The Archbishop of Canterbury
moved the second reading of the Tithes Composition Bill; and the Order of the Day being read, his Grace proceeded to explain the nature and object of the Bill, the principles 1363 on which it was founded, and the means, or machinery, by which it was to be carried into execution; but, in the first place, he begged for the indulgence of their Lordships, while he stated the reasons which had induced him to undertake the preparation of the Bill in question. He assured their Lordships, that in doing so he had not been actuated by any predilection for the task, for of all the official duties to which it was incumbent on him to attend, the least agreeable were those which pertained to the temporal concerns of the clergy of the Church; and he also assured their Lordships, that he had not been induced to undertake this duty by any opinion of his own particular competency or superior knowledge of the subject. He brought to the execution of this duty only that understanding of the subject which might be possessed by any man of common sense, whose attention had been frequently called to it, in conjunction with many surveyors of tithes, and others whose business it was, to be somewhat conversant with the matter. He had had ample communications on the subject with professional persons and others; with many whose sentiments were in favour of the plan, and also with many who had considerable objections to it, and he believed, that he had, in consequence of those communications, been put in possession of almost all the objections which could be devised by human ingenuity to the particular measure now before their Lordships. He should not have engaged in the task had he not been urged so to do by the wishes of the bench of Bishops, who were desirous that some arrangement of this matter should be undertaken by him. They had formed an opinion, that if he were to bring forward such a measure with the sanction of the whole bench, it would be likely to be received with satisfaction, both by the great body of the clergy, and by the payers of tithes. Certainly the subject was of great importance, as it involved a very large share of the property of the Church, and was closely connected with the welfare of the people. Having been applied to in this manner, he did not think he should be justified in declining the task, particularly as he knew that many most respectable and well-informed persons concurred with him in the general view which he had taken of the subject, and therefore hoped that his plan would prove generally satisfactory. As to 1364 the delay which had taken place in bringing it forward, that had been owing to various unavoidable circumstances, and not to any dilatoriness on his part, and he had profited by the delay to make the Bill as perfect as possible. It differed in several of its details from that Bill which was brought forward in 1830, although the object was the same. The great end he had in view was, to remove the objections which had been made to the payment of tithes, either in kind, or by composition. To the payment of tithes in kind it had been objected, that it was extremely injurious to agriculture, and, to a great extent, prevented the investment of capital in the improvement of land; and to the payments by composition it had been objected, that these compositions were variable, uncertain, and of short duration, and not to be relied on: they therefore threw back the occupier on the former mode, and he was always afraid of being exposed to all the inconveniences of payment in kind. One great end he contemplated by the Bill was, to remove these objections, and another was, to put an end to those contests about the payment of tithes which often interrupted the amicable feelings and good understanding which, for the interests of religion and morality, ought to prevail between the clergy and their congregations. Indeed, the state of the law, at present, encouraged the collection of the tithes in kind, for, when so collected, the incumbent had immediate possession of his whole property, and had the power to dispose of it in such manner, and at such times, as best suited him. But when the payment was by composition, the incumbent had to wait for the previous payment of the poor-rates by the tithe-payer, and he had also to wait until the landlord was paid, and the consequence was, that before he could get what was due to him, the whole property of the tithe-payer was swept away by the landlord or by creditors. Under these disadvantages it had been found very difficult to enter into a reasonable composition; but he hoped, that the provisions of this Bill would have the effect of obviating these disadvantages, and of accomplishing a composition satisfactory both to the clergyman and the farmer. The composition he meant to propose would be advantageous to the farmer on account of its long duration and its unvariableness; and certainly it would be advantageous to the 1365 clergyman, as the Bill would give hint a power of distress, in order to recover what was due to him, and thus put him on an equality with the landlord, so that he would have the means of preventing any violation of the agreement between himself and the tithe-payer. These were intended to be the effects of the measure; and it remained to be seen how far its provisions were calculated to produce these effects. The Bill provided both for the general compositions of whole parishes, and also particular compositions. It provided, that whenever the Rector, Vicar, or other incumbent of any ecclesiastical living, and the owners, for the time being, of not less than two-thirds of the value of the farm, lands, and tenements, subject to tithes payable