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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14

Nature of the Ecclesiastical Revenues

Nature of the Ecclesiastical Revenues.

Tithes—the tenth part of all increase from land—devoted to religious purposes—estimated to produce over four millions per annum. These form no part of the Constitution: their payment not being enacted by any constitutional law of King, Lords, and Commons. According to Blackstone, the first written mention of them is in A.D. 786, when their payment was recommended by a Synod. Next in the Code of Agreement between Alfred and the Danes in A.D. 900, a penalty is imposed for the non-payment of tithe. Even thereafter and up to A.D. 1200, persons could give their tithe to what priests they pleased. On the division of Dioceses into Parishes the Tithe Revenues were divided into four portions—
1.For the use of the Bishop. (This was abolished when the Sees became thereafter more amply endowed from other sources.)
2.To maintain the Fabric of the Church.
3.The portion of the Poor.
4.To pay the Priest. (This was in lieu of all perquisites, no surplice fees, but free marriages, christenings, and burials!)

It is thus seen that the poor have equal right with the clergy to the benefit of Parochial Tithes—their claim now amounting to a full third—and it is time more were heard of this from the payers of Poor Rate and the Parliamentary advocates of aid to Local Taxation. At present these Tithe Revenues of £4,054,000 a year are collected by some 11,784 clergymen of one church, who thus receive an average benefit of £342 each.

Appropriate Tithes.—The Norman monks originated the practice of "appropriating" benefices. Finding that a very small portion of the tithe income of each parish sufficed to keep an officiating priest, they begged and bought, for masses and money, all the advowsons possible. These becoming common property, the monastery received the full tithes of each living, and after paying one of its own fraternity a small stipend to perform the requisite services, had a more or less rich balance over for the acquisition of further lands, benefices, &c. It is easy to account for the enormous accumulations of these religious houses, a subject that will be found elsewhere dealt with (p. 152). They had appropriated in 300 years one-third of all the benefices in the kingdom, and those the richest of all. The remnants of these appropriations are still found where Colleges, Universities, Chapters, Bishops, &c., have presentations to benefices, and allow only part of the tithe to the Vicar.

Impropriate Tithes.—Henry VIII. having seized all the property and revenues of the monks endowed a few Colleges and Bishoprics, and gave away slices to all his Court favourites. Abbey Lands, with tithes and benefices attached, thus came into the possession of laymen amongst others, and these, tainted with sacrilege, are termed Impropriators, because the tithes owned by them are improperly diverted from religious page 151 uses. There were 3,845 of these lay impropriations, and they still take a million a year of public money. Bad enough that the poor should have been robbed of their third part of all tithes, but worse that both poor and church and parson should be robbed for the benefit of squires of the parishes or lords of the manors.

Commuted Tithes.—Under the Act of 1836 the mode of collection and assessment of the Tithes was altered, and a fixed Rent-Charge was imposed in lieu of an annual or periodical collection of tenth sheaves, tenth pigs, tenth day milkings, and a horde of minor plagues which the rising enlightenment of oar people could not brook. It must not be forgotten, however, that the Tithe is there, all the same, hidden under a specious name, for, as Mr. Miall pointed out, "the adoption of the term Rent-Charge materially contributes to the spread of the notion that these payments to the Clergy are analagous to the Rent-Charges voluntarily imposed by individuals on their landed Estates." A farther remark of the same able writer is worthy of note, viz., that whereas the Tithe Act of Edward VI. brought reclaimed wastes under contribution, and three-fourths of all the now cultivated land in the Kingdom then lay waste, the idea of lay liberality in the matter of Tithe grants flies to the winds. Since 1836, then, the increment of tithe (at least £2,000,000 a year) has been stopped, and the land having risen 50 per cent, in value and more, all that immense fund which would have accrued to the public (through the Church) has gone into the pockets of the Landowners, the fine people who are always talking about Mr. Gladstone's robberies of the Establishment.

