§ Lord Althorp
rose to bring forward his Motion on the subject of Tithes. The noble Lord observed, that, as he should have to occupy the attention of the House for some time in the explanation of his details, he would not detain them by any prefatory remarks. The question of tithes was, certainly, one of the greatest importance to all connected with the landed interest; and though there might be much difference of opinion as to the actual right to tithe, he thought there could be none as to this,—that, whoever else might have the actual right to tithe, that right did not reside in the present landowners of the country. He might assume, therefore, that the opinion of the House would be the same; and, without going to abstract rights, he might assert, that as long as the Established Church required the aid of tithes, that Church had a claim to them prior to all others. He repeated, whatever opinions might be entertained on the abstract right, there was no one who would maintain that the right belonged to the owners of the soil.—The noble Lord here observed that his right hon. friend (Mr. Secretary Stanley) had just reminded him, that he was proceeding in rather an irregular course; for that the proper mode would be to move the subject in a Committee of the whole House. He had to apologise for his omission in this respect, for which he admitted he could not plead ignorance of the usual forms; but he would state—what was the fact, that he had forgotten it at the moment, owing to the unexpected length to which the previous debate had extended. He would now move the Order of the Day, that the House do resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to consider the Resolutions of which he had given notice.
§ The Order of the Day was read, and the House went into Committee.
§ Lord Althorp
then resumed: He was saying, that, whatever opinions might be held as to the abstract right to tithes, 819 there could, he thought, be no difference as to the question, that they did not belong to the owners of the land. Another position, of the truth of which he was satisfied from all the inquiries he had made on the subject was, that, in the present state of the country, the revenues of the Established Church in this kingdom were not larger than that establishment required for its proper maintenance. There might be, and no doubt there were, differences of opinion as to the mode in which the revenues of the Established Church should be applied; but he thought it would be admitted, that the amount of those revenues was not greater than the establishment called for. As to the policy of a Church Establishment, he would not enter into any argument, for he presumed, that the great majority of those whom he then addressed concurred with him in thinking, that an Established Church, as connected with the State ought to exist. He assumed that position, therefore, as one which would be admitted by the majority of the House. He had already said, that the landowners had no right to the tithes. They had purchased or inherited their property, subject to the payment of tithe; and whether members of the Established Church, or Dissenters from it, the same rule applied,—that they had purchased or inherited the nine-tenths of their property, the remaining tenth belonging to the Church. They could not, therefore, complain of that tenth going to other hands, for they had inherited, or made their purchases, subject to that condition. Indeed, he believed, that even the Dissenters made no complaint on the ground of the tenth. In dealing, then, with this tenth, and in any regulation as to the mode in which it was to be collected, it would be admitted, that, if the Legislature appropriated it in its present shape, they were bound to give a fair equivalent to those from whom the Legislature took the property. He knew it might be said, that if a fair equivalent were given for the tithe, it would be no relief to the occupiers of land. From this opinion he differed, for there was in the mode of collection a source of irritation, which would be got rid of in the plan which he was about to propose. The tithe-payer and the tithe-owner were now frequently brought into unpleasant collision, which might be avoided by a new mode of paying the tithes. This would also be a relief to owners and to occupiers 820 of land; for it was well known that the occupiers of land, whose capital was expended in the cultivation of the soil, were often losers when the tithe was drawn in kind. An exchange of the mode of payment would, therefore, be a great relief to those classes. In many cases a composition for tithe had been entered into; but this was as he had been informed from many quarters, not entered into on equal terms between the parties; for, if the tithe were, drawn in kind, there was a loss to the occupier, and the amount of composition for such tithe was often greater than the occupier ought, in justice, to be called upon to pay. The plan which he was about to propose would give relief to the occupier of the soil, and be of use to the labourer, by giving to the latter more employment; for it was well known, that, in most instances, an increased quantity of labour would be employed on land, if it were not for the certainty, that, in proportion to the productiveness of that land, there would be more tithe to pay. The commutation of tithe, then, would be an advantage, not only to the occupiers of land, but also to the labourers, who would thus get increased employment. But when he spoke of commutation, he did not mean to say, that a full equivalent should be given equal to the full legal right of the Church to the tithe. He believed it would be difficult to ascertain that, and impossible to exact it. He would take, as the basis of commutation, the customary payment. That, he thought, would be a fair basis for the commutation for no one now took what was the legal right. Many circumstances increased or diminished the value of the tithe,—such as the distance from a market-town, the difference of soil, and the expense of cultivation; so that it was a matter of great difficulty to ascertain what was the value of the legal right. The best way, as he had stated to the House last year, was to take the customary value. He must here observe, that he still adhered to the principle of the measure which he had brought forward last year; but, while he adhered to the general principle, he would admit, that some of the details were open to strong objections; for that measure gave an advantage to those who had exacted the full amount of their tithe, in giving them more than was strictly their due, while it would have inflicted an injury on those who had been liberal to 821 their tithe-payers. Another objection to the plan of last year was, that it fixed a never-varying standard, according to the present value of the tithes, which was not fair to the owner of the land, when the value of the land altered against him. He thought, therefore, that the principle of a corn-rent should be abandoned. That principle was just while only the change in the value of money was contemplated; but it was not just if the value of the land itself underwent alterations; for these reasons he had determined to abandon both the principles of taking the value of individual parishes, and subjecting the land to a corn-rent in lieu of tithes. The principle which he meant to propose was, that tithe should bear a fixed proportion to the rent of land,—that was, that if the rent rose, the tithe should rise; and if the rent fell, the tithe should fall in the same proportion. He meant the real value of land, not the rent paid by the occupier, which might be open to fraud. He would also propose, that the tithe should be paid by the owner, and not by the occupier of land. He would add, that in few instances only an actual valuation of land would be necessary. The