to the said Rector, Vicar, or other incumbent in right of his living, shall desire a composition of the said tithes, it shall be lawful, under certain regulations, and with the approbation of certain parties mentioned in the Bill, to enter into such a composition for a term not exceeding twenty-one years, and this composition was to be binding on the successors of the incumbent entering into it. He could have very much wished, that these compositions could have been effected without compulsion on any individual or set of men. But as an agreement of this kind might be defeated by the refusal of a small party, or even of an individual to concur in it, he had been unable to find any better expedient than to make the agreement binding on all when two-thirds in value of the owners of lands subject to the payment of tithes concurred in it. As to the amount of the sum to be paid by those from whom tithes were due, that might be settled among the owners and occupiers of land subject to the payment of the tithes, or it might be adjusted by commissioners to be appointed for that purpose. These commissioners might be appointed by the parishioners, and it would be their duty to apportion the particular sums to be paid by each of the tithe-payers, and generally to carry the provisions of the Bill effectually into execution. They would, also, in disputed cases have to make an award on the subject, which would have the force of a legal decision binding on all parties. Suppose the payments were to be made upon the plan or criterion of corn-rents, they might be adjusted every seven years; but if the compositions were fixed money-payments, he 1366 should propose that they might be adjusted every fourteen years. These were the principles on which it was proposed that the payments should be settled. In the next place there was a clause in the Bill enabling individuals to enter into compositions for the tithes of their own lands; and he understood, that this was a clause which would be particularly acceptable to many owners and occupiers of land; and for that reason he thought it would be advisable that the provisions of the clause should be extended. According to its enactments, individuals might make compositions for themselves for short periods, without any necessity for having recourse to the other provisions of the Act. As to the recovery of the money payable in lieu of tithes, the incumbent was to have the ordinary remedy as at present; and also the further power of recovery by distress in case the tithe-money should be in arrear for one year. This latter power was analogous to that which was possessed by the landlords under the statute of the 14th of Anne; and it was but fair, that the incumbent should not be anticipated by the landlord in the recovery of that which was his own; at least the same legal remedies ought to be given to both. The clergy, he believed, would be the last to have recourse to such an extreme remedy, but he thought the power of adopting it should be placed in their hands. He had then explained the principles of the Bill, and had given a general view of the machinery by which it was to be carried into execution. To him that machinery appeared on the whole to be as plain and simple as could reasonably be expected, considering the difficulty of the subject. He knew, indeed, that the machinery had been objected to, and he would admit that there were some, clauses which might appear rather formidable to those who had not thoroughly examined the subject; but they would be but seldom resorted to in practice, and were inserted only to give an effectual remedy to the incumbent in case he should be under the unpleasant necessity of having recourse to them. He believed, at the same time, that the method of proceeding pointed out by the Bill would be as free from trouble and expense as any that could be devised. He might be asked, why it was, that he had not adopted the plan of a perpetual commutation of tithes, instead of resorting to temporary compositions? His answer was, 1367 that the measure of perpetual commutation would be attended with extreme difficulty, and would moreover be unjust to the clergy; while the measure of temporary compositions was much more expedient, and much more easy of execution, consistently with a due regard to the interests of all parties. It would be very hard on the Church incumbents, that their allowance should be perpetually fixed, when the real value of the tithe might be very different at different periods. It ought to be considered, that it was extremely variable in respect of the value of the lands liable to the payment of tithe, and also extremely variable as to the persons to whom it was to be paid. Tithes were payable to Rectors and Vicars in different proportions and of different things. The relative amount of the great and small tithes, as well as the absolute amount of both, were always liable to change; and there was, at times, a great difference in the expense of collecting them. Corn-lands might be turned into garden-lands, and garden-lands might be turned into corn-lands, and by this means a Rector had a great advantage over the Vicar at one time, and at another time the Vicar might have a great advantage over the Rector. In this manner great changes were constantly taking place in the interests of different incumbents, and it was hardly possible to make these things the subject of fixed and perpetual commutation. Add to this, that a great difficulty would arise from the different manner in which tithes were estimated in different parts of the country; and it was observable, that in those places where the estimate was least, the clamour against the tithes was the greatest. But it