HC Deb 24 March 1835 vol 27 cc170-202

On the motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that part of his Majesty's Speech, recommending the Commutation of Tithes in England and Wales, was read, and on his motion, the House resolved itself into a Committee to take it into consideration.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

then proceeded to state that he was about to call the attention of the Committee to a matter of not mere party consideration, but involving considerations of much general importance, attended by great complexity of details, and affecting to a considerable extent the interests of the community at large. He was about to submit to the consideration of the Committee, a measure for facilitating the settlement of the Tithe Question in this part of his Majesty's dominions, an object, the attainment of which was equally desired by both sides of the House. If he were not to approach this question with great diffidence as to the merits of the plan which he had to propose, and great anxiety as to its results, it would argue the greatest indifference on his part to the opinion of the House and the public, or the greatest confidence in his own powers—a confidence quite unwarranted—when the magnitude, the delicacy, and the complication of the subject were considered. It had been felt, for years, that the settlement of this question was a subject of the highest importance to the country. He was not, however, going to enter into a long detail of the history of this question, or to weary the House by a pedantic display of learning; for, looking at the litigation caused by tithes—looking at the variety of interests the subject embraced—considering the effect the levying of tithe had on cultivation, and the manner in which it operated to the discouragement of agriculture—he should take it for granted that there was nearly an unanimous feeling in the House, that a change should be made in the mode of levying tithe. At different periods, there had been different plans proposed for the accomplishment of this object; and although it was not his intention to enter into any minute dissection of the various schemes which had been submitted to the House, still it was necessary that he should take a short review of some of the latter measures proposed for this purpose. If he found that the principle or provisions of any one of those measures were prefer- able to those embodied in his own plan, he should not hesitate to adopt them, and to engraft them at once on the Bill he intended to bring in, since it was impossible to prepare a plan for such an object without great distrust in his own powers, and great anxiety as to the probable results of the measure. In some of the former plans which were submitted to Parliament, with a view to the settlement of this great question, it had been proposed that the tithes should first be valued, and that after a valuation had been taken, a commutation for the payment of the tithe should be made in land, or by a payment in the nature of a corn-rent. Without going into the details of those plans, he apprehended that a measure based on those principles would not at present give satisfaction. If, again, he were to bring forward a measure which would recognise any principle that excluded all consideration of the forbearance of the clergyman in levying the tithe—a measure which should be founded on the abstract value of the tithe taken, solely with reference to the crop—he apprehended that the great body of the tithe-payers would protest against that mode of settling the question, and would entreat to be left in the situation in which they had been found. He believed it was generally acknowledged that in any agreement made for the composition of tithe practically, the clergyman of the Church of England exhibited much greater forbearance than the lay impropriator. He said, then, that on account of the opposition which would be offered to this principle by the payer of tithes, the insertion of such a provision would, at once, obstruct the success of the measure. He would next advert to the propositions on this subject submitted to the House, in the years 1833 and 1834, by a noble Lord, then a Member of the House, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had paid great attention to the subject—was perfectly acquainted with its details, and was deeply interested in its successful and final settlement. He had deemed it his duty to attend carefully to the provisions embodied in those plans, and if, on a comparison with his own, he considered the principles they contained better adapted to the accomplishment of the object proposed, he should have felt no hesitation in adopting them; and if Lord Althorp were now a Member of this House, he should hope for his concurrence and assistance, in perfecting the measure he was about to introduce. That noble Lord, in the year 1833, attempted to settle the ques- tion by proposing a voluntary arrangement for the payment of tithe, between the parties interested. It was intended by that measure, to give them the liberty to enter into a voluntary and amicable arrangement, which was to last for a year; but after that year had elapsed, it gave either party the power to appoint a valuator for himself, and to call on the other party to appoint one on his own behalf, and then it provided that the tithes should be valued on the basis which these valuators, so appointed, might propose. The noble Lord, however, felt the difficulty that would result from this arrangement; and it was subsequently proposed, that the average payment for tithes, of the last seven years, should form the basis of composition. The Bill was so far compulsory in its enactments, that it made it necessary that the actual payment of tithes, taken on the average for the last seven years, should form the unvarying basis of the measure. But the objection raised against this plan was, that there were very different degrees of forbearance or discretion—call it what they pleased—exhibited in levying tithe. In some parts of the country, and under certain circumstances, great severity had been exercised in collecting it, while in other places, and from the operation of local circumstances, or from the lenity of particular clergymen, great indulgence had been shown to the tithe-payer. There was, consequently, a very great difference between the rates of tithe paid by the tithe-payers of different places in different parts of the country. The details of this Bill came under the notice of the Agricultural Committee, and they appeared to that Committee, altogether most objectionable; and the noble Lord, at a subsequent period of the Session, declared that in consequence of the objections made, not on the part of the tithe-owners, but of the tithe-payers, he would withdraw the compulsory part of the measure; and afterwards abandoning the rest of the Bill, the law remained unaltered. In 1834, the noble Lord proposed another Bill for the settlement of the same question. He openly avowed, that so little did he feel any party-considerations to be involved in this measure, so little was he prejudiced in favour of the plan which he had devised, that though he thought his measure better than that of the noble Lord, if any hon. Member, on reflection, considered the noble Lord's plan preferable, he should be foremost to express a hope that that Member would give notice of his intention to bring that measure forward again, in order that the two Bills might be compared together, and that the House might be enabled to adopt that which was, on the whole, best fitted to accomplish the professed object of both. The Bill of 1834, brought forward by the noble Lord, was drawn with great care and attention; and the object which it contemplated was the commutation of tithe for a money payment. The Bill was rather complicated in its provisions; but though the details were numerous, and the subject exceedingly dry, he must entreat the attention of the House, while he attempted to explain in what respect the principles of that measure differed from the one he meant to propose. That Bill included three objects—first, the substitution of a money payment in lieu of tithe, which money payment was to bear a fixed proportion to the rent payable on the land. The Bill then gave a power of redemption to the owner of the land, after the money payment was determined upon, on paying a certain number of years' (he thought twenty-five) purchase. In case that redemption did not take place, there was then a power to convert the money payment into a rent-charge, which was to be permanently settled on the land. The mode in which that was to be effected was this:—The Secretary of State had a power to appoint valuators, in districts which he had a power to constitute. He was to authorize the division of the county into certain districts, and in each of those districts to appoint a valuer of tithes and a valuer of land. That valuer, so appointed, was to fix a value upon the land in each parish within the district to which he was appointed. He was to divide the whole of the land into two classes; first into arable land, and then into that which was not arable, and which, though not pasture, he should, for the sake of being understood, call pasture-land. The arable land was to be that which had been under tillage for the five preceding years. The valuer was then to ascertain the amount of the tithes which had been paid on each description of titheable land in each parish. He was not to value, but to ascertain the actual amount of tithes which had been levied during the five preceding years, and to determine what amount of tithes, so ascertained, properly attached to the land which was arable, and that which was not. These awards from each parish of the district, (the values and amounts to which he had adverted having been ascertained), were to be transmitted to the quarter-sessions. Then a mean was to be selected between the amount of tithes payable for each quality of land, and an average struck of what the rate of substituted tithe was subsequently to be. This tithe-rate was to be applicable to the whole of each sort of land in the district. Supposing the mean for arable land, upon ascertaining the amount in each parish of the district, and the mean for pasture, to be 5s. and 2s. 6d. in the pound, then the proportion of rate in proportion to the amount of rent, was to attach for a certain period. From the amount of tithe, however, which had been actually paid, the amount of rates and charges was to be deducted in each case, and the actual amount of tithes, after such deduction, was to be the basis of the collection of tithe payments. It appeared to him, after the most mature consideration, that there would be great obstacles in satisfactorily executing such a measure. In the first place, there was that degree of complication attending it which would make it very difficult to work it satisfactorily. In the first place, there was to be a valuation of the annual profit of the land in each parish of every particular district. Now, unless in making that valuation great care were taken, there would be very uncertain results; because he apprehended that the value of a farm or land could not be ascertained with reference merely to the quality of the land, or its productiveness; the considerations that influenced a tenant in holding the land were of some importance, an inquiry into the state of the buildings on the land, and into many other minute particulars would be necessary; and this sort of information being to be collected with respect to every acre of titheable land throughout the country, it would be almost impossible to come at perfect