Introductory Lectures on Political Economy
By Richard Whately
The following pages are presented to the public, in compliance with a requisition of the Statute relative to the Professorship of Political-Economy, that one Lecture at least shall be published every year.Conceiving that one object of that provision must be, that the Public may have some knowledge of what sort of Lectures on the subject are annually delivered at Oxford, I have not thought myself at liberty to make any material alterations in the Lectures as they were delivered. Otherwise, I might, perhaps, have endeavoured, to change the method and the style, adopted with a view to oral delivery, for such as might be more suited to the closet. Perhaps, indeed, I might, but for that requisition, have hesitated as to the publication of such a Work at all. For the title of it is not unlikely to deter one class of readers, and to disappoint another. Those who have never applied themselves to the study, may perhaps be led to anticipate, from the title of Political-Economy, something dry, abstruse, and uninteresting; and those again who are, and have long been, conversant with it, may perhaps expect such discussions of various important questions, as I have thought it best not to enter on, in an introductory Course. [From the Preface]
First Pub. Date
London: B. Fellowes
The text of this edition is in the public domain.
as taken before the Select Committee of the House of Lords, appointed to inquire into the collection and payment of Tithes in Ireland.
What is your opinion of the permanent system upon which the provision for the Church should be placed in Ireland?
I should mention that I think it would be a very dangerous thing to legislate in a way that should carry on the face of it the appearance of relief for Ireland, without holding out a prospect, at least, of some, if not the same, system of relief in England; because if it were understood that relief from what has been lately and is still, in many instances, complained of as a grievance in England, was given in Ireland, in consequence of violent and turbulent measures, it seems to me that that would be a bonus on insurrection in England, and I have no doubt the most fearful results would follow.
Does not the Tithe in England stand upon a very different footing from that in Ireland?
It does; but though
all the causes which occasion it to be unpopular in Ireland do not exist in England, yet I think that many of them do; and the fact is, that it has been complained of as a grievance in many instances in England; partly on just grounds, and partly on others which are imaginary; but still it is felt as a grievance. There is, I am convinced, so much disposition to oppose Tithe, dormant, as it were, in England, that if in Ireland resistance were rewarded by concession, many persons in England would immediately try the experiment whether Tithes could not be diverted to the purpose of providing a substitute for the poor-rates. One of the topics which has been the most strenuously resorted to by many of the leaders of the opposition to Tithe, is, that a fund by that means would be provided for the relief of the poor. Now in England, perhaps, that might be urged with quite as great force; for many are ignorant enough to believe that the sacrifice of the Tithes for the maintenance of paupers would not only prevent all distress in the country, but remove entirely the burden of poor-rates; and I have no doubt that resistance would be generated by a relief held out to Ireland, accompanied by no prospect or promise of any thing being done with respect to the mode of collecting church-revenue in England.
Without reference to that consideration, what would you propose in Ireland?
I had contemplated a plan of commutation for England long before I had any thoughts of being settled in Ireland; and I have not found the circumstances of that country sufficiently different from those of England to make it less desirable in Ireland; but rather even more so; though perhaps some greater difficulties may be incurred in the details. I will shortly state the outline of that plan, after a few prefatory remarks.
The measure which in any case may be the first in point of importance may not always be the first to be considered in point of time. Those whose main object is to commute Tithes, may perhaps find that that object will be the most easily accomplished through some preliminary arrangements, which they may think in themselves insignificant. With respect to the desirableness of such an arrangement, I would premise another remark; that an apparent advantage or disadvantage may be in effect a real one in proportion as it is
believed to be such. If a sick man’s mind is soothed or is irritated by some application which is in itself inert, that soothing or that irritation may produce a real effect upon the disorder; a grievance may be imaginary, and yet the complaint founded upon it may lead to consequences by no means imaginary.