might be said, that the commutation could be effected by the exchange of tithe for land, or by the sale of lands for the payment of tithes. But this, too, would be attended with great difficulty. There was a great difference in the value of land from the different modes of cultivation and management; for the land might be in a state of high improvement, or it might be almost to the last degree impoverished. An incumbent might have a considerable glebe, and let it out to a tenant; but it was his opinion, that where an incumbent depended on the rent or income to be derived from land cultivated for himself, he could not be in a worse situation; for an incumbent was one of 1368 the most incompetent of all men to engage with advantage in agricultural speculations. Then, suppose that the tithe was valued and sold, and that the amount was invested in the Funds, the matter would not be in a better situation. The Public Funds were constantly affected by variations in commerce, and by the convulsions that occasionally took place in the country, and it might happen, that the income of the clergyman might be reduced at times almost to nothing. But even if it should be found practicable and expedient to resort, at last, to a commutation, it would still be desirable that, in the first instance, the amount of temporary compositions for the tithes should be settled by the agreement; and besides, if these compositions should be properly acted upon, they would have the effect of a perpetual commutation. Then, he might be asked, why he had confined his measure to the tithes payable to the clerical incumbents, and did not include in it the tithes payable to lay impropriators? His answer was, that he thought it highly desirable, that the present measure, which he had been called upon to arrange, should be confined to the clergy, and that the lay impropriators should not be included. He thought it much better that the lay impropriators should be left to arrange matters for themselves; besides, lay tithes being looked upon more in the light of belonging to individuals, than the tithes belonging to the Church, were not considered so objectionable. In fine, he thought it highly desirable, that this measure, if approved of by Parliament, should pass into a law as soon as possible, since great expectations had been excited in the public mind on the subject, and it was proper, that the community should be apprised, with the least possible delay, of what the Bill really enacted. Great expectations were entertained in the country on the subject; but whoever supposed that the Bill had been calculated to answer all these expectations, would soon find himself in some measure disappointed. It happened in many instances, that those who were called upon to pay the tithes, entertained a notion, that if the tithes payable to the clergy were abolished, they would be relieved to the amount of their payments. It was scarcely necessary to observe, that in this expectation they would be disappointed; for if the tithes were not paid to the clergy, the 1369 amount would be paid in rent to the landlords. Seeing the arrangements and projects which were propounded and promulgated on this subject—seeing, that some proposed a sale of tithes, giving in lieu of them a compensation to the clergy—that others suggested a permanent commutation of tithes, while there were some persons who went so far as to propose a total abolition of tithes, without affording any compensation to the Church —seeing, that so many and such various theories were propounded on this subject, and well aware, that from none of them would the good effects follow, that their authors anticipated, while the result would be dissatisfaction and despair—on these grounds it was, that he was of opinion that such a measure as this ought to be passed as speedily as possible into a law. The arrangement which he proposed he looked upon as a fair and desirable one, and one which, taking into account a due co-operation on the part of the landowners, was well calculated to carry into effect the objects which they had all in view. That such an arrangement was calculated to put an end to the differences and to the evils which arose from the existing system, it was equally the interest of the land-owners, of the clergy, of the country at large, and of the Church, that it should be agreed to and passed into a law. The measure was the best that, after mature consideration, and with the aid of many of those who were the most competent to judge, he could devise. The Parliament was, indeed, much occupied, and several persons, whose opinions it was highly desirable to have, were absent, performing their duties on the circuits, or were prevented from attending by other reasons. It would have been very desirable, that such persons should be present, as several alterations had been made, so as to make the Bill somewhat different in its provisions from the bill of 1830. But he hoped, that no unnecessary delay would take place in the progress of the Bill, because it was highly desirable, for the reasons which he had already stated, that the measure should be passed into a law as speedily as possible. He certainly should not endeavour to press this Bill this Session against the will and desire of their Lordships, if such should be the case; but as he trusted, that it would not, and that it would still be possible to pass this measure this Session, he hoped 1370 that their Lordships would allow the Bill to go into Committee, there to receive such alterations and amendments as it might seem fitting to their Lordships, in their wisdom, to introduce into it. The most rev. Prelate, in conclusion, moved that the Bill be read a second time.
