The Archbishop of Canterbury
rose to present the Bill, of which he had given notice, to facilitate the Composition of Tithes. His Grace commenced by explaining the causes which had prevented him from bringing the measure at an earlier period of the Session under the consideration of their Lordships. So much nicety and deliberation had been required in framing many of the clauses of the Bill, that he had found it impossible to select an earlier opportunity of laying it before their Lordships; and, seeing the great importance of 500 the subject, he was quite sure that it was not necessary for him to request their Lordships' attention to it on this occasion. A great many objections had been raised to the present mode by which the incumbents of livings were supported; namely, by the system of Tithes. It was objected in the first instance, that such a system tended to destroy that harmony which should always exist between the pastor and his parishioners; and in the second place, the farmer objected to the present mode of collecting Tithes, and he (the Archbishop of Canterbury) believed with some reason too, on the ground that it prevented him from employing his capital to as much advantage as he would be enabled to do if some settled arrangement were adopted, and he was no longer left subject to the uncertainty to which he was exposed under the existing system. Many remedies had been suggested, such as the substitution for Tithes of fixed money-payments, or of a corn-rent, to all of which he objected as tending to extinguish Tithe altogether. To a Composition for Tithes, for a reasonable term of years, resulting from a voluntary agreement entered into between both parties, and binding on them respectively for the period specified, there was no objection entertained by him (the Archbishop of Canterbury), nor, he believed, by any Member of the bench on which he sat; and he believed that the clergy in general throughout the country would be satisfied with a measure of that description. The object of this Bill was to enable parties to make such a composition, and it was in a great measure founded upon an Act which was now in force in Ireland, and which, he understood, had been productive of great advantage in that country,—with such modifications only as the different situations of the two countries required. The Bill he now proposed to introduce would allow parties to enter into a composition for terms not to exceed twenty-one years, and in some cases for terms not exceeding fourteen years. Where the longer term was specified, the composition was to be regulated by the price of corn, and the average price of every seven years was to be taken as the standard for regulating the composition while it existed. In other cases, where the amount of the composition was fixed at a certain sum of money, it was to last only for a terra of fourteen years. At the same time this Bill would afford means to the parties to renew the 501 composition again, if they so thought fit, within three years of the expiration of the former composition. The composition was to be made by agreement between two commissioners,—one appointed on behalf of the clergy, and the other on behalf of the laymen. Still it was to be at the option of parties to offer a sum of money in lieu of Tithes without the intervention of commissioners; and during all the time the composition was in force, the right of the clergy to enter for Tithes was to be suspended. He had been anxious to make the Bill as simple as possible, and there was therefore one subject of great importance which he had shrunk from touching—he meant the rights of parties claiming exemptions from Tithes. On this account the machinery of the Bill was imperfect. He had also exempted from its operation those parishes in which the composition for Tithes was disputed, though he should be glad to see all compositions made on the principle of the Bill which he proposed to introduce. His object was, to benefit both the payers and receivers of Tithes, while he did justice to them both, and he should be obliged to noble Lords for any suggestion calculated to improve the operation of the measure. It was not his intention to enter at present into more particular details of the Bill, the first reading of which he concluded by proposing.
§ The Earl of Eldon
said, that the measure was certainly susceptible of improvement, both with respect to the clergy and the laymen, but it was one which deserved the serious attention of the House; and he returned his thanks to the most Rev. Prelate for having introduced it.
§ Bill read a first time.