actual rent would, in most cases, be sufficient and satisfactory to both parties. He was aware that some objections would be made to this principle. It was true, also, that rent and tithe did not depend on the same principle; and, therefore, in some instances, the tithe ought not to depend on the rent. There was, also, a distinction to be made between arable and pasture lands. The tithe was considerably higher on the former, in proportion to the value of the land, than on the latter; but he thought there would not be much practical difficulty in arranging that; for they had a guide in a principle adopted in most enclosure bills, in which, when land was given in lieu of tithes, a larger amount was given for arable, and a smaller for grass land. But there was another distinction which presented a greater difficulty. It was, that where the rent was low, the tithe bore a greater proportion to its amount than where it was high;—that was to say, that where the expense of cultivation was great, and the produce little, the rent, compared to that expense, was necessarily small, while it was necessarily large upon land that yielded more at a less cost. The tithe, however, if the produce were the same in quantity, would 822 be the same in both cases; and would be consequently great in proportion to the less rent, and small in proportion to the greater rent. If, therefore, they endeavoured to have the tithe apportioned to the rent, according to the present amount of tithe, they would have to give a large amount of tithe where the rent was low, and a less where it was high; but it would be difficult to make any scale of this kind in an Act of Parliament. In fact, an attempt to accomplish that would so complicate the measure as to render it impossible of execution. He was aware it might be said, that the effect of the Bill apparently would be, to give advantage to the proprietors of the poorer soils; but he trusted that, when the whole of the provisions of the Bill were in the hands of hon. Members, they would not make that an objection. Before he proceeded further, it would be necessary for him to define what arable land meant, and in what senses he used the words arable and pasture when he sought to establish a distinction between them. He should not consider any land arable unless it had been broken up at some time within the preceding five years. It was probably known to many hon. Members then present, that he had circulated various inquiries on the subject of tithes, with a view to the present measure; he was perfectly ready to admit, that he had no right whatever to make those inquiries, but he had circulated them, knowing that people generally were very desirous for a commutation of tithes, and they might therefore be not indisposed to furnish the information he desired. That they would furnish such information he fully expected, and in that expectation he had not been disappointed. The answers to his queries had certainly supplied him with a great number of facts, though the information thus received rather enabled him to ascertain what he could not do, than afforded him any assistance in judging of what he could. The answers did not furnish him with the means of forming any scale for the apportionment of tithe to rent, founded upon the amount of rent actually payable; one fact, however, those answers placed beyond all question was, that the proportions subsisting between rent and tithes were most various, and that any attempt to apply the same rule in all cases could not fail to operate most unequally. The effect of a rule sup- 823 posed to be generally equitable would in some cases amount, as he had ascertained, to nothing less than an increase upon the existing tithes, equal, perhaps, to twenty-five per cent, while in others it would prove a diminution to that extent. He was, therefore, satisfied, that, it would be impossible to establish one unvarying rule for the whole country. He wished, therefore, to establish different proportions in different districts, and by grouping together those districts which were alike, and separating those which were dissimilar, ascertaining the average proportions in each, the object he had in view would be, he thought, fully accomplished. The course he proposed to adopt was, to fix a different proportion for each of the different counties of England and Wales, and the manner in which that object was sought to be effected he should endeavour to explain as clearly as he could; but he trusted that the House would extend to him no small share on that occasion of the indulgence which he was in the habit of experiencing at their hands, for the question was one of difficulty and complication, and, therefore, one which he found it not easy to lay before them as satisfactorily and as plainly as he could have wished. It was intended, under the Bill which he proposed to introduce, that an actual valuation of the land should take place in all the parishes in England and Wales, but that separate valuators should be appointed for each county, the object of such valuations being to ascertain the value of the land, both arable and pasture; at the same time the valuators should ascertain the payment on account of tithes during the last five years. When the land had been valued, and the amount of tithes ascertained (distinguishing the lay impropriations from the tithes payable to ecclesiastical persons), the sums were to be laid before the Court of Quarter Sessions, and by that tribunal the proportion subsisting between the rent and the tithes was to be ascertained, and likewise it would be the duty of the same Court of Quarter Sessions to determine what proportion of the burthen should be borne by arable, and what borne by pasture land, so as to preserve the relative pressure upon each in a condition as little altered as possible from its present state, and at the same time to maintain a proportion between rent and tithes as nearly similar as might be to the 824 previously existing proportion between them, the whole being calculated on the average of the county at large, and not confined to particular parishes. He could not conceal from himself that the whole of the plan might at first view appear exceedingly complex, but he looked forward with perfect confidence to its eventually allowing great facility of operation. The hon. Gentleman opposite, the member for Essex, when the same subject was under discussion last year, inquired how the tithe of hops was to be regulated? He was prepared, so far as the present plan was concerned, to give an answer to that question; and it would be, that hop gardens were to be considered as arable lands, but were to be subject to an additional payment of 10s. an acre. Having made that one remark, he should now proceed with the remaining parts of the proposed measure, requesting the House to bear in mind, that the intended valuation was not to be considered final: on the contrary, he intended to allow an appeal to a barrister appointed for the purpose of reconsidering any decision which might occasion sufficient dissatisfaction to bring forth an appeal. He had now stated the general principle of his plan of commutation; and he begged to remind the House, that one of the objections to the Bill of last year was obviated by the present plan; for it was alleged against the former measure, that while it would confer an advantage on the harsh and severe collector of tithes, who exacted the uttermost farthing, it would deal unfairly with those whose mode of enforcing their rights was more lenient. Now, with that species of inequality his present measure would entirely do away; for no man would be enabled to derive benefit from the severity of his exactions, inasmuch as the calculations would be made upon whole counties; and thus the enforcement of extreme rights in one quarter would be countervailed