There are many reasons (with which I will not trouble your Lordships at present) which induce me to think that Tithes are a disadvantageous kind of church property generally. And I would propose, as a preliminary step to commutation, (preliminary, I mean, in order, not necessarily in time; because both may be simultaneously introduced,) that the whole of the church-property, in each diocese, or archdeaconry, or district that may be selected, should be thrown into a common stock, in the hands of a dean and Chapter, or a Board or College, or whatever else it might be called; which should be constituted a Corporation, and should distribute, according to a valuation, the share due to each incumbent, in proportion to the value of the Tithes of his benefice; exactly in the same manner as each College at Oxford or Cambridge, manages, through its bursars, the joint property, and allots to each fellow, scholar, exhibitioner, &c. his proper share out of the common fund. A very small per-centage, compared with what is paid by many incumbents to their agents, would afford sufficient remuneration to the commissioner, since it would be far less trouble in proportion to collect the revenues of fifty parishes than of one. There would then, even if no commutation at all took place, be a removal or alleviation of almost all the evils which are complained of. There would be an end of the frauds which take place in the collection of Tithes and other church-dues; of the bickerings about Tithes; of refusing to go to church on account of personal enmity with the clergyman, and the like; and leases of the church property might be granted without any more difficulty than now occurs in respect of the property of colleges and chapters. But no plan would so much facilitate commutation. One of the commonest objections to a commutation for land is, “Where, in some parishes, can you find land to serve the purpose?” and “you will have to build farmhouses and barns, and so forth, and to keep them in repair; and if a good tenant could not be found, the parson must become a farmer,” &c. Now, on the proposed plan, Tithe might be commuted by the Corporation, for land, wherever land could be most easily found. It might be done, if precipitate changes were thought inexpedient, as gradually as could be wished, by private arrangement in each particular instance; that is, by allowing the Tithes to be redeemed, if not for land, for money, to be laid out in the purchase of land; and if any disputes arose, the pastor might remain perfectly at peace with his people, quite unconnected with the business, as much as a fellow of any College, residing in a parish where his College holds property of any kind. If any farmer should come to complain to a fellow of a College, under those circumstances, about rents or tithes, he would at once explain to him that he must apply to the bursar of the College.
Do you consider the rent of land to be a more advantageous provision for the Clergy than Tithe?
Very much so. I have heard persons, not deficient in intelligence, express an apprehension that if Tithes were commuted for land, the Clergy might hereafter not be able, in the progress of national wealth, to maintain their present place in society. But this proceeds from a view which I conceive is just the reverse of the truth. As national wealth increases, Tithe-property, generally speaking,
diminishes in its relative value, as compared with land. In a new Country, Tithe may greatly exceed rent; indeed in many young Colonies uncleared land will fetch absolutely no rent at all. And there are probably many districts in which an acre of land, whose gross produce, we will say, is worth 50
s., might be rented for 2
d., subject to a payment of Tithe (supposing Tithe established there,) which would of course be double the rent; there would remain 42
d. for the expenses and farmer’s profit. Now, if we suppose the gross produce of this land to become of the value of 100
s., through the increase of population, and the construction of roads, &c., while (by improvement in agricultural skill and implements, and diminution of the wages of labour) the expense of cultivation remained the same, the result would be (supposing no unoccupied land to remain in the country) an enormous disproportion between Rent and Tithes; for the farmer would be content to receive, as before, (since if he was not, others would be,) 42
d. for his expenses and profits. The Tithe would be 10
s.; only double of what it was before; and the remaining 47
d. would go to the landlord as rent; which would consequently be increased nineteen times. This instance may serve to explain my meaning as to the comparative tendency to increase of Tithes and of Rent.
It may be answered that this reasoning applies only so far as the increased value of the produce is not caused by increased
expenditure. Garden ground, it may be said, in the neighbourhood of a large town, though letting for a high rent, will often yield, especially through the aid of artificial heat, and other expensive processes, a gross produce of which the actual tenth would far exceed the rent. I will not deny that in some (though I apprehend few) instances, the Tithe actually paid may approach to, or even exceed the Rent; but in most cases of highly cultivated ground I have found that a fallacy is very apt to prevail in the computation of the comparative value of Rent and Tithe. Rent is always computed according to what the landlord actually
could obtain; whereas Tithe is often computed as the actual tenth of the gross produce, even in cases where nothing approaching to that either is, or possibly
could be, obtained. In many cases of very expensive cultivation the tithe-owner (however covetous) must, from regard to his own interest, be content with much less than a tenth, because if he were to insist on a full tenth, that high cultivation would cease to be profitable, and would be abandoned. The Tithe of nursery-grounds in the parish of Kensington is half a guinea an acre; the gross annual value of the produce of each acre must far exceed five guineas; in all probability it exceeds one hundred guineas. Indeed I am convinced, that in the majority of instances at least, the tendency of Tithes, even if estimated according to the utmost that
can actually be obtained, is, to diminish in value as compared with Rent, in the progress of wealth. The circumstance which probably has chiefly contributed to keep this tendency out of sight is, that in a great many instances Land has been
subdivided, while Livings have not. The incumbent therefore of a given parish shall not be much worse off, as compared with the neighbouring land owners, than the incumbent of the same parish three hundred years ago; but then these land owners shall be perhaps three or four times more
numerous; and all the parishioners increased in proportion. And indeed it is one great additional evil of the endowment of Tithes, that the provision for the maintenance of the Clergy diminishes in many instances precisely in proportion as the call for clerical labour increases. Several of the Livings near large cities, for example, were formerly worth more than double their present value, when much of the land which is now covered with houses consisted of corn-fields.
