HC Deb 18 April 1833 vol 17 cc273-92
Lord Althorp

, in rising to submit to the House a measure for the Commutation of Tithes in England, observed, that he need not say that the subject of his Motion was one of great importance; at the same time, he felt that it would not be necessary for him to detain the House at any length by adducing arguments in favour of the general principle of the measure he was about to introduce for the Commutation of Tithes. His chief duty on that occasion would be to explain the details of the measure, by which the principle of commutation was to be carried into effect. It was undoubtedly of great importance that the measure should be substantially just and equitable between the parties without adding to the burthens of the people. Before he, however, entered into the particular subject which he undertook to bring under their consideration, he thought it desirable that he should at the outset disabuse hon. Members and the public with respect to the very exaggerated statements of the amount of the revenues of the Church, which had been broached on several occasions, and very recently again referred to in that House, by an hon. Member. It had been asserted by the hon. Member to whom he alluded, that the Church property of England and Wales, was about 9,000,000l. per annum. Now, a more extravagant assertion never was uttered. The total nett income of the Bishops of England and Wales, including the Bishopric of Sodor and Man, was but 158,557l., and the revenues of the Deans and Chapters were 236,358l. per annum. He had not exact returns of the income of all the parochial clergy, but had sufficient data for asserting that it was very little more than 3,000,000l. sterling per annum, making, with the incomes of the Bishops and the Deans and Chapters, an entire revenue of very little more than 3,500,000l. instead of 9,000,000l. per annum. It would perhaps be well for him to state, in order to show that he had not understated the revenues of the parochial clergy, the data on which he had founded his estimate. There were 11,400 benefices in England; and he had received returns from 9,660. These returns gave a total of 2,759,657l. per annum, and as there was no reason for supposing that the remaining benefices were of a higher average than those 9,660; that would give, taking the mean of them as the average for the whole, speaking in round numbers, a total of 3,257,000l. per annum for 11,400 livings of England. This sum equally divided, would give an average of about 285l. a-year, which, with the revenues of the prebendaries, deaneries, and chapters, also equally divided among the parochial clergy, would give an average of 300l. per annum, and no more. It was hardly necessary for him to contend that, in this country where the Church was very differently situated with regard to the opinions of the people from the Church of Ireland, three hundred pounds per annum was not too high an income for a resident working clergyman of the Church of England. In the present state of this country, they would all agree with him he believed, that the residence of a clergyman was required in each parish. Indeed, there was no man who knew anything of the advantages of a resident clergyman to all classes, whether considered in a religious, a moral, or a political point Of view, who would not agree with him in saying, that it was most desirable that there should be a resident clergyman in each parish. That being the case, the amount of income which he had stated could not be thought extravagant when it was devoted to promote that desirable object. But the mode in which the clergy had hitherto been paid had, in practice, injured the beneficial effect of their residence amongst their parishioners. Looking at that in a legislative point of view, it could not be denied that it had produced great disadvantages; and it was greatly desirable, not merely to the prayers, that those disadvantages should be removed, but it was also desirable for the sake of the clergy themselves, that nothing should prevent those good feelings and fellowship which ought to exist between them and their parishioners. He believed that the subject had long been seen in that light by the Legislature, for scarcely one Act had passed in which tithes were concerned—scarcely one In closure Bill had gone through Parliament—in which the tithes had not been commuted for a fixed and definite sum. Although there were a great number of parishes in which inclosures had taken place, and in which the tithes had been commuted, yet in the majority of instances where tithes were taken in kind, it had produced great animosity and ill-will among the people. As he said before, nothing was more advantageous than the residence of a clergyman in a parish, but to render that efficacious it was necessary that he should be on good terms with his parishioners. If the resident incumbent were not on good terms with his parishioners, the half of the benefits were lost. The Legislature had, on several occasions, taken the same view, and had endeavoured to avoid these bad effects, while it had at the same time provided for the clergy on fair and liberal terms, so as to prevent collision and differences with their parishioners. Having made these observations, and believing that the House would go along with him in thinking that a Commutation of Tithes was most desirable, both, or the clergymen and their parishioners, he should next proceed to state the principles of his measure. He knew that in many parts of the country extraordinary expectations were entertained as to the measure; but what he had already said must satisfy the House that the object of his measure was not in any way striking. He was not about to take any step which would make a great sensation; but to propose a fair and equitable measure, which should be just to both parties. It was desirable that a measure of this kind should be, in the first place, purely permissive, and that the parties should agree as to any