by the leniency to be found in others, and equal justice dispensed. He was not insensible to the difficulties likely to arise from moduses and customary payments; but, he trusted, that when the Bill came to be examined, it would be found, that it did not interfere with the present existing rights under moduses. It would not be easy for him then to explain the manner in which that object was attained; but he was persuaded that the Bill would fully accomplish it, 825 and he requested, that hon. Members would suspend their judgment on the point until the Bill, in a printed form, came into their hands; he should, however, make this remark on the subject of moduses,—that he thought it would be inexpedient to introduce them into the general calculations for counties, but to let each individual modus stand as a separate case, without diminishing the whole amount for the county; and accordingly the Bill so provided. Thus was another of the difficulties of last year removed. The present measure would be likewise relieved from the disadvantages of a fixed annual payment of a specific amount, for that species of payment created a mode of dealing with tithes which he conceived to be most objectionable, for eventually any such fixed annual payment might absorb the whole value of the land; and he believed, that the plan which he then had in view was the only measure yet proposed which could be considered as guarding effectually against the total absorption of the value of the land by the introduction of a scale which should always maintain between the rent and the tithe a certain unvarying proportion. He felt, that the plan he was then laying before the House was still liable to the objection, that it did not purify the tithe system from its tendency to check the investment of capital in the improvement of land; but though he did not directly declare that tithes were to remain stationary, while land went on indefinitely improving, yet in effect he hoped to be able to obviate every thing material that might be found in the very plausible objection to which he was then alluding. If he did not in so many words declare, that the further employment of capital was to be tithe-free, he should, at least, afford every motive and facility for preventing its injurious operation upon the investment of capital, by giving to tithe-payers an easy and equitable mode of redemption. He would give to the owner of the land, whether he paid his tithe to the clergy or to the lay impropriator, the right of redeeming the tithe at a certain number of years' purchase. He proposed, that the payment for that redemption should be twenty-five years' purchase—a rate which he thought would be considered fair, as the owner of the tithe might invest the money at four per cent, while the land-owner would secure to himself the full 826 prospective advantage of any amount of capital which he might think proper to invest in the improvement of his property. The sum which might so be paid under that plan of redemption on account of clerical tithes would clearly be clerical property, and might, of course, without the least objection, be placed at the disposal of a clerical Commission. He should, therefore, propose that in every diocess, the Bishop, with such other Commissioners as he might nominate, should receive the amount paid for the redemption of tithes, and invest the same in land, or other securities for the future advantage of the incumbents of those livings whence the tithes were derived. In order further to facilitate redemption, he proposed, that when the payers of tithes did not find it convenient to discharge the whole sum at once, they might be at liberty to render it an incumbrance on their properties in the nature of a mortgage, but without giving the mortgagee the power of foreclosure—that it should be, in effect, a mortgage, bearing interest at the rate of four per cent, but redeemable at the option of the borrower. He could not deny, that there might be some difficulty as respected the redemption of lay impropriations, but he did not despair of getting over even that; at all events, this plan might be adopted, and he intended to propose it,—namely, that in such cases the payer of the tithe should lodge his redemption money in the Court of Exchequer, to be drawn thence by the person who should prove himself entitled thereto. Doubtless, that plan involved some legal expenses, but he did not see how difficulties of that nature could be obviated without incurring some expenses. He begged to assure the House, that he felt very sensibly the patience and indulgence with which they had listened to him, for he feared that he had but very imperfectly laid before them the features of his plan. He was aware that there must be considerable complication and difficulty in ascertaining the value of the tithe, but this once done, he felt assured, that there would be nothing to interfere with the simple and effective working of the measure. He requested it to be remembered, that the principle of declaring, that tithe should bear a certain proportion to rent was not new; it had been acted upon in Scotland, and there it had been adopted long on a principle far less advantageous to the landowner than that 827 which he proposed. It was well known that the great feudal proprietors had there possessed themselves of the greater part of the tithes of the lay impropriators, to whom one-fifth of the rent was payable. These tithes were allowed to be redeemed at the rate of nine years' purchase, subject, however, to a right on the part of the clergy of receiving the whole amount of theirs. It might, perhaps, be said, that the plan he had now propounded would not effect much change; to that he begged to reply, that he should feel much disappointed if the effect of it were not to lead to an extensive redemption of tithes; and should that anticipation be realized, as he had no doubt it would, then should he be enabled to contrast the altered condition of that description of property with its present state, and refer to the change as one well deserving to be called important and advantageous. He should move a resolution to the effect—first, that it was the opinion of the Committee, that it would be expedient that tithes should be commuted for a payment bearing a certain proportion to the rents; and secondly, that the payers of such tithes should be at liberty to redeem them at the rate of twenty-five years' purchase. The House would observe, that, however anxiously he might desire to relieve the class of religionists, called Quakers, from the bur-then of paying that against which they felt conscientious scruples, yet he had not been able to accomplish it in the present measure. He should have been glad to have removed the difficulty; but he could not see how he could have avoided making the commutation compulsory, and the redemption voluntary; and unless the redemption had been compulsory, it would have been impossible to relieve them without committing injustice. The House would also observe, that he had said nothing with respect to glebe lands. It might be, he thought, highly desirable to give ecclesiastical persons the power of leasing equitably for a longer period than their own incumbency; but he thought it could not with convenience be introduced into the present measure, however properly it might be made part of another. The noble Lord concluded by moving:—"That it is the opinion of this Committee, that the collection of tithes in England and Wales shall cease and determine. That, instead of tithes, the owners of tithe land shall pay a fixed proportion to 828 the annual value thereof to the tithe owner; and that such proportion shall be ascertained in the several counties. Secondly—That all parties liable to such tithe may redeem the same by the payment of a sum of money equal to twenty-five years' purchase."
