§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
rose, for the purpose of moving the second reading of a Bill for the Commutation of Tithes in England and Wales—a Bill which he ventured to state was only inferior in importance to that great measure to which their Lordships had given their assent two years ago, and of which they were now beginning to reap the benefits—he meant the measure which had been introduced for the purpose of doing away with that accumulation of abuses which, under the old system of Poor-laws, had taken root in the country, and which were now commencing to be eradicated by that improved system which his Majesty's Ministers had introduced, and their Lordships had sanctioned. This Bill, then, being only inferior in importance to that which his Majesty's Government had introduced for the amendment of the Poor-laws, and being as closely connected as that Bill was with the industry and resources of the country, he felt that it was necessary for him to claim more than the usual indulgence of 1292 their Lordships whilst he endeavoured to explain and render intelligible to them the principles on which it was founded, and the details by which it was to be carried into execution. Fortunately, it would not be necessary for him to enter into any discussion or inquiry as to the antiquity and origin of that species of property to which this Bill related, and which some persons said was to be found in ages long anterior to the existence of Christianity. Neither would it be necessary for him to trace the progress of that species of property, nor of the events, which, sometimes by legal, and sometimes by illegal, means, had altered its condition and its character. It might, however, be necessary for him to observe in the outset—and all history con firmed the observation—that this species of property, though liable to little objection in its early origin, had, as civilization increased, and as ingenuity was applied to the cultivation of land, and as capital was brought more and more into action, become more and more objectionable, and more and more liable to the imputation of operating as a check on the free developement of industry, with which the prosperity of every country was deeply and constantly connected. Even in this country, various individuals, and various bodies of individuals have availed themselves sometimes of the sanction of the law, sometimes of various contrivances in evasion of the law, to throw this burthen off their landed property? To what extent this had been done it was impossible for him to state, nor should he endeavour to make any calculation on the subject; suffice it to say, that in any Bill which was introduced to remedy the evils of the tithe-system, of which they heard so many complaints, it would be necessary to make provision to guard that property which in any way had been freed from the operation of that liability which applied to the great mass of property in the country, namely, the payment of tithes sometimes in kind, and sometimes in the shape of composition. Discarding all reference to the past history of tithes, and to the condition of the property in them, in other parts of the world —it was with reference to the condition in this country that their Lordships were called upon to deal with tithes, and to apply the remedies which he was about to state were proposed. Setting out from that point he would proceed, in as few words as possible', to detail the different 1293 steps that had been taken in attempting to attain the object in view. If noble Lords were of opinion that it was practicable to effect a change in this species of property which was affected by so many peculiar circumstances, grafted on it by various events, by the application of one uniform principle to all the different kinds of property of this nature —if noble Lords entertained such a hope or expectation, they must be disappointed. It was not in the nature of things, when there were so many interests mixed up, where the habits and feelings, and the prejudices, and the good and bad inducements of so many persons had been so long involved, that it was possible to legislate on one uniform principle with perfect justice to all. Their hope would be disappointed if they expected to attain this great good by the adoption of one principle sound in itself and beneficial for the security of property. It was in conformity with the feelings which he had attempted to describe that the pre sent measure was proposed. He would now merely attempt to explain as shortly as possible the various clauses of the Bill. The first clauses—about twelve in number —of this Bill, as the noble Lords would find, applied to that which was necessarily the foundation of what was intended to work out the measure—he meant the appointment of Commissioners. It was pro posed, that of the Commissioners to be appointed, two of the number should be named by the Government—that was, by the Secretary of State for the Home Department; and one should be named by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and that all these Commissioners should be removable at pleasure. The Commissioners were authorised to appoint Assistant Commissioners: he stated that at the outset. When these Commissioners