reference to a money-rent, by instituting a relatively permanent standard of value, viz. corn, by which the variations may be from time to time corrected. Then a monied investment is liable to a double risk of insecurity, private fraud and public bankruptcy. As to the consequences of private fraud, that is, forgery and embezzlement, they will be greatly obviated, so as scarcely to have any practical weight, by the necessary intervention of a public officer as the nominal holder of the investment, who would, of course, be environed by almost insuperable checks against dishonesty; and even supposing the extreme case of a successful forgery, the loss would then fall either on the bank or the government, and therefore the clergy cannot push this objection. We feel confident, again, that they will not be forward in contemplating the possibility of a national insolvency; and sure we are that, should such a disaster befall us, they, of all men, would not shrink from bearing their share of so wide-spread a calamity. Contrary forebodings and feelings should ill befit the single-minded reliance on a Providential ordinance of events, and resignation to unavoidable misfortune, which should be marked characteristics of their spiritual calling. Returning, however, to the consideration of monied investments as permanent provisions for the clergy, there are some peculiar mischiefs to be apprehended from their adoption in regard to the spiritual administration of Wales, which we intend to notice more particularly in a subsequent place.

The foregoing, we think, are the whole of the different kinds of endowments which might be substituted in lieu of an abolished tithe. Going them over in review, we shall find that land is unquestionably the best; but that it may, in many instances, be difficult, and in some quite impossible to procure it in a pro

fitable shape; in most, however, we think we may say in all those instances, a rent or a money commutation will be found available, and we have seen that the objections incident to each may be qualified, if not removed, by other concomitant provisions.

The obvious mode of ensuring the advantages of each provision, and yet excluding its defects, is to leave open to each individual parish the selection of whichever of them best suits its circumstances, providing, at the same time, proper checks and correctives for their respective abuses or deficiences.

We think, with this view, that an Act should be passed without delay, “For Effecting the Commutation of Tithes belonging to Ecclesiastical Persons and Corpora'ions in England and Wales.Such an Act may, with reference to its main objects, be advantageously considered as falling into two subdivisions: the former of them containing the legal machinery necessary to effect the conversion of tithes into land, rent, or money, as the circumstances of the case may require; and the latter subdivision comprising all the appropriate clauses and provisions for instituting the property acquired by commutation into a clerical endowment.

The liberty of taking the first step in setting afoot the question of commutation, should, we think, be given indifferently both to the incumbent and the tithe payers, or any specified number of them, say seven; and the regulations for holding meetings for the object, would pretty nearly coincide with the existing mode of assembling vestries, except perhaps that more enlarged and formal notices would be advisable; but these are matters of detail not worth dwelling on, and introduced merely to shew that the beginning, dimidium facti, might be made almost in the course of parish business. The mode of voting too can present no difficulty, and may be passed over. A more important consideration then arises, whether the commutation, when agreed upon by the parishioners, should not be compulsory on the incumbent; and we clearly think it ought, and that not merely as to the affirmative of the question by itself, but further as to the nature of the substituted provision which the tithe payers concur in giving in lieu of the tithe; with this qualification, however, for the protection of the clergyman, that no mixed commutation, as partly land and partly money, should be forced upon him; neither should he be compelled to accept, against his consent, small pieces of land scattered up and down the parish. But in other respects we think, that the greatest latitude should be left to the parishioners in choosing what the new endowment shall be, out of the three articles of land, rent, and money; and moreover we conceive, that it would be highly politic to allow the quota of commutation, charged to any person not desirous or not able to pay it

up immediately, to remain for a fixed limited time as a mortgage upon his land, or upon any land which the parishioners may concur in

of say

purchasing for the purpose of commutation, of course with the seller's consent in the latter instance, and in all cases taking precedence of all prior charges.

The next question would be how to ascertain the amount of commutation which the incumbent is entitled to, and which, on the other hand, each of his parishioners is liable to pay. This, we think, may readily be done, by taking the average

the ten last preceding years for which tithes have been paid, and calculating the proportion of that total average which would fall upon every farm or homestead in the parish, which would be chargeable accordingly, either with that proportion as a perpetual rent, or with the value in capital of such rent, according to the mode of commutation agreed upon. And here we come to consider of the indispensable requisite in the case of a money commutation, of providing means for preventing its eventual depreciation in value. The standard by which its variation can be most surely corrected, is universally acknowledged to be corn. The machinery by which the corrections should be effected, might be something of the following sort: first, the original value of the money forming the commutation, as expressed in corn, should be authenticated and placed on record; secondly, means should be provided of ascertaining the variation which may have taken place between the original value in corn of the fund of commutation and its future value, to 'be calculated at successive periods of ten, fifteen, or twenty

years, as may be agreed upon; thirdly, power should be given to the actual incumbent of the benefice at the expiration of any one of those periods, of proving that his endowment has sunk in value some certain proportion, (say one tenth,) and of getting it restored to the original value. The first of these requisites is easily accomplished: it is merely expressing in the instrument of commutation the quantity of corn equal, at the present market price, to the amount of the substituted money-fund agreed upon. As to the market price, it might not be fair perhaps to take it from Mark lane for all parts of the country, and therefore we would suggest, that a schedule containing all the principal market towns in England and Wales should form part of the Act; and that the averages upon which the required calculations are to be grounded in any given parish, should be taken from the three nearest of the specified towns to the parish in question.

The original corn value being thus recorded, the future value might be calculated at any of the stipulated periods precisely in the same manner, and the variation be computed by the commonest rules of arithmetic. It would then be simply necessary to enact, that the incumbent for the time being should be authorised to take the same steps for obtaiving the desired augmentation in money of his endowment, as are directed to be taken for establishing the original commutation: and to simplify the question

« AnteriorContinuar »