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had raised prices to their proper level, and restored the equilibrium of profit. In such a state of things, tithes would indisputably operate precisely as an equivalent addition to the price of raw produce. But after various qualities of soil have been brought under cultivation, and rents have, in consequence, been pretty generally introduced, it is not so easy to trace their ultimate incidence and effect. They then appear to occasion rather a diminution of the rent of the landlord, than a rise of prices. Farms which are tithe-free always bring a proportionably higher rent than such as are subject to that charge; and it is naturally concluded, that, were tithes abolished, the depressed rents would be raised to the same level as the others. For this reason, in an advanced stage of society tithes are not considered as increasing the price of raw produce to the consumers; but as diverting a portion of the rent of the soil, to which the landlord has no just claim, into the pockets of its rightful owners, the clergymen and lay-impropriators. Taxes on the produce of land,' says Dr Smith, are in reality taxes upon rent; and, though they may be originally advanced by the farmer, are finally paid by the landlord. When a certain portion of the produce is to be paid away for a tax, the farmer computes, as well as he can, what the value of this portion, one year with another, is likely to amount to, and makes a proportionable abatement in the rent which he agrees to pay to the landlord. There is no farmer who does not compute, beforehand, what the Church tithe, which is a land-tax of this kind, is, one year with another, likely to amount to. ' *
Suppose,' says one of the ablest writers in defence of tithes, that the tenth or tithe were to be abolished, it would not put a farthing into the pocket of the farmer. It would be his landlord that would be the gainer, not he. The landlord would immediately advance his rent to the full amount of what was used to be paid in tithes, and would tell his tenant, that as he now lets his estate tithefree, or in other words lets him the whole estate, of which he had before let him only nine-tenths, he expects an increase of rent, not only equal to what the clergy claimed, but considerably more; for farmers need not be told, how much more easy the clergy are in receiving their tithes, than those lay-impropriators, or private gentlemen, who have great tithes in their hands.'
And such beyond all doubt are the generally received opinions on this subject. That we may be able properly to appreciate their accuracy, it is necessary to recollect, that the exchangeable value of raw produce is not regulated by the expenditure required to raise it on the richest lands under cultivation, but by
* Wealth of Nations, Vol. III. p. 274.
that which is required to raise it on the poorest ;-that is, on the least fertile lands which it is necessary to cultivate, in order to obtain a sufficient supply of raw produce. But it has been shown, that this last quality of land pays no rent; and, consequently, that the produce obtained from it is sold at its natural price, or the price which is necessary to cover the cost of its production, including therein the profit of the capital employed in its culture. However, as this principle is obviously of fundamental importance in tracing the effect of tithes or taxes on raw produce, we shall briefly recapitulate the reasoning by which it has been established, and endeavour to obviate one or two objections which have been stated against it.
On the first settling of any country abounding in fertile and unappropriated land, no rent is ever paid; and for this plain reason, that no person will pay a rent for what may be procured in unlimited quantities for nothing. It is only after the most productive lands have all been brought under cultivation, and when recourse is had to those of an inferior quality, that rent begins to be paid by the farmers of those which are superior. Suppose, for example, that, in a stationary state of society, none but the best soils are under cultivation, it is obvious they could afford no surplus in the shape of rent to their proprietors: For, if they did afford any such surplus, it would be advantageous for the proprietors of the soils of the very next degree of fertility, and which, in point of productive power, must differ extremely little from the first, to commence cultivation; and as, by the hypothesis, there could be no increased demand, the increased supply could not fail to sink prices until they yielded only the ordinary rate of profit to the proprietors of the best soils. But, supposing the country to be rapidly advancing in wealth and population, and that, to attain sufficient supplies of raw produce, it had become necessary to cultivate soils which, in return for the same expenditure as would have produced 100 quarters on the most fertile, yield only 90 quarters, a rent of 10 quarters would be paid by the occupiers of the former; for it is evidently the same thing to a farmer, whether he pays a rent of 10 quarters for a piece of land, which, with a certain outlay of capital and labour, yields 100 quarters; -or farms, without paying any rent, a piece of land which, with the same outlay, only yields 90 quarters. This extension of cultivation might be indefinitely continued; and when recourse had been had to lands which would only yield 80, or 70 quarters, the rent of the first quality would plainly be equal to the difference between its produce and that of the last, that is, to 100-70, or 30 quarters; the rent of the second to
the difference between 90 and 70, or 20 quarters, and so on. An increase of rent is not, therefore, as is very generally supposed, occasioned by improvements in agriculture, or by an increase in the fertility of the soil. Were none but the most fertile soils cultivated, no such thing as rent would ever be heard of. It results entirely from the necessity of resorting, as population increases, to soils of a decreasing degree of fertility; and therefore varies in its amount inversely as the profit of the capital employed in cultivation;-that is, it increases when the profits of agricultural stock diminish, and diminishes when they increase. Profits are at their maximum in colonies possessed of extensive tracts of fertile and uncultivated land, and generally in all situations in which no rents are paid; but it cannot be said that rents have attained their maximum, so long as capital yields any surplus in the shape of profit. But whatever may be the rent of the superior soils, the least fertile soils under cultivation never pay any rent. The price of raw produce must be such as will yield the cultivators the common and average rate of profit, and indemnify them for their expenses; and it cannot, for any considerable period, be either higher or lower. If it were higher, there would be an obvious inducement to apply fresh capital to the bringing of new land under tillage, or to the improvement of the old land; and, on the other hand, if it were lower, there would be an equally powerful inducement to withdraw capital from agriculture. In every case, therefore, -whether tillage be extending or diminishing,-the price of that portion of produce which is raised in the least favourable circumstances, and which regulates the price of all the rest, is its necessary price. It is the price at which it would be sold if rents were altogether unknown; and is not in the least affected by them.