According to your Grace’s knowledge and experience, are the landed properties of colleges managed pretty beneficially for the parties interested, and for the community at large?
I have had experience of only one college; which I have had reason to believe is in some respects better managed than the average; but, from all I can learn, it appears to me that they are much better managed than those belonging to a
Corporation-sole; I mean, than in the case where the endowment is in the hands of a single individual who has a life interest, and only a life interest, in it, and has nothing to do with the appointment of his successor.
Are they as well managed as the property of individuals?
Not so as to produce the same absolute rent, I should think, in any instance; but I conceive that upon the whole the lands in most instances that have come under my knowledge are not worse cultivated, nor the people that live upon them, either as farmers or as labourers, less happy. And the charity-schools and hospitals, and institutions of that kind, that are upon them or connected with them, are supported, I should say, in many instances with more liberality than if they were in the hands of individuals. But I have no doubt that the rent paid to those colleges has in all instances fallen short of the rent which would have been paid to individuals.
Do you consider that the same objections that might be made to a commutation of Tithe into land in England would apply equally, under all the circumstances of their state, to the Clergy in Ireland, if so provided for?
I have no doubt that a great many of the Clergy in Ireland, who, if they were as well off as those in England, and had as good a security for their revenues at the present time as the Clergy in England, would be opposed to any kind of commutation, would
now accept this gladly. Many of them have expressed to me their willingness, if they thought their property was not to be confiscated, to accept any thing they could depend upon, instead of having their lives in perpetual insecurity in endeavouring to obtain any portion of their property, and in many cases obtaining nothing at all.
The question was not with reference merely to the feelings of the Clergy themselves, but with reference to the general expediency of such a provision for the Church; whether the same objections that might be entertained by some persons in England to the Clergy being made landed proprietors, would apply in the same degree to Ireland?
I am not aware of any objection that could be applied in one country that would not apply to the other.
Supposing it to be, not in the hands of the commissioners, but in the hands of the incumbent, would not the Irish incumbent be in a better situation for the purpose of deriving his income from the land than the English?
I cannot say whether he would be
absolutely in a better situation than the English; the
exchange would be more for his advantage; he would be much more a gainer by the exchange, considering how obnoxious Tithes are in Ireland to the Roman-Catholics.
Would not the circumstance of the great bulk of the population being Roman Catholic, and the circumstance of the limited religious duties which the clergyman of the Protestant Church in Ireland would have to perform, make his occupation of land less objectionable than it would be in a parish entirely Protestant?
It is possible it might; but I should be sorry that the clergyman should become, in either country, principally a farmer. In fact, however, if the clergyman takes his Tithes in kind, he must be occupied in the very worst parts of the business of farming; because he must become a general small dealer in a great variety of commodities; which seems to me to be, for a clergyman, the most objectionable part of a farmer’s life. He must collect the Tithes from a great many individuals, and then have numerous transactions to sell again the different kinds of produce to different purchasers.
Have you a knowledge of any instances, or have any been stated to you, in which any difficulty has been experienced in obtaining the rent for glebe land being the property of the Church?