accuracy. The consequence could hardly fail to be, that ground would exist for innumerable remonstrances and complaints. The second difficulty which he apprehended was this:—The tithe was not to be valued by the valuer; the valuer was to determine what was the amount of the tithe for the five preceding years, and to apportion that amount of tithe to the arable land and the land not arable. The valuer, then, was to apportion the total amount of the tithe collected to the arable and pasture land in each parish. Now, he believed that great difficulty would be practically found in making that apportionment. It might be easy to determine the amount of tithe received from any given farm, but it would be very difficult for any valuer—a stranger, perhaps, to that part of the country—to determine what was the amount of the tithe which had actually, for the last five years, been paid for the portion that was pasture land, and what the amount actually paid for the portion that was arable. It should be observed, that the valuer was not to determine what amount ought to have been paid, but what had been the actual payments on account of tithe, and what the payments on account of the arable land, and what those on account of the pasture land. This, however, it was necessary to ascertain before the tithe-rate could be determined. He came now to the third difficulty. From the amount of tithe so determined, the total amount of which was to constitute the tithe-rate, in each parish the poor-rates and charges were to be deducted. But the rates and charges varied so much in different parishes that, after having so deducted, in the case of each parish, the rates and charges, when they came to apply the invariable rate in districts, they would find that in many parishes in which the rates were low, people would be complaining of the amount of tithe fixed on them, while those in which they were high would, comparatively, be greatly benefitted. It appeared to him, therefore, that these were serious difficulties in detail in the way of satisfactorily carrying into execution this plan. But, suppose those objections to be obviated—suppose that the payments on account of tithe for the last five years were precisely ascertained, there would even then remain considerable difficulty. The returns were to be made to the quarter sessions, and the district to which the tithe rate was to be applied was not to be determined with reference to the value of the land, but was to be the county district—the division in which certain justices of the peace acted. Now, it was clear that that was a totally arbitrary assumption, or division without reference to the quality of the land; and these districts included land of different qualities. Under these circumstances suppose they had valued the land accurately, the tithe-rate might have given great dissatisfaction. It was possible, that, if they spread the total amount of the tithe over the whole district, the result might have been fair to the whole body of the landowners and the whole body of the clergy; but that was not enough. If, in any one district, the result was, to aggravate the tithe, it would be no consolation to the particular parish whose burden was so aggravated, to tell them that the balance was fairly struck, and that they would find that in a corresponding parish the tithe was proportionately small. To refer them to the more fortunate state of their neighbours would, in all probability, increase their dissatisfaction. But he very much doubted if the House could assume the general principle with respect to a large district, of a fixed population, between the amount of tithe and the amount of rent; that must depend upon two considerations, which were entirely distinct from each other. The amount of the tithe was determined by the produce of the land: the amount of the rent was not determined by the actual produce of the land, but by the expense of cultivation. Let them suppose the case of one farm of a certain extent, that produced, say 100 quarters of wheat, which would sell for 300l.; and let them suppose that the expense of cultivation on that farm was only 200l., that would leave a clear profit of 100l. to remunerate the farmer, out of which the rent would be paid. Let them next take another farm, exactly equal in its extent, and which produced exactly the same quantity of corn, but the expense of the cultivation of which was 250l. instead of 200l. The amount of the tithe being precisely the same in both instances, the proportion which the tithe would bear to the profit would be as twenty to a hundred in the one case, and twenty to fifty in the other. It was not necessary to calculate-all the propositions; the principle applied universally. It appeared to him that the principle which assumed a fixed proportion between the rent and the tithe, and applied that universally, must be subject to the objection he had just stated, and must preclude the satisfactory operation of any Bill founded upon it. Let them take what districts they would, and let the Quarter Sessions come to what decision they might, it would be found that the value of the land depended so much on the quality and the expense of cultivation, that, though the difference might not in general be so great as in the example he had quoted, still the consequence of such a plan would be to reduce the amount of the tithe in some parishes, and raise it in others—injuring some farmers, perhaps ruining them, and conferring a corresponding advantage on others. He would take a district in Sussex by way of illustration, which included soil on the north side of the Downs, and soil on the south side. There was a great disparity between the value of the land in these two divisions of the county, and also between the amount of the rent and the tithes; notwithstanding this, however, the average must be struck from the estimate of the whole value of the land and the amount of the tithes. The consequence, therefore, would be to apply a rate which would reduce the amount of the tithe raised in the parish which had the rich land, and increase it in the parish which had the poor land. The result would be exactly the opposite to that which, on the whole, was desirable. Suppose that on the light land on the north side of the Downs, the rent of which was 9s. an acre, the value of the tithe was 3s.; and suppose that on the land on the south side of the Downs, the value of which was 40s. an acre, the amount of the tithe was 4s.; if they supposed that these two parishes were a fair estimate of the parishes on each side of the Downs, and if they took the whole amount of the value of the land, and the amount of the tithe payable, and struck a mean between them—if the value of the tithe were 3s. an acre, and the land were worth only 9s.—the payment would be more than 1s. 8d. in the pound; but if the tithe were 4s. an acre, and the land were worth 40s., then the payment would be only 2s. in the pound. Thus it would be found that an attempt to strike an average between the two, and apply the principle uniformly throughout the district, would be to increase the amount of tithe received by the owner of the tithes in the poor parish, and to diminish the amount received by the owner of tithes in the rich parish. The result would be, that in those very parishes in which the tithes were at present not sufficient, and required an increase, they would be reduced, while in the parishes most distressed, and in which they were most onerous, they would be increased. He believed that any measure which called on parties to pay an increased amount of tithe would create so much dissatisfaction, that nothing would reconcile them to it. In fact, if the result were to increase the burden of tithes, there would be a degree of dissatisfaction which no reasoning as to the general advantages of any measure would be sufficient to allay. On account, then, of the complication of the plan, of the difficulty of applying it universally, on account of a part of it being to raise the tithe in some parishes and diminish it in others, and the dissatisfaction which he believed would be the consequence, after mature reflection—for he begged to assure the House that he was in no way prejudiced against the measure on account of the quarter from which it emanated—taking all these circumstances into consideration, he retained the opinion he expressed when the measure was originally proposed to the House. He still thought it was possible that some other plan might he suggested less apparently extensive, and less complicated, which might, on the whole, give more satisfaction. He had stated his reasons why the plan which he had to propose was not founded—first, on the actual valuation of tithes—secondly, on a mere reference to the average receipts for the last seven years, and—thirdly, on the principle of the noble Lord, who assumed a fixed proportion between rent and tithes, and applied it universally over a given district. Having excluded these three principles, the question was, on what principle could any other measure be founded? He had no hesitation in saying, that the principle which he had always considered preferable to any other was that of giving the most perfect facility and the greatest possible encouragement to the voluntary commutation of tithes. In the first place, in favour of the voluntary commutation of tithes, he would refer to a document which had been presented to the House by his right hon. Friend, the Member for the University of Cambridge. It was an account of the several parishes in England and Wales in which the commutation of the great and small tithes had been authorized by any Act of Parliament, distinguishing those cases in which allotments had been given in lieu of tithes. Before hon. Gentlemen formed an opinion on this subject, it was important that they should examine this document, in which they would find an account of the number of private Acts passed from 1757 to 1830. The paper was drawn up with great care, and, amongst other things, specified whether land was allotted, whether there had been corn-rents or money-payments, whether the commutation was for small or great tithes or for all tithes, and also whether or not the parish to which reference was made was a parish in which there had been any new enclosure. The House would, therefore, be able to judge of the extent to which commutation had taken place in the new enclosures. It appeared that in upwards of 1,000 parishes there had been voluntary agreements, under which a commutation of tithes had been effected. Now it might be recollected that such agreements were subject to the great- est difficulties, and to a very great expense. In each of the cases there was first the labour to be undertaken of procuring a private Bill, and next there was the cost of such a measure. On some of those Acts a sum of not less even than 2,000l. had been expended. He proposed to remove that impediment of the labour, and to put an end to the expense; having done which, he could not help thinking that great inducements would exist for the establishment of voluntary commutation; and he believed that a great progress would speedily be made in carrying it into effect. Taking into consideration the facts, that in some parishes a modus had been adopted, that in some there were small tithes, and in others great tithes; that in some there were three or four parties entitled to the tithes, such as the vicar, the rector, and the lay impropriator, each entitled to his share—considering all these circumstances, he was afraid it would be difficult to lay down a general rule by which any party having to arbitrate between these different claimants, could decide