It has been objected to this account of the nature and causes of rent, that it takes for granted that landlords would permit farmers to occupy their lands without paying any rent. But, in point of fact, it does no such thing. The price of raw produce is not kept down to its necessary price by the competition of farmers, but by that of the landlords themselves. Though there must necessarily be a very wide difference between the best and the worst soils in any country of considerable extent, the gradation from the one extreme to the other is regular, and nearly imperceptible. The best differ but little from those which are immediately inferior to them, and the worst from those immediately above them. And hence, whatever may be the state of cultivation at any given period, it would be impos
sible for any combination among the proprietors of the cultivated lands, (and none else could have any motive for entering into such a combination), factitiously to increase the price of their produce. Supposing such an attempt to be attended with a temporary success, soils of the next degree of fertility would instantly be brought under cultivation, and the redundant supply would infallibly depress prices. It is clear, therefore, that the appropriation of land does not make any change on the nature or quantum of rent;-that it does not enable the owners of the soil to obtain a monopoly price for their products ;-and that it is equally true in England or France, as in Kentucky or New Holland, that the produce raised by the capital last applied to the cultivation of the soil, pays no rent.
Now this reasoning is conclusive as to the effect of tithes and other taxes on raw produce. If tithes were only levied from soils of a certain degree of fertility, they would not, after soils whose productive power was one-tenth less had been cultivated, occasion any rise of price, but would fall entirely on the rent of the landlord. But this is not the case with tithes. They affect every quality of land indiscriminately and being exacted equally from the produce raised in the least favourable, as from that which is raised in the most favourable circumstances, occasion only an increase of prices. Suppose no tithes are levied, and that the wheat raised on the poorest lands, and which determines the price of the whole crop, yields a sufficient profit to the cultivator, and no more, when it sells for 72s. 9d. a quarter, the price must rise to 80s. before the same profit can be obtained after tithes are imposed. In this case the tithe cannot possibly occasion any diminution of rent; for the poorest land under cultivation pays no rent; so that if it were not compensated to the cultivators by an increase of prices, they would be driven from their employment, and the necessary supplies would no longer be obtained. In every stage of society, therefore, from the rudest to the most improved, tithes operate exactly as an equivalent addition to the price of raw produce, and, like all other taxes, must be paid by the consumers-that is, by the country in general.
This account of tithes is nowise inconsistent with the admitted fact, that farms which are free from this burden bring a proportionably higher rent. The expenses attending their cultivation are not increased by the levying a tithe from the produce of other farms; but, as there cannot be two prices, their occupiers obtain the same increased price for their produce which is necessary to indemnify the cultivators of the tithed lands. There must, however, be an equality of profits, as well as of prices; VOL. XXXIV. No. 67.
and hence, whatever advantage the occupier of a tithe-free farm may gain by being relieved from a burden to which his neighbours are subjected, is compensated by a corresponding increase of rent.
Thus it appears, that, if tithes were abolished, the rent of such farms as pay tithe would not rise to a level with the rent of those which are tithe-free, but the rents of the latter would fall to the level of the former. As raw produce is uniformly sold at its necessary price, or the price necessary to afford the customary rate of profit to the cultivators of the worst land, it would fall the moment they had been relieved from this heavy charge. And the advantage previously enjoyed by the proprie tors of tithe-free lands, and which was the only cause of their obtaining a higher rent, being done away, their rents would decline to the level of those around them.
If rents were uniformly paid in kind, the imposition of tithes would undoubtedly diminish the share of the produce paid to the landlords; but as its value would be increased in the precise proportion that its quantity had been diminished, this reduced share would still exchange for the same quantity of all other commodities. Thus, if lands of the qualities Nos. 1, 2, 3, &c., respectively produced, in return for the same expenditure, 100, 90, 80, &c. quarters, the rent of No. 1. would be twenty quarters, of No. 2. ten, and so on. But they would no longer preserve that proportion after the imposition of tithes; for, suppose a tenth to be deducted from their gross produce, the remaining quantities would be 90, 81, 72, &c.; and, therefore, the corn rent of No. 1. would be reduced to 18, and of No. 2. to 9 quarters. It is clear, however, that their money rents, or their rents estimated in any other commodity except corn, would not be at all affected. If corn sold at 47. before the imposition of the tithe, it would afterwards sell at 47. 8s. 10d.; for, unless 90 quarters now brought as much as 100 quarters previously brought, the cultivators of those soils which paid no rent would not be able to realize the common and average rate of profit. Money rents would, therefore, continue unaltered; on the land No. 1. they would still be 80%., and on No. 2. 401.
It appears, therefore, that in every state of society, whether rents are high or low, and whether they are paid in kind or in money, the charge of tithes is defrayed entirely by the consumers of raw produce. They do not consist of a portion of the rent of land belonging to the clergy, or the lay impropriator; but they are a burden which falls equally on every individual in the kingdom-on the poorest beggar as well as the richest lordin proportion to their respective consumption of the articles