The system of charge now adopted for the Tithe Commutation is as follows: The average income in each parish for ten years prior to 1836, having been fixed by a Commission, on this basis a half-yearly calculation is made of what quantity of wheat, barley, and oats, in equal shares, at 1837 prices, would result. This result is then carried out at present existing prices of the cereals, so that the tithe increases and diminishes only as they do. The official prices are published.

Extraordinary Tithes.—Lands coming under hop or fruit plantations and market-garden cultivation are further subject to the fixing of what is called an extraordinary rent-charge, in addition to the fixed tithe-charge. (For rates see page 19).

Personal Tithes are not commuted; i.e., wherever established custom for forty years prior to the statute of 2 and 3 Edward VI. o. 13, had fixed payments of tenths of gain of commerce, of wages, of hunting, of fish taken in the sea, or of the nett gain from corn mills.

Teinds in Scotland are similar to tithes, having been commuted, under Charles I., from payments in kind to one-fifth of the rental. Laymen there, as in England, have become widely possessed of the right to levy the impost for their private benefit.

In passing from this head of Ecclesiastical Revenue we remark with the Hon. A. Elliot, M.P. ("The State and the Church:" Macmillan.) (a) That at the time of instituting Tithe, Agriculture was much more exclusively the business of the nation than it has since become, the Tithe thus representing a large proportion of the annually produced wealth of the whole country; while in the present day the tithe commutation, falling almost entirely upon agricultural land, leaves uncharged the most valuable land in the Kingdom; i.e., Town Land and Mines. The owner of 1,000 acres of some country lands often finds them burdened with what (compared with rental) is a heavy charge to support the National Church, but there are very large country districts entirely free of Tithe, for instance, the Crown Lands and districts that in ages past were Crown Lands, also the Church Lands and large traete that before the dissolution of Monasteries were Church Lands. Roughly, the proportions of Tithe-free and Titheable Land in England and Wales are respectively £8,000,000 and £20,000,000 of annual value, (b) That for Rating purposes some £8,000,000 per annum of value are freed by Tithe from liability to Local Taxation, the Tithe being a first charge in favour of the Tithe Owner, and he generally a Landowner or a Clergyman, (c) That Ricardo and others fell into great error in supposing that the incidence of Tithes fell wholly on the consumer of produce. Tithes, like rent, are a share of the produce. They do not alter supply or demand, so cannot alter price. They simply mean in Economies that instead of two persons, Landlord and Tenant, sharing the produce, a third party, the Parson, comes in to share that produce, so that there is less left than ever for the farmer and the labourer.

First Fruits and Tenths.—These imposts were levied by the Popes upon all Church property in this country, to support the Crusades; First Fruits being the payment by Archbishops and Bishops of their whole first year's income after appointment; Tenths being a tithe of the entire annual yield of all clerical benefices. Henry VIII. abolished First Fruits in 1533, and the next year re-enacted them in his own favour instead of that of the Pope, providing further that they should be an income of the Crown for ever, and every spiritual living should contribute as well as Archbishoprics and Bishoprics. Under the same monarch it was enacted that from and after 1535, Tenths should yearly be paid to the King as Supreme Head of the Church of England, a different form of words to that having respect to First Fruits.

In 1540, these dues brought in an average of £16,000, taken together. In 1655, Queen Mary entirely repealed them. In 1559, Elizabeth's first statute reimposed both. Charles II. conferred on the Duke of Grafton's heirs for ever the superintendence of this branch of the Exchequer, hence one of the costly pensions stili payable to that family.

Queen Anne's Bounty.—Queen Anne, in 1704, after permission given by Parliament, surrendered (and thus alienated) the entire revenues from First Fruits and Tenths to augment perpetually the stipends of the poorer clergy, hence the term Queen Anne's Bounty, under which name these taxes are now collected and applied.