at all satisfactorily what was due to each. Then what was the rule that he would lay down? He proposed to call in aid the principle of justice, he proposed to enable parties to determine the question for themselves; and the rule if universally applied might preclude the necessity of application to the law. The rule he would recommend was that of local knowledge, a sense of common interest, a desire to effect a settlement, a disposition to remove all difficulties, and to get rid of the expenses. Such a rule was applicable to all the different circumstances of various parishes, and he thought would succeed better than any other. It would give great encouragement to commutation; but would facilitate it on a new principle. He must, however, explain some of the means by which he proposed to assist in effecting this object. In the first place, he proposed, if the Legislature would sanction it, a Commission of persons, who should superintend the whole, and the smaller the number of persons who should compose the Commission the better; and that the Commissioners should have the power of appointing an assistant-Commission. He would propose also, that every parish in this country, after due notice to the tithe-owner and tithe-payer, should be entitled to meet for the purpose of considering the possibility of effecting an amicable settlement. Parties might be allowed to meet without such a notice; but he thought it would be better for a notice to be given in every case, for the purpose of inviting all interested—to whom the assistant-Commissioners would communicate their views—to attend. He believed, that one reason why commutations had not been more frequently made was this—though many might wish to have the advantages to be derived from them, and be desirous of seeing them effected, still what was every body's business was no one's: others might be terrified by the Tithe Act—some were ignorant of the form of application to Parliament for an Act. Then there were parties whose interest would tempt them to make an effort with such a view, but the trouble, labour and difficulty of procuring the consent of individuals, as everybody must know who had been at all engaged in local business, were enough to deter from exertions for the public good. He would invite, therefore, after due notice, a meeting of the tithe-owners and the tithe-payers, and he would empower the Commissioners to send down an assistant-Commissioner possessing a full knowledge of the law on the subject to be present at the meeting to hear their complaints—to explain the law to the parties and explain to them the principles on which they ought to act. He would not bind the assistant-Commission to any particular terms, but to look at all the circumstances, to be in one sense merely amicus enriœ, to suggest what might appear to be right, and then to leave it entirely to the parties. He would provide, that in case two-thirds in point of value of the tithe-payers should agree with the tithe-owner, then that their consent should bind the other tithe-payers. If the tithe-owner, however, and two-thirds of the tithe-payers should consent, still he would not allow that to be valid until after it should have been submitted to the Commissioners in London, who should review the circumstances in order to prevent fraud and collusion, and after giving their consent, that decision he would enact should be final. He would then propose that the money payment for substitution should be what was commonly called a corn-rent in lieu of tithes, which corn-rent should be subject, at the option of each party, to a periodical revision, and should vary only according to the price of corn. He was not disposed to take the price of wheat alone for it had not of late borne a fixed proportionate value to the value of other corn, but would take the periodical variation of the money payment in the shape of corn-rent, to be determined by a reference to the price of all descriptions of grain, corn, wheat, and barley. He would not impose on any parish the necessity of the attendance of the assistant Commissioners; if the parishioners could, by an amicable arrangement, come to a settlement amongst themselves, there was no reason why they should not be allowed to do so; but he would not permit the agreement to be binding till it had received the assent of the Commissioners. Where the living was not in the Crown, but in the hands of the dignitaries of the church, it would be necessary to get the consent of the Bishop; but that there might be uniformity, the whole must be under the control of the Commissioners, and the Bishops should be represented to a certain extent, by giving the appointment of one of the three Commissioners to the church, or by the application of some general principle of that law. Where the amount of corn-rent might be to be determined, of course it would be necessary that there should be an assessment, and that should be made by the authority of the assistant-Commissioner. He also proposed, in the case of a modus, to allow the parties to refer the matter, by way of arbitration, and for the purpose of an amicable arrangement, to the Commissioners in London; but if they required it, he would not debar them from the privilege of the ordinary proceeding. What he intended to offer was, that the parties might have their cases decided by the commissioners without incurring any expense. Seeing the number of cases in which, by the consent of both parties, land was granted in lieu of tithes, he would permit, with the consent of both parties, in any given time, a portion of land to be set aside in lieu of a money payment; but the substitution should wholly be in the first instance a money payment. The remedies he would give for the recovery of a rent-charge would be by action or distress, or a summary remedy by the magistrates, if the sum were below a certain amount. In the case of lands on lease, he would permit the tithe-rent to be paid by the lessee, allowing him to deduct the amount so paid from the head landlord. The period he should propose for periodical revisions should be every seven years. In order to provide for changes in the value of corn, it should be allowable for either party to vary the amount of the corn-rent according to the average prices of corn for the preceding seven years. He intended to limit the operation of this Bill to five years, giving it only such further continuance as was necessary for the purpose of completing any agreements that had been made under it. When he reflected that by the measure he submitted to the House, each party, the tithe-owners and the tithe-payers in every parish, would be free from the expense and trouble of applying to Parliament for a private Act, he could not help thinking that the effect would be, to afford such great facilities that, general attention being once directed to the subject, the commutation of tithes would be adopted on the most satisfactory principle, he meant by mutual and voluntary agreement, in great numbers of instances. At first, he dared to say, the progress made would not be considerable; there would probably be some angry discussion and some extravagant claims on either side; but the measure would, at all events, succeed in some few instances, and the advantages attending the arrangement becoming known, he had no doubt that it would be generally adopted. The assistant commissioner being able at his next visit to give a satisfactory account of the benefits derived from it in other quarters, the fair conclusion was, that such representations would have their effect. His expectation was, that long before the expiration of the tithe commutation commission, an amicable commutation of tithes would be effected in most parts of this country. He felt sure, at least, of this, that the arrangement would be found far more efficient than any plan for compulsory commutation. If it were only the actual experience to be gained by this measure, if it were only the knowledge to be acquired of what would satisfy each party, he thought that would be a sufficient inducement to the Legislature to pass this Bill. It would, at all events, enable them, in the case of parties who had declined to avail themselves of its powers, to determine what would be the most equitable principle on which to found a compulsory commutation. He thought it desirable to make this Bill as simple and intelligible as possible. The object was to get a fixed money payment in lieu of tithe, and thus to put an end to the discouragement of agriculture—to that discouragement of improvement which arose from the uncertain payments, and the demand for increased tithe in proportion to those improvements. He did not propose, therefore, to burden the measure with the question of redemption. First let them get the commutation, hereafter they could determine as to the manner in which the redemption should be effected. He did not think it necessary to detain the House longer; the details would be best ascertained by a reference to the Bill itself; if he went into them he feared that he would be rendering his statements too obscure. By consenting to this measure, the House would facilitate the commutation of tithe, leaving the matter to be decided by the common and voluntary consent of parties chiefly interested, while at the same time an effectual security would be provided, inasmuch as it would be subject always to the control of the commission, in the constitution of which he gave the church a voice, in order to prevent any injury to its interests. In adopting that course he hoped that a foundation would be laid in the safest and most satisfactory manner for the settlement of a question which had been the theme of discussion for ages, which had been productive of great expense in the shape of litigation, and had, he was afraid, been the cause of much local irritation, which he was convinced had only been prevented from breaking out into serious mischief, by the forbearance and temperate discretion of those who were interested in the levying of tithes. It was impossible, as he had already observed, to read the testimony of those who were most personally conversant with the operation of tithes in all their bearings, without feeling satisfied that the conduct of the clergy of this country as a body, in respect to the collection of tithe, entitled them to the character of the greatest liberality; having, in fact, sacrificed every personal and pecuniary interest to their desire and anxiety of maintaining a relation of friendly good-will among those over whose spiritual interests they were called to preside. It was because he felt that the landowner had a chief interest in the arrangement of this question, and because he felt convinced from past experience that the clergy were desirous of seeing it settled in a manner which, consistent with equitable principles, might be fruitless of litigation and unhappy collision with their parishioners, that he entertained a confident hope that the surest mode of laying the foundation, if not for an immediate, at least for a speedy and permanent settlement, was to be found in the amicable compromise and voluntary agreement of both parties immediately interested. The right hon. Baronet concluded by moving the following Resolution:—"That it is expedient to give facilities for the commutation of tithe in the several parishes of England and Wales, and for a payment in money in substitution thereof, to be charg- ed on the titheable lands in each parish—such payment to be subject to variation at stated periods, according to the prices of corn; or for the allotment of land in lieu of tithe in parishes wherein the parties concerned may consent to such allotment."

