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Mr Stevenson, the well-informed author of the Agricultural Survey of the County of Surrey, published in 1809, states (p. 92.), that, although tithes are not more rigorously exacted there than in most other counties in England, it is the common opinion, that a farm tithe-free, is better worth 20s. an acre than a tithed farm, equally favoured in soil and situation, is worth 13s. This may, at first sight, appear a disproportioned difference; but a little reflection will satisfy us why it should be so great. Considerably more than the mere value of the tithe must be taken into account. The tithe is a variable tax. It increases not only according to the gradual increase of cultivation in general, but it increases proportionably to the greater expenditure of capital and labour on each particular farm. No doubt, in this, as in every other case, the farmer is completely indemnified for the tithe; for otherwise he would not expend this additional capital. But he does not think so. He pays his rent willingly to the landlord; but he considers the tithe-proprietor as an interloper who, without having contributed to raise the crop, claims a share of the produce. The fear of being subjected to this demand, unquestionably contributes to check the progress of improvement, and to cramp the exertions of the farmer. The occupier of a farm subject to this charge, can never be brought to consider himself as realizing the same profit from the capital he employs, as his neighbours in the tithe-free farms; and hence a considerably greater increase of prices is necessary to induce him to lay out additional capital, than would be necessary were he relieved from this tax. In this way tithes contribute indirectly, as well as directly, to raise prices-directly, by the positive addition which they make to the expenses of the cultivators of bad land-and indirectly, by generating an indisposition to apply fresh capital to the improvement of the soil. Of all institutions,' says Dr Paley, who cannot surely be reckoned unfriendly to the real interests of the Church, ' adverse to cultivation and improvement, none is so noxious as that of tithes. A claimant here enters into the produce, who contributed no assistance whatever to the production. When years, perhaps, of care and toil have matured an improvement— when the husbandman sees new crops ripening to his skill and industry-the moment he is ready to put his sickle to the grain, he finds himself compelled to divide the harvest with a stranger. 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.'
But it is to Ireland, and not to England, that we must direct our attention, if we wish to see the tithe system in its
worst form. In England, the vast majority of the inhabitants are Protestants, and the lands of the rich, as well as of the poor, are equally taxed for the support of the Church. But the reverse of all this has place in Ireland. There, the provision for a Protestant establishment is chiefly drawn from Catholics; and while the potatoe garden of the poor cotter is tithed to the utmost extent, the flocks of the extensive and opulent grazier are entirely exempted! Primate Boulter, whose administration commenced in 1724, and ended about 1742, in a letter to Sir Robert Walpole, thus writes. Since the Reformation, while the lands were mostly in Popish hands, the clergy took what they could get, thankfully; and very few went near their living to do their duty.' Matters continued in this state until the capitulation of Limerick restored tranquillity to Ireland, and threw almost all the benefices into the hands. of Protestant rectors. Subsequently to this period, the clergy began gradually to reassume their constitutional rights; and about the year 1720, formally demanded payment of the tithe of agistment, or the tithe of cattle and other produce of grass lands. But although the right of the clergy to this tithe was equally clear and indisputable as their right to the tithe of tillage lands, it was vehemently resisted by the landlords. The clergy appealed to the Court of Exchequer, who, after a full and patient hearing of the case, decided it in their favour. This, however, did not put the question to rest; for, shortly after the decision of the Court, the Irish House of Commons resolved (18th March, 1735), that any lawyer assisting in a prosecution for tithes of agistment, should be considered as an enemy to his country.' By this extraordinary resolution, adopted when the cultivated land in Ireland was not the hundredth part of what it is at this moment, this honourable assembly robbed the clergy of the principal source of their income, and threw the burden of their support entirely on the proprietors of tillage lands. Such was the footing on which the tithe of agistment stood at the period of the Union, when Sir John Macartney, aware that the resolution of 1735 was not law, moved that the abolition of the tithe of agistment should stand as a part of the act. This propositon was intended only as a stratagem to defeat the Union.
It was not expected that the minister would agree to such a measure; while on the other hand it was confidently believed that it would act like magic, in urging the body of landed proprietors to oppose the Union, which would be the means of making this tithe revert to its original owners. The minister, however, instead of resisting the measure, suffered it quietly to pass; and that which, before the U
nion, was only a resolution of the House of Commons, is now a formal act of the Imperial Parliament. '*
Besides the striking injustice of having one part of society relieved from a burden imposed for the common benefit of the whole, this limitation of the tithe has been productive of still greater disadvantages. The clergy, whose incomes being chiefly derived from tithes levied from the poorest class of their parishioners, and who were almost all Catholics, were compelled, as well to save themselves from the odium and even hazard of personal interference, as from non-residence, to let their tithes, or to employ an agent, or tithe proctor, to collect them. It is easy to perceive what an immense field has thus been opened to oppression and injustice. The poverty of the cotters and other small farmers, render them in most cases unable to appeal to the law for redress against the unjust exactions of the tithe proctor. The consequence is, the prevalence of discontent, riot, and bloodshed. The levying of the tithe from potatoe crops led to the protracted and disgraceful outrages of the Whiteboys; and the banditti who, under the names of Steel-boys, Oakboys, Peep-of-day-boys, Carders, Thrashers, &c. have in succession desolated this unhappy country, have almost all had their origin in the same cause. It deserves to be mentioned, that, with the exception of the White-boys, whose depredations were confined to Munster, the others principally consisted of the manufacturing and Presbyterian population of Ulster. Nor is the case very different even at this day. Mr Wakefield, who has left no subject untouched which could throw light on the state of Ireland, and the accuracy of whose information has not been disputed, states distinctly that there is infinitely more difficulty experienced in collecting tithes among the Protestants of the North, than among the Catholics in the South.
