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on this intricate subject, are already but too strong and numerous; and we owe it to the interests of truth and morality to try every means in our power, at the hazard of appearing dull and tedious, to dissipate these prejudices, and to point out the fallacy of any speculations which tend to introduce public confusion by weakening the attachment of the subjects of the realm to the existing civil or ecclesiastical institutions of the country. We cannot pursue the subject farther at present, although it is far from being exhausted, and does not seem, in a measure equal to its importance, to have attracted the attention of our best-informed writers on political economy; and we shall now, therefore, proceed to make the observations from which we were diverted by this affray of pounds and parallelograms.
A reference to the early records of ecclesiastical history, which the researches and care of antiquaries have discovered and preserved, will show that the following is not an incorrect representation of the manner in which the provision now appropriated to the discharge of ecclesiastical functions, originated, or at least became finally settled. The first converts to the Christian religion felt that the teachers of its doctrines had a claim to some compensation for their exertions, on the broad principle that every labourer is worthy of his hire; and the practice of the Jews, as , well as that of other nations, suggested to them a tenth part of the produce of their land as a reasonable standard of a voluntary compensation to the ministers of religion. When this religion acquired a surer footing, and its converts became more numerous, the provision which had previously been received as the spontaneous liberality of its professors, began to be regarded as a right established by custom. In the course of the eighth century, the growing force of custom, aided by the operation and influence of the canon law, rendered the payment of tithes an imperative obligation. It was, however, enough at this period, if they were paid to the church generally; for, as parochial limits were hitherto unknown, no individual could establish a specific claim to the tithes of any given district. Indeed, it is highly probable that the tithes of a whole diocese were then received into a common treasury, under the controul of the bishop, who expended them on a species of conventual establishment, where a sufficient number of chaplains were maintained to discharge the ecclesiastical offices of the district or ' parochia' over which he presided.
In the process of time, however, the lords of manors, or, to speak more correctly, the owners of estates, began to feel the inconvenience of such an arrangement; and became desirous to fix among their tenants a resident chaplain, as a more regular and
efficient efficient instructor of their vassals, than an individual visiting them periodically from a distant residence. For this purpose, they built a church on their property, and endowed it with the tithe of the produce of their estate. The boundaries of the estate possessed by the founder of the church, became, on this account, the limits of the district or parish over which the ecclesiastical authority of the chaplain extended. The bishop, no doubt, readily relinquished his claims, and acquiesced in an arrangement which, at the same time that it deprived him of the ecclesiastical dues of the district, relieved his establishment from the expense of maintaining one chaplain, and secured more effectually the proper discharge of the pastoral duties of the parish. This will account for the singular forms and unequal extent of English parishes much more satisfactorily, than to suppose that the kingdom was divided iuto such districts at one period. Had this division been effected, us the regular and simultaneous effort of internal police, it is inr conceivable that the limits of all parishes should have taken the capricious direction in which they are now traced; but when we ascertain that the boundaries of every parish, with exceptions not worth mentioning, are co-extensive with the limits of the manor or estate of the founder, the difficulty of accounting for this irregularity vanishes at once.
That the thanes or lords of manors, as late as the beginning of the thirteenth century, claimed and exercised, according to the common law or custom of England, a right to build churches on their estate, and to endow them with any portion of the produce which pleased them, is a fact which admits of no dispute. Innocent the Third, in a decretal epistle written in the reign of King John, proceeds thus:—' Quod enim de consuetudine regni Anglorum regia Serenitas per suas literas intimavit, ut liceat tarn episcopis quam comitibus et baronibus ecclesias in feudo suo fundare; laicis quidem principibus id licere nullatenus denegamus, dummodo diocesani episcopi eis suffragetur assensus, et per novam structuram veterum ecclesiarum justitia non laedatur.' That they not only claimed the right of building churches as appendant to their estates, but exercised, also, the privilege of granting to whom they pleased the tithes of any portion of their produce, is a fact which we might prove by numerous documents: we shall, however, content ourselves with transcribing one or two giants, for the information of those readers who may not be very conversant with conveyances of this description:—' Sciant tarn praeseutes quam futuri quod ego Henricus de Malemeino concedo et conhrmo monachis ecclesiae saucti Andreae Apostoli Rovecestria; decimam meam totam de dominico meo, et earn vehendam quocunque volueriut et trailsfereudam; cum ante banc concessiouem
solummodo solummodo granum habuerint. Preterea dono eis et concedo decimam meam de vitulis et porcellis. Has concessiones confirmo illis pro amore Dei et salute animae meae et uxoris et antecessofum meorum libere et quiete possidendas assensu haeredis mei et voluntate uxoris et amicorum meorum.'
Our readers will perceive by this document, that the owners of estates claimed and exercised the right not only of conferring their tithes in perpetuity on whom they pleased, but also of defining and limiting the articles on which they should be levied. The monks of Rochester had first obtained from the owner of the land the tithe of his corn only; at a subsequent period, he renewed and confirmed his former grant, and added to it the tithes of calves and pigs.
