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This is not a new doctrine, but is in unison with all the authorities. The effect of that judgment is, that rent is part of the profits of the farm, and that the occupier is rateable for that part as well as for the residue of the profits. If, for instance, a farm is worth 3001. per annum in the hands of the owner, he is rateable for that amount; if the farm is let to a tenant for -1001. per annum, and he makes a profit of 2001. more, the tenant is rateable for 3004
Yet in spite of the obvious justice of these remarks, the simplicity and usefulness of making the clergyman pay far beyond his right proportion, induced the Court to decide in favour of the present custom, thereby perpetuating a grievous wrong to the Church. One test by which to estimate the justice of the present mode of rating is to examine the actual proportion of all the rates of a parish which fall on rent-charge. We have calculated this with reference to several agricultural parishes within our knowledge, and the proportion is about one-sixth, in places by no means above the average of injustice to the Clergy. What pretext can there be for a system which is thus convicted in its result of such gross unfairness ? Tithe rent-charge is a substitution for one-tenth of the produce; and if it really amounted to that in practice, which it does not, it ought then to pay but one-tenth of the burdens of the land. The facts of the case are, however, much stronger than this. It is well known that tithe rent-charge is not much more than one-thirtieth of the produce of the land; yet it pays, as we have stated, one-sixth of the parish rates. We are not denying that there are considerations which should modify the prima facie deduction from this view of the case; for then we should be claiming on behalf of the Clergy an assessment of only one-fifth its present amount; but we certainly do think that the great and radical injustice which now exists, requires to be met by a concession up to the extent we have just pointed out, viz. by adding the tenant's profit to the amount of his present assessment.
Let it ņot be imagined by a hasty reader, that by doubling the tenant farmer's assessment, we would also double his rates. The only effect would be, the establishment of a different ratio between the whole body of farmers on the one hand, and the clergyman on the other hand. If the latter was thereby relieved of one-half what he now pays, the former would not suffer to any great amount when the difference was equally distributed among them.
But if the present law of assessment is unfair, even when there exists no bias to the prejudice of the Clergy, in its practical administration, how much more when the local injustice that is concocted in each parent vestry and each union Workhouse, is also taken into account !
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The assessment of a parish is conducted under the management of the vestry, and it is far too generally the custom for the farmers there assembled to assess themselves as low as possible, and the clergyman as high as possible, trusting to the difficulty which is always felt in making an appeal. In the assessment of other property, about 20 per cent. is always deducted from the rent, whereas with tithes only about 24 for collection is allowed, beyond poor rates. It is not only, however, in the original assessment, that parochial authorities have the power of throwing an unequal share of burdens on the clergyman; they may so manage the affairs of a parish, as to let many payments fall on the rates, which ought properly to be borne by themselves individually; their object for doing which is plain enough, viz. that whatever falls on the rates of the parish is shared in very largely by the clergyman's high assessment on rent-charge.
The whole operation of the present poor-law is, we think, materially affected by this instinctive conspiracy among British farmers. When the new poor-law was first brought into operation, its professed object was to cure the degraded system then existing, by which every labourer was dependent on the parish, and was converted into a kind of serf attached to the land, and under the entire control of the farmers. The new law went on the principle of making pauperism a crime, and a state which could be avoided by diligence and care. The union-house was made a place of rigorous discipline, from the supposition that an industrious man could always keep out of it; out-door relief being, at the same time, forbidden to the able-bodied as unnecessary. There was henceforth to be no dependence on the parish, except of a kind which marked the object of it as more or less criminal. Under this severe test of the house, poorrates declined for a time; but farmers forgot on their part to fulfil one most essential condition on which this new theory depended for its ultimate success. If a labourer was to be independent, and able to save from his earnings, when in health and strength, some provision for old age and bad times, it is plain that his wages must be higher than the amount absolutely necessary to provide a sufficient quantity of bread for his family week by week, and also that he must be regularly supplied with work. The issue has been this; farmers having declined to allow such a rate, or such a stability of wages, as are necessary to carry out the principle of the new poor-law, matters drift back to the old system in spite of all enactments. Dependence on the parish is still the absolute and inseparable condition of the English agricultural labourer; and poor-rates are getting higher and higher, in spite of abundance of labour,
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of the increase of emigration, and of other things which ought to have made them lower. Now, what is the cause of all this? The farmer (we blame not the individual, but the system which makes it his interest so to act) is aware that any advance in wages must come from his own single pocket, whereas, that if poor-rates instead of wages are increased, the additional sum will be paid to the extent of one-sixth by the clergyman. An agricultural labourer is a far more expensive article, taking the years of his life all round, than his direct wages imply or could produce; the deficit, therefore, must be supplied in some way, and the landed interests of this country have practically decided that parochial rates, with a state of dependence to the labourer, are the source whence it should be paid. By this means it is plainly to be seen, that tithe rent-charge is made to contribute largely towards the necessary expenses of even that amount of labour without which no land can be cultivated.
The defence set up for low wages is, that labour has its market price, and that those who require it are entitled to buy it as cheap as they can. But why is it cheap? It is cheap because it is not supporting—because parochial rates pay largely for it. If then, by any means, that temptation to throw men on the parish could be lessened, we feel sure that as poor-rates declined, wages would rise, and the condition of the labourer become more independent.
If things go on in their present course, we see no other result but that all the better class of our labourers--all those who wish to be independent, all who have any spirit or physical power in them—will leave the country, and find in distant shores a home and a maintenance, that their own country to its shame and its loss has denied them. Farmers have already begun seriously to dread emigration; and it will be to their own interest that they should offer higher inducements to retain in this country their young and good labourers than at present is the case, before they discover that in the cultivation of their land they are left either wholly deficient in labour, or at the mercy of very indifferent and spiritless workmen.
The same principle, which thus rules with regard to poorrates, is apparent also in the management of highways. If a farmer wants an arch to be built, or a road to be repaired which are connected with his own farm, he tries to make the parish do them at the public expense; and the other farmers in vestry, knowing that they all act themselves on the same principle, are perfectly willing to grant his request; the effect of which is, that the clergyman pays one-sixth of the money, though he wants no bridge on his own estates, nor holds any farm, the road to which will in its turn be repaired.
· On this subject we quote a correspondent's letter, well qualified to judge of this matter,
I will close this communication with a few remarks on the parochial assessment for the repairs of the highways. I consider that the Clergy are heavily and unduly burdened in this respect. “The old law provided for the repairs of parish highways, first, by what was called “the statute labour,” and secondly, by an assessment; but this latter was not to be resorted to until the former was exhausted. The principle of the law was this, that the highway should be repaired by those who most used and injured it. Thus the parties who kept the greater number of waggons, carts, or other vehicles, as well as horses, were called on to contribute a quantum of “ work" in proportion to the number kept, and a due proportion of manual labour was also provided for. Whatever may have been the merits or demerits of this law, it is plain that its repeal and the substitution in its place of the assessment system, solely added to the burdens of the clergyman. As soon as composition came into general use, waggons were little if at all needed by him, and the Tithe Commutation Act set the seal of its authority on their discontinuance as regarded tithe-gathering: so that to him the new law largely increased his payments. Under the operation of the old law, he would have been released from any large contