Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

has sanctioned as correct.' But the public has no right to say, 'because these endowments were granted for the purpose of inculcating opinions which have been declared false or injurious, they shall, instead of being applied to the promulgation of doctrines which are beneficial in their tendency, be appropriated to purposes, which the founders never, for a moment, contemplated. The owners of estates granted a part of their property to ensure the religious and moral instruction of those who lived upon them; and it never could have been intended by them, that, under any circumstances, any portion of this fund should be applied to defray the burdens, or cancel the obligations of the state. It appears to us, then, that the protestant incumbents of English benefices have equitably, as well as legally, succeeded to every claim and right which the owners of laud had conferred on their catholic predecessors.

If then the vievys we have taken of this subject be-correct, it must be evident that the sentiments which we hear so frequently expressed, with regard to the. expense and burden of an- ecclesiastical establishment, are totally destitute of any reasonable foundation, and that they arise entirely from prejudice and misconception. The notions of those who describe the clergy as a stipendiary body of public functionaries, pensioned by the state—who represent their incomes as derived from dissenters as well as members of the church of England—:who represent them as paid by the consumer of titheable commodities, whether he be rich or poor, whether he be engaged in the cultivation of land, or resident within the walls of a city—can be ascribed only to the perverseness, or the ignorance which prevails so generally on this branch of political economy. We are fully persuaded, that when the true principles of this science are properly attended to, it will be seen that the clergy are not a body of func-> tionaries, supported by pensions levied upon the public—that their incomes are, in no part, derived from any payment or con. tribution out of any property which, either in law or reason, the dissenter can term his own— and, that the levying of tithes does pot add to the money price of titheable articles, and fall, as the pew school of political economy assure us, equally on every individual in the kingdom-—' on the poorest beggar as well as the richest lord, in proportion to their respective consumption of the , articles on which they are levied.' On the contrary, it will be seen, that tithes merely constitute a part of the rent of land, and that the revenues of the church arise from a portion of the real property of the country, held on a peculiar tenure, and appropriated to ecclesiastical purposes by some former owuer of the freehold,

N N 3 We

We are confirmed in the opinions which we entertain on this point by the sentiments of a well known republican, who cannof be supposed to have been unreasonably prejudiced in favour of ecclesiastical establishments. We allude to Dr. Franklin, who, in a letter originally addressed to the editor of the London Packet, and inserted in his posthumous works lately published, says that 'the presbyterians went from England to establish a new country for themselves at their own expense, where they might enjoy the free exercise of their religion in their own way. When they had purchased the territory of the natives, they granted lands out in townships, requiring for it neither purchase-money nor quit-rent, but this condition only to be complied with, that the freeholders should for ever support a gospel minister (meaning probably one of their own persuasion), and a free school within the township. Thus what is commonly called presbyterianism became the established religion of the country. AH went on well in this way while the same religious opinions were general: the support of the ministers and school being raised by a proportionate tax on the lands. But in process of time some becoming quakers, some baptists, and, of late years, some re>> turning to the church of England (through the laudable endeavours and proper application of the funds of the society for propagating the gospel), objections were made to the payment of a tax appropriated to the support of a church they disapproved and had forsaken. Th« civil magistrate, however, continued to colleet and apply the tax accordmg to the original laws which remained in force: and he did it more freely, as thinking it just and equitable that the holders of lands should pay what was contracted to be paid when they were granted, and what had been considered by all subsequent purchasers as a perpetual incumbrance on the estate, and bought, therefore, at a proportionably cheaper rate: a payment which it was thought no honest man ought to avoid under pretence of having changed his religion: and this, I suppose, is one of the best grounds for demanding tithes of the dissenters now in England.'

Some individuals, however, who acknowledge the right of ecclesiastics to levy tithes, contend that, under peculiar circumstances, the exaction of the full tenth of the whole gross produce is an extension of the original claim conferred upon the church. They seem to think that the tithe-owner has only a claim to a tenth part of the natural produce of the soil, and not a tenth part of the artificial produce of land, in the cultivation of which the pccupier has expended a large capital. They conceive that ec-t clesiastics are fully entitled to a tenth of the produce which may £e acquired from land in an unimproved state, but deny that he ean justly claim an equal proportion of the produce of the same land when improved by expensive process of tillage. Let it be supposed, that a farmer expends £20 on an acre or land, for the purpose of growing hops; and that the produce of this acre, which, as corn land, would have yielded no more than should sell for £30—is it, ask they, fair and equitable, that the tithe-owner should, in the instance here stated, claim the tenth of thirty pounds, the value of the improved produce, and not be contented with the tenth of five pounds, the value of the ordinary produce?