§ Lord Althorp
replied, that the rent was a payment minus the Poor-rates, and that inasmuch as the commuted payment for tithe would be calculated on the rent, it would be obviously unjust to reduce it still further by a rate to the poor, for that would be making the Clergy pay the rate twice over.
was not surprised that the noble Lord found great difficulties in the way of settling so complicated a question—a question, which either directly or indirectly, involved the interests of all classes in the State—nor could he wonder that, under such circumstances, the noble Lord was not enabled to bring forward a measure, in the first instance, clear and satisfactory. As far as he was concerned, he wished to postpone forming any opinion on the noble Lord's Bill until he had seen what it really was. It might not be difficult to point out objections to any plan that might be submitted; but feeling as every body must feel, the extreme importance of settling this question, he hoped that hon. Gentlemen would not be very nice in looking at a measure, which whether they regarded it in a moral point of view, or in reference to its religious operation, or to its probable results on the agricultural interests of the country, was of the utmost importance. The noble Lord had stated, and he perfectly agreed with him, that the property of the Church, notwithstanding the prejudice that had gone abroad on that subject, was not more than enough for her decent and proper maintenance. Whatever opinions existed as to the propriety of its division, or of the amount of what were called the sinecures of the Church, it was fully agreed that the total amount was not more than was sufficient for the purpose. He was not aware whether there were any returns before Parliament which set forth the Revenues. It would, however, be highly desirable that such a Return should be made, not that it would at all affect the decision of the question, for even if it 829 were shown that a surplus existed, the landowner would still be bound to pay the tithe. The measure now proposed varied materially from that of last year, and certainly differed from what he expected after what appeared to be the general impression of the members of the Agricultural Committee of last year. The impression of that Committee, or at least the impression upon his mind was, that a valuation should be taken of the tithe in each parish, and that commutation should take place on the footing of such valuation, with such deductions as it might be deemed consistent with the interests of the Church to admit of. He hoped the noble Lord would look thoroughly into the measure, and weigh well all its details. He should not object to the Resolutions, pro formâ, but protested against being considered as bound or pledged by them. He regretted, too, that the measure was brought forward so late in the Session, as they had but a very short time to consider a measure of such great importance, more especially one which would be likely to occupy some considerable time in the other House, where the Clergy were more particularly represented.
§ Mr. Greene
considered that in agreeing to, the House should not be held concluded by, the Resolutions. The plan required much consideration, for in many instances they would find as much difference between one parish and another as between one county and another. He should be obliged to the noble Lord to state how he would arrange as to the proportion of payments to the lay Rector and to the Vicar. He was sorry, that he was called on, without due consideration, to affirm these Resolutions. He would much rather that the Bill should have been introduced in the first instance; and he certainly should not feel himself precluded from taking any course which it might hereafter appear to him expedient to adopt.
§ Lord Althorp
said, it had been his object to avoid entering into details which could not yet be conveniently discussed, but which would be found to be provided for by his Bill. The Resolutions would not pledge any hon. Member to the Bill, nor even to its principles. With regard to the specific question of the hon. Member, he would say, that, upon ascertaining the amount of tithes paid, nothing could be more easy than to ascertain what propor- 830 tion was paid to the Rector and what to the Vicar, and the proportions would of course be observed in the commutation.
