« AnteriorContinuar »
i»er of our friends on the other side of the Tweed, by asking another: Did not the owner of the soil, or his ancestor, purchase his property subject to the claim of the tithe-holder? And was not the capital advanced to effect this purchase less, by the exact amount of the fee simple value of the tithes, than if the estate had been purchased free from this burden? We cannot, therefore, see on what reasonable grounds the landlord can be said to contribute towards the revenues of the ecclesiastical establishment. The part of the produce of the soil which has been reserved and set apart for ecclesiastical purposes, never was the property of the present lay-owner of the estate on which it is levied, nor did it ever belong to any of his immediate predecessors. Every acre of land, not exempt from tithes, in England and Wales, has been sold and let subject to a claim for tithes, from a period long antecedent to any written record; and on every transfer of this property, the price advanced has been invariably reduced by the estimated value of the ecclesiastical charges to which it is subject. It is then an absolute perversion of language to affirm, that the clergy are paid either by the occupier or the oxmier of the soil, except in the sense in which a landlord is said to be paid by his tenant. If the owner of an estate alienated it twenty years ago, reserving to himself and his representatives a perpetual rentcharge upon it, equal to a tenth part of the produce, could the Individual receiving such an annuity, be described as paid or pensioned by the present owner of the freehold from which it accrued '( We do not believe, that even the most violent declaimer against the rights of ecclesiastics would maintain the affirmative of such a proposition.
There are, we know, some pretenders to political economy, who maintain that tithes constitute a charge which falls not upon the occupier or owner of the soil, but upon every consumer of titheable articles; and that the dissenter must therefore be considered as bearing his full proportion of the expense attending the * discharge of the ecclesiastical functions ordained by the state.' With the affectation and parade of arithmetical precision, an attempt has been recently made to demonstrate that tithes have the effect of adding, in proportion to the amount, to the exchange able or money value of the articles on which they are levied. Those speculators contend that, contrary to the notions hitherto entertained on the subject, tithes do not diminish the net revenue received from land in the form of rent, but add one-tenth to the money price of the article on which they are levied when sold in the market. We shall attempt to be as concise as possible while putting our readers in possession of the theory to which we allude. JLiCt it be supposed that an acre of land, subject to tithe, and let
for for 20s. produces ten bushels of wheat, which sell for 50*.: the tithe of this acre would be one bushel of wheat, worth 5s. According to the opinion generally entertained by every respectable writer on this subject, if the 5s. paid on the acre in question ceased to be levied as tithes, it would be added to the 20s. now exacted by the landlord as rent, and make no alteration whatever in the money or market price of the wheat which it produces. But this notion, although maintained by Adam Smith, Malthus and other eminent political economists, is discovered to be a vulgar errpr by a corps of theorists and projectors who feel, of course, a due contempt for the common sense and experience of all the rest of the world. They assure us, that if tithes were not levied on the acre in question, the result would be, not that the landlord would add 5s. to the 20s. already received by him as rent, but that the price of wheat would fall one-tenth, and that the grower would sell the whole produce for 45s. instead of 50s., which is now obtained for it!
From this singular theory, it is inferred that tithes constitute a tax, increasing with the gross produce of land; not falling upon the net produce, or diminishing the portion, which, as a surplus-, the landlord exacts under the name of rent, but paid by the consumer of titheable articles, and falling equally on every individual in the kingdom; on the poorest beggar as well as the richest lord, in proportion to their respective consumptions. The above theory of the ' incidence of tithes,' to borrow a phrase from the vocabulary of these economists, and the inferences drawn from it, are proved to be correct by a process of reasoning, which seems to us no less novel than, we are satisfied, it appears to its author ingenious and conclusive. The whole kingdom is divided, after the manner of Mr. Owen's spinning establishments, into parallelograms of different degrees of fertility; it is assumed, that the land contained in the first parallelogram being of the best quality, produces J00 quarters of wheat, on a given space, and that land" which ranks second, third and fourth in quality, produces 80,-60, 40 quarters respectively. For the basis on which the whole theory rests, it is then assumed, as a fact which cannot be controverted, that the least fertile soil, in a state of tillage, No. 4, pays no rent, and that the expense of raising the forty quarters of wheat, which it produces, constitutes the cost of production, and is therefore the 'natural price' which regulates the value of wheat grown on more productive soils. It is then contended, that tithes, forming a tenth part of the cost of producing these forty quarters, must add one-tenth to their exchangeable or money value in the market.
The very basis on which this delusive theory is constructed, is
M M 4 utterly
utterly destitute of foundation; it is an assumption perfectly unsupported either by common sense or experience, that the least fertile soil in a state of cultivation, pays no rent; that the owner of the least productive spot in a state of tillage, will permit it to be occupied permanently, without exacting some compensation from the occupier in the form of rent. We are satisfied, that no spot of land can be found in England, Wales or Scotland, permanently in a state of Ullage, which yields no surplus to the owner as reut. The very worst soil w bich can be tilled, with a remunerating profit, possesses some natural powers and local advantages, which are the property of the owner, and for which he will exact rent from the occupier.