arrangement they thought desirable should be made. Even a permissive measure would, he hoped, to a great extent, lead to friendly commutations. He wished, therefore, that a permissive measure should have its fair trial first, although he was free to confess that he did not think that a purely permissive measure would have all the effect that was desirable. He would, therefore, propose, first, that the measure should give permission to the clergyman and the tithe-owner, and the tithe-payer; because, when he spoke of the clergyman, he did not think it right to confine the commutation simply to the clergyman, but that the same measure should be applicable to a lay impropriator. The measure should, then, in the first instance, give permission to the tithe-payer and the tithe-owner, whether a clergyman or a lay impropriator, to make an arrangement for a perpetual commutation for a corn rent. He meant a rent varying according to the price of corn. He need not state that, in making this proposition, it was necessary that they should not confine themselves to a money value. They should take something as the test of the commutation which varied less in value than money. The clergyman, however, should not be allowed to commute tithes in perpetuity, without the consent of the patron of his living and the Bishop of his diocese; neither should the tenant be allowed to commute the tithes of his farm, without the consent of his landlord. His first principle would be to give a period of twelve months from the passing of the Bill, to permit the tithe-payer and the tithe-owner, by mutual consent, to commute tithes into a perpetual corn rent; but if, after the expiration of twelve months, that were not generally done, and in many instances it would, probably, not be done, although he believed in a vast number it would be—if, after that period, the commutation were not accomplished, he then proposed that either the tithe-payer or tithe-receiver, without making it necessary for a whole parish to agree—for he would allow any individual tithe-payer to give notice—he then proposed that either the tithe-payer or the tithe-receiver should be allowed to give notice that he intended to commute the tithes. Valuators should then be appointed on both sides in the manner he should mention hereafter. It was of great importance that the valuators should be men of great respectability, and there were other reasons than this why they should not be indiscriminately selected, merely at the option of the parties themselves, but only from a class of persons previously appointed. It was his intention, therefore, to propose that a certain number of those valuators should be nominated by the Bishop of the diocese, and that an equal number should be nominated by the Justices of the Quarter Sessions for the county. It might thus frequently happen that the parties knowing the individuals who had been appointed as valuators, would both select the same, so that only one valuator would be required for both. Thus, each party, either the tithe-payer or the tithe-owner, might give notice to the other party that he intended to appoint a valuator; and, notice being given, the valuation would proceed. Any person, however, who knew anything of the state of tithe property in this country, must know that if an actual valuation were to take place for titheable property in each parish, the effect would be to raise the tithes throughout England most enormously, and would most certainly prevent any commutation from taking place; and, although such a proposition might seem to be founded in justice, it would really and practically be most unjust. His plan, therefore, was, that the valuators should not take the tithes at the amount which ought to be paid, but at the amount which had been actually paid and enjoyed through several previous years. The valuers, therefore, appointed would not have the duty of valuing the tithe on the ground; they would only have to ascertain what had been the amount paid during an average of seven years previously. He thought, however, it would be desirable to give them some degree of latitude in making that valuation, and he proposed that they should have the power of altering the valuation either above or below the amount of tithe actually paid to the extent of a certain percentage, which should not, however, vary much from what had been the actual payments. It should not vary more than from five to ten per cent., though he should think five per cent sufficient. The valuation thus made, the valuators should commute that valuation for a perpetual corn rent, estimated in different kinds of grain, wheat, barley, and oats, and the average of the value of those kinds of grain should be the perpetual rent imposed on the land in lieu of tithes. He also proposed that these valuators should value the different portions of the tithes. Suppose, for example, an individual wished to make an arrangement for his tithe, it was obvious that his land might vary in its qualities, and it was necessary that the amount of the tithe should be fixed on each portion, or it would be impossible to dispose of any part of that property, unless it was known what amount of tithe rent it was subject to. If the valuators should differ, an award by an umpire must settle the dispute. It was necessary that the appointment of the umpire should rest with some important and eminent person; and he should propose that the senior Judge of Assize should have the appointment. There were cases in which tithes had already been compounded for, and in such cases the composition would be taken as the basis of the valuation for the tithe rent. Whenever the composition was a fixed payment, the valuators would only have to determine its value as a corn rent. This mode made it necessary, in order to have an accurate account of the corn rent, that the Quarter Session should ascertain the average during the preceding years of the price of the different kinds of grain. He proposed, on the valuation