were appoint ed, the first object the Bill contemplated was, that as much of the change as possible should be effected by voluntary commutation. The Bill afforded every facility to parties voluntarily disposed to act according to the principles of the Bill, and to effect a satisfactory arrangement between themselves. It was proposed, therefore, that in every parish, any one or more of the land-owners, or tithe-owners, whose interest shall not be less than one-fourth part of the whole value of the lands subject to tithes, or one-fourth part of the whole value of the tithes of any parish, may call a parochial meeting of land-owners and tithe-owners within the limits of the 1294 parish, for the purpose of making an agreement for the general commutation of tithes within the limits of such parish. This first step being taken, the meeting being called, the land-owners and the tithe-owners respectively, whose interests in the land and tithes of the parish shall not be less than two-thirds of the land, subject to tithes, and two-thirds of the great and two-thirds of the small tithes of the parish, would be invited to see whether they can not come to an agreement to fix the amount of tithes, and for the payment of an annual sum, by way of rent-charge for the future, in lieu of the payment of tithes. Supposing this to be effected, it would only require the sanction of the Commissioners to make a permanent settlement. When engaged in making a permanent settlement, and when the amount proposed was agreed on, there might arise, and arise justly, reasons why the specific amount thus stated should be waived, and be settled again by the Commissioners. After the sum to be paid had been agreed upon by three-fourths of the tithe-owners and the tithe-payers, it would be for the tithe-payers to meet and settle in what proportion each individual must contribute to the amount determined on to be paid by the whole of the parishioners. So far they proceeded when there was nothing but a voluntary agreement. But cases might and would occur in which the land-owners and the tithe owners agreed as to the amount to be paid by the whole of the parishioners, but they might not be able to agree as to the specific amount to be paid by each tithe-payer. The Bill made provision for this, and directed the appointment of valuers for the purpose. It was proposed that the valuers, through whom this appointment was to be made, were to be nominated thus: half of the number of valuers in a parish, to be chosen by a majority of the tithe-payers in respect of number, and the other half by a majority in respect of interest of such land-owners then present. Supposing, however, that after a period of three months no such valuers were appointed, the compulsory part of the Bill would come into operation. He might be permitted to observe that it was possible that some noble Lords might think that this period of three months was too short a time, and indeed he rather entertained this opinion himself; he should have no objection to extend the time from three to six months. After some time then the Commissioners would appoint valuers, who would make an apportionment for the payment according to 1295 rules laid down in this Act. This was the first application of the compulsory principle; but the Bill then went on to frame regulations for the commutation of tithes, when the parties could not agree as to the whole amount to be paid. The Bill then enacted, that after the first of October, 1837, if no steps were taken by the parishioners and the tithe-owners to fix on a certain sum to be paid by the former as a commutation, that the Com missioners should come into the parish and ascertain the total value of the tithes, and award the sum to be paid as a rent-charge in lieu of them. The sum to he thus charged was to be calculated in this way, and it was the most important and most stringent part of the measure. The Commissioners would meet and form an estimate in this way. They must look at what had been the amount of composition collected on tithes in the parish during a period of seven years, and strike an average founded on the amount of com position for tithes actually paid; they should then award that the average value paid during the seven years should be taken as the actual amount to be paid as a rent charge as a permanent composition for tithes in such parish. This was to be acted upon, and not otherwise, if the tithe owners and tithe-payers could not fix on the just amount of tithes that should be paid. The Commissioners, in extreme cases, were empowered to modify the principle, and were to have power in making a calculation of the great or small tithes in a parish to diminish or increase the sum to be so taken by a sum not amounting to more than one-fifth part of the average value ascertained; subject then to this addition or subtraction, the amount of tithes to be paid was fixed and settled by the Commissioners. He had now arrived at that part of the Bill by which it pro vided that either by voluntary or compulsory commutation all lands in the country, except tithe-free lands, must become subject to a certain principle. It was necessary, in justice and equity, that the payments should fluctuate as to the value of the