In answer to a question by Mr. John Stanley,

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

stated, in reference to the constitution of the commission, that the Archbishop of Canterbury should have the appointment of one member, and the other two commissioners should be nominated by the Crown. It was not necessary that the members should be clergymen.

Mr. Gisborne

wished to know whether the decision of the commissioners as to moduses should in all cases be conclusive, or whether, when parties wished, there might not be an appeal to another court?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that the question of moduses had been very much narrowed by the late Lord Tenterden's Act. His desire would be to leave the matter always to the consent of parties. If they wished to avoid expense, he would encourage them to be guided by the commission; but if they insisted on a trial by jury, there would be no objection.

Mr. Lennard

was anxious to put two questions to the right hon. Baronet. The agreement, it was proposed, should be signed by two-thirds of the parishioners; but the payment agreed to was to be fixed in the parish for ever. Now, those two-thirds might consist of persons who were tenants with but a temporary interest in the land, and only holding leases for short periods; was it not too much, then, to give them a power of imposing on that land a sum of permanent and lasting amount? There was another point which always struck him as of considerable importance in relation to the Tithe Question. The right hon. Gentleman stated, that the fixed payment on the land should afterwards vary every seven years according to the value of corn; now, at first sight that seemed a very fair, equitable, and unobjectionable mode of proceeding; but there was an objection to it which had been urged several times last year, especially by the right hon. Member (Mr. Baring) for the county of Essex, and which he hoped the right hon. Baronet would have the kindness duly to consider. The objection was this: supposing the rate of tithe placed on land with reference to its productiveness, and fixed for ever by a corn rent, if the land in all time to come remained equally productive, it would be a perfectly fair mode of assessment; but, as the right hon. Member for Essex had stated, in that county there was a great quantity of land which by a very artificial process had been brought to produce very large crops. If, by any change of circumstances, that land should hereafter not be so highly cultivated, and produced inferior crops, the permanent rate proposed by the right hon. Baronet would be a grievous burden on the land. Then, if the corn-laws should be repealed, any fixed payment on land, according to the present mode of producing corn, would be a very great grievance. On what ground was the repeal of the corn-laws advocated? The great object proposed was to enable the people of this country to buy corn cheaper, and the consequence would be to throw a great portion of land into grass cultivation, which, although producing a crop much less valuable than corn, would remain charged with a payment to the clergy equally high as before. He threw this out merely in the shape of a suggestion for the right hon. Baronet's consideration. He highly approved of the experiment which was about to be tried, thinking, as he did, that the voluntary system of commutation was encumbered with fewer difficulties, and liable to less objection, than any other which had been promulgated in that House. The question was one of great importance to the landowners of the country, and if the difficulties which he had suggested could be got over, the plan which was proposed would in his opinion, go far towards effecting a permanent settlement of this much agitated question.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, the first question was, whether the occupiers of land, having only a temporary interest, could subject the land to a permanent charge. Now, his proposition was, that the consent of two-thirds in value of the landowners should be obtained; and in the case of the occupier of land, he was bound to give notice to the landowner before the agreement of two-thirds could be ratified. The second objection originated in the possibility of land varying in value, but that would apply to all leases and corn-rents. The security against injustice in this case was that it was a voluntary commutation. The duty of the parties themselves would be to consider all those matters which referred to the possible change in the value of land, &c.; and act accordingly. But the experience of five years, to which the act would be limited, might enable them better to determine what compulsory principle the Legislature should apply in cases of that kind. His opinion was, that the charge should depend, not so much on the actual value of the land, as on the value of the tithes likely to be derived from it.