We shall transcribe an extract from another grant of nearly the same date, which proves beyond dispute, that the tithes of the district named in it, were acquired as a gift from the owner of the land:—' Sciant presentes et futuri quod Radulphus de S. Georgio et Agatha uxor ejus et Alnus haeres eorum dederunt et concesserunt monachis de Boxgrave, decimam de Liparinges in perpetuam eleemosynam, quam prius dederat eis Basilia mater ipsius Radulphi. Et ipsi monachi debent facere ecclesiasticum servitium in ecclesia sua de Ichenora vel in capella sua de Briddeham, hominibus praedicti Radulphi morantibus apud Liparinges, etin singulis hebdomadis unum servitium, donee praedictus Radulphus vel haeredes sui ibi fecerunt quoddam oratorium, in quo unus de capellanis monachorum faciat praedictum servitium in hebdomada.' From this extract it appears, that the district named Liparinges was extra-parochial, and not subject to tithes —that it had no place appropriated for divine worship, and that it was on the confines of the parish of lchenor, belonging to the monastery of Boxgrave. The owner of this district, not wishing that its inhabitants should continue destitute of public instruction, engages to build a church on his property, and confers the tenth of its produce on the monks of Boxgrave, on condition that, till it was built, his ' men dwelling at Liparinges' should be allowed to attend the church of Ichenor, or the chapel of Briddeham; and, •when built, that it should be served by a chaplain provided by the monastery.
For the purpose of further illustrating the opinions which we hold with respect to the nature and origin of ecclesiastical revenues, let it be assumed, that seven hundred years ago the land now contained in the parisb of A, was extra-parochial, and that it was all the property of one owner, by whom it was let out in subdivisions to different occupiers, tithe free: that there was, in consequence, no resident ecclesiastic called upon by office
to instruct the inhabitants of this district in the doctrines of religion, and the obligations of morality; and that no structure even existed in which such instruction could have been conveniently communicated. Let it be supposed, that the proprietor of this estate, taught by reflection and experience to dread the effects of the ignorance and barbarity in which its occupants would unavoidably continue if not enlightened and civilized by public instruction, built a church—a school, if our readers like, in which the population of the district might receive the necessary instruction; and that he endowed it with a tenth part of the produce ot his estate, reserving to himself, his descendants or representatives, the right of presenting to the benefice whenever a vacancy should occur.
When he called his tenants together, and made them acquainted with his plans and arrangements, it is clear that the rent which i he, as the sole owner of this property, unencumbered with a charge for tithes, previously received from them, must have been instantly diminished in proportion to the amount of the claim to which he entitled the incumbent; and it is equally clear, that in the instance here stated, the endowment of the rectory with a tenth part of the produce, made no addition whatever to the whole surplus exacted from the occupier. The cultivator, giving the tithes of his crops to the ecclesiastical proprietor, must have deducted this charge from the amount of the rent which he had previously paid to the land-owner.
The advantages which the inhabitants of any parish derive in a religious, moral, civil, or political view, from the discharge of the ecclesiastical functions ordained by the state, were, therefore, originally a gratuitous boon, conferred upon them by the proprietor of an estate, who first built a church and endowed it with tithes. The expense incurred in securing these advantages was defrayed entirely by him. He might, had he thought proper, have devised to his heir the whole surplus produce received from his estate, as rent undiminished by a claim of tithes; but such was not his pleasure : he bequeathed his estate encumbered and charged with a provision for securing, on a permanent foundation, the religious and moral instruction of the parish which it comprised. It is surely both reasonable and lawful that every man should be at liberty to do what he likes with his own, provided ' what he likes' be not injurious to the rights and interests of others; and we know of no 'reason ' which should debar the lay owner of an estate from appropriating any portion of his property for the purpose of instructing its occupiers in the duties of religion and morality, till it can be proved that such an object is repugnant to the interest and welfare of society. It appears, indeed, from the
instance instance just quoted, that the heir himself was consulted as to the intended alienation, and that he also gave his consent to it before it was carried into execution; and when an individual has actually and for ever thus alienated any portion of the produce of his estate, we know not on what grounds his descendants, much less those who have subsequently purchased his property, or their tenants, can represent themselves as bearing any part of this burden. The founder and endower of a rectory, reserving to himself and his representatives the privilege of presenting to the benefice when vacant, conferred upon the parishioners a right to require the appointment of an individual to the living, properly qualified to discharge the ecclesiastical duties of the parish; but the emoluments derived from this appointment do not come from the pockets of the public; they are a portion of the surplus produce of the estate which, before the endowment of the rectory, belonged to the owner, and were received by hini as rent, and which, from the moment they were appropriated by him to ecclesiastical purposes, ceased to be his.
In this mode the lord of a manor, or the owner of an estate acquired by a grant from the crown, by descent or by purchase, built a church for the accommodation of the inhabitants of the district, who were then his tenants at will, and endowed it with the tithe of the whole produce: thus the limits of a private estate became the public boundaries of a parish, and the emoluments of the incumbent did not form a charge which added to the payment already made by the occupiers as rent. They were, in fact, subtracted from the portion already received by the owner in that form.
Such we conceive to be, in nearly all parishes, a correct account of the origin of that provision which is now by law established for the maintenance of the clergy ; but although it should be denied that this is a correct representation of the manner in which the church became originally entitled to a tenth part of the produce of the soil, it can make no great difference with respect to its pressure at the present time; for we are sure that the whole real property of the country has frequently changed hands since the payment of tithes was fmally recognized by the laws of the land. Whenever a purchase is now made, the' probable amount of tithes is taken into consideration, as a permanent rent-charge to which the land is subject. If we assume that the tenth part of the produce of the soil became, in the first instance, appropriated to ecclesiastical purposes, not by an immediate and express grant from the. owner of the freehold, but by the gradual operation of custom, which is the origin and substance of our common law, the effect is still the same. The owner of land, at the