produce. This limit and fluctuation was to be provided for in the manner he was about to state. They were to get a fixed money payment to be stated in a quantity of corn; for instance, if they fixed a money payment of 300l, it should be so stated as to be at once translatable into so many quarters of wheat, so many quarters of barley, and so many quarters of oats, in equal proportions. They would 1296 thus get fixed for a rent-charge on the payment of a certain quantity of wheat, barley, or oats. This would regulate the money payment from year to year. They assumed as data on which to calculate the average price of wheat, barley, and oats for the seven years terminating at Christmas, 1835. By fixing on this period they would prevent all manœuvring to raise or lower the price of corn during the period while this Bill was in progress. In making the calculation for any particular place one of these seven years would be thrown out, and the additional year thrown in. By the addition of this one year, and by the subtraction of the other, the variations in the prices of wheat, barley, and oats would be allowed for sufficiently to meet any fluctuations that might be likely to arise. Many ingenious schemes had been started with a view to have the rent-charge made on a different principle. Among others a gentleman, well known to many noble Lords, Mr. Andrew Knight, president of the Horticultural Society, as well as other gentlemen, had thought it better that the price of wheat alone should be taken as an element to calculate the rent-charge on, instead of taking it jointly with the prices of barley and oats. He thought that by either of these means the object could be obtained, but not in such a satisfactory manner as by taking the prices of other grain as well as wheat. If they took wheat alone, it would be found that it fluctuated more in its price than other descriptions of grain, although no doubt the price of other grain was influenced by the price of wheat. He thought if noble Lords would attentively look into the subject they would see that by taking the average price of three descriptions of grain the fluctuation would be less. These were the reasons, then, for proposing to take the three qualities in stead of one. Lender the opinions he had stated they had brought forward the mea sure, and they hoped to obtain a money payment, either by voluntary or compulsory means, and this payment was only liable to the fluctuations arising from transferring it into a payment depending on the price of three descriptions of produce. The amount, then, would be fixed for such payment by the tithe-payer, and he trusted in a way that would be satisfactory to all classes. This, then, was the outline of the measure, but, like all general measures, it could not be expected that it would satisfy the wants of every particular case. He might be told that it would have been better to take the actual amount of com- 1297 position in payment in each case; but he thought it would be both impolitic and unjust to exclude the variation of the one fifth part of the average value, which it was proposed by the Bill the Commissioners should have the power to deal with, either by increasing or diminishing the sum taken in the amount of the composition. By this means they would allow for the peculiar circumstances of each case, as well as for the habit of the individual tithe-receivers both in those cases where less has been paid than should have been, and where more had been exacted than should have been paid. This might not meet the particular justice of each case, but it would afford substantial justice, and it would prevent the measure operating severely in many instances. If the animosities and ill-feelings which the present system created could be set at rest by this Bill, and if, above all, the springs of industry could be set free, and the farmers of this country knew that when they paid the rent-charge proposed to be fixed, that no further imposts could be fixed on them for any improvement they might adopt, or increase they might obtain to their pro duce, great good would be effected. Every inducement would be held out to employ capital on the land when it was known that under this Bill the owners of it would have nothing to fear in consequence of their enterprise. If this could be accomplished, and a uniform system of law throughout the country could be adopted, incalculable good would be done. He felt that this Act, combined with others now in operation, would contribute to invigorate the springs of industry in the country, and would tend materially to increase the property and to promote the well-being of all classes, and, above all, of the inhabit ants of the agricultural districts. He had endeavoured to avoid going into detail on this stage of the Bill, but he hoped he had succeeded in making their Lordships acquainted with its principles and he should be happy now or at any future period to give any further explanations that might be required. He trusted that he had said enough to induce the House to adopt the general principles of the Bill, and to go into Committee with a view of completing it, so that it might answer the end pro posed. He begged leave to move, that the Bill be read a second time.