§ Mr. Harvey
feared, that the noble Lord had contrived to complicate the excellent principle of his Bill with provisions of a very doubtful nature. The noble Lord had, he thought, involved himself in difficulties in consequence of his having had recourse to voluntary communications, whereas, if he had trusted to his own business-like mind, the measure which he had produced would have been much clearer and more satisfactory. What a complicated and expensive machinery was proposed by the Bill! They were to have valuers of counties, and valuers of parishes, and Barristers as arbitrators, and what not! If the noble Lord wished to arrive at the value of the tithes, whether of a given property, or of a whole county, or of a parish, let him apply to any auctioneer whose name figured in the columns of a newspaper, and he would put him in a mode of ascertaining the value of the tithes, great or small, arable or pasture, and the required number of years' purchase, in a very satisfactory manner, without any such complicated system of valuation. He apprehended that this Bill would be shipwrecked by its honesty. It did not recommend itself to any one branch of the community. The landlord would gain little by it. Few Gentlemen would be disposed to buy the right to tithes fixed at their full value, and estimated at twenty-five years' purchase. The community would gain no benefit, for it was not even intimated that they would get any surplus. The noble Lord took frequent occasion to repeat what had been so often said, that the tithes of the country were not more than sufficient for the maintenance of the National Church. Now, this was matter of opinion only. But why should it remain matter of opinion? Why should it not be matter of fact? A Commission had for some time been sitting, which Commission had acted in a spirit of great intelligence. They had framed a series of questions; and he never read any questions more searching than those which they had propounded. They were under four heads, directed to Bishops, Rectors, Corporations sole, and Deans and Chapters. There were from sixteen to twenty-five questions; and if honest returns had been made to them, the noble Lord must have in his posses- 831 sion a body of evidence not only highly valuable, but which would at once prove his assertion if it were correct, and improve the generally prevailing opinion that the Revenues of the National Church (the property of which was not then under discussion) were much more than was sufficient for its maintenance. Why should they at once close public expectation on this point? He hoped that this important question would remain no longer matter of speculation, but that the House and the country would be supplied with the information which would at once set it at rest. The noble Lord had truly said, that this was a matter in which the Dissenters took none other than a common interest, whether tithe-owners or tithe-payers; but he was apprehensive that when the Bill came to be more fully examined by those whom it affected, it would not be considered one of its recommendations that it protected the collection of the Revenues of the Church to their full and extreme value.
§ Sir Robert Peel
did not understand what power the noble Lord had to release him from the obligation he should incur, provided he assented to the Resolutions. The noble Lord proposed, that, in lieu of tithes, the owners of tithe-able land should pay a fixed proportion of the annual value of all land throughout the several counties, and that the said proportion should be ascertained by striking an average from the parishes of each county. How could the noble Lord say, that if he voted for that Resolution, he was not as much bound by it as by any other Resolution to which he gave his assent? By affirming it, he expressed his approbation of the principles contained in it—namely, that a commutation of tithes ought to take place, calculated according to the proportionate value which rent and tithe bear to each other, and also that the redemption of tithe should be permitted at twenty-five years' purchase. If this Resolution were not intended to bind the House, why insert in it any details at all? He would propose, as an Amendment, that, instead of the noble Lord's proposition, a simple Resolution be adopted, declaring it expedient that leave be given to bring in a Bill for the purpose of effecting a commutation of tithe in England and Wales on a fair and equitable principle. What was gained by affirming this Resolution as a matter of detail? But, independent of this objec- 832 tion, the noble Lord had drawn up his Resolution so vaguely, that in point of fact, it would accomplish nothing at all. The noble Lord proposed, that the proportionate value of tithe to land should be ascertained in the different counties of England and Wales: the noble Lord also proposed, that a county should be a distinct territory with respect to tithes, and having ascertained the proportionate value that tithe bears to rent on the average in each county, the noble Lord proposed that that average should be applied to every parish and every estate throughout the county. Yet this principle, which the noble Lord was desirous of establishing, was in no way affirmed by the Resolution before the Committee. Why, then, enter into details at all in this Resolution, unless it was meant to be contended, that the Resolutions passed by the House of Commons were to be considered mere waste paper? If the noble Lord said, the House was not bound by this Resolution, he said what was not the fact. The noble Lord had thought proper, after six months' consideration, to abandon the Bill introduced last Session for the purpose of facilitating the commutation of tithes; and could the noble Lord, with any decency, call on him to give his assent at once to the principles of this Resolution? Before any one could feel justified in affirming this Resolution, there were several points that required much consideration. In the first place, what connexion was there between the payment of tithe and the territorial division of this kingdom into counties. He would venture to assert, that the practice as to the payment of tithe would be found to vary not only in different counties, but in different parishes in the same county. In some counties the proportion which tithe bears to the value of the land, or the rent of it, was much greater than in others. In Devonshire and Kent, for instance, the proportion which tithe bears to the value of land was much larger than in any other counties in England; but the effect of the noble Lord's plan would be to affix the proportion in those counties for ever. The noble Lord had slightly touched on moduses, and he could easily understand that, with respect to fixed payments, such as modus or composition, it might be possible to make some satisfactory arrangement. The noble Lord, however, had said nothing as to the distinction between great and small tithes. Was the land now 833 subject to small tithes within a particular county, to pay its contribution hereafter, on the average of the land, subject to great tithes? Take the case of two adjoining parishes—the one subject to the payment of great tithes, the other to the payment of small tithes,—in what way would those two parishes hereafter contribute to the tithe-owner? Again, how did the noble Lord propose to deal with those cases where the title to tithe might be contested? Suppose a question to arise as to whether milk be subject to tithe, in what way would it be decided? The noble Lord said, that the sum the clergy were hereafter to receive, should not be subject to Poor-rates; at the same time it might be invested in the purchase of land, and on the same principle the land purchased for the Church ought also to be exempted from the payment of Poor-rates. Under these circumstances would there not be great difficulty in regulating the purchases; for it would be the interest of the Church to buy the land subject to the heaviest Poor-rates; and would there not be a difficulty in giving to the Church the possession of land now subject to Poor-rates, but which, on being transferred to the Church, would be exempted from Poor-rates? These were points which ought to be cleared up before any hon. Member was called on to affirm the principles contained in the Resolutions. He agreed with his hon. friend, the member for Essex, that it did not become the House to be too critical in examining the plan of the noble Lord, or to reject it at once, because it might appear complicated; but let not the noble Lord bind any man by a Resolution proposed to the House of Commons, for the first time, at nearly the hour of midnight; let there be a short interval to consider the principles contained in the Resolution. He heartily wished, that the proposition of the noble Lord might be received with satisfaction out of doors; but while he was anxious to come to a settlement of the question as speedily as possible, they should strive to the uttermost to prevent the arrangement being productive of any new mischiefs. He thought, that the noble Lord had a great deal too much under-rated the value of a voluntary settlement; and if it were once affirmed that there should be within each county an ecclesiastical corporation, with a Bishop at the head of it, to receive money as an equivalent for tithe, that would give great facili- 834 ties for a voluntary commutation of tithe, between the tithe-payer and the tithe-owner. If the Government would only assure parties, that they should not be subject to any expensive litigation,—if they appointed persons of honour and character as fair arbitrators, who should deal not with counties but with individual parishes, and attempt to effect an amicable arrangement; giving the power of redemption at a certain number of years, the precise term to be left to the parties themselves; the Bishop taking care to watch over the interests of the Church, the incumbent and the tithe-payer taking care of their own interest,—there would be facilities for a voluntary arrangement, which would tend more to a final settlement of this great question, than the Bill which the noble Lord intended to introduce. It was not his wish to say anything to prejudice the proposition of the noble Lord; all he asked was, not to be required to give his assent to the Resolutions before he had been allowed time to consider them.