being made, that the tithe receiver should have the option of being paid in money or in corn rent during a fixed period of years. Every clergyman should have the option of fixing this during the period of his incumbency; and if the tithe owner was a lay impropriator, he should not have less for his option than seven years. All these, however, were points of detail which the House could consider in the progress of the Bill. If the tithe-receiver chose to receive his tithe in grain, the tithe-payer should have the option in which grain he would pay, and one person might select one grain, and another another, according to different circumstances. He had said, that he proposed to allow individuals to make an arrangement with the individuals who were the proprietors, it being in his opinion desirable that individuals should have that power, as well as the whole parish. In such cases an individual, or a number of individuals, should appoint a valuator, who should value for them as individuals. In the case of an existing lease, tenants might be allowed to make a commutation, without the consent of the landlord, for the term of his lease. The landlords also might have the power to make an arrangement with the tithe-receivers whether they had granted a lease or not. If that were the case, the tenants would, of course, be bound to pay the landlord what was due to the clergyman; in fact, the landlord would in such a case possess the rights of the clergyman. He had but one observation to make in reference to the cases of disputed moduses. There were no cases of disputed moduses that would not be in course of litigation by next July, and as this Bill would not come into operation until after that period, no litigated case of modus would come under the operation of its provisions. He had now stated to the House the principles of this measure. The object which he had in view in proposing it was to render a commutation of tithes upon just and equitable principles easy and practicable for the country at large. It appeared to him, as he had already remarked, that the permissive operation of this measure would have considerable effect in consequence of the power which afterwards existed in the Bill of a compulsory nature. He had proposed, as he had already mentioned, a subsequent compulsory power for carrying into effect the provisions of the Bill; but when he said a compulsory power, it should be recollected that it would not be compulsory unless one party should consent to the adoption of it. He entertained little doubt that the effect of this measure would be pretty generally to produce a commutation of tithes throughout the country—an effect that he thought would be productive of the greatest possible advantage. He did not think that at the present time it would be desirable to propose any measure that would go to the extent of an actual compulsion of a commutation of tithes in this country. The difficulties that beset the question were so many and so great, that, after having given it the best consideration he could, he was of opinion that it would be hardly possible to propose any measure that would be equitable and just for an actual and forcible commutation of tithes throughout England. Having stated thus much, he hoped that it would not be considered that, in bringing forward this measure, his Majesty's Government had not at present under their consideration other measures respecting the Church of England. There was one other measure which was absolutely necessary, which pressed more or less in point of time for immediate consideration, and which he hoped in a very short time either he or some other Member of his Majesty's Government would have the honour of proposing, either in that House or in the other House of Parliament—he alluded to a measure for preventing, for the future, pluralities in the Church of England. With regard to other measures, there were difficulties in the way of their adoption, but, nevertheless, he hoped and trusted that at an early period other propositions would be brought forward to meet other evils. He would not pledge himself further at present than to say, that some measures would be brought forward by Government for that purpose. As he had said at the commencement of his address to the House, he would repeat, that this measure, though it did not appear to be one of great magnitude, yet, if it should effect that which would be of great and general advantage to the public—namely, a commutation of tithes, at an early period throughout the country—he conceived that it would be entitled to be looked upon as a measure of considerable magnitude indeed, though at first sight people might not be inclined to attach such importance to it. This measure was pregnant with this great advantage to the landed and agricultural interests of the country, that it would give them the power of employing their capital upon their land, without being checked by the collection of tithes, which had always been a check upon the improvement of agricultural property in this country. But if, on the one hand, the agriculturists, for the benefit of their property, should seek to enforce this measure, it might be said that the clergyman, on the other hand, would resist it. He did not think that they would do so. He was sure that if they did they would not be consulting their own advantage; whatever they might lose in the amount of their tithes by a commutation, taking into account the improvement which would immediately follow in the value of land by the expenditure of capital upon it, they would be more than sufficiently compensated for such loss by the advantages which they would reap in being relieved from the difficulties and dangers occasioned by those disputes and quarrels generated between them and their parishioners by the present tithe system, and to which a commutation of tithes would effectually put an end. The noble Lord concluded by moving for leave to bring in a Bill to effect a commutation of tithes in England.