The Earl of Mansfield
considered that this was a subject of great importance, and therefore felt a most anxious hope 1298 that it would now be finally settled. It was impossible for him, as a native of Scotland, to have seen the administration of the poor-laws of that country without wishing to see that better administration of the poor-laws of England, which was now happily in operation. It was also impossible for him, as a native of Scotland, to have seen the benefit of the substitution for tithes in that country, without wishing a similar benefit to be extended to Eng land, although the circumstances of the two countries were very different, and there were great difficulties in the way which required to be obviated. Though he admitted tithe to be a burden, and a burden of an oppressive nature, he could not help thinking that some exaggeration prevailed on the subject, and that it had not interfered so much with agricultural improvement as was generally supposed. He was happy, however, to find that the House was at length engaged in the discussion of this measure. There was one body of men affected by it, who during its consideration had shown great moderation, —he meant the clergy, who had left the matter without a word to the discretion of Parliament. He believed that neither that nor the other House of Parliament would ever neglect the interests of any party who confided in them. In legislating on the subject of tithe, he considered it to be of great advantage that the right to this property was fully acknowledged. The lay-impropriators and the clergy were both interested in this Bill. With regard to the tithe belonging to the first, he had every reason to believe that it was rigidly exacted, whereas, so far as the clergy were concerned, he was informed that they seldom received and seldom exacted the amount due to them. He hoped that, under such circumstances, care would be taken that their moderation in the collection of their dues would not turn out to their disadvantage. He hoped that an accurate valuation would be made, not of the amount of tithe which they had received during the last seven years, but of the amount to which they were entitled. The noble Earl, who was very indistinctly heard in the gallery, was then understood to say that he never should have considered this Bill final and satisfactory if it had not contained a compulsory clause for the Commutation of Tithes. There were, however, some subjects on which he considered the conversion of 1299 tithe into a rent-charge had not gone far enough: for instance, take the case of land, now barren and unproductive, being brought into cultivation. Now there was no arrangement in this Bill by which the tithe-owner would derive any value from that land being so brought into cultivation. But under the present system he would have a good right and title to tithe upon it. He admitted, that to a certain extent tithes prevented barren lands from being brought into tillage; but still it ought not to be forgotten that the formation of new roads and the creation of new lines of communication often rendered land valuable for cultivation which before was un profitable from the want or distance of markets. Within his knowledge, during the last fifteen years, a great quantity of land had, under these circumstances, been brought into cultivation in Scotland in the face of the sinking prices of agricultural produce. Now, he wished to know whether his Majesty's Government in tended to prevent the tithe-owner from having the benefit of this conversion of non-productive into productive land? In cases of inclosure the clergyman at pre sent received a compensation for his tithe in a certain portion of the land inclosed. Was he to be deprived of that compensation in future? There was also another point, to which the noble Marquess had not alluded, and on which he wished to obtain information. That point had reference to land which at different times was cultivated for different purposes. It appeared to him that provision was made for the change of culture of hop-grounds and market-gardens. For such lands there was to be an ordinary charge and an extraordinary charge. For instance, when those lands ceased to be hop-grounds and market-gardens, the apportionment made upon them was to be the same as the ordinary charge upon other land in the same parish, but whilst they were under culture for hops, &c, then an extraordinary charge was to be levied, which was to cease as soon as they lapsed back into ordinary culture. He thought that the principle of that clause ought to be carried further. For instance, a parish might be partly in grass, and partly in cultivation. By this Bill the clergyman would have his tithe fixed permanently on the part in cultivation, whilst on the part in grass he would only be receiving a small modus. Now, supposing this grass land to be taken 1300 into cultivation, why was not the tithe owner to have the benefit of tithe hereafter on that land? According to the arrangements now in force in Scotland, this ad vantage, of which the clergyman ought not to be deprived, might easily be pre served to him. He threw these points out for consideration in the Committee. He would not detain their Lordships with further comments on the principles and details of the Bill. He should be much disappointed if his noble Friends, who were in hostility to his Majesty's Ministers on account of the policy which they pursued in the administration of our foreign and domestic affairs, did not give them as much support and assistance as their firmest adherents would give them in carrying this measure, which in his opinion was calculated