The Lord Chancellor
said, that, occupying the situation which he did, he was anxious to take the earliest opportunity of stating to their Lordships his sentiments with regard to the very important Bill, the second reading of which had been just moved by the most rev. Prelate. The fullest and most complete attention which he had been enabled to give to this Bill had left upon his mind no sentiments but those of entire satisfaction at the result of the labours of the most rev. Prelate, and of great thankfulness to him on his (the Lord Chancellor's) part, both as a member of the community and a Member of their Lordships' House, for his having devoted so much of his valuable time to a subject, for the proper entertainment and elucidation of which his high station at once in the Church and in that House seemed to render him so eminently competent. It was but bare justice to the most rev. Prelate to say, that he had admirably fulfilled the duty which he had undertaken. The subject which the most rev. Prelate had undertaken to regulate was one which had been, for many reasons, fruitful of discussion. He thought, however, that those who took part in such discussions, either within doors or in the public at large, were fairly divisible into two great classes. The first comprehended those who would think, that this measure did not go far enough; the second class consisted of those who, while they would not object to the measure as not going far enough, as a whole, in regard to the question to which it referred, would be inclined to object to it as not taking a proper course. He did not imagine, that there would be any persons, either in that House or among the public generally, who would charge this measure with going too far. It was the interest of the clergy as well as of the laity—of the Church in an eminent degree, as well as of the country at large—that a speedy and satisfactory settlement of this great question should be effected. With respect to the first class of objectors to this Bill—those who would think that it did not go far enough,—he must say, that he 1371 did not suppose, that any of them would be inclined to oppose a measure which introduced a considerable improvement into the existing law on the subject, the defects of which had been greatly deplored and severely felt. Their Lordships were aware, that as the law at present stood on this subject, there were two prominent and lamentable defects in it, the removal of which would be effected by this Bill. The first defect was this—that though any proportion of the parishioners generally might propose a composition of tithes with the incumbent, and though they might obtain his consent to it, and the consent of the majority of the landowners, of the Ordinary, and of the patron, -though all those parties might consent to the composition in the parish—yet it would not be binding upon the parties, nor upon any other person in the parish, if the smallest possible minority of the parishioners should object to it. By such a defect in the existing law, all the evils connected with the collection of tithes were aggravated in a tenfold degree, for the wishes of the great majority of the parishioners, of the incumbent, of the Ordinary, and patron, might be defeated by a minority, however small, or capricious, or unreasonable. To that defect in the law the Bill of the most rev. Prelate applied an effectual remedy. Taking a just view of it, and acting upon the analogy which was afforded by a measure that had been carried into successful operation in the sister kingdom, the most rev. Prelate proposed, in the Bill which he had presented to their Lordships, that where two-thirds of the tithe-payers in a parish should agree to a composition of, the tithes there, their consent should be/binding on the remainder, and that that composition should be lasting for any term which might be agreed upon, not exceeding twenty-one years. There was still a greater defect in the existing law, which the present Bill was calculated to remove. Under the law, as it stood at present, even if a composition of tithes should be effected in a parish, with the consent of all parties concerned, it could not last beyond the life of the incumbent with whom it was made. Though the incumbent might be old, or infirm, or delicate, and though it might be the interest of all parties to effect a composition, and though all parties might assent to it, yet when effected, it could not last one hour beyond the life of the 1372 said incumbent. That defect was effectually remedied by this Bill. He, for one, felt, that in subjects like the present, which was surrounded by so many difficulties, though it was easy to point out the evils which arose from the existing system, it was not so easy to suggest their remedy. He had for a long period applied his attention to the question of tithes—more than fourteen years ago he had proposed a measure to the other House on the subject, and after all the attention which he had bestowed upon it, he yet did not see his way clearly enough, so as to be enabled to go any considerable step further than the present Bill, either in facilitating the composition of tithes, or in establishing any other plan, founded on the principles on which the Bill presented to their Lordships by the noble Baron opposite (Lord Dacre), and the second reading of which had been fixed for that evening, was grounded. He should not enter upon a general discussion of his noble friend's Bill then, further than to state the material feature which distinguished it from the Bill of the most rev. Prelate, from which it differed in many essential points. The principle of the Bill of the most rev. Prelate, was that of a temporary composition; while, on the contrary, that of the noble Lord was one of a perpetual commutation. The one introduced a principle of a temporary nature, which could be tested by experience, and the expediency or necessity of carrying which further would be open to Parliament; whereas, the great defect of the noble Lord's Bill was, that it proposed a perpetual commutation, to be effected at once, and for ever, and with regard to which they could not hereafter benefit, by the warnings or lessons of experience. The great recommendation of the Bill of the most rev. Prelate was, that it enabled them to profit by experience, and that hereafter they might, following in the same track, go further, if it should be deemed advisable to do so; or might stop where they had commenced, if it should be found, that they had gone far enough. Now, on the other hand, the Bill of his noble friend proposed a perpetual, and, if he might so say, an out-and-out dealing with the tithes of any particular parish, where it might be introduced. Me should state the