§ Lord Althorp
said, if the forms of the House would have allowed him, he would have been happy to have brought in the Bill at once; but it was necessary to propose in Committee the resolution on which his Bill was to be founded. With regard to the great and small tithes, a similar arrangement might be made with regard to them as that to which he had already alluded, with regard to moduses and fixed payments. A deduction pro tanto would be made from the proportion due from the land liable to small tithes. He would have no objection to re-consider that part of his proposition which went to exempt land, the property of the Church, from the payment of Poor-rates; and also to adopt words in his resolutions of a more general nature than those in which they were at present couched. The noble Lord proposed the following Resolution, in lieu of those he had at first moved:—"That it is expedient to effect the commutation of Tithes, and to abolish the payment of Tithes in kind throughout England and Wales; and, in lieu thereof, to substitute another payment to be made to the parties entitled to Tithes, and that the power of redemption should be granted to the payer of Tithes, at a certain number of years' purchase."
§ Sir Robert Inglis
expressed his satisfaction at the readiness of the noble Lord to alter the wording of the Resolution; and 835 that the ill-omened words of the Irish Bill of last year, "that the payment of Tithes should cease and determine," were not employed upon this occasion. He would not oppose the Resolution, reserving to himself, at the same time, perfect liberty to deal, according to the best of his judgment, with any measure which the noble Lord might bring in, founded on his Resolution.
§ Mr. Hume
felt confident, that the proposition of the noble Lord would not give satisfaction, either in or out of the House. The principle acted upon in Scotland was far preferable to the one now proposed, for there the tithe was an invariable rent. By the measure now proposed, if a man laid out 5l. or 10l. an acre on the improvement of his land, the tax substituted for Tithe would increase with the improvement. This would be very unfair. The machinery proposed for carrying the measure into execution was unnecessarily complicated for so very simple an operation. In Belgium and in France, every acre was valued according to its quality; and sometimes there was a double valuation even on the same field, if it was of different qualities, and the valuation embraced five different qualities. A piece of land might consist of clay and loam. It would he unjust to call upon a man to pay more for that part of it on the improvement of which he had expended money. Before any proposition of this kind was brought forward, they ought to have the documents and returns before them. He would not at present consent to any thing more than some such proposition as that suggested by the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth. When the House was enabled to come to a more correct judgment, by having all the necessary documents before them, the noble Lord himself, or some other hon. Member, might then introduce a Tithe Bill different from this.
§ Lord Althorp
said, the hon. Gentleman must have misunderstood his statement. No such difficulty as that mentioned could arise; for, if a man laid out money on the improvement of land, he would, under the proposed measure, be at liberty to redeem the tithe, according to the rate of payment previous to the improvement. Suppose a person laid out 10,000l. on improvement, he might redeem the tithe of the land so improved for the same amount it would previously have cost.
§ Mr. Hume
would put the case of the market gardeners residing in the neighbourhood of London, from whom he had a Petition to present, in favour of Tithe commutation, and praying that, in future, the charge for Tithes should be an invariable one. Suppose the landlord of such tenants as these refused to agree to a commutation, how were they to be compensated for the money they might expend in improvement?
§ Mr. Estcourt
thought it would be advisable to adopt a more simple Resolution than that proposed by the noble Lord. It appeared to him, that voluntary commutation would be the more desirable course. There were circumstances connected with the payment of tithes in some places, of which the noble Lord did not seem to be aware, and for which no provision had been thought of. There were districts, for instance, in some parishes, that were subject to vicarial tithes when sown with corn, while other parts of the same parish were exempt. He would suggest to the noble Lord, that, in any measure which might be introduced, it would be desirable to recognise the principle of voluntary commutation.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that, after consultation with the best-informed persons, and after anxious consideration of the subject, they came to the conclusion, that the best course would be to settle the whole question at once. With respect to the case of the market-gardeners, mentioned by the hon. member for Middlesex, he could not see any difficulty in it; because, if the landlords did not redeem the tithe, the occupier would, of course, take that into consideration in his agreement for rent.