Mr. Baring asked,

whether the valuators were to take the Poor-rates into consideration, for the tithes were, at present, rated to the poor?

Lord Althorp,

in answer, said, that it was quite true, he believed, that where-ever a composition for tithes had been made, it included the Poor-rates, and that it would be only just and right that the valuators should take them into their consideration hereafter, whenever a commutation was about to be made. It would be for the public benefit that the clergyman should have an interest in the Poor-rates, in order to ensure their due administration.

Sir Robert Inglis

thought the permission of the noble Lord was like a conge d'élire; it was permission for a year, and compulsion at the end of it. The measure kept the word of promise to the ear, but "broke it to the hope," He would not then enter into the subject; he would only notice the declaration of the noble Lord, that the same rule was to be applied both to the clergy and the lay impropriators; and he would express a hope, that that principle might be extended to all parts of the empire.

Mr. Hume

admitted, that if each clergyman had only 300l. a-year, as the noble Lord said, that it was not too large an income for gentlemen of education. He objected however, to the mode of appointing valuators, because it threw almost the whole power of nominating them into the hands of the clergy, one series of them being appointed entirely by clerical persons, and another by the Sessions, of whom one-half was also composed of clergymen. In his opinion, the best method would be for the Government to take upon themselves the appointment of these functionaries. Another very strong objection which he had against the system proposed by the noble Lord, arose from the injustice of appointing the future payments of tithes upon the basis of the present payments; the consequence of which would be, that the clergy in those parishes where the incumbents had been screwing up the tithes to the utmost possible extent would continue to derive a benefit from their exactions, while the more conscientious portion of the clergy, who had pursued a different course, were only to have a continuance of that income which they at present enjoyed. The plan would thus operate as a reward for former oppression, and a punishment for former leniency. At the same time he was not inimical to the proposed changes; but he considered, that the details of the plan of the noble Lord required very considerable modifications before they could answer the objects for which they were intended. The noble Lord did not seem to be aware of the difference which at present existed in different parts of England with respect to the amount of tithes paid—a difference which prevailed to such an extent, that any plan which did not embrace the consideration of it must be essentially defective. The noble Lord did not appear to be aware of the immense advantage which would arise from the adoption of some system of greater simplicity. He hoped, therefore, that the noble Lord would be persuaded to simplify the details of his measure, and also that Commissioners should be appointed to fix a money value on the tithes, instead of a fluctuating value in corn, and that these Commissioners should derive their authority directly from the Exchequer or from that House. He thought the Government, in short, ought to take the whole into their own hands, and pay the clergy from the Exchequer. If such a course had been adopted forty years ago, the Church would at present be in a much better situation in every respect.