difficulties which he felt against giving his consent to such a measure. He did not propose them as objections, he merely stated them 1373 as difficulties; but they were difficulties of such a nature, that until they were removed, he could not give his support to the measure proposed by his noble friend. His noble friend proposed, that where two-thirds of the tithe-payers in a parish should desire that a commutation of the tithes should be effected there, they should apply to the Quarter Sessions, setting forth that desire, and proposing a Commissioner to effect it. A notice of the memorial to the Quarter Sessions must be then served upon the owners of tithes, who were to appoint Commissioners to meet the Commissioners on the other side, and the proceeding was then to be commenced with a view to the effecting the said commutation. The consent of two-thirds of the landowners in the parish was the only thing provided for, as necessary to commence that proceeding. Not a word was contained in his noble friend's Bill with regard to a consent on the part of the incumbent, or patron, or Ordinary, so that neither the local actual occupant, nor the perpetual guardian, the Ordinary, were to be consulted as to whether they would consent to the proposed commutation. By the noble Lord's Bill it was proposed, that the commutation should be made if two-thirds of the tithe-payers in the parish should desire to have it, and the consent of the other parties—namely, the tithe-owners— was left altogether out of the question. Two-thirds of the payers having determined on a commutation, they were to appoint Commissioners, who were to meet Commissioners appointed by the tithe-owners on the other side, and the Bill provided for the appointment of an umpire in case of disagreement between the opposing Commissioners. That was what the Bill of the noble Lord provided to be done, before they proceeded to a valuation, with a view to the carrying into effect the proposed commutation. Now, by such provisions as that, the door was opened to all the consequences arising from negligence and undue influence, and possibly from fraud and improper conduct. The parson who was to appoint the Commissioners to meet the Commissioners appointed by the tithe-payers, might be an imprudent person, or one who did not care much for the concerns of this world. The patron, who might be the principle tithe-payer in the parish, might probably be the said parson's father, or near relation, and having been the individual who had presented him 1374 to the living, he could easily induce him to come into any arrangement which he might propose with regard to the commutation of the tithes. In that way the parson might play into the hands of the patron to the detriment of the interests of the future incumbents of the parish in question. Suppose the case, too, where there was an old incumbent, with one foot in the grave, and suppose the patron or the landowners should say to him, "You receive at present 300l. a year from the parish, we will give you 600l. or 1,000l., and appoint a Commissioner who shall agree with us in valuing the parish at 50l. or 601. a year." Was it not plain, that in such a case the aged incumbent would come into the terms proposed by the tithe-payers, and that he would think it preferable to receive at once 1,000l., which he might leave to his family, to receiving 300l. a year, when it was not probable he would outlive the year? There was another part of the Bill, also, to which he objected, that part which gave the tithe-payers a compulsory power to make a commutation in spite of the incumbent. Having stated these objections to the details of the noble Lord's Bill—objections which it would not be possible to remove in Committee—he should dwell no longer upon them; but he should proceed to the third objection, or difficulty which he felt to the Bill of the noble Lord, and which chiefly respected the great change which the Bill was calculated to make, with regard to the rights of property in future. It might be very proper and fitting, that such an arrangement as that proposed by the noble Lord should be made—it might be very right that they should legislate upon a basis different from that suggested by the most rev. Prelate, and that instead of a temporary composition, a permanent commutation should be effected; it might be right to take into account the interests of the landowners, whose capital would thereby obtain a more beneficial vent, and of the consumers of agricultural produce, upon which tithes operated as a tax, raising the price of that produce, while it diminished the value of employment;—it might, he said, taking into account all those classes, be right and proper that a more permanent system, going beyond that proposed by the most rev. Prelate, should be ultimately discussed and adopted; all that might be right, but he would commit himself to no such proposition. But the Bill pro- 1375 posed by the most rev. Prelate comprised an arrangement to which he was ready at once to give his assent, as he felt convinced that it would go a great way to remedy the evils arising from the mode of collecting tithes. He was sure that it would be admitted by the right rev. Prelates whom he now addressed, that it was as much for the benefit of the Church, and of the religion which was intrusted to their care, as it would be for the benefit of the community, that some such arrangement should be adopted; for he did not think that the wit of man could have devised a mode of paying tithes which was more calculated than the present to alienate the confidence of the people from their pastors, and to create ill-blood between a clergyman and his parishioners, whose good understanding and mutual good feeling it should be the prime intent and paramount object of all ecclesiastical arrangements to establish. But then came the difficulty of supporting the Church in a manner adequate to the energies of the State, and in such a manner as to keep the Church up to that level of exaltation which it should occupy in order to secure the respect of the people, and in order that its income should increase proportionably with the increased income of the country. Hitherto the income of the Church had increased with the increased income of the country; but that would not be the case if the Bill of the noble Lord should be adopted; for then the tithes would be secured to the clergyman in such a way, that his income could not possibly be increased, at the same time that the income of his parishioners might be considerably augmented and increased. Under the existing laws, he must look upon the clergyman and the landowner as joint proprietors in the farm, nine-tenths being the property of the landlord, and the remaining