I have heard some instances; I have none in the papers before me; but there have been instances mentioned to me in conversation which I cannot precisely detail. There are, however, a vast number of instances in Ireland, in which it is to be easily ascertained that there was glebe land originally belonging to the minister. There are fields actually bearing the name of glebe-fields, although they have been irrecoverably alienated. There are now many parishes without any, or with a very small portion of glebe. Many hundred instances have been brought to my knowledge of that alienation. My objections are very strong against the investment of land in an individual who is a Corporation-sole, and has a life interest, and no more than a life interest, having no share in the appointment of his successor. It appears to me to lead to much loss of church-property, and to a great deal of injustice of various kinds.
Was your Grace correctly understood to state that Tithe is ultimately paid by the landlord in all instances, and that it operates solely as a reduction of rent?
I conceive that it operates solely as a reduction of rent, except so far as it may prevent improvements which were not contemplated when the lease was granted and the rent adjusted. In such cases the farmer may not extend his cultivation to the high degree of exactness which he otherwise would; and thus some degree of loss incurred; or rather, some gain prevented.
Is not the Tithe upon land, where the produce has been augmented by the application of increased capital by the tenant, a reduction from the profits of that tenant, during the continuance of his lease?
I apprehend that the tenant does not usually make such improvements, except in cases where he thinks he is pretty well secured as to a moderate demand of Tithe; but, undoubtedly, there are cases in which he is mistaken; and in those cases, during the continuance of the lease, undoubtedly the Tithe falls in part on the tenant. For, a
Tenant may be considered,
during the continuance of his lease, as a
I mentioned, however, before, that a common fallacy occurs in computing the comparative value of Tithe and of Rent; that Tithe is usually computed to be the actual tenth of the gross produce, not only in cases where it
is not actually received, through
forbearance and kind feeling in the incumbent, but where it
could not be received; because the expensive cultivation would be immediately discontinued if it were claimed; whereas Rent is always computed at what might
actually be obtained.
Would not the check which would be thereby given to improved cultivation in consequence of the Tithe, during the occupation of such tenant, prevent the application of capital, and be a check therefore to production?
Without doubt it does operate in that way, to a certain extent; but principally with respect to those improvements which return a remote profit. Since it is not the interest of the incumbent himself to claim a Tithe when the claim would diminish production, I am inclined to think that in operations completed within a moderate period, the incumbent and the farmer usually come to an arrangement; but even those operations may sometimes be prevented, from the mere apprehension that the claim would be advanced.
In arable land, would not your Grace estimate the value of the Tithe as about a fifth of the tithe-free rent?
I cannot speak as to that; since it is so extremely variable upon land of different qualities. Even portions of land that produce very nearly the same crops will, in one district, through the natural richness of the soil, and the facility of obtaining manure, &c., produce these crops at so much less expense than in another, that the
gross produce of the two districts will be far more nearly on a level than the
net produce; on which last depends the
rent to be obtained.
You have stated that there is considerable opposition to the payment of Tithe in the hands of lay impropriators; would you include, in the relief you propose to extend to the Clergy, the same measure to be adopted with regard to the holders of lay Tithes?
I should be apt to say (so far as I have considered that point) that they must be left to themselves to make their own bargain, if they found Tithe an inconvenient kind of holding.
Do you not conceive, that if the kind of measure you have suggested were adopted with respect to clerical Tithes, and Tithe were to be so far extinguished, that the objection to the payment of lay Tithe would be very considerably increased?
I think very likely it might, and might probably lead to the same result,—an arrangement between the holder and the payer for redeeming the Tithe. The chief difficulty of arranging it, in the case of the Clergy, is, that they, being merely tenants for life, of course cannot make a bargain which shall affect their successors. This inconvenience must be remedied, either in the way I have proposed, or by some similar contrivance, so as to secure the permanency of the endowment. But a lay-impropriator may sell or lease his Tithes, like any other property.
Would you extend the arrangement you have proposed to the Land as well as to the Tithes?