Sir Robert Peel

said, he was by no means averse from a general plan for the commutation of tithes on any principle which could be considered equitable to all parties whose interests were concerned, and he saw nothing in the principles of the noble Lord's measure which should make him oppose it. He could not, indeed, at once say, whether he should oppose or support the Bill of the noble Lord; for it frequently happened that a measure were a very different complexion, when stated in all its particulars, from that which it assumed on its first announcement. His experience had sufficiently convinced him of that fact, as well as of the fact, that the success of any such plan must depend entirely upon the details, which were not yet before the House. He, therefore, intended to reserve his opinions upon the subject until he should see the whole plan upon paper, when he should be able to say whether the scheme deserved to succeed, and whether it would be just in its operation with respect to the clergy. He had heard with great pleasure one remark of the hon. member for Middlesex, that an income of 300l. a-year was not more than sufficient for a gentleman who had received an expensive education, and was required to perform the duties of a clergyman. He, therefore, hoped, that when they came to consider the Bill with regard to the Irish clergy, he should have the concurrence of the hon. member for Middlesex in a proposition for exempting all livings of 200l. or 300l. a-year from taxation; because if 300l. a-year were not too much for an English clergyman, residing in a country where he was exposed to no risk, how much stronger were the reasons for exempting an Irish clergyman from any deductions from his annual income, when it was only of the same amount, considering that he lived in a country where he was exposed to so much greater risks? As for the alterations proposed by the hon. member for Middlesex, in order to simplify the system of tithes, he (Sir Robert Peel). preferred the plan of the noble Lord, and was convinced, that any system of making the Government the collector of tithes would be both expensive and less efficient than if it rested with the parochial authorities. At the same time, he was of opinion, that the success of any plan of this nature would mainly depend on its simplicity; and he was inclined to think that some part of the noble Lord's plan might be advantageously modified. He did not exactly comprehend the reasons of the noble Lord for proposing, that, after the lapse of a year, either the tithe payer or the tithe receiver should have it in his power, if the opposite party had taken no means for the commutation of the tithe, to enter into a compulsory arrangement; bethought, that the period was rather short, and that it would be much better that the arrangement should be voluntary on both sides. Considering the extent and complication of the change, he thought a year much too little. As to the part of the plan which proposed to make the commutation compulsory, at the instance either of the tithe-payer or the tithe-receiver, it was all very well with respect to the tithe receiver, but if the noble Lord persisted in extending it to the tithe payer, it would give rise to a great deal of difficulty. Supposing, for instance, that there were forty tithe-payers, and only a few refused their consent to the commutation, it was easy to observe what a complicated system would arise, and how extensive a field for litigation would be opened. If one person out of forty were to oppose the introduction of the new system, did the noble Lord intend that the thirty-nine should be compelled to retain the old system? There was another part of the noble Lord's plan which appeared to him also to be liable to very considerable objections—that by which the tithe-receiver was to receive his tithe either in money or grain. It was to be left to the payer to determine in what species of grain he should pay it—whether oats, barley, or wheat; that was to say, whether fifty bushels of wheat, or a larger quantity of oats or barley. The noble Lord would see how many questions, if this scheme were adopted, would arise respecting the value of the grain, and for determining whether the corn was of good quality or not. He would not venture to say that he had rightly understood the noble Lord's meaning, but, as he conceived it, the plan would lead to these consequences.

Lord Althorp

did not mean that the party should pay in kind, but a sum of money equal to the value of so many bushels of grain.

Sir Robert Peel

Then it was the noble Lord's plan, that if the tithes were now worth 100 bushels of wheat, the land which paid them should be permanently charged with the payment of the value of 100 bushels. He apprehended, therefore, that the tithe would be variable with the price of corn. He should think also that it would be preferable to send down a single valuator, instead of allowing the adverse parties each to choose one, because the expense would be extremely great. He thought one objection taken by the hon. member for Middlesex was valid—namely, that in parishes in which tithes had been previously exacted with rigour, the present rate being taken as the standard, more than was properly due might be given, while in others, where the incumbents had been more lenient, the Church would be deprived of its rights. He had, certainly, considerable doubts respecting the measure; but he intended to give no positive opinion at present. All he had to say was, let justice be done to all parties.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