for the advantage of the public, and was fortunately not fettered to any abstract resolution, to which they could not agree without an abandonment of principle. Lord Dacre was disposed to give to this Bill, with an exception for some of its clauses, his most cordial support, but he was inclined to think that some more general principle, applicable to all sorts of land, might have been adopted by the framers of the Bill. An arrangement of that kind had taken place in several parishes in the north of England, where it had been found equally profitable both to the tithe-owner and to the tithe-payer. He appealed to the noble Earl (Mansfield) whether it had not also been serviceable in Scotland. By the plan he alluded to, the tithe was settled in proportion to the rent. He believed that there were now 4,000 parishes in England in which a composition for tithes upon such an arrangement had been effected. It was curious, in looking through the documents on this subject, to find that when these commutations commenced, in 1756 or 1757, the proportion allotted to the clergyman for his tithe was not more than one-seventh, that it then became one-fifth, and latterly one-fourth of the rent. Lord Althorp had moved for a return of the amount of the rent and of the tithe compounded for in the different parishes of England. He had got that return for fourteen counties in England, and that return proved, that in the parishes of those counties in which tithes had been compounded the amount paid as composition of tithe was 532,5761., whilst the tithe of the same parishes, taken in proportion to the rent, would have 1301 amounted to 547,5592., so that upon half a million there was not more than a difference of 15.000l. between the tithe-com position and the amount which would have been paid according to his system. He thought, nevertheless, that this Bill would effect great good. It consisted of three parts. The first was to ascertain the amount of tithe paid as composition and in kind. The second was to ascertain the proportions to be paid parochially by the land-owners of the different parishes, the proportions to be paid by them individually after each parochial proportion was settled, and then the manner in which the valuers were to be appointed and the valuation determined. The third point to which he wished to direct their attention was, how far it was possible to ascertain the amount of the gross tithes during the period of seven years. If the Commissioners were to take the positive actual rates collected by the tithe-gatherers, without any regard had to the fertility or state of cultivation of the land, they might in many instances work the greatest in justice. Land which now paid a high rent might be converted into poor land, if it were held by a tenant who had not money to lay out in improving it; and in the same manner poor land might be converted into rich land, while it was in the temporary occupancy of a man of capital. But was the value of the tithe yielded by the poorer soil, because it might give a large amount in any particular year, to be taken as equal to the tithe which would be de rived from' rich land yielding a large amount in perpetuity? Though prices might fall, the rich land would still yield a large amount, but capital would be with drawn from the poor land which would in consequence yield a very inconsiderable sum. He therefore contended, that unless the Commissioners were to take the gross amount of tithe parochially, regard being had to the inherent productive fertility of the land, great injustice would be the consequence in many cases. But this evil might be remedied by introducing in that part of the Bill which he was considering the very words introduced in an other part of it, applicable to the valuers in parishes, after the amount of gross tithe should be fixed. After that amount was fixed, valuers were to be appointed who were to determine what proportion of the gross tithe was to be paid by individuals in the parish; having regard to the value of the land. Suppose they should find 1302 that half the parish had been enclosed seven years ago. The valuers must pro duce the gross amount of tithe from the parish at which it had been rated by the Commissioners, and in order to make up that sum, they would be obliged to assign an enormous proportion to that part of the parish which had been longer in cultivation. It was absolutely necessary, in order to avoid similar cases of injustice, that the Commissioners, as well as the valuers, must have regard in making their calculations to the circumstances of the land, and to its natural productive value, and not alone to the mere gross amount of tithe received and collected during the last seven years. It might be contended that the 35th Clause of the Bill, as applicable to extreme cases, would meet such an instance as that which he had supposed, but he contended that under this Bill similar instances would arise in almost every case. It was impossible to proceed with the Bill in its present shape, containing two antagonist principles on which the valuers and Commissioners were to regulate their proceedings. He was not sure whether, under the 35th Clause, the Commissioners would have power to intro duce the quality of the land as an element of their calculations, even if they saw the urgent necessity of it; but he was quite certain that, without some such amendment as he had suggested, no general principle could be found applicable to every case; but he was prepared to say that with such an amendment he believed that the Bill would be productive of all the benefits which his noble Friend anticipated from it.