I am convinced of the utter inexpediency of leaving any endowment in land in the hands of a single individual, who has himself a life interest, and only a life interest, in it. In the first place, he is exposed to a strong temptation to seek for his own immediate benefit at the expense of a much greater injury to his successors. The present system of letting the bishop’s lands in Ireland is an instance of this; and when such a system has once been begun, others, who never would have thought of introducing it, are forced to continue it in self-defence. Moreover, a person who enters upon any preferment, especially if vacated by the death of his predecessor, will often be able to obtain only a very imperfect and confused knowledge of the state of the revenues of the Benefice or See. Advantage will often be taken of this to encroach upon its lands or other property; and when maps or other documents are wanting, or are imperfect, as is often the case, church-property is often irrecoverably lost; and in other, cases, where it might be recovered by legal means, the incumbent is frequently deterred from resorting to these by a dread of law-expenses; expenses much less perhaps than the value of the land
in fee, yet greater than his
life-interest in it. Accordingly, I have ascertained that there are many hundred parishes in Ireland, in which portions of land actually exist, bearing the very title of glebe-land, yet irrecoverably lost to the Church. There are many persons, I am aware, who do not regret the impoverishment of the Church, and would even gladly see a further portion of its endowments withdrawn, and appropriated to other
national purposes; but they should remember that this spoliation of the Church by
individuals, confers no benefit whatever on the Public, and only holds out a bounty upon fraud. I would, therefore, place all church-endowments, without exception, in the hands of Boards of Commissioners, to be administered by them as trustees.
In your Lordship’s last examination you referred to certain grounds which had satisfied you as to the inexpediency of Tithe as a mode of endowment for the Clergy; have you any further ground which you wish to state as the foundation of your opinion upon that subject?
There are some additional considerations which have long since occurred to my mind in support of that opinion. In the first place, an association is created between the ideas of religion and compulsory payment, most injurious to the minds of the parishioners. It is true that the farmer pays only in the sense in which a man
pays an annuity charged on an estate left to him; and that his landlord allows for Tithes in the rent; but it is equally true, that during the continuance of the lease, whatever he can succeed in withdrawing from the minister, by flattery, by deceit, or by intimidation, goes into his own purse. For when I speak of Tithe falling on the Landlord, it should be observed that, during the current lease, I regard the Tenant as being, to all practical purposes, the Landlord; it is he who is burdened by any augmentation, and benefited by any diminution of the Tithes; and he is therefore tempted to feel and call a grievous burden whatever he cannot succeed in withholding from the right owner. He is tempted, in short, to hate the minister if he cannot succeed in defrauding him, and to despise him, if he does. It will be remembered that I am not bringing a charge against individuals, but against the tendency of the system.
Secondly, an incumbent, who may be in many respects different from what a Christian minister should be, but who, from indolence, ignorance, timidity, or any other cause, accepts a grossly inadequate composition, is likely to be more popular than, perhaps, a successor who may be a model for pastors, but who will not, or cannot, perhaps, in justice to his family, afford to forego his just claim. This must be not only a hardship to the individual, but a great detriment to the cause of religion.
Thirdly, the existing system leaves an opening for multifarious frauds: for instance, a man is presented to a Living by the ‘squire of the parish, on an understanding that he is to accept such and such a composition; the landowner lets his land tithe-free, paying, himself, perhaps, less than half the value of the Tithes; and the incumbent (as Paley observes) not only buys the Living, but robs the succession to pay for it. Again—a clergyman is leading a scandalous life, and several of the parishioners are disposed to present him, but they are almost all of them tenants of one great proprietor, who, for good and weighty reasons, shuts his ears to every such representation, and will not allow any complaints to be made. How many cases of this kind have occurred I cannot of course pronounce; but one has come under my own observation. Again—I have known an instance of an incumbent compelled to take a very inadequate composition, by a threat from the sole proprietor of planting the whole parish with wood. And a loss, again, is often unavoidably incurred of revenue which fairly belongs to the incumbent, especially of a vicarage: small scattered Occupations lying at a great distance from the Parsonage are not of unfrequent occurrence, to a very considerable amount; and the occupiers know well enough that if the Tithes were to be set out, the expense of collecting them would exceed their worth; they consequently pay just what they please.
Lastly, the trouble and vexation to which an incumbent is often exposed in obtaining even a small part of his due may be regarded as a serious deduction from his income; since (as A. Smith observes) every thing of this kind may be estimated at as much money as a man would give to be exempted from it. But this vexation, though a loss to one party, is no gain to the other, except when it gratifies a malignant and spiteful feeling.
You stated an opinion, in your former examination, that Tithe falls upon Rent; are you of opinion, then, that the landlord is not able to remunerate himself for that charge by the increased price of produce arising out of it?