Colonel Wood

said, that the objection of the hon. Member for Maldon did not apply with any force to the plan of his right hon. Friend. He seemed to think, that lands which fell off in value would remain subject to a higher charge, but it should be recollected that the plan would protect land in an improved condition by the application of capital. The great argument against tithes at present was, that they formed an impediment to all improved cultivation; because, whenever capital was applied, the tithe-owner came in and took advantage of its application. The plan of the right hon. Baronet completely protected the landowner against that great inconvenience, because, the tithe being now fixed, any improved value given to land in consequence of the application of capital did not increase its amount. Setting this advantage, therefore, against the objection of the hon. Member for Maldon, the balance certainly would very much preponderate in favour of the improvement of land instead of its prospective deterioration. The measure was likely to give very great relief to the agriculturists, and the voluntary principle on which it proceeded would not only give great facilities to the commutation of tithes, but be greatly satisfactory to all parties.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

was much afraid that any plan other than one of a partly compulsory and partly voluntary nature would not secure the object the right hon. Gentleman had in view. In his opinion, the history of Scotland about two hundred years ago, supplied a model for a plan of tithe settlement as little liable to objection as any that could possibly be devised; and he regretted the right hon. Baronet had not had his attention directed to it before he came down with his present proposition. The plan to which he alluded he would briefly state to the House. The difficulty of ascertaining the value of tithes in Scotland having occasioned great dread of perplexity and confusion it was agreed by all the great landholders, by the taxmen or leaseholders, and by the clergy, that the matter should be referred to their Sovereign, accompanied with a request that he should fix some principle by which the assessment should be in future regulated. Charles the First, the then King, complied with the request, and, after considering the question maturely, made an award, a copy of which would be found in the library of the House, and which, in his estimation, laid down the very best possible principle on which a settlement could be based. By that award, it was provided that every owner of land, and every taxman or leaseholder, should have the power of bringing the tithe-owner before a Commission, which should be possessed of authority to value the land both as against the clerical and lay impropriator. The only difference, indeed, made between lay and clerical impropriators was that the settlement with respect to the former should be permanent, and accompanied by a provision that the tithe-payer might redeem the tithe, and which, in the case of clerical tithes, it being considered that they constituted the fund for the maintenance of future clergy, a rent-charge on the land was substituted. The result of the adoption of this plan was that in the course of three years, there was no such thing as tithe collected in Scotland. This award, which was a matter of history, he thought well deserving the attention of the right hon. Baronet, whom he would seriously recommend to consider whether he could not in the measure he was about introducing to Parliament devise a mixed plan of compulsory and voluntary commutation. The right hon. Baronet's plan, however, as it now stood, contained a vast deal well worthy the consideration of the House, and he, for one, was quite prepared to give it the attention its importance merited. He thought, nevertheless, that the people of England expected a measure far more decisive than it appeared they were likely to obtain from the Government. The English farmer was expected to be able to say, "in a few years I shall have my land tithe free;" and he was sure any measure which tended to disappoint that expectation would not meet with general approbation.

Mr. Rolfe

did not intend, to offer the slightest opposition to the plan for the settlement of a question, considered on all hands difficult, on which the right hon. Baronet, (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had made an able and useful statement to the House. Though it might be better to reserve his observations for a future stage of the measure, he would make one or two remarks which occurred to him. He ob- jected to the voluntary principle of the measure, which he thought would prove nearly, if not absolutely, ineffectual. He would ask, what prospect was there of individuals commuting for a corn-rent? He thought there was not one in twenty that would do so. He would refer to a circumstance that happened at Stoke-upon-Trent about ten years ago, and the hon. Members for that place could confirm the statement, if they were in the House. That place was troubled with an almost infinite amount of litigation on the subject of tithes. To avoid that, an Act was passed to give an authority to commute for tithes; and he thought if there had been a spot in the kingdom where that object would have been gladly promoted, it was Stoke-upon-Trent. To a great extent, the Act took effect. ["Hear!" from the Chancellor of the Exchequer.] The right hon. Baronet (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) cried "hear," but how was it—by giving money or by giving a corn-rent? Not a single individual would commute except through the first means. Commutation was not popular with a corn-grower for a corn-rent, he would rather remain subject to the tithe than be subject to a corn-rent. The provisions of the Bill proposed by Lord Althorp last Session had been ably stated by the right hon. Baronet. There was, however, one provision of that Bill which the right hon. Baronet would do well to notice, namely, that after the process had been gone through of ascertaining the corn-rent, it was left in the option of the landholder to get rid of that corn-rent, if he thought proper. Unless that was too hard to act upon in the present measure, labour as they might they would only arrive at an approximation to justice. They must adopt something similar to it. The right hon. Baronet (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had assumed a fallacy in his observations on the measure. He had stated it as if it were merely a question between the receiver and the payer of tithes. It was more than that; it was a national question; and it was the interest of the country to get rid of it. With reference to the consent of two-thirds of the tithe-payers binding the remainder, as proposed to be provided by the measure, he did not see how they were to ascertain that they had obtained the requisite number. [The Chancellor of the Exchequer: "By the same means as under the Inclosure Act."] He did not mean to say, there were not means of ascertaining the number; but he could assure hon. Gentlemen there would be great difficulty of putting it in a particular form. He would give the measure his best attention and support.

Sir Robert Inglis

approved of the plan which his right hon. Friend had submitted to the Committee on two grounds. First, on the ground that the working of the Bill was to be voluntary; and, secondly, that it was to be but a temporary measure. It was a great experiment at best, and he was free to confess that his right hon. Friend, in suggesting a plan which could only be tried with the consent of all the parties interested, had taken the course which appeared to him most likely to lead to a satisfactory result. He did not deny, that the question of tithes had created a great deal of attention out of doors; but, with all due deference to the opinion of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had spoken last, he would contend, that the parties who received, and the parties who paid tithes, were the only persons whose interests the House had to consider when deliberating upon the question of commutation. If he differed from any part of the right hon. Baronet's speech it was that in which he expressed an opinion that concession ought to he made to those who were willing to take tithes at less than the actual value. He had always looked upon tithes as property, and considered that they should be dealt with exactly like land, If any Gentleman should tell him that in purchasing an estate, he would proceed to its valuation not on a survey, but on the statement of rent received, he would not be surprised at his valuing tithes by a similar test. But he could not conceive on what principle a Gentleman, who, in purchasing an estate would not be content with a tenant's statement, but would insist upon a survey, should require the Church to surrender its property for less than the amount at which it was valued. He sincerely rejoiced at the prospect of settlement which the measure held out, and he was glad to perceive by the tone of the House that, as far at least as its principle was concerned, it was not likely to meet with opposition.

Sir Matthew White Ridley,

while expressing his readiness to entertain any plan promising to effect a settlement of the Tithe Question, could not refrain from stating his apprehension that the plan proposed, proceeding as it did on the principle of voluntary commutation, would not be attended with those satisfactory consequences which appeared to be expected from it. He doubted much whether anything short of compulsory commutation would be found really beneficial. He hailed this proposal, however, as the beginning of a most beneficial system. He should be extremely glad to see it further extended, and a system of compulsory commutation adopted. He was rejoiced to find that the present measure had been received on all sides in so favourable a manner.

Mr. Cayley

wished to know from the right hon. Baronet, whether it was his intention to propose that the two-thirds of the tithe-payers should be computed according to numbers or to value, who were to determine whether or not there should be a commutation in any given parish? [The Chancellor of the Exchequer: "According to value."] It had been observed, by the hon. Baronet, the Member for the University of Oxford, that tithes were property, and that naturally suggested the remark, that no man could have a just claim to property which had neither been created nor purchased by the capital of himself or those from whom he derived; in his opinion, therefore, newly-enclosed land should not be subjected to the payment of tithe. It would, he had no doubt, be satisfactory to some hon. Members, as it would be to him, to know whether, according to the intended measure, the price of meat as well as the price of corn were to be taken into consideration.