rose merely for the purpose of offering a suggestion to the noble Lord, which might be conveniently done at that stage of the discussion; it respected the lay impropriations. It appeared to him, that it would be desirable to give the landlord the power, not merely to compound with the lay impropriators, but to purchase them outright, and to free the land from the burthen for ever. In respect to the tithes payable to the clergy, it was necessary to preserve a permanent fund for their maintenance. In Scotland, upon the happy settlement of the question of tithes in that country, in the time of Charles 1st, it was provided, that the lay impropriators, called Titulars, might be compelled to sell the right to tithe, at a certain number of years' purchase of the ascertained value, whilst such a settlement was not permitted in respect to the tithe payable to the clergy. It would be well if the history of the settlement of the great question of tithe in Scotland were referred to and consulted on the present occasion. It had done more for Scotland than any other measure, or, perhaps, than all other means that had since been adopted for the good of that country. For nearly 200 years it had been in the power of the landholder, by having his tithes valued, to prevent a tax being levied for the future on his industry, and on the outlay of his capital, in improving the land. The plan was simple, and had been completely successful; the tithes in Scotland were valued by Commission, appointed by the Crown; and he was disposed to prefer that to the mode proposed by the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He thought, also, that from the plan for ascertaining the value proposed by the noble Lord, there might arise, in many cases, the injustice pointed out by the hon. member for Middlesex. There would, however, be other opportunities for discussing these points, and he would content himself with congratulating the House and the country on the prospect which was at last opened to them of getting rid of an odious and vexatious system, which would prove a measure of relief to the people, and of peace to the Established Church.

Dr. Lushington

observed, that the litigation which had taken place for the last 150 years on the subject of tithes, justified the introduction of some measure like the present. The system had gone on from century to century; had become complicated by so many minute and difficult questions, that it was impossible for any one to expect that a plan could be devised by which the numberless points which had hitherto perplexed the subject should be reduced to one simple method. If any observations of his noble friend had excited his surprise, it was his remark, that the measure was one which was not calculated to excite a great sensation. It was a question in which almost every individual in the kingdom was interested. He was persuaded, that the estimates of his noble friend respecting the amount of the revenues of the clergy would turn out to be perfectly correct, and that they did not exceed 3,250,000l.; but it was a great object to collect those revenues with the least possible annoyance to the people. With respect to the proposition of the hon. member for Middlesex, that the whole business should be managed by the Exchequer, he objected to it on every ground; he objected to it, first, on grounds of principle, because he thought the Government ought not to possess such a power. He objected to it, secondly, on grounds of practice, on account of the enormous expense into which it would lead the State; and, thirdly, he objected to it on account of the dissatisfaction which it would cause in every part of the country. It had been also stated, that inconveniences would arise from the greater lenity with which tithes had been exacted in one parish than in others; but the noble Lord had himself provided against that objection by intrusting the valuers with the power of increasing or diminishing the tithes by five per cent or ten per cent. For his own part, he thought ten per cent should be the extent of this discretionary power, rather than five per cent. Certainly the sooner the very name of tithes became extinct, the better it would be for all parties; for if they looked to the history of the Church for the last thirty or forty years, it would be seen that these had been the principal cause of alienating the feelings of the people from the Establishment. He approved of the proposition of his noble friend not to render the commutation compulsory in the first instance. His noble friend's plan would, he was sure, create a feeling of satisfaction amongst all classes interested in this question, and in particular it would be hailed as a great boon by the clergy of the Established Church, whom it would relieve from much odium, and whose influence over their flocks it would considerably increase.

Mr. Baring

thought it extremely desirable that the proposition of the noble Lord should come fully before the public, in order that the general opinion with respect to it might be ascertained. It certainly comprehended no spoliation of any kind, nor was it at all a party question. At the same time he thought that the objections made by the hon. member for Middlesex and others, against making the present payments the basis of the measure, were almost insurmountable. When the injustice of taking as data in one case payments in parishes where tithes had been screwed up by the clergymen to the greatest possible extent, and in another case payments in parishes where tithes had been liberally suffered to remain much below the real amount, was considered, he thought that this would be obvious. A general valuation would be preferable to such a system. Adverting to the question which had been raised as to the poor's rate, he must observe, that no one could read the melancholy Report which had recently been made upon that subject, and assert that it ought to be permitted to remain in its present state. In some parishes in the south of England the rates were 27s., and in one as high as 32s. in the pound! What was to become of the clergymen in those parishes? There might be rent in such places, but there would be no tithes. Another evil was, that in some parishes it was the constant custom to work, as it was called, the clergyman by means of a poor's rate, and the noble Lord's plan would enable the farmer still to do that. There was one point which it would be indispensable to consider in the proposed measure. He adverted to land which was in a state of garden cultivation; and to land where hops and other valuable produce were grown. On some land of that description the tithes amounted to 40s. an acre, which was more than the rent. If the commutation were formed upon the present value of the crops of such land, a charge would be perpetuated on it, which at some future period, it might not be able to meet. All these and other difficulties ought to be looked at carefully, and without bias or prejudice. There must be some provision in the Bill for existing contracts; an alteration in the Corn-laws for example, or some other legislative measure, might have the effect of entirely throwing out of cultivation land which was at present in tillage. Some regulation must be introduced in the Bill with respect to such land; for, if it were subjected in perpetuity to the tithe which it at present paid, the landholder might, at some future period, be deprived of the whole of his property. At all events, it was exceedingly desirable that the question should be settled, for the greatest misapprehensions were at present entertained in the country with respect to it; even to the extent that no clergyman was to have more than 400l. a-year, that the surplus of tithes, which would be saved to the nation was 4,000,000l. and that taxes to the amount of 8,000,000l were to be repealed.