I believe that when Tithes have long existed they have no influence on the price of corn. Their effect in this respect appears to me to be no greater than would follow if we suppose the Country in which they exist to have been originally somewhat
smaller than it is; or to have had lakes covering certain districts which are actually fertile valleys. If England, again, had been larger than it is—if, for instance, the Godwin Sands were, and always had been, corn-fields, no one will maintain that corn would have been cheaper. We should have had rather more corn, absolutely, and a rather larger population, and rather a larger aggregate amount of rent; but the price of corn and the rate of rent would have been just what they are. So, if Kent had never existed, the people of England would have been less by the amount of the people in Kent; the total rental of the kingdom would have been less by the rental of Kent; but the price of corn would have been just what it is.
Without doubt, if Tithes were
suddenly imposed on a Country whose population had grown up in their absence, or if they were
suddenly removed from a Country in which they had previously existed, the price of corn would be affected. So, if the people of Kent were to be removed into the remainder of England, and the whole county, with all its corn, immediately sunk into the sea, the price of corn would rise; or if, again, the Godwin Sands were to be suddenly left bare by the sea, in a state fit for immediate cultivation, the price of corn would fall; but by the time the population had adjusted itself to the new state of the supply of corn, the price would again rise to its ordinary level.
I apprehend that the opinion that Tithes fall on the consumer is founded on a confusion of the immediate effects of the
sudden imposition of Tithes, or sudden removal of Tithes, with the ultimate and
permanent effects of Tithes after they have long existed.
Have you any means of stating, from the information you have received in Ireland, what are the ultimate objects of those who have taken an active part in promoting the resistance to the payment of Tithes?
The ultimate object of many is, I have no doubt, simply to get rid of the Protestant-establishment: some without even a wish, others without a hope, of transferring its revenues to the Roman Catholic Church, but thinking only of gratifying hostile feelings. And others contemplate, or profess to contemplate, the application of these revenues to the establishment of a fund for the relief of the poor. Some, perhaps, hold out the prospect of this supposed benefit merely as a lure in order to induce Protestants to join in the opposition to Tithes; but many, probably, are persons of sincere but mistaken benevolence, who, having never witnessed the effects of the pauper-system in England, look only to the bright side of the question, and do not perceive the tendency of the system to produce far more distress than it alleviates, by diminishing
industry, forethought, and
charity; and by degrading the pauper into a condition approaching that of a Slave, fed, not according to the
value of his exertions, but to his
wants, and accordingly impelled to labour only by the fear of punishment. I am convinced that if a fund for providing legal relief for the poor could be raised even without robbing the Establishment or instituting poor-rates,—if, for example, a rich gold mine were discovered in Ireland, and appropriated to that purpose,—the distress in that country would be increased many fold.
Your Grace will observe that your plan of a Corporation would not embrace any provision for the Tithes in the hands of lay impropriators: do you think that any mode of arrangement of the tithe system would be satisfactory unless it embraced the lay impropriators?
I think it would. I do not see the same necessity of interfering with the lay-impropriators, since
they can help themselves. They can make permanent arrangements. The inability of the clerical tithe-owner to do this is, next to their moral evils, the principal inconvenience of clerical Tithes. It occasions the necessity of forming a new agreement with every new incumbent; and the farmers often suffer from the very circumstance of a clergyman having long received much less than his due. When that has been the case for a considerable period, there is a tendency to a rise of Rent; not quite equal indeed to the diminution of Tithe, but still bearing some relation to it. A change occurs in the incumbency; a much larger Composition for Tithe is required; and the farmer finds himself engaged to pay a Rent which, under the altered circumstances of the case, has become excessive. And the misfortune is, that in nine cases out of ten he casts the blame, not on his own imprudence, or on the exactions of his landlord, or on the carelessness of the former rector, but on the avarice of the new rector; who is in fact the only person perfectly blameless.
I do not mean to infer from all this, that, except in getting rid of the evils and inconveniences which have been mentioned, no advantage would arise from Commutation of Tithe; for though, where Tithes have
long existed they do not influence the price of corn, or its abundance in proportion to the number of the people, yet, as I have already said, their removal would unquestionably produce
present relief. It would for a time occasion food to be more abundant and cheaper; and would increase the effectual demand for agricultural labour. In the present state of England this temporary relief might be turned to inestimable advantage; it might be made use of for the purpose of amending both the provisions and the administration of our poor-laws; amendments essential, not merely to the welfare, but almost to the continuance among us of civilized society.