one-tenth as absolutely the property of the parson. The landlord could no more turn round upon the clergyman and deny his right to the one tenth, than could the latter turn upon the landowner and deny his right to the nine-tenths. It was precisely the same case as if a field were divided into ten parts, of which nine were allotted to one of two proprietors, and the tenth were set apart for the other. The owner of the nine-tenths had no right to seize upon the remaining tenth, the property of his neighbour. The farmer, it was true, might assert, that he was entitled to his increased profits from his 1376 land, but that the clergyman was only entitled to his original tenth, which ought to remain the same; but to that assertion the clergyman might justly reply, "You took the land subject to tithes; to nine-tenths of that land's produce you are only entitled, and the remaining one-tenth has been secured to me. You occupy that land as the acting partner, and to you are secured nine-tenths of its profits; while I, to whom the remaining one-tenth is secured, may be designated the sleeping partner." He meant to call the clergyman a sleeping partner only as to agricultural labour. He did not work upon the land, but he laboured elsewhere for the good of the community, which, in return, allotted him a proportion of the produce of the soil. It would, therefore, be a great violation of property, that one of those copartners—the clergyman or the landlord —should oust the other from his possession, without asking his consent. What would be the consequence, if such a law were enacted respecting other co-partnerships?—partners in a commercial property —if one should be allowed to say to the other, "You must go out. You must consent to take stock now, whether you like to do so or not; and, if it be valued at ten thousand pounds, you must take one thousand, and we will take the remaining nine. You shall have the one thousand for yourself, your heirs and assigns, for ever: and then should the value of the property be increased, you shall be shut out for ever from all participation in that increase, the advantage of which shall be altogether ours." But the measure proposed by the right rev. Prelate was not liable to such objections, at least not to the full extent. It contemplated readjustments, regulating the composition according to the variations in the price of agricultural produce. In that way the evil to which he pointed would be somewhat mitigated, if it could not be entirely removed. At the same time he did not see how it was to be secured, that the income of the clergyman should be increased in proportion to the increasing value of the property of his parishioners. The Bill of the noble Baron only provided against the inconvenience which might arise from the fluctuations in the value of money. It was necessary that this subject should be considered and examined. There were various and complicated interests connected with it. Although he saw defects in the 1377 plan of the right rev. Prelate, he was unable at present to suggest a remedy. He was sensible that the mode in which the clergy now received their incomes was open to much objection. As a friend to the agriculture of this country, as a friend to the Established Church, to its welfare, permanence, and peace, and to the important interests committed to its care—for all which it was necessary that a good understanding should subsist between Laity and Ecclesiastics—he should be glad to see his way through the difficulties with which the subject was embarrassed, and which he deeply deplored. He wished to see an arrangement effected in perfect consonance with the principles of justice, having due regard to the rights of the Church, and carefully consulting the interests of all parties. Such an arrangement could only be devised after much deliberation and mutual explanation. That consummation, so devoutly to be wished, might be carried by mutual concession from the parties concerned—none standing too strictly on the letter of their claims. It might have occurred to such of their Lordships as were connected with Scotland, that the measure of his noble friend was like that great measure of commutation which was effected in the reign of Charles 1st. But it was to be remembered, that the circumstances of the times favoured that arrangement of the tithes in Scotland. It was much more easy then to effect such a commutation in Scotland than it would be to bring about a similar measure in England. Every one acquainted with the history of Scotland must know, that the clergy were never other than stipendiary in that country since the Reformation, whereas in England they never were stipendiary. The laws of this country would hold any contract between the incumbent and the patron, for the reservation of any portion of the tithes to the benefit of the latter to be a misdemeanour, and punishable by a penalty. But so far was that from being the case in Scotland, that the law expressly recognised compacts between the patron and the incumbent for the partition of the tithes; and over all Scotland every parson was a stipendiary at the time when the commutation was effected, Now in such circumstances, where the clergy were stipendiary, he could see nothing easier than such a composition, under which the same stipend would be varied, and as well secured as it 1378 was before. The clergyman was certainly a loser, in so far as his income was fixed at 50l. or 51. and remained unchanged, when the value of money had been so much altered since that time. But he would have received no more had the Act of Charles never existed. In some cases the parson received part of the composition in grain, and part in money, and in that respect the arrangement of that day resembled the measure of his right rev. friend. He trusted that he had said enough to show their Lordships, that the rights of the tithe-owner to that species of property was as legal and as complete as that of the landowner to his estate. The misfortune was, that the laws had fixed upon a mode of collecting the tithe-owner's income, which was attended with many and serious inconveniences. By mutual agreement, however, between the parties concerned, an arrangement might, as he had said, be concluded, whereby those evils should be removed, neither party standing too much upon their own claims, or denying pertinaciously the claims of the other. He had thought it his bounden duty, in candour to his noble friend, and in justice to the importance of that difficult, delicate, and complicated question, frankly to state the difficulties which he felt upon the subject, without saying, on the one hand, that this measure was not enough; or, on the other, that no complete measure could be effected.