Lord John Russell

did not by any means undervalue the difficulties which of necessity must attend the preparation of such a measure, and though he doubted the probability of its proving effectual, he hoped, it would, not be supposed that he rated too low the character of that task which the right hon. Baronet had undertaken. He admitted the proposed Bill, so far as it had been laid before the House, did appear to avoid some of the objections which, fairly enough, perhaps, had been urged against other propositions for the settlement of the question of tithes; nevertheless, he did apprehend, that any proposition for a merely voluntary contribution, afforded but little prospect of success. In his judgment nothing short of a compulsory enactment could prove effectual. Let the House only consider for a moment the circumstances under which compositions were made, and the difficulties which stood in the way of making them. The fact was, and it could not be a matter of surprise that it should be so, that the farmers and tithe-payers generally in almost every parish considered the amount of tithes imposed too great, and the incumbents as frequently were disposed to think them too small, or fixed at no more than was fairly their due; those opposite views naturally led to disputes. No doubt, whatever, that in some places the tithe-payers might be found more reasonable than in others, and the incumbents more indulgent, and there very possibly the business of commutation might be found comparatively easy, but the chances of meeting with any considerable number of parishes so favourable to the operation of the Bill, afforded but a very slender prospect of its eventually proving successful. He did not think it was at all likely to produce the general commutation that was expected; he entertained no doubt that in many places it would be productive of great dissatisfaction—that it would not lead to the success which had been anticipated, and concluded by repeating that nothing less than a generally compulsory regulation would lead to a general commutation, and nothing less than that could be productive of any change sufficiently extensive to deserve being described as a great practical good. He felt called upon to state, then, that he had not the slightest intention to object to the motion.

Mr. Baring

said, that there had, he need scarcely observe, prevailed, both in and out of doors, a great anxiety to obtain a settlement of the Tithe Question, and the Tithe Bills of last year received the greatest possible attention; but not one of the different schemes removed the invincible difficulty attendant, as he conceived, upon a compulsory arrangement. The measure now proposed by his right hon. Friend gave full promise of working well; it might be tried to a considerable extent, and after some experience, so to be derived, of the practical effect of its provisions, they might then with safety extend its operation further, with every hope of eventual success. One recommendation of the proposed measure would be, that it could give dissatisfaction to nobody, for none could come within the scope of its operation otherwise than by their own voluntary act. This, he thought, was a consideration which ought to have no small weight with the House. It was, of course, full in the recollection of hon. Members, that the last attempt at bringing forward a Tithe Bill had proved completely unsatisfactory, and the measure now proposed was so opposite to that, he hoped the House would agree with him that it ought to have a fair trial. He by no means con- curred with the noble Lord opposite, or with those who agreed with him, in thinking that the circumstance of the commutation being voluntary would be at all likely to impede its progress. Were he to judge of the disposition of other parishes from those immediately around himself, he should say that the voluntary principle was of all others the best, for no fewer than six parishes all around him had acted upon it; they had all made arrangements respecting their tithes in some degree upon the principle of the intended Bill. For his own part, he entertained the most sanguine hopes of its success, and believed that a great portion of the country would act upon its provisions. It might be perfectly true, as had been suggested, that the owners of heavy soils in a very expensive state of cultivation might demur to the Bill, but that would most assuredly not prevent other classes of tithe-payers from taking advantage of the provisions of the Bill, and neither did he think that even the owners of heavy soils would exclude themselves from the benefits of the measure, for the commissioners would have power to make due allowance for all circumstances, and estimate the claims of both parties fairly and equitably, upon a comprehensive consideration of the whole case, no matter how heavy the land might be, or how expensive the cultivation; upon those grounds he would repeat, that the Bill could not, and certainly ought not, to give dissatisfaction to any body. As to the argument founded upon the assumption that the Commissioners would proceed upon the receipts of the incumbent, rather than upon actual value, he had but to observe, that the duty of the Commissioners in all cases, and he had no doubt of their being so selected as to insure the performance of their duty, would be not to sanction any thing that was not fair and equitable upon a full consideration of the case. Their business would be to hear both sides, and pronounce an impartial decision. He should not have the slightest objection to a compulsory commutation, did he not apprehend that in many cases it would operate most unequally; his wish, therefore, was to see the proposed plan in operation for some time, that the extent to which the voluntary principle could be carried might be ascertained, and what modification of it might be expected to lead to a further extension of commutation.

Mr. Blamire

had heard the development of the proposed measure with great satis- faction. He had always thought it far beyond the abilities of any man to devise a plan of compulsory commutation which should work fairly in all parts of the country; that which might be fair in the southern districts, might be highly prejudicial in a less-favoured soil. He was sure, therefore, that no compulsory measure, grounded on any principle which had been suggested hitherto, could be carried into effect without inflicting the grossest injustice on many parties. He was glad that the present measure had been brought forward, because it allowed the parties in a parish to make their own bargains, and then allowed those bargains to be legalized without putting the parties to any expense; and this, he thought, was all which the Legislature could do. He might be permitted to express a hope that the greatest possible care would be taken in the selection of the Commissioners—that such men only might be appointed as would possess the entire confidence of the country. He had also heard with great satisfaction the hint thrown out by the right hon. Baronet, as to the hope which he entertained that those causes and matters of litigation which had arisen, and were now in progress, in consequence of Lord Tenterden's Act, might be submitted to the tribunal which would be created under the measure, in order that they might be decided in a much less expensive manner than they could be according to the forms of common law. Having had the honour to introduce to the House last session a Bill for the purpose of staying suits of that nature, be felt some interest on the subject; and he would observe to the right hon. Baronet, that there were still a great many such suits hanging on, in the hope that when the long-promised measure of commutation should be introduced, some arrangement would be devised by which justice might be done to both parties without their incurring the expense incident upon proceeding by common law. Again pressing on the right hon. Baronet the necessity of appointing only such men to be Commissioners as should possess the full and entire confidence of the country, and thus preventing any notion from spreading about that an overweening influence in favour of the Church would display itself in the exercise of their functions; he felt himself justified in saying, that in that part of the country with which he was connected, this measure would be received with high satisfaction.

Mr. Estcourt

said, it was impossible not to hail with pleasure the proposition of his right hon. Friend, which had indeed met with the high approbation of almost all gentlemen who had spoken on either side of the House. He rose to ask for some explanation on a particular point. His right hon. Friend had stated, that if two-thirds of the parish agreed upon a commutation, they would have the power of enforcing it upon the remaining third. He wished to know whether, supposing that two-thirds of the parish were not disposed so to agree, and that a small portion of the other third—for instance, a single individual—was anxious to effect a commutation, it would be competent to that portion, with the assistance of the commissioner, to effect it? Would that individual be able to call in the assistance of the Commissioner as an arbitrator between himself and the tithe-owner?