§ Lord Ashburton
said, that in consequence of his responsibility with regard to a mea sure that had been prepared upon this subject during the brief duration of the last Administration, he felt anxious to offer a few observations to the House. Upon this as well as upon that other great subject to which the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had alluded—he meant the laws for the regulation and maintenance of the poor—it was at least a source of gratification to know that they were divested of all party feelings—and that the country would have the benefit of their best and calmest consideration. Several Bills in reference to this matter had been brought in by the noble Earl (Earl Spencer) formerly Chancellor of the Exchequer; and as they went on in the course of legislation experience had proved the extreme difficulties of the case. There could be no 1303 doubt that the proposal for bringing the tithes to a percentage upon rent was desirable, if it could be effected; but by the present Bill a gross injustice might be done, if there were afterwards any tampering with the currency, as it was called. Any alteration in the value of money would materially affect the commutation, as proposed by the present Bill; whereas such an evil would not arise in the case of a percentage upon rent, because the rent of land must necessarily adjust itself to the value of money. He merely mentioned that to explain why, if it could be done, he thought it desirable to bring the tithe to the proportion of the rent, it was said, under this system there would be no contention; but there would bean annual adjustment between the parties. But these were only matters of detail, and he was sure every one must be ready to make a sacrifice of even considerable difficulties, when they found a scheme which seemed upon the whole so likely to afford effectual justice to the parties. Upon the different clauses it would now be improper to trouble their Lordships with any observations; but, in point of principle, he most certainly did wish that further time should be given for the voluntary settlement of the question. He thought the time was too short; he did not allude to the time allowed for apportionment, but to the time previous to the general valuation. The time assigned by the Bill was October, 1837; until then parties were left to enter into an amicable arrangement, but if then none such had been completed, the Commissioners were empowered to step in, and to proceed to make a valuation, and to effect a compulsory commutation, Of the large powers vested in the Commissioners he should not complain, for he conceived that it was only by leaving a wide discretion in their hands that any fair and equitable valuation could be procured. And when he considered the extent of the interests submitted to those who would act as Commissioners, and the difficulties with which the question was surrounded, he thought his Majesty's Government had done right in leaving their powers, great as they were, unrestricted. Their office would be a most laborious one, and one which should only be held by per sons in whom the confidence of the country would be entire. The Bill which it had been the intention of the last Government to introduce had been entirely based upon the principle of voluntary adjustment; but is was also held out as a stimulus to quicken the parties in taking the necessary 1304 steps, that it was probable that Parliament would at a future time interfere to force upon them a compulsory system. He did not know whether the present plan was not as good, perhaps better, than their own, as it prompted the parties to a speedy adjustment, by providing at once a plan of compulsory commutation; so that not only was notice" given that the Legislature would interfere, but, in point of fact, the compulsory enactment was there. The only question then, was, whether that limit of time to which he had already alluded was not too short; and that suggestion was the more worthy of attention when it was considered how much was to be done before the Commission could possibly come fully into operation. There would be some time before the appointment of the Commissioners; some time also would be required before those Commissioners, in a matter so complicated, could settle their plan of proceedings; then, before they could have selected their agents in all parts of the kingdom, some very considerable time would also have elapsed. After they had reached the parishes three weeks' notice must be given; then possible disputes about moduses might arise; and in point of fact, there would be a variety of particulars which, with every possible diligence, must delay the full operation of the Commission for a considerable period. He therefore should suggest, when the Bill was in Committee, whether some additional time—say one or even two years—should not be allowed for parties to come to an agreement of themselves. He was rather more anxious for time because, though the measure had been much discussed, he would venture to say, that much time must elapse before the farmers could be thoroughly acquainted with the whole bearing of the Bill, in what position they stood, and what were the inducements which it held out to them to come to some amicable result. Upon the general principle he must