But as we feel the importance of removing the prejudices, which this view of the pressure of tithes cannot fail to perpetuate, if its unsoundness and absurdity be not fully exposed, let us, for the sake of discussion, admit that land of the quality No. 4, pays no rent, we must still reject the inference which the ' school' would draw from this concession. If we concede, in the teeth of all experience, that the land last taken into cultivation, subject tit tithes, yields no surplus as rent, but barely makes the ordinary return of profits for the capital employed on it; still we must contend, that in this very case, the portion of the produce levied as tithes does not at all affect the money value of the remainder. For this |and, even on the supposition that it yields no surplus us rent, evidently yields a surplus as tithes. If the demand for tithes ceased to exist, the consequence, we conceive, would be, not that the money value of the whole produce would be diminished, but that the land-owner who is now said to receive nothing, would then claim and receive as rent, the portion which at present is paid to the tithe-owner. Conceding, then, to these ingenious economists, a fact which we utterly disbelieve, that the least fertile soil permanently in a state of tillage, yields no surplus to the landow m: r, still it appears to us perfectly clear, that the quantum now levied upon it as tithes would, if this charge were abolished, be exacted from the cultivator of the same soil as rent by the landlord.
On their own showing, the produce of the least fertile soil in a state of tillage, paying no rent, but subject to tithes, yields a remunerating profit to the cultivator: were the charge for tithes to cease, it would evidently yield more than the necessary remuneration, by the amount of the tithes now levied upon it;, and this excess of profit, arising from the abolition of tithes, would be instantly claimed by the land-owner, who, as these economists assert, now receives no rent for his land. Let us suppose, that the produce of a given quantity of the least fertile soil, which is said to pay no rent, sells for 40/. and that the claim of the titheowner, now amounting to 4/., were abolished, would the whole1 produce, which now sells for 40/., be in that case, sold for no, more than 3(i/. f 'Yes,' say these theorists. 'No,' say common sense and experience; ' if the 41. now received for tithes, ceased to be exacted, another claimant to an equal amount would instantly start up in the person of the landlord.'
We would also remind our modem economists of a trifling cir-, cumstance, which, somehow or other, seems to have escaped their observation. We press it upon their attention with becoming diffidence, as we well know what little weight will he ascribed, to a common-place fact, when opposed to the conclusions of an ingenious theory. They assume, that the least fertile soil in a state of tillage, pays no rent: we have shown, that there is no ground for this singular assumption: we will, however, inform them of a fact which we think they will hardly venture to controvert—it is simply this—the least fertile land in cultivation actually pays no tithes for seven years after it is taken into a state of tillage. For the confirmation of this fact, we refer our readers to the first law book at hand on the subject of tithes. In the year 1748, Lord Chancellor Hardwicke decided, that, under the operation of the '2 and 3 Edward VI. c. 13,,, all barren, waste, or heath ground, which, above the necessary expense of inclosing and clearing, requires also expeuse in manuring before it can be made proper for agriculture, is exempt from tithes for a period of seven years. What now, we would seriously ask our readers, becomes of the theory which explains the pressure of tithes, by assuming^ that the least fertile laud in a state of tillage is free from rent and subject to tithes?
We cannot, therefore, see any grounds for asserting that tithes add to the money value of the articles on which they are levied, and fall ultimately on the consumer, by increasing money prices one-tenth; it appears to us on the contrary, most clear, that a bushel of wheat sells for the same money price, whether it has been tithed or not, and that the amount of tithes merely lessens the landlord's portion.
As a corollary arising from the theory of these economists, we are assured that if tithes were abolished, the consequence would not he, as common sense would lead us to expect, that the rent of titheable land would rise to a level with the rent now paid for land exempt from tithes, but that' the rent of tithe free laud would fall to the level of rent now paid for land subject to tithes.' That we might not be suspected of palming upon this ingenious school, absurdities for which it is riot responsible, we have here purposely stated this novel proposition in the very words of a neophyte, phyte, who has lately undertaken to enlighten the world on this branch of political economy. The same authority gravely assures us, that while money rents have no influence in regulating the market price of the produce of land, a money composition paid in lieu of tithes has this effect. But that a money payment in lieu of tithes should affect the price of all titheable articles, whilst a money payment to the landlord as rent is acknowledged to produce no such effect, is a paradox with which we have grappled in vain. To reconcile this apparent inconsistency is a task which *ve must leave to the luminary who advanced it. If the abolition of tithes will reduce the money price of wheat one-tenth, the abolition of rents must, we presume, reduce this price still farther, in the proportion which the landlord's claim may, at present, bear to the charge for tithes.
'Levy tithes,' say those who spin such paradoxes, ' on the cornfields and orchards of the fertile vale of Evesham, and the effect will simply be a diminution of that portion of the produce which falls to the share of the landlord; it will have no influence whatever on the money value of this produce in the market; but levy tithes on the scanty produce grown at the foot of a Welsh mountain, and the effect is as extensive as it is mysterious and inexplicable—it increases the price of produce not only on this 'least fertile spot,' but on every other spot where it is raised; it advances the price of wheat from 50 to 55s. per quarter, not only in Wales, but likewise in England and Scotland; and its effect must, we conceive, extend indirectly to Poland and Kentucky. All this is proved by a species of lunar equation, founded on a series of parallelograms, which the new economists consider absolutely irrefragable. The influence of tithes is, therefore, something similar to that of the moon, which, as an old naval friend of ours used to say,' drew the sea all on one side;' the addition which the exaction of tithes, in the least fertile districts in England, makes to the money value of the produce of land extends itself gradually and imperceptibly over Scotland and the European continent, till it finally reaches the North American prairies of Morris Birkbeck. In what manner this effect is brought about, our old acquaintance of the Wabash may not be able exactly to comprehend—this cannot, we conceive, much signify. He is not able, perhaps, to comprehend how the moon attracts the waters of the ocean; but so it is.
We owe an apology to our readers for the length of this dry, and, to many of them, we fear, uninteresting discussion; but the importance of the subject has compelled us, however reluctantly, to enter into a minuteness of detail which we would willingly have avoided. The prejudices and misconceptions of the public, •' on