The record of yearly value of all benefices had been made in the Liber Regis of Henry VIII., and on that valuation the royal revenues from First Fruits and Tenths had been all along based. The Act of Anne made the assessment perpetual at that ancient valuation, by which cunning trick the rich clergy, whose tithes were increasing yearly, exempted themselves from the liability to contribute to the augmentation of poor livings. Witness the effect of this in the following figures, the places for comparison being selected at random, and to show in relief the values in the time of Henry VIII. :—
First Fruits. Tenths.
Rectory of Annual Value in the Liber Regis, A.D. 1524. Annual Value in Crockford's Directory, 1884 What is Paid. What should be. What is Paid. What should be. Remarks.
£ £ £ £ £ s. d. £ s. d.
Ilfracombe 50 300 50 300 5 0 0 30 0 0 Prior to the reforms of Ecclesiastical abuses, the actual income of Ilfracombe Rectory was £1,000, and of Stanhope £2500 from tithes alone.
Halsall 25 3,500 25 3,500 2 10 0 350 0 0
Alresford 8 356 8 356 nil 35 12 0
Winwick 103 3,500 103 3,500 10 6 0 350 0 0
Hillingdon 16 717 16 717 1 12 0 71 14 0
Stanhope 68 1,650 68 1,650 6 16 0 165 0 0
£270 £10,023 £26 4 0 £1,002 6 0
page 152
But a more striking exposé is found in the following return by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of 1835, before the readjustment of Episcopal incomes:—
Archbishops and Bishops. Net Value of Sees. Paid as First Fruits.
£ £
Canterbury 19,182 2,682
York 12,629 449
Carlisle 2,213 478
Chichester 4,229 609
Exeter 2,713 450
Hereford 2,516 691
Lichfield and Coventry 3,923 503
Llandaff 924 139
Norwich 5,395 834
Peterborough 3,100 373
Rochester 1,450 322
St. David's 1,897 383
Salisbury 3,939 1,246
Bangor 4,464 118
Bristol 2,351 294
Worcester 6,569 929
Lincoln 4,542 828
Oxford 2,648 343
St. Asaph 6,301 168
Rath and Wells 5,916 479
Gloucester 2,282 283
Chester 3,261 378
Winchester 11,151 2,873
Ely 11,105 1,921
London 13,929 900
Durham 19,066 1,638
Total discrepancy (where totals should have exactly corresponded) £157,725 £11,152

This being for first fruits alone, the inference, of course, is that annually the Tenths paid were only £1,115, while they should at least have realized £15,772 a year.

A somewhat unfortunate commentary upon the way in which State-Established Bishops have in the past performed their duty to their poorest class of Clergy!

Review of the Operations of Queen Anne's Bounty.—Here, then, is a State Revenue, realizing £14,000 net per annum (or £17,000 gross), and which for 180 years has been applied absolutely to the advancement of one religious sect, the wealthiest in the country, whether we have regard to its private endowments, its voluntary liberality, or its tens of thousands of wealthy adherents. But the amount (£14,000 per annum, or even its aggregate of £2,520,000) conveys an utterly inadequate idea of the nature of endowment and contingent benefits placed by Queen Anne's Bounty at the disposal of the State Church.

The operations of the Governors were, in the commencement, restricted to the relief of the revenues of the First Fruits and Tenths from various encumbrances, and to the augmentation of poor livings, by money to be laid out in land. Poor livings were successively raised to the annual value of, first £10; then to £20, £30, £40, £50, and finally to £60. The method adopted was that of placing the names of the un-augmented poor livings in a box, and dividing the sums in hand among such as might be drawn out the first. Each donation, or lot, was limited to the sum of £200. Any poor living was allowed to receive more lots than one till it was raised to the yearly value of the above-mentioned sums. Above that amount no living could receive an additional lot till all the other livings on the Bounty list had been in their turn augmented.

Another method of augmentation was, and is, by meeting benefactions. In this way, poor livings, at first those not exceeding the yearly value of £35, and afterwards, successively, hose not exceeding the yearly value of £45, £50, £80, £120, and, finally, of £200, were, and are, augmented with the sum of £200, where any person or persons, in order to obtain the Bounty, contribute £200, or a greater sum in money, or the value thereof in lands or tithes, or a clear yearly rent-charge or annuity of [unclear: £15].