express his decided, approbation, though in any mea sure of this description nothing could be more easy than to find objections. It un doubtedly was desirable to apportion the tithe, not in reference to any particular time, but to the quality of the land; because, according to the present proposition, poor land, with an intelligent and active farmer, might produce large tithes; whereas, on the contrary, the finest land with a slovenly farmer, would only produce very small tithes. As to the cases of an increase in the fertility of land, he was inclined, to think that legislation upon, that 1305 point must fail; and as to the loss of tithes which the Church would thereby suffer he was confident that the liberality with which the subject had been generally regarded by the clergy would be extended to that part. This Bill, however, had another similar, though, perhaps, somewhat more serious tendency with regard to the landowners; for according to its pro visions, the land that decreased in fertility would be pledged permanently for tithes, and that appeared to him much more serious to the interests of the landowners than the loss of tithes by the increase of fertility could be to the clergy. He was most happy to see, and he was sure the country would be most glad to learn, that a measure of that kind, and which had been so long expected, had reached to so advanced a stage. The difficulties being so great, he thought that it would be rather a surprise to the farmer to find that Parliament had over come them; and, therefore, he was of opinion, that full time should be allowed.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
said, he had heard the statements and opinions of noble Lords on the other side of the House with great satisfaction, because, whilst the measure was entertained in that spirit, there was every reason to expect that it would lead to a satisfactory adjustment, an adjustment which, while it relieved the land from the pressure of tithes would at the same time secure to the clergyman the enjoyment of his rights. He had shown his sense of this subject by the attempts which he had frequently made to bring about an adjustment on different principles. The object which in the first instance he had endeavoured to attain was a composition for tithes founded upon the basis of a permanent commutation; when that composition had lasted twenty years, if it should be found to act justly and satisfactorily, and answer all the purposes of a composition, then that which was only temporary might be made permanent. He felt so strongly opposed to a compulsory commutation that he had wished to have framed some plan; but he did not possess sufficient knowledge of the subject to carry that desire into execution. With respect to the measure then before the House, he fairly confessed that he saw much in it that was highly satisfactory; he thought it was liable to fewer objections than he could have supposed was possible with regard to any measure upon this difficult and complicated subject. He 1306 was inclined to express a high opinion of the Bill as a whole: but, standing in the situation in which he did with respect to the Church, he felt that he could not pledge himself to the support of any measure which might possibly be generally unpalateable to the great body of the Clergy, The Bill, it was true, had under gone considerable discussion in Parliament, but still the great body of clergy and tithe holders in the kingdom had had but little opportunity of knowing clearly what the principle of the Bill was. It was to be remarked that there had been a large departure from the original proposal, the whole principle of the Bill had been altered—perhaps for the better; but upon that point he was not then inclined to enter. He should, however, be glad to see the Bill go into Committee, when the several parts would undergo full discussion, and he was confident that the only desire of their Lordships was to do justice to all parties. He was unwilling to detain the House upon any matters of detail, but at the same time there were one or two points upon which it was necessary that he should say a few words. With respect to waste and barren lands, which might be brought into cultivation, and for which no provision was made, he agreed in what had been said by the noble Lord opposite, that to give to the clergy tithes upon such land would be to prevent the object of the Bill, by throwing an obstacle in the way of the expenditure of capital; but he did not see why the same step could not be taken for the clergy as had been adopted in another instance; why a part of that land should not be separated for the use of the clergyman; the cultivation of the land could not be injured by giving to the clergy a portion of it; the property would of course be diminished but the cultivation would not be impeded. In regard to the lands subject to modus, he was of opinion the Bill would require considerable alteration in Committee. There were some lands which payed no tithes when in the possession of the owner but did pay tithes when let, and in the hands of the tenant; and there were some very considerable districts subject to that law: in fact the whole property which formerly belonged to the Cistercian order. Another point to which the noble Lord Dacre on the other