Lord John Russell

concurred with his hon. friend that it was desirable the question should be settled. In answer to the observations of the hon. member for Essex, that if the present payments were taken as the basis of the future arrangement, the parishes where the tithes were now screwed up to the highest pitch would henceforward have to pay too much, and the parishes where the tithes were now less than the fair amount, would henceforward have to pay too little, he observed that the objection had struck his Majesty's Government; but that, after much consideration, it appeared to them, that any other course would be still more liable to animadversion. If the whole of the tithes were taken, and an average estimated from every parish, the result would still be hard and unequal. A provision, however, might no doubt be introduced into the Bill, in some degree to meet the objection of the hon. Gentleman. He considered tithes to be one of the greatest grievances in the country, whether they were in lay or ecclesiastical hands; more especially the latter, as they constantly tended to produce ill will, where only good will ought to exist.

Colonel Torrens

congratulated the House and the country on the proposition for a commutation of tithes, the effect of which would be, that the revenue of the Church would no longer be, as it now was, a tax on capital. He trusted the proposition would give general satisfaction; as he was convinced that, with some modifications, it would be an admirable improvement on the present system.

Sir Matthew White Ridley

concurred in the plan of Government, and if he could have his way it should go much further. A great advantage would arise from a commutation of the tithes, for he knew in several parishes where it had taken place, that the best effects had followed it. At present a law existed for the commutation of tithes, but it had a directly contrary effect, inasmuch as the appointment of the valuator was placed by it in the hands only of the landowner and the Bishop. He should like to know if by the plan now proposed, the valuation was to be made on a given quantity of produce in one year, or was it to be taken on an average of three, five, or seven years (on an average of years)? He would give the principle of the Bill his best support.

Sir Robert Price

approved of the measure, but thought great difficulties would arise with respect to its details. All that could be done upon the subject, however, was to enter upon it with an earnest desire to conquer those difficulties if possible. One of the greatest of those difficulties would be to simplify the measure, and at the same time to do equal justice to all parties. Sensible as he was, however, of the great importance of the proposition, he was not disposed at present to dwell on the objections to it.

Lord Sandon

expressed a hope that no new valuation of the land would take place under the proposed plan of the noble Lord; for if that were to occur, the tithes would be raised in some places, would be reduced in others, and would end in general dissatisfaction. There were many difficulties attending the subject which he hoped might be removed in Committee; and to the general principle of the plan he would give his support.