Mr. Pryme

said, that the right hon. Baronet seemed to found his expectation of the efficacy of the proposed measure on the number of commutations which had hitherto taken place. He should remember, however, that these commutations had generally arisen from Inclosure Bills, under peculiar circumstances. If, as was generally supposed, an inclosure rendered the land one-third more valuable to the clergyman than it previously had been, he had obviously an interest to that extent in seeing it take place. In the general course of negociation which accompanied such matters, he was asked by the landowners to consent to the inclosure and to a commutation of the tithe at a corn-rent; if he were unwilling, they would say that they refused to consent to the inclosure on any other terms; and then, rather than not have the inclosure, he would accept those which they offered. In this manner, numbers of the commutations which existed had been brought about. The right hon. Baronet had mentioned the large saving of expense which would attend commutation under his Bill, as an additional incentive to effecting it. That incentive would only operate upon the landowner, for the tithe-owner was at present not liable to any share of it; that is to say, the inducement to commute, arising from that cause, would influence only the parties who now felt most strongly the necessity of a commutation, and would not at all affect those whose consent was most essential and most difficult to obtain—the tithe-owners. He could not but think that the proposed measure would be unsatisfactory to the country. In the agricultural districts with which he was connected, he was sure that it would he regarded in that light, not on account of any of its details, but from the very nature of its principle, which rendered commutation voluntary, and not compulsory. The result would he serious discontent—not extending, indeed, to the length to which it was carried in Ireland, but still very strongly affecting both the occupiers and the owners of the land. If the right hon. Baronet were to make the commutation compulsory, instead of voluntary, the same division of districts and the same plan of adjustment which he now proposed, would still he equally applicable.

Mr. Greene,

contended, that it would be difficult to frame a compulsory measure which should be fairly applicable to all the different parishes in the country. It had been said, that existing commutations were few; that arose from their temporary nature. When they came to be rendered permanent, the case would be very different. A strong reason for the small number was to be found in the enormous expense which was attendant upon the present plan of effecting them; he knew one case in which the cost had amounted to 3,000l. As to a strict examination of the value of the tithes, if that suggestion were adopted, it would give no satisfaction—it was absolutely impossible to have such a measure for this country as had been adopted in Scotland. He begged to express his satisfaction at seeing this measure before the House; and he hoped that the Bill, when brought in, would receive that attentive consideration which it was highly necessary that it should undergo. He was more sanguine as to its beneficial results than the hon. Member who had preceded him.

Mr. E. John Stanley

said, the same obstacles which had hitherto stood in the way of a commutation would still exist under the proposed Bill; and he trusted that the right hon. Baronet would hold out some hope of a compulsory commutation at another period. So far as the present measure went, he thought it a very good one, inasmuch as it removed the inconvenience and expense attendant upon the local acts which were now necessary for a voluntary commutation.

Sir Robert Price

suggested the propriety of introducing some declaratory enactment for the settlement of many controverted rights which now existed, and upon the subject of which the decisions of the different judges had been quite opposite. He proposed, also, that the price of meat should be taken into consideration, as well as the price of corn, in the calculations which were to be made. When the Bill came fully before them, he should be ready to give it his most attentive consideration.

Mr. Parrott

observed, that the working of the Bill must mainly depend on the commissioners and he trusted, therefore, that much care would be exercised in their appointment. On one point he wished for some explanation. After the commutation had been made, was the burden to remain fixed on the owner or the occupier? If it remained on the owner, and if, by some means, it should happen that the land on account of which it was charged, were to be thrown out of cultivation, still he would be liable for the permanent impost. On the other hand, if it were to rest on the occupier, the burden would not exist in the case which he had supposed. He would point out, that although the resolution was professedly for a voluntary commutation, yet the commutation would be compulsory on the one-third of the landowners who did not agree.

Mr. Hodges

expressed it as his opinion, that the measure would not be likely to be attended with success in some parts of the country, however readily many parishes might he prepared to enter into the arrangement proposed under it.

Mr. Grote

was very unwilling to add to the number of questions which had already been put to the right hon. Baronet, but there was one which he (Mr. Grote) was very anxious to have answered. He wished to know whether the right hon. Baronet proposed to deal with the tithes in cities and towns in the same manner as with those of the agricultural districts? He knew that, in the city of London, tithes, in various parishes, were most unequal and oppressive. And he was desirous of knowing whether the right hon. Baronet meant to devise any means for removing or alleviating the burdens which pressed upon the inhabitants of cities and towns with regard to tithes.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

thought that he should best consult the convenience of the House if, before any further questions were put, he proceeded to answer those which had been already addressed to him. As the present was only the first stage of the Bill, every body would see that there were strong reasons why he should not pledge himself to the answers he might give upon the different points which had been raised during the discussion. He was certain of deriving great advantage from the discussion which he had already heard; and perhaps the best course which he could adopt would be, not to pledge himself in his reply to those points which had been pressed upon his attention. In reply to the hon. Member for the city of London, he must observe that where tithe came in the shape of personal tithe, or of tithe upon houses, it was a subject of great difficulty. He had attended to that subject, but he could not say that it would form any part of the present Rill. He believed that the Rill of Lord Althorp did not attempt to settle the difficulty which always must exist in the commutation of tithe in town parishes. An hon. and gallant Gentleman had asked him whether he would not compose his board of five Commissioners. To this he replied that he preferred a board of three Commissioners. It appeared to him as a practical man that the smaller a board of Commissioners was, the greater was the responsibility resting on each commissioner, and that the greater the responsibility of each Commissioner was, the more satisfactory was the exercise of the power with which they were intrusted. He proposed that two of the Commissioners should be appointed by the Crown, and a third by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He placed the appointment of the third Commissioner in the power of the Archbishop of Canterbury in order to invest him with that power which was now exercised by the Bishops in preventing incumbents from injuring the interests of their successors by improvident compositions. To give the church a countervailing influence for this power in the Commission, he vested the appointment of one Commissioner in the Archbishop of Canterbury, to which he thought there could be no objection. Another hon. Member had asked him whether the consent of two-thirds of the landowners in a parish to a composition would be compulsory on the remaining third. He was aware that there might be devices to saddle a third of the landowners with a burthen that was unjust. It was to prevent any occurrences of that nature that he had appointed this commission, for he thought that there would be a great objection to making these voluntary compositions obligatory upon all parties without some superintending power. To prevent one-third of the landowners from being overborne by the remaining two-thirds, he had provided that no contract should be valid until it had been considered by the superintending board in London. That board would receive any remonstrance that might be sent to it from any parties who considered themselves aggrieved, and thus he trusted injustice would be prevented. Another hon. Gentleman had asked him whether it would not be just to include other elements besides those which he had mentioned to determine the variations of the average. Now he could not concur in the propriety of taking in meat as one of those elements. Though of late years it had been assumed that the price of wheat bore a certain proportion to the price of other provisions, he was not inclined to admit the correctness of the assumption. He thought that the combined price of barley, oats, and meat would, be a better, and a sufficient test. The commutation rent might be readjusted at the end of any given number of years, according to the then average price of wheat, barley, and oats. If the composition were to be septennial, it would be formed on the average of seven years. If it were decennial, it would be formed on the average of ten years. The fewer elements that were taken into consideration the better; for if more were taken, the Bill would lose that simplicity which was, he thought, its chief recommendation. Another hon. Gentleman had asked him this question—supposing that two-thirds of the landowners would not concur in the composition, would the remaining one-third have it in their power to make an amicable arrangement with the incumbent? The Bill would not contain a provision of that kind; and in his opinion great caution should be exercised before any such provision were acceded to. The public advantage would not be advanced by it; for it would not be right in principle to grant to two or three individuals the power of making a private contract with the tithe owner, and to leave to the clergyman the odium of collecting the remainder of his tithes in kind. It admitted of great doubt whether such an arrangement would not in practice prove most unsatisfactory. In reply to the question of another hon. Member, he must observe, that when the tithe-owner had the consent of two-thirds of the landowners, and of the superintending board, the arrangement should be perpetual. In answer to a question put by Sir Robert Price, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that the Bill would admit voluntary commutations. The Commissioners would be at liberty to call the landowners together, and to suggest, in cases of doubts and diffi- culties, an amicable arrangement, and to facilitate an agreement between them and the tithe-owners. He might say to them—"You will be fighting a question of modus forever—you will be removing one difficulty only to start another—let me propose an amicable arrangement, and so put an end to every legal difficulty in which you either are or may be involved." He thought that giving such a power to the Commissioners would put a stop to much litigation. As to settling the difficulties in the way of composition which might arise in every parish, he could not pretend to any such thing; and if he were to attempt it, the points of difficulty under his new law would be as numerous as those now existing under the old law.