§ Sir Robert Peel
would suggest to the noble Lord, whether it would not be possible that some new principle of voluntary arrangement might be introduced. Unless it were previously determined by which party the expenses attending such an arrangement were to be paid, it would not make much progress. In so important a business as this, however, it would be no difficult matter to provide some means of preventing the inconvenience. If Commissioners were appointed, with power to call before them the parties interested, they might enable them to enter into voluntary arrangements for commutation, with a power of future redemption. It appeared to him, that a great progress might be made in commutation in this 837 way, if a majority of parishioners should agree to it. The decision of that majority might be made binding on the rest of the parishioners, particularly if the minority was a small one. Did the noble Lord hope that he would be able to pass any Bill in the present Session? Last Session he seemed to be of opinion, that he would be able to get through a similar measure, but he did not. Now, if he could not carry it through in the present Session, he would recommend, that another year should not be allowed to pass without trying what might be done by voluntary arrangements.
§ Dr. Lushington
said, the member for Colchester, and also the hon. member for Middlesex, expressed regret that this discussion was entered upon before ample information had been before the House. He also regretted it as much as those hon. Members did, so as far as regarded the Diocesans, the Prebends, and Canons. Whatever information could be expected by them had been already sent in. They had also obtained from the rest of the clergy as much information as there was any reason to believe could be obtained from them. It might appear strange, therefore, that these Returns were not sooner digested by the Commissioners. When the Returns were examined, it was found that, however desirous the Clergy might have been to give information, there were many cases in which the queries put to them were entirely misunderstood. The consequence was, that the Returns so made were in such a state as rendered it impossible to digest them in a satisfactory way. It became necessary, therefore, to obtain other and more correct information, and accordingly these Returns were sent back to the diocesans, for the purpose of having them corrected. He must admit, however, that the Commissioners did not certainly proceed with that expedition which he could wish as one of them. The Returns remained still in the hands of the Bishops. Having said thus much on this part of the subject, he could not sit down without saying, that he entertained the opinion expressed by the noble Lord. He felt confident, that when the whole amount of the revenue now received by the clergy of this country became known, it would be found that it was no more than was absolutely necessary to support them in anything like decent independence. If the income now arising from the 838 Bishoprics, from Deans and Chapters, was taken from them, and applied in equalizing the revenue of the parochial clergy, the amount to each would not exceed what might be considered a just and fair reward for their services. He trusted, that before long, information would be in such a form before the House, as would enable them to form a correct judgment upon this point, and induce the House to come to the same conclusion. It would be premature now to enter into any discussion of the measure proposed: but he could not help at least congratulating the House on the uniform opinion that seemed to prevail, that a commutation had now at length become necessary. Two years back, there could scarcely be found in that House as many even as forty Members who could be brought to concur on any such principle. Now, however, the opinion on the subject there seemed to be as general as it was out of doors. He concurred fully in the observation of the hon. member for Essex, who expressed a hope that the measure would be effectual, though it was one of very considerable difficulty. He had for many years given much attention to the subject of tithes, and he knew from experience, that the better a man was acquainted with the subject, the more he knew of the history of tithes, the more strongly he would be convinced of the difficulty of so managing as to do equal justice. With respect to the actual valuation, let the estimated amount be taken, both in England and Wales; and the sum would be found of no mean importance to the settlement of the present question. He certainly agreed with many of the observations that had fallen from the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), and particularly with that which went to show, that a system of amicable commutation was good; and he thought that clauses to that effect might be introduced, so as to make it form part of the present measure. There were, however, many difficulties on this point, which made him still think, that compulsion would be, in many cases, necessary. If they could bring about a voluntary commutation on the part of the incumbents and tithe-payers, a great and salutary object would be effected. It would be highly advantageous both to the parishioners and clergy, and would create a mutual good feeling, besides conferring invaluable benefits on all the parishes 839 where this voluntary system of commutation might be introduced. He therefore hoped that his noble friend (Lord Althorp) would introduce clauses into his Bill to effect so very desirable an end. Still, all the objections that could be made, when compared to this great measure, were completely insignificant, and, with skill and some trouble, he did not despair to see them got rid of.
§ Mr. Parrott
thought, that the tithe owner ought not to be exempted from the payment of rates and taxes, and that a reduction ought to be made on the collection of small tithes as well as on great. With respect to a fixed commutation, he considered the suggestions of the noble Lord better than those of the hon. member for Middlesex. A fixed commutation could only be carried into effect in a country where the state of the cultivation of land was pretty nearly equal.
was decidedly of opinion, that the question could not be satisfactorily settled, without having recourse to parochial valuations. Some parishes had been lately valued in consequence of inclosures. The tithes in upwards of 2,300 parishes had been valued under Inclosure Acts, and in consequence, about one-sixth of the whole parishes of the country had commuted their tithes. Small tithes chiefly existed in parishes; and it was these tithes that were a perpetual source of angry feeling between the clergy and their flocks. He therefore considered that a county valuation was not sufficient to arrange the question. He would not at present enter into the details of the measure. The landlords of England were deeply interested in it, and he was glad that his Majesty's Government had taken up the important subject. The suggestion of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) was valuable, since a great deal of good might be done by a voluntary composition of tithes.
§ Mr. Blamire
wished to know, whether there entered into the noble Lord's plan any provisions to settle the present disputes about tithes, which existed between several parties?