We have already shown, that no farmer will lay out capital either in the improvement of old land, or in the bringing in of new, unless the price of raw produce be such as will afford him the common and average rate of profit on the capital so expended. But in Ireland, the occupiers of the small patches of ground into which the country is so very generally divided, are entirely destitute of capital. These patches are sought after because they afford the means of prolonging a miserable existence; and, owing to the excess of population, the competition for them is so great that it is but seldom the rent is limited to what the land is fairly worth. Thirty-five years ago it was no uncommon thing for a cotter to pay 7. per Irish acre
* Wakefield's Account of Ireland, vol. ii.
for potatoe ground, and an additional 10s. or 12s. for tithe! * The evil must have increased since; and it is rendered more grievous and intolerable, from the prevailing custom of taking a promissory note from the cotters in lieu of the tithe. When this promissory note becomes due, the poor cotter is generally unable to pay it; and his cow, as the readiest article, is laid hold of and exposed to public auction. Judge,' says Mr Wakefield, what must be the feelings of the half-famished cotter, surrounded by a wretched family clamorous for food, when he sees the tenth part of the produce of his potatoe garden exposed to public cant; or, if he has given a promissory note for a certain sum of money, to compensate for such tithe, when it becomes due, to hear the heart-rending cries of his offspring clinging round him, and lamenting for the milk of which they are deprived, by the cow's being sold to discharge the debt. Such accounts are not the creation of fancy; the facts do exist, and are but too common in Ireland.-I,' continues Mr Wakefield, have seen the cow, the favourite cow, driven away, accompanied by the sighs, the tears, and the imprecations of a whole family, who were paddling after, through wet and dirt, to take their last affectionate farewell of this their only friend and benefactor at the pound-gate. I have heard with emotions, which I can scarcely describe, deep curses repeated from village to village as the cavalcade proceeded. I have witnessed the group pass the domain walls of the opulent grazier, whose numerous herds were cropping the most luxuriant pastures, whilst he was secure from any demand for the tithe of their produce, looking on with the most unfeeling indifference. But let us reverse the picture, and behold the effects which are produced by oppression so insufferable as to extinguish every sentiment in the breast, but a desire of revenge. I have beheld, at night, houses in flames, and for a moment supposed myself in a country exposed to the ravages of war, and suffering from the incursions of an enemy. On the following morning, the most alarming accounts of Thrashers and White-boys have met my ear; of men who had assembled with weapons of destruction, for the purpose of compelling people to swear not to submit to the payment of their tithes. I have been informed of these oppressed people, in the ebullition of their rage, having murdered tithe-proctors and collectors, wreaking their vengeance with every mark of the most savage barbarity. Cases of this kind are not rare in Ireland; THEY TAKE PLACE DAILY: And were a history of such tragical events collected, they would form a work which could not be read without horror, and which would be the best comment upon the system. '†
If any additional evidence were wanting of the pernicious and destructive effects which have resulted from the manner in
* Grattan's Speeches, Vol. I. p. 148.
which tithes are levied in Ireland, it might be found in the examinations of the leaders of the rebellion in the Houses of Lords and Commons. On Lord Clare's asking Mr Thomas Emmet, whether he thought Catholic Emancipation and Parliamentary Reform any objects with the common people, he answered, As to Catholic Emancipation, I don't think it matters a feather, or that the poor think of it; as to Parliamentary Reform, I don't think the common people ever thought of it until it was inculcated to them, that a reform in Parliament 'would cause a removal of those grievances which they actually do feel.' When Mr Emmet was questioned by Mr Foster, in the House of Commons, whether the Catholics peculiarly objected to tithes; he answered, They certainly have the best right to complain; but I rather think they object more as tenants than as Catholics-and in common with the rest of the tenantry in the kingdom; and if any other way of paying even a Protestant Establishment, which did not bear so sensibly upon their industry, were to take place, I believe it would go • a great way to content them.' On Dr M'Nevin's being asked whether Mr Grattan's motion relative to tithes was not a short cut towards putting down the Established Church? he replied, If the stability of the Established Church depends on the payment of tithes, the Church stands on a weaker foundation than in civility I would have said of it; but of this I am sure-that, if tithes had been commuted according to Mr Grattan's plan, a very powerful engine would have been taken out of our hands.'
Surely it is now high time to endeavour to devise some less partial and less oppressive means of providing for the support of the Establishment. For upwards of sixty years-from the era of the Whiteboys down to that of the Ribbonmen-Ireland has constantly, or with a few short intervals only excepted, been a prey to excesses arising from this cause. The gibbet, that ready and perpetual resource of weak and vindictive legislators, has groaned under the weight of criminals; and the country has been outraged and disgraced by the incessant recurrence of bloody and barbarous executions. But tranquillity has not been, and could not be restored, by such means. If we expect to free Ireland from these sanguinary atrocities, we must attack the evil in its sources, and not content ourselves with lopping off the limbs it has vitiated. The true principle with respect to your peasantry is exoneration; and if I could not take the burden. entirely off their back, I would make it as light as possible, —I would exempt the peasant's corn and garden from tithes if I could not make him rich, I would do the next thing in my