Mr. Parrott

wished to know whether the burthen was to remain on the owner or the occupier of the land? Was any abatement to be made where the land was highly cultivated?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that the tithe was to be levied on the occupying tenant, who would have the right to deduct the amount of it from the rent which he owed to his landlord. With respect to abatement, there was a power given by Lord Althorp's Bill to make an abatement 5 but if parties made a voluntary arrangement among themselves, his Bill would give no power to the Commissioners to make any abatement from it. One word with respect to compulsory arrangement. If he had prepared a Bill to make a compulsory adjustment of tithe, he should not have hesitated to give the Commissioners power to make an abatement. But he had not prepared any such Bill, as he had seen various attempts made to attain that object, and all of them ineffectual. He did not believe that any one general plan for a compulsory arrangement could be adapted to districts differing so much in local circumstances as the county of Cumberland and the county of Kent. Indeed, he did not think that any general plan of that kind could be devised which would give satisfaction to the tithe-payers throughout the kingdom. The best mode, as it appeared to him, of getting ultimately at a compulsory arrangement, was to try first the voluntary plan, to see where it succeeded, and to note where it failed. Then, when additional information was gained from various quarters, the House might steer its course through all the difficulties attending the compulsory plan. What he principally deprecated was, the making a compulsory arrangement as an experiment, and the failing in it. To fail in such an arrangement would throw the whole question back for years; but to fail in this voluntary plan, would lose no present advantage; the country would be just where it was—just as well off as before, and then the House might consider whether it would not take up with a compulsory arrangement. He would confess that he was more sanguine than many hon. Gentlemen appeared to be with regard to the success of this voluntary plan. In the accounts relating to the Property-tax, there was some information respecting the amount of tithe which was taken in kind in 1810. In that year the amount of tithes was 2,353,000l., of which there was under composition 1,932,000l. Therefore the amount of tithe not under composition, or in other words, taken in kind, was 421,000l. Thus, not more than one-fifth part, or speaking more accurately, only eighteen per cent of all tithes collected in England and Wales in 1810 was taken in kind. Now, all tithe compositions existing at present were voluntary arrangements under private Acts of Parliament. There were some parishes in which a composition, on the principle of a corn-rent, under a voluntary arrangement, sanctioned afterwards by private Acts of Parliament, had perfectly succeeded. He would instance two parishes, the parish of Lancaster, and the parish of Cockermouth. In 1824, an arrangement of this kind took place in the parish of Lancaster. A Commissioner was appointed by an Act. The vacancy, when it occurred, was to be filled up by the Justices at the Quarter Sessions. A corn-rent of 1,358l. was to be payable in lieu of tithes. The expense was apportioned among certain townships in a manner specified in the Act. There was to be a decennial readjustment on the appeal of the vicar or one or more owners of houses and lands at the Quarter Sessions, but the amount was not to be reduced below 1,358l. A new apportionment might be made decennially by appeal to the Quarter Sessions of owners of the yearly value of 100l. That act had worked well, and no objection had been taken, or indeed could be taken, to the principle on which it was founded. In the parish of Cockermouth a composition had taken place on the principle of a corn-rent, and there too the plan had worked well. Now, he did not see why, in a great number of parishes, where no great expense would be incurred in carrying the plan into execution, the same prin- ciple might not be applied. An hon. Member had proposed, that land as well as money should be assigned to the incumbent in lieu of tithes. He proposed, that land should be given to the clergyman where spare land could be found in the parish. In the case of enclosures, where spare land could be found, such a plan might be advantageous; but he was afraid, that the general adoption of it would only increase the difficulty of commutation. He did not exclude land from being given in lieu of tithe, but he would take a corn-rent as the rule, and land as the exception. The practice of Scotland proved, that there was nothing in the principle of his Bill to prevent it from working well. He was glad to find, that the House had received his plan so well. If in the progress of the Bill, any alterations should be suggested, calculated to improve it, he should be ready to give them the most careful consideration. He should proceed at present on the voluntary principle, for he thought, that any compulsory arrangement would at present compromise the success of that commutation, which they were so anxious to accomplish.

Mr. Pease

stated that, in the county of Durham, the landlords and tenants were at this moment paying tithe out of their capital. The consequence was, that land there was daily going out of cultivation. Under such circumstances it could hardly be expected that there would be any voluntary commutation of tithe on the principle of this bill. Every one would rejoice to see the heart-burning occasioned by the collection of tithe removed by some well-arranged plan of commutation; but if the principle of this bill were insisted on, there would be a degree of distress in the north of England which language could not describe. He knew many estates in which this plan would give the clergyman his tithe, but would not leave the landlord a farthing for rent, nor the tenant a farthing for profit. The House must not wait for five years to see what effects this plan would produce, but must go forward boldly and meet the evil at once. He did not conceive that this plan would be of any value to the tillage land in his county, whatever it might be to the grazing land. It would greatly disappoint the farmers of Durham. Where the clergyman was of an easy disposition, and understood aright the position in which he was placed, there would be no difficulty in effecting a commutation; but wherever the clergyman showed a craving and grasping disposition, there this Bill would do no good. Looking at the impoverished state of the tenant and the landlord, he was sure that they would not be able to pay in lieu of tithe such a sum as the clergy would now expect.

Mr. Rolfe

wished to know whether the attention of the right hon. Baronet had been called to the tithe on fish? In the extreme west of England this was a matter of some importance. The tithe on fish was in its nature double. There was first the tithe on fish; and next the tithe on fishing. As to the first, there would be no difficulty as to the principle of commutation; but with regard to the second, as it depended on the profits of those who caught the fish, how was it to be commuted? On whom was the assessment to be laid, the individuals who caught the fish being unknown? He believed that there would be some difficulty felt on this subject on the north east coast of Yorkshire, about Whitby.

Mr. Grote

asked whether the expense of adjusting the tithe in any parish was to be paid by the parish, or out of any public fund?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that the expenses of the commissioners and other officers would be paid out of a public fund, but that the expenses of the surveyors, valuers, and witnesses must be paid by the landowners interested in the commutation, except in certain eases, which he would specify hereafter.

The Resolution was agreed to, and the House resumed.