But it is to be observed that this relief would in great measure be afforded by the adoption of the first part of my plan, the constituting the different Benefices in each District into Corporations-aggregate, with powers of leasing for long periods, and of binding themselves and their successors by their contracts. It is the impossibility of doing this, that principally, if not solely, occasions Tithes to interfere with the progress of agriculture. No tax on the mere Rent of land has any such effect; nor do Tithes (as I have before observed) differ much from a tax on Rent, when they are held in fee simple. It is the interest of the tithe-owner to take, and to bind his successor to take, whatever the landholder can afford, (however less than an actual tenth) rather than impede cultivation, and thus kill the hen that lays the golden eggs. Sufficiently long leases could be granted by an impropriator; and the same could be done by a Corporation-aggregate, empowered to grant long leases; though it cannot be done by a rector or vicar under our existing institutions, or under any other safe modification of them that I can think of. It is for this reason that I do not propose legislating in respect to lay-impropriators.
Your Grace has stated, as one of the objections to Tithes being in the hands of individual incumbents, the jealousies which are created in different parishes on account of the greater or less strictness with which the tithes are collected?
Not merely between different parishes, but between different individuals in the same parish. If one man happens to have a better crop, and another a worse, some particular year, when there is a general rate of Composition laid down, the one who has the worse crop complains of paying at the same rate with his neighbour, though it may not be in itself an exorbitant payment, but perhaps even much below the legal rate.
Do not the same causes of discontent exist, not only between the tenants of different landlords, but between the different tenants of the same landlord, with respect to the payment of their rent?
Something of the kind may take place.
Is not this therefore equally an objection to the collection of all rent by all persons?
It is an objection to bringing the clergyman and his parishioners in any way in contact in pecuniary transactions.
Is there any peculiar objection upon this ground in the case of the clergyman,
which does not apply to the case of the landlord
and his tenant?
Yes certainly; because the
tenant, if he has any cause to complain, when his lease is out may
throw up his farm; whereas the tithe-payer
must pay his tithe. The tenant has accepted his lease as a benefit; and he pays a rent which he himself
voluntarily offered to pay. The case of the tithe-payer is very different. I may complain that my landlord has not abated the rent as he should, but I have originally offered to pay it.
Do not you think that the proposal to add to the landed possessions of the Church, by commuting the Tithe for land, would be liable to much odium and unpopularity?
I should wish to see some plan devised of putting the bishops’ lands upon a different footing, so as to avoid the evil that has arisen from vesting land in a Corporation-sole. The result of the system of leases for twenty-one years, renewing every year, has been, that though the land is very great, the income derived from it is comparatively small. I conceive that if the lands of the bishops were properly managed, the same amount of income which they now enjoy might be derived from a much smaller extent of land, and would not, consequently, be open to the same misrepresentation. It appears to me, that there might be an actual division of the estates of each See between the bishop and the tenants, in proportion to the value of their respective interests; and that the bishop might release to his tenants the reversion in one portion, on receiving from them a surrender of the leasehold interest in the other part. The objections raised against the great extent of lands held by the bishops might in this way be diminished.
Do not you think that making so much more land as would be taken in exchange for Tithes inalienable in the hands of perpetual corporations, would be liable to the same objections?
I am well aware that there would be many objections to the proposed scheme.
Would not that be a solid objection?
To make more land inalienable would certainly be liable to a solid objection; but the proposed Corporations might have powers of sale and exchange, on the terms of investing the purchase-money in the purchase of other lands to be held upon the same trusts. And as I formerly remarked that the effect of Tithe is the same as would have resulted from the extent of fertile territory in the Country having been originally less than it actually is, it follows that the proposed commutation, by removing Tithe, would virtually be equivalent to the creation of so much new land. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that not only apparent but solid objections to my proposal might be found; but I conceive there are more and weightier objections, both to the existing system and to every other substitute for it that could be devised.
Have you ever considered any advantage that might arise from substituting a corn rent, charged upon the proprietor, instead of the investment in land?