side of the House had referred, with a great appearance of justice and equity, was as to the tithes 1307 being valued in proportion to the rent, and when the question should be fully discussed he should have no hesitation in saying that the tithe ought to be taken in proportion to the rent. It was fairly acknowledged by that noble Lord that in lands highly cultivated, the tithe, being proportioned to the rent might in some instances be oppressive; and though that might be the case the very fact of high cultivation, however strong the argument might at first appear, showed that it did not operate with a bad effect; for who was it that suffered by tithes? The tenant who had but small means. The tenant who was enabled to make a large, outlay of capital obtained a large crop, and then he was able to pay large tithes; and yet when the produce of corn was very great they would frequently see a small proportion of tithe for that land. What he apprehended was, that great injustice would be done thereby to existing interests; for what effect could a composition entirely upon the natural productive ness of the land have but to lower the receipts to an extent which to the poor tithe-owners must be ruinous? Again, who could venture to say, in a country so increasing in riches, so prosperous as this country was at the present time, bringing capital to all sorts of speculations, some disadvantageous, some successful, that the same spirit of expenditure which had occasioned the present high state of cultivation would not last, at least, as long as the wealth of the country? He could see no reason for turning over that pro portion of rent to the land-owner instead of the tithe-owner. He was afraid that it would be almost impossible to extend the noble Lord' s principle to the value of tithes at present. He was afraid, also, he had already trespassed too long on their Lordships' attention. He would now only add, that, according to his present feeling, he could but consider the measure as very beneficial. Certainly, some amendments appeared to him necessary, to which he trusted there would be no great objection, and which had been suggested, and which would be received, he was sure, by the noble Lords also, only in the spirit of conciliation, and from the desire of improving the Bill. But, in justice also to the noble Lords who had brought forward the mea sure, he was bound to say, that the country was much indebted to them for the full attention which they had given to the 1308 question, and especially as the result had been a Bill as little liable to objection as could be well framed upon a subject involved in so many difficulties.
§ Lord Wynford
entirely concurred in the principle of the Bill, which was certainly the best that had yet been brought for ward. As to what had fallen from some noble Lords, he was, for his own part, convinced that the most practical mode of valuation was to take the produce of the last seven years, without regard to the rent, as proposed by the Bill. The probability now was, that more land would go out of cultivation than advance. It appeared to him that the cultivation of the land was at the highest, and would, from this time, begin to go down, so that, instead of suffering any loss, the tithe-owners would, in fact, be great gainers. The object, however, of his rising was to obtain from the noble Marquess opposite an explanation of the words "extreme cases" introduced into Clause 35. He concurred in the propriety of giving great power to the Commissioners under the Bill; but he thought that it might tend to secure the just exercise of that power, if the right of appeal from their decisions were given in certain cases. He thought the powers granted to them under the 35th Clause were enormous, and there was no definition of the cases in which those powers might be exercised. He had other objections to the details of the measure, but none affecting the principle of the Bill, of which he highly approved.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
rose merely for the purpose of satisfying the noble and learned Lord as to the import of the 35th Clause. He thought it would be found that the word "extreme," though by some accident it had crept into the margin, did not occur in the enacting part of the clause. The discretionary power which the Com missioners might exercise, was founded on an application which might be made by a portion of the land-owners, stating that the value of the land was not fairly represented. Upon that application, the Com missioners would have the power of altering the amount of the tithe, in the pro portion of one-fifth, not more one way or the other. They would be required, how ever, in the first place, to report the grounds of their decision to the Secretary of State, who would lay them before Parliament. With regard to the time to be allowed for coming to a voluntary agreement, it would be a matter for their Lordships' consideration; if it should appear to any 1309 considerable number of them, that the ex tension of the period for one year, and the substitution of 1838 for 1837, would give a larger latitude to the application of the voluntary principle, and greater facilities for carrying it into effect, he should not entertain any decided objection to it.
§ Bill read a second time.