§ The Earl of Eldon
did not intend to oppose this measure, but to look at its provisions calmly, temperately, and deliberately. It was a difficult thing to attempt to alter the property of the Church in tithes. He would not say, that it was not fit to make that alteration; but he thought it his duty to state to their Lordships, that although he should vote for the second reading of the Bill, yet it was not possible for him to say what vote he might feel obliged to give, after it had gone through the Committee. The recitals of the two Bills differed much from each other. One preamble set forth that it was desirable that Tithe Compositions should be temporary. The other asserted, that it was a great inconvenience to have temporary arrangements of that kind, and that all compositions should be permanent. Now, both Bills could not be right. A great deal had been said of the right of the clergy to their tithes. But the same things might be predicted as well respecting the rights 1379 of the Lay Impropriators to their tithes. He thought it was somewhat dangerous to make distinctions between the rights to different kinds of property. He did not say, that it might not be necessary to make laws which should alter the rights of property; but he thought all such interference should be attempted very cautiously. He would, therefore, beg of their Lordships to look well to these Bills, and consider where those measures were to stop. He would take the liberty to say, that if the Bill were to come out of the Committee in the same state in which it was then, it would be impossible for their Lordships to give their assent to it. There was no law so little understood as the law relating to tithes in this country; and he thought he should be able to show in the Committee, that there was not one clause in those Bills that must not undergo considerable alteration before their Lordships could pass it. According to the present tithe laws of this country, the bill of the most rev. Prelate could not, without being much altered, effect the purposes for which it was intended. He should give his utmost exertion to make the Bill, if it must be passed, such as it ought to be before it became a law. He repeated, that in voting for the second reading of the Bill, and for its committal, he was not pledged to vote for it when it should have come out of the Committee.
The Bishop of London
could not help expressing the satisfaction with which he had heard the able and luminous speech of his noble and learned friend on the Woolsack. His noble and learned friend had placed the right to the property of the Established Church, upon its true basis, in declaring that that property was held by as sacred and legitimate a title, as that by which any of their Lordships held their own territorial possessions. It was necessary, and he deeply regretted that necessity, to take all opportunities of putting this proposition, in all possible shapes before the public. His noble and learned friend had stated, that the right of the clergy to their tithes might be compared to a coparcenary tenancy in a single field, of which one party was entitled to one-tenth, and the other party to nine-tenths; and that there would be just as great injustice in taking away the tenth, as in taking away the nine tenths. There could be no doubt that this was placing the question upon its real footing. Let it be recollected, also, to 1380 whom this tenth, if it were taken away, would go. It would not go to the labouring poor, nor would it be applied in any way that would be beneficial to the public generally; but it would go to the great landed proprietors, and to no one else. It was necessary that this view of the question should be well understood by the public; and he could not omit an opportunity, like that which now presented itself to him, of making this further remark— namely, that the people at large did not contribute any thing at all, or, at least, very little, if any thing at all, to the support of the clergy, with the exception of Easter offerings and surplice fees. It was the landed proprietors who supported the clergy, and upon whose estates the support of the clergy was charged. He was sure that his noble and learned friend would forgive him if he took notice of an expression which had fallen from his noble and learned friend, and which might be misunderstood elsewhere. In demonstrating the ancient and indefeasible right of the Church to tithes, his noble and learned friend had compared the persons interested in the land to partners—one of whom, the clergy, his noble and learned friend had likened to a sleeping partner. His noble and learned friend had, instantly upon using that expression, acquitted himself most satisfactorily of any design to cast a slur upon the clergy—yet, as the expression might, as other perfectly harmless expressions had been, be misrepresented and misinterpreted, he was unwilling that such an expression should go forth from so high an authority unexplained. Could it, he asked, be justly said by any one who desired to misinterpret this expression of his noble and learned friend, that the clergy were