Advances on mortgage were next made to Incumbents towards the acquisition or repair of Glebe Houses. Between 1809 and 1822 the taxpayers were resorted to, and a Parliament which spurned from its doors the Jew, the Catholic, and the Protestant Nonconformist, extracted £1,100,000 from these (among other contributors) to make up be deficiency caused by the under-assessment of the Bishops and richer Clergy to First Fruits and Tenths. This capital sum being added to the Bounty Fund, a wider scheme for tempting voluntary benefactors was launched. Populous parishes were now to have he benefit of State nursing in order that the spirited voluntary efforts of Nonconformity might be counteracted at the public expense. An average flow of benefactions to the tune of £13,365 per annum had been seared up to 1837, and this had increased to £22,000 in 1847, and £30,000 in 1857. In 1831, defalcations of £11,500 were discovered on the death of the Treasurer of the Bounty, and the acting Governors (the Archbishops and Bishops) were so severely criticised that they recouped the amount by contribution among themselves.

In 1867 the progress of endowment had been so rapid under the concurrent action of the now much greater body, the Ecclesiastical Commission, that the annual rate of benefactions to the Bounty fund fell to £11,500 (not reckoning gifts of land). Their income from investments was now however large, and nearly all livings under £60 had been levelled up to that figure. In 1877 the donations and benefactions had again reached £28,000, in 1880 they were £39,250, and in 1883, £20,200. In the year 1884 the Governors had £4,398,159 trust funds invested, £1,088,836 out on mortgage for Clergy residences, and their total Revenue had reached £166,304.

Landed Possessions of the Church.—Hallam explains the enormous landed possessions of the monasteries in this fashion :—"The Kings of England had set hardly any bounds to their liberality, though many of their donations were of uncultivated and unappropriated tracts. The Monasteries acquired legitimate riches by the culture of these deserted tracts and by the prudent management of their revenues. Their wealth, continually accumulated, enabled them to become the regular purchasers of landed estates, especially in the time of the Crusades, when the fiefs of the nobility were constantly in the market for sale or mortgage. But they derived their wealth from many sources, and some of these were less pure. Those entering a Monastery frequently threw their whole estates into the common stock, and the children of rich parents were expected to make a donation of land on assuming the cowl. Some gave their property to the Church before entering on military expeditions, others made gifts to take effect after their lives, and many signed bequests in the terrors of dissolution. Above all, the clergy failed not to inculcate upon the wealthy sinner, that no atonement could be so acceptable to Heaven as liberal presents to its earthly delegates. To die without alloting a portion of worldly wealth to pious uses was accounted almost like suicide or the refusal of the last sacraments; hence intestacy passed for a sort of fraud upon the Church which she punished by taking the administration of the deceased's effects into her own hands."

The Bishoprics of Peterborough, Chester, Gloucester, Bristol, Oxford and Westminster (now a Collegiate only), the Deaneries and Prebendaries of Canterbury, Winchester, Durham, Worcester, Rochester, Ely, and Carlisle; the Colleges of Christ Church, Oxon, and Holy Trinity, Cambridge, the Chairs of Divinity, Physics, Law, Greek, and Hebrew, in both Universities, the School of Grey Friars, and Hospital of St. Bartholomew, in London, were foundations of Henry VIII. from the Monastery plunder. The older Bishopries of York, London, Bangor, Bath and Wells, Chichester, Exeter, Hereford, Lichfield, Lincoln, Llandaff, Salisbury, St. Asaph and St. David's, Canterbury, Durham, Carlisle, Ely, Norwich, Rochester, Winchester, and Worcester retain possessions held in more or less unbroken continuity since the Norman Conquest, and even long before. This was not effected without a marvellous plasticity as to creeds and oaths of fealty and submission at given periods, for which ample credit must be given.