In considering this question, it must be remembered, that the point to be decided is, not whether the landlord would obtain more rent for the gross produce—of this there can be no doubt, But the real object of the inquiry is, to ascertain whether the •profits of capital employed in tillage would be increased by reducing the claims of the tithgrowner. We acknowledge that as to the amount of rent, the reduction of the claim for tithes would bean advantage to the landlord: but we are satisfied that, as to the profits of the occupier, no permanent effect would be produced by this restriction. Indeed, we are of opinion, that the net profits of the capital employed by the occupier of land, in the production of the most expensive crops that are ever grown, would not be increased permanently, even by a total abolition of tithes; much less would they be affected by a partial reduction of its amount. We shall shortly state our reasons for entertaining this opinion; and if this holds good, with respect to the most expensive crops, to hops, for instance, they must be equally cogent with regard to all the capital laid out on land in raising any other species of agricultural produce. ' As the basis of our reasoning on this point, we must remind our readers, that it is an acknowledged axiom in political economy, that in every country where capital has a free circulation, the profits of stock, in whatever way it may be employed, can never long vary, in amount. If capital, in a given average of years, should rpake a larger return of profits in one branch of agriculture or commerce than when employed in another, a portion of it will na-r turally flow from the less lucrative channel, to that which is more profitable, till the rate of profits becomes at length equalized in every branch of agriculture and commerce. Let us apply this axiom to the produce of a hop ground, and consider whether the partial reduction or even the abolition of tithes, would in-, crease the profits of the capital employed in growing hops. Assume that an acre of hops yields to the tithe-owner £3 as the tenth of its produce: it is clear that, notwithstanding this charge, jt must return a fair average of profits for the capital expended upon it by the occupier; otherwise he would cease to grow hops,

N N 4 ami and transfer his capital to some other speculation, where his profits would be higher. For it is hardly conceivable that any man will persevere in cultivating hops, if he can make more of his capital by growing wheat. If the =£3 now levied as tithes on an acre of hops ceased to be exacted, the profits of growing hops would be higher than the average rate of profits in other branches of agriculture and commerce—more capital would be instantly employed in the production of hops, till the profits of the hop grower would, by degrees, be levelled with the general rate of the profits of stock.

It may perhaps be urged, that when a farmer rents land in 3 bad state of cultivation, with a view of laying out a considerable capital in improving it, he obtains a lease from the land-owner, which gives him, for a specified term of years, the exclusive benefits of the money which he has expended on the land; but that the claims of the tithe-owner, being put in force from year to year, convey to him a portion of the produce which the landlord could not claim, and which, therefore, would have increased the profits of the stock which he had embarked in agriculture. But when the occupier is said to enjoy the exclusive benefits of the capital employed by him on land which he holds on lease, it appears to us that his advantages are much exaggerated. When a land* owner has a farm to let on lease, the rent which he expects to receive from it is calculated, we apprehend, not on the produce of the land, supposing no capital to be expended in tilling it—but on the produce which it will, on the average, yield, when a given capital has been laid out in improving it. The landlord addresses his tenant thus: 4 I have 100 acres of land to let, for twenty-one years—in its present unimproved state it cannot yield more than ten shillings per acre, as rent, but a capital of £ 1,000 laid out in improving it, will return to the occupier a fair profit for his stocky and enable him to pay twenty shillings per acre as rent: if you, therefore, are not both able and willing to embark such a capital in the improvement of my farm, I must look out for another occupier, who possesses the capital requisite for its cultivation, and who may, in consequence, be able to pay me the rent which I have a right to expect from my land.'

Indeed every landlord, before he lets a farm, ascertains that the tenant who takes it can advance the capital necessary for occupying it; and it is not by any means uncommon, that, where leases are granted, the amount of the capital required is expressly specified, and the manner in Which it must be expended particularly defined.

Let the subject be twisted how it may, the abolition of tithes, pr a partial reduction of their amount, would not, under any

circumstances, circumstances, increase permanently the average profits of the capital employed in agriculture. If no claim for tithes existed, to the demand of the landlord for rent would be added the money value of the tenth portion of the average crop, which the land in a certain number of years would produce, when a given capital had been expended in improving it.

The benefices now in the gift of the crown, were reservations, when the manors to which they were once appendant were granted away; or were acquired by lapse, or conferred on Henry VIII. and his successors, by Act of Parliament, at the dissolution of the monasteries to which they belonged. The livings belonging to the bishoprics, the deans and chapters, and the universities, were the gifts of their munificent founders. All these put together, as our readers will presently see, do not amount to a moiety, of the English benefices. The most numerous, and (another important circumstance) by far the most valuable portion of ecclesiastical preferments, are the property of lay-patrons, to whom the right of presenting to them has descended by imheritance, or by whom it has been acquired by purchase. An advowson is a species of property which sells for nearly as large an amount as a freehold, yielding an income of equal magnitude. It is well known, that a living of a thousand per annum, is worth nearly as much as an estate of equal value.

Hence it may safely be asserted, with reference to at least one half of the whole body of English ecclesiastics, that they make a sacrifice of their time, labour, and talents, in promoting the advantages of the public for which, in a pecuniary view, they receive little or no compensation. Let us suppose that a gentteman has two sons, to each of whom he intends giving twenty thousand pounds; one he educates for the bar, and the other for the church. The ecclesiastic vests his portion in the pur-, chase of an advowson, which yields him an income of a thousand per annum; the lawyer, with his. patrimony, purchases a, real estate from which he derives an annual return of nearly equal amount. In this case, a thousand pounds is the whole annual in? come of the ecclesiastic; and it is an income arising principally, if not exclusively, from the capital which he has advanced, and but in a very trifling degree, as a reward or compensation for his professional exertions. But his lay brother enjoys an equal, or very nearly an equal income, as the rent of the estate which he has purchased; and to this he may add as much as his talents and industry in his profession enable him to acquire. It is difficult, therefore, to point out an individual, who makes a greater sacrifice of time and talents, than an ecclesiastic who purchases a Hying. If he laid out his mppev in the acquisition of any other

species

« AnteriorContinuar »