« EelmineJätka »
prised every possible source of spiritual emolument, exclusive of voluntary contributions, and rents of parsonage-houses, surplice-fees, Easter-offerings, pew-rents, town-assessments, glebes, and tithes : all these are con tained in the gross and nett incomes just given.
These several items, however, are not distinguished in the returns; we cannot, therefore, state exactly what portion of the whole consisted of tithes. The author of
Essays on the Church” is doubtful if the amount of tithes actually collected can much exceed two millions per annum. And he reminds his readers that “the nett income of all the parochial benefices is not composed of tithes merely, but of all the receipts and emoluments, voluntary (?) or legal, which form the whole revenue of the parochial clergy."
As the largest portion of the clerical income is derived from tithes, we shall take them first under consideration. They were generally determined by valuation at the time these returns were made, the incumbents entering into a composition with their parishioners, and receiving money in lieu of tithes. Prescriptive and customary payments were not infrequent, and much vexation was caused by the tax, whatever the mode of levying it. Tithes were distinguished in so many ways, large and small, prædial, personal, and mixed-the customs respecting them were so variable and arbitrary, and some of the particulars subject to the tax yielded so small an amount, that dissatisfaction and annoyance were unavoidable in all transactions respecting them. They were felt, moreover, to be highly injurious to agriculture. “Of all the institutions,” says Paley, “ which tend to its discouragement, by letting in those who have no concern in the improvement to a participation of the profits, none is so noxious as tithes. A claimant here enters into the produce who contributed no assistance whatever to the production. Tithes are a tax, not only upon industry, but upon that industry which feeds mankind; upon that species of exertion which it is the aim of all wise laws to cherish and promote, and to uphold and excite which, composes, as we have seen, the main benefit that the community receives from the whole system of trade and the success of commerce. And,
together with the more general inconveniency that attends the exaction of tithes, there is this additional evil, in the mode at least in which they are collected at present, that they operate as a bounty upon pasturage. The burthen of the tax falls with its chief, if not with its whole, weight upon tillage." Notwithstanding such representations, any attempt to substitute another mode of payment was branded as sacrilegious, and met with the most determined opposition.
The Reform Parliament, however, could not consent to the continuance of such a state of things. The Tithe Commutation Act was passed in August, 1836, but its compulsory provisions did not come into force till after the 1st of October, 1838. “ Its introduction, we again quote the article in the “ Eclectic," principally owing to the constant recurrence of parochial squabbles between the clergy and their parishioners, for the prevention of which the interference of the legislature became necessary. The frequent and unseemly collisions between the clergy and their people were felt to be so discreditable as to render the interposition of Parliament imperative. The Church, in this truly schismatical state, required the authority of Government to compose its troubles and protect its rights, and a restoration to quiet was effected by making some change in the nature of its property. Tithes, which were formerly a tax, became a rent-charge, and payments in kind were exchanged for payments in money. This substitution induced the clergy to reconsider their average incomes, and, owing to the influence of motives the reverse of those which actuated them in preparing the returns of 1834, they ascertained that they were considerably higher than they had then reported."
The following list will give some notion of the discrepancies which exist between the returns of '34 and those of the Tithe Commissioners; and it must be borne in mind that in the former was included every item which formed a part of the clergyman's income, while in the latter we have solely the amount for which the tithe has been commuted :
Nett Income returned in 1834.
829 967 200 613 765 372 634 436 763
96 146 150 309 197
47 627 303 962 1291 715
1173 1150 602 880 929 600 822 687 1076 421 456 392 800 531 220 862 629 1300 1600 900 500 1050
This list might be extended indefinitely. Commentary on it is needless. It would be unjust, however, not to observe that in some cases the rent-charges are less than the sums stated in the previous returns, and that in many the descrepancies are not so glaring.
The Commutation Act embraced all tithes, whether spiritual or lay. Appropriations and impropriations are
comprised in the returns, as well as vicarages and rectories. The Commissioners have not, as yet, so far as we know, furnished any classification of these. Up to the present time, rent-charges have been assigned to the amount of more than £3,900,000; and two years of labour still remain before the work of commutation will be fully completed. It is probable that the whole amount of rent-charge will fall little short of £5,000,000; and as, according to a statement contained in the Clergy List for 1850, rent-charges to the amount of £2,320,000 have already been assigned to the parochial benefices, two millions and a half, or from that to £2,750,000, is the lowest total at which we can estimate the rentcharges which will ultimately be appropriated to the parochial clergy by the Tithe Commutation Act.
Before leaving this part of the subject, it should be observed that the commutation has been effected at considerable cost. A large staff of commissioners, assistant commissioners, secretaries, assistant secretaries, messengers, and other officers, was appointed by the Act, and the salaries of all are paid out of the Consolidated Fund. The principal commissioners, three in number, receive £1,500 a-year each, and the other officers are proportionately remunerated. All have ample allowances for travelling expenses; the cost of meetings, adjournments, taking surveys, &c., has been, in each case, defrayed by the parishioners themselves. The total amount of the expenses incurred we cannot even guess, but no doubt the burden will be heavy. The Commissioners and their staff have already regaled themselves with the emoluments of office during fourteen years.
But there are several kinds of tithe, and moneypayments in lieu of tithe, which are expressly exempted from the operation of the statute by its 90th clause. There are tithes on fishing and mills, mineral tithes, city and town assessments, and rent-charges fixed by commutations under private acts. In London, a fixed money-payment is, by 22 and 23 Car. II. c. 15, substituted for tithes; and as, in addition to the minor sources of income we have specified, there is a large number of benefices in which the tithes had been previously commuted, and which do not appear in the Commissioners' Report, we shall probably be within the mark in estimating the sums arising from these sources at £650,000.
The incomes of the parochial clergy are still further augmented by surplice fees and Easter offerings. It was formerly usual to present the clergy with gifts at the church festivals, and on the occasions of baptisms, marriages, and burials. These oblations soon felt the transmutative power of imperial custom, and from being optional became compulsory. There are no official returns respecting them extant, with the exception of one presented to the House of Commons in February, 1834, which related only to the metropolitan and a few neighbouring parishes. From this we learn the various charges made for registration of baptisms, marriages by license or by banns, burials with or without desk service, churching of women, searching the registers, and for permission to make extracts therefrom. In each of these cases there are generally four persons to pay the rector, church warden, clerk, and sexton. The marriage and mortuary fees are the most lucrative. The amount of the latter must be considerable, otherwise the late attempts to abolish intramural burials would not have aroused such strenuous opposition on the part of the metropolitan incumbents and those of other large towns. The contents of the return may be judged from the following extract:
£ 8. d. 219 4 6 172 2 0 219 0 11 60 1 0
£ 8. d. 219 4 6 261 8 0 333 1 11 98 11 0
£ 8. d. £ 8. d.
The amount of the surplice-fees has generally been reckoned at half-a-million, and that computation must be regarded as moderate, when we consider the number of births, deaths, and marriages, which occur in our population, the monopoly of spiritual offices in connexion with them enjoyed by the Church, and the high rate of fees which has been exacted for such services.
Then there are pew-rents, which the Commissioners