sleeping partners in the property of the country? Study not; and he willingly left it to the decision of a candid public, whether the clergy did not perform great and valuable labours for the property they received? Let him be perfectly understood. He laboured under no misapprehension of the meaning of his noble and learned friend; but then others might misunderstand, or pretend to misunderstand, the expression which his noble and learned friend had used, and he thought this a good opportunity of stating, that, in his judgment, no men rendered a more valuable return for what they received than the clergy of the Church of England rendered. Besides, the money which the 1381 clergy received was more generally laid out upon the spot, and a more considerable portion of it bestowed upon deeds of charity and love than the money received by any other class of men. He thought it was important to the welfare of the country, and to the permanence of our institutions, that the rights of the clergy should be maintained, and that everything should be done to secure their residence in the places committed to their charge. With regard to the composition and the commutation of tithes, nothing, he thought, could be added to what had fallen from his noble and learned friend in favour of the one and against the other. If there were to be any commutation, he would rather it should be altogether in land. In fact, he had wished a clause to be added to the Bill of the most rev. Prelate, which should allow the commutation of tithes for land. He could say from his experience, that where the incumbent, the patron, the tithe-payer, and the Ordinary agreed to such an arrangement, it was effected to the satisfaction and the permanent advantage of all parties. He did not see why a clause could not be inserted in the Bill, empowering parties to effect such an arrangement in all cases. With regard to what had fallen from his noble and learned friend upon the subject of the present mode of paying the clergy, he agreed that that mode was an unpopular one. He agreed that since 1640, complaints on this subject had become more prevalent, and that an outcry on the subject had been raised, more or less, since that period, as political discontents had arisen or subsided; for whenever, during the last 150 years, political excitement had taken place, tithes had been one of the first things selected to complain of as a grievance. A clamour had been raised, and all the evils of the country had been attributed to the Established Church, and to that system which had given to this country the most learned and respectable body of clergymen that had ever flourished in any nation. Admitting, as he fully did, all the inconveniences which attached to this mode of payment to the clergy, yet he was convinced that the uncertainty of the law, and the varying and the contradictory decisions of the Courts, were the causes which had contributed most to render this mode of payment so unpopular in this country. He must take this opportunity of expressing a hope, that something would be shortly 1382 done to get rid of this uncertainty of the law—to give the people precise knowledge of what produce was titheable, and what not—and to prevent them from being any longer sent for this information, first into one Court, and then into another—the consequence of which was, that the decision of one Judge was reversed by another, and that which was obscure at first, became still more so by application to the administrators of the law. He was surprised, that this state of the law should have continued so long in this enlightened country. He would only, in conclusion, express his concurrence in the principles of the measure of the most rev. Prelate, reserving himself as to any amendments which might be proposed in the details.
The Lord Chancellor
wished to say one word in explanation. He could assure the right rev. Prelate that he had not used the expression "sleeping partner" invidiously. He had only said, that as far as regarded agriculture—as far as regarded the active cultivation of the land—the clergy might be called sleeping partners; but he immediately added, that in the whole concern they were like to any thing but sleeping partners. He thought there could be no misapprehension as to this expression of his. Suppose, for instance, that he belonged to a great firm—say a joint-stock company—and that all he did in it was to give his advice, taking no active part whatsoever in the business of the firm. In such a case, he should doubtless earn his profits as a partner, but, at the same time, with regard to the business of the firm, he should be a sleeping partner. In this sense, and in no other, had he likened the parson to a sleeping partner in the land.
The Bishop of London
assured his noble and learned friend, that he was under no misunderstanding with regard to the expression, and that he had noticed it only i because that part of his noble and learned | friend's speech was delivered in rather a low tone; and because, for that reason, he was apprehensive that it might not have been correctly heard by others.
§ Bill read a second time.