Mr. Halcomb

wished to know if the tithes on hay and wood, in general, and what were called small tithes, were included in the plan of the noble Lord?—[Lord Althorp said "All."]—There was considerable difficulty in settling the tithes of sheep, lambs, wool, &c.; for if a farmer had lands in different parishes, and he drove sheep from one farm to another in different parishes for lambing, or for shearing, the tithe would be taken in that parish where the shearing or the lambing might take place, and not in the parish from which the sheep had been just driven for greater convenience to the farmer. How was this to be remedied? He thought the best way to obtain a fair valuation of tithes would be to lake the average value of a number of years. Those clergymen who had insisted upon getting their whole legal rights had been designated extortioners and oppressors; but were they, sitting there as legislators, justified in asserting, that demanding the payment of a legal claim was either extortion or oppression? Such conduct on the part of Members of that House would be most unfair and improper. Instead of rendering a remission of tithes compulsory, he submitted, whether it would not be better to leave the question of reduction to the discretion and good feeling of the clergy themselves; and if that were done he was satisfied that the Bishops and beneficed clergy would speedily meet the wishes of the tithe-payers. Another subject that deserved their maturest deliberation was the mode in which the payment of tithes was to be secured, and whether making it a charge upon the land would not bear oppressively upon the landlord. Before he sat down he was anxious to know from the noble Lord whether the measure had been introduced with the consent and approbation of the heads of the Church, or whether its introduction had been determined upon without any reference having been made to them? He wished to have this question answered for the satisfaction and information of the clerical body, who, being excluded from the House, had no direct means of ascertaining the fact themselves.

Mr. Herbert Curteis

feared the proposed arrangement would prejudice the landowner, and that the way in which the remission of tithes was to be made would prove alike unequal and unjust. He thought that it would be most advisable to allow clergymen, wherever it could be effected, to commute their tithe for land.

Lord Althorp,

in reply, said, that the heads of the Church had certainly been communicated with upon the subject of this measure, but that he was not authorised to say whether it was their intention to give it their consent or to oppose it. His Majesty's Government felt, that they should not be justified in bringing forward such a measure without first communicating with the Bishops; but although that course had been taken, he was bound to observe that the Bishops were not in a situation to pronounce any opinion upon it, as it affected the beneficed and parochial clergy rather than them. The hon. member for Middlesex (Mr. Hume) had spoken of the propriety of equalizing tithes; but, however desirable the equalization of tithes might be, the hon. Member ought to have recollected, that it was an object which could not be accomplished without very great difficulty. The attention of the Government had been applied to this and to other Reforms in the Church, but, at present, they were unable to determine on the exact course they should pursue, or to give any pledge as to what should or should not be done. He admitted that there was great difficulty in the mode of collecting tithes, and fixing the amount to be remitted and he had therefore stated, that he intended to allow the valuators to enhance or lower the value during the last seven years, from five to ten per cent, as one mode of meeting that difficulty, but without of course, intending to say that his suggestion would obviate it altogether. But the subject was one fraught with so much difficulty, look at it how you would, that it would be presumption to hope that any measure of this description could be brought forward which would not be open to many and serious objections. To deal with the matter at all, the advantages and objections must be weighed one against the other, and the way in which the valuation was intended to be made was, he believed, likely to produce less dissatisfaction than any other that had hitherto suggested itself to his mind. The advisable course was first to make the valuation, and then determine on the reduction to be made: and if any other plan were adopted, he feared it would be open to the charge of spoliation, which had already been advanced against the pro posers of the alteration. So far as the present possessors were concerned, the charge of injustice to them would be got rid of, inasmuch as they were not to be disturbed. But the hon. member for Middlesex objected to the valuators being appointed by the Sessions. That was a subject the Government had considered; but thinking it by no means desirable to leave the appointment to Grand Juries, they had suggested the other mode as the preferable one. It was not intended that the tithe rent should vary otherwise than as it might, in common with all other incomes, be affected by the value of money; and it was proposed that the prices of grain, by which it was to be regulated, should be settled every ten years, and that the average of the year immediately preceding should regulate its amount. Some hon. Gentlemen thought there would be difficulty in commuting a part and leaving a part un-commuted. This was not the fact, as the system of partial commutation existed at the present time. It could, he was satisfied, occasion no inconvenience whatever. Although he did not intend to object to the partial commutation of tithe for land, he could not believe that it would be desirable to place in the hands of the clergy land to any extent. He had now answered all the observations that had been made, and he must say that the reception the measure had met with had given him unfeigned satisfaction. The difficulties with which it was pregnant could be discussed more at length when they entered upon the details; but he trusted that the result would be a measure which would do injustice to no man, and be extremely beneficial to a large class of his Majesty's subjects.

Leave given to bring in the Bill.