§ Mr. Fryer
said, that it was impossible that any one could disagree with the present Resolution. He begged leave to read the Resolution, and would ask, what possible objection there could be made to it. He really could not see any occasion for all the debate which had taken place, 840 and he thought, that the Resolution might be left to the consideration of the House, when the proposed Bill was brought before it? With respect to voluntary composition, if it had been adopted, tithes would have been long ago of themselves extinguished. But behind this question stood the lay impropriators. They wanted compulsion, but the clergy wanted none, as was proved by the petition from Stafford, presented that day to the House. The clergy were not, as usually represented, rapacious and seeking for filthy lucre. Though he was a Radical, he was willing to see the Church supported. The clergy were disinterested; it was the lay impropriators who were the men that exacted "more than the pound of flesh." The clergy would consent to commutation, and he considered, that the clergy ought not for tithes to distrain upon the tenant, but go to the landlord, and make him bring tithes to the Church-door, or oblige him to sell his land. This was a doctrine that sounded well. He was sorry, however, to say, that he did not agree with the clergy upon some points, and particularly upon that which related to Church-rates. He concluded by repeating, that they all ought to agree to the Resolution before the House, and that a Bill, or two Bills, ought to be brought in, founded upon it, which would tend to make the clergy happy and contented.
§ Mr. Finch
did not think, that there existed a general desire for the commutation of tithes, and, therefore, the plan of a voluntary composition could not succeed in large portions of the country where commutation was not desired, and where tithe was levied on an equitable system. With respect to that part of the measure which mentioned a twenty-five years' purchase, he thought it highly objectionable; and there were other details which would fall heavily on several counties.
§ Sir Thomas Fremantle
thought, that the plan would not prove satisfactory in individual parishes, nor generally. To make commutation satisfactory in the different parishes the situation of each parish should be considered, and the plan framed so as to suit each separately. That the time granted for voluntary arrangements should be extended, was highly desirable; but if it was to be followed up by compulsion it would fail in its effect. He regretted that part of the plan which would throw odium on the Magistrates 841 by fixing on them the arrangement of the value of tithes at the Quarter Sessions. He should like to know what was to be done in case of the rise of rent in land. Was it necessary that there should be a new valuation? In this respect he saw a great difficulty in ascertaining the amount of tithes.
§ Lord Althorp:
The composition would be made according to a fair valuation, and in all cases in which the tithe-owner did not think there was a fair valuation of the land he might demand a new and fair valuation to be made, but at his own expense.
§ Sir Robert Peel
would suppose, that a rapid rise took place in the value of land in consequence of the neighbourhood of an extending town or the construction of a railway. He would suppose, that an acre of land now valued at 40s. was raised in value to 40l. for building on, or other purposes—would tithes increase in the same proportion?
§ Lord Althorp:
Rent was not a fair test of the value of land, and, in such cases as that just mentioned tithe should undergo a new valuation.
§ Sir Henry Willoughby
would deny the connection which there was supposed to be between tithe and rent; for it was clear that land might pay tithe which never paid rent. It was well known that in several parts of England the land would only pay the burthens. [Sir Robert Peel: and vice versâ.] Just so; but this did not shake his doubts as to making rent the basis of any arrangement for the commutation of tithes. He would not agree in the justice of those sweeping anathemas which had been uttered by the hon. member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Fryer) against the lay-impropriators who had bought their present rights in an open market and at a fair price, in the same way that every other species of property had been purchased. He wished the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) would not forget the mode which he (Sir Henry Willoughby) had often recommended—that of commuting tithe for land. Being aware of the necessity of some measure, he would not object to the Resolution before the House as it was now shaped.
§ Mr. Rolfe:
The hon. Baronet who had last spoken said, that no plan would prove satisfactory unless it embraced several modes of commutation. He so far agreed with the hon. Baronet, and it 842 was for that very reason he felt disposed to support the noble Lord's measure. As he understood the noble Lord, it would afford every facility that could be suggested to a fair commutation. It also embraced within its scope every possible mode of commutation. It proposed to commute the tithe first of all into an annual sum proportioned to the rent or its ascertained value, either between the parties themselves or by Government, if they could not agree; and if the landholder chose, he might either redeem the tithe or the annual sum into which it was converted. There was necessarily some complication in the statement of the noble Lord, but when the measure was fully canvassed and understood, he had no doubt it would meet the sanction of the House and the general approbation of the country.
§ Mr. Frankland Lewis
had but one observation to offer to the House. However feasible it might be in theory, he felt sure that in practice it would not turn out that poor lands paid more tithes than rich. In Wales poor lands paid less in proportion than the richer lands paid. There was a reduction in the amount of tithes on rich lands, and a sure increase on poor lands. He had long wished for some arrangement with respect to tithes, and he sincerely wished success to the measure of the noble Lord; but, at the same time, he could not disguise from his own mind that it would be attended with a variety of difficulties in its working.
§ Mr. Jervis
observed, that no notice was taken in the noble Lord's plan of tithes upon wages, upon eggs, pigs, and other things, which pressed very severely upon the poor. He thought that these things ought to be included in any measure on the subject. He had one objection to the mode of taking averages. A parish, or even a field, might be in two different counties, and the tenants might be obliged to pay one sum for one corner of a field so situated, and a different sum for another corner. A fluctuating system of tithes would check the improvement of land, by preventing the investment of money. To the measure itself, however, he gave his cordial assent.
§ The Resolution last moved was agreed to and reported, and leave given to bring in a Bill founded on the same.