I have considered that plan, and I think it would be an improvement upon the present system.
Do not you think it would be an improvement even upon the plan of investment of land?
I think it would be acceptable for a few years; and then, I have not the least doubt that the next generation, at the latest, would raise a complaint, saying, “It is very hard that the landlords are alone to pay the Clergy; they ought, if they are to bear this burden, to be allowed such and such privileges and advantages, in the shape of corn-laws or bounties; or the burden ought to be in part taken from them and laid upon other classes of society.” It would be quite forgotten, in the course of one or two generations, that they had in fact received an
equivalent;—that their lands had been disburdened of the onus of Tithes. And it would be represented, perhaps before the middle of this century, but certainly before the end of it, that the landlords were unjustly burdened by alone paying the Clergy, who were of equal benefit to all classes. I think the church-revenues would in consequence be in great danger; but for the present I think it would be of great advantage.
How would the operation of an arrangement of this sort affect the interests, as well of the landlords as of the Clergy, if a power were given to the landlords gradually to redeem this rent, charged at a certain number of years’ purchase, to be invested in detached lands as glebe land for the different incumbents?
I have contemplated that as one of the modes of proceeding which might be adopted by those district corporations. I think it would be impossible, with any prospect of securing justice, that this should be done by an
individual incumbent; but if there were a Board, such as I have spoken of, established in each district, that mode might probably be adopted with great advantage.
Does your Grace contemplate the operation of the Board you propose to be simply to invest the amount of the Tithes in land for the purpose of supplying glebes to the separate incumbents, or to retain the aggregate amount of Tithe in Ireland constantly in the hands of the board, to distribute to the different incumbents in their proper proportions?
The latter was my intention; but I should prefer the former to the present system.
You stated you think it would not be advisable to appropriate any part of the present Tithe to a provision for the poor; and that a provision for the poor, generally speaking, would not be a remedy for the present sufferings of the people in Ireland?
I believe it would be a great augmentation of them.
Have you turned in your mind any method of bettering their condition?
I have thought of many; to enter into which now would occupy the time of this Committee at too great length: but I am convinced that to encourage
forethought, among them, by whatever means it can be effected, would be most important; and that providing them with a
certainty of relief, on even the lowest scale, whenever they were out of work, would tend to
extinguish what there is among them of industry and frugality; in short, that, with the prospect of such a provision, they would work as little as they could, and lay by nothing.
Are you aware that, notwithstanding the great prevalency of mendicity in Ireland, the savings of a portion at least of the lower orders, as evidenced by the increased amount deposited in the savings’ banks, has been latterly considerably increased?
I have every reason to suppose, from what I have heard from various parts of Ireland; and from comparing their present state with what I observed when I was there fourteen years ago, that the condition of the poor in Ireland has rather improved than deteriorated in that interval; though it is still so much short of what we see in all the best parts or even the tolerable parts of England, that many new comers are apt (erroneously as it appears to me) to think they are in a sinking state. I am quite convinced that a system of poor-rate would throw them back more than any thing that could be devised.
Do you allude to the poor-laws as they operate in this Country?
I mean, as poor-laws, on our principle,
must operate in every Country, even if administered as well as that principle will admit.
Do you conceive there might not be some modified plan of poor-rate adopted in Ireland that might be productive of benefit to the country?
The name of “poor-law” of course might be extended to systems of a very different nature. A great distinction is to be drawn between legal relief of that kind which tends to
increase the distress that it designs to relieve, and that which has no such tendency. The relief afforded to cripples, idiots, blind, or deaf-and-dumb, does not intend to increase those evils. The relief that is afforded to mere
want, as want, tends to increase that evil. That is the sort of relief which I deprecate;—a relief to those that are in distress, but able-bodied.
And you think that any legislative enactment of relief for that purpose would be injurious to industry, forethought, and charity?
Undoubtedly. It would tend to make them leave their parents and their children to parish-support, instead of attending to them as they now do; and to prevent them from laying by any thing for a time of distress. They would work as little as possible, and get all they could from the parish. I have seen that operate a great deal in England, and I think it would operate with much more rapid and destructive effect in Ireland. But what I have said does not apply to the relief of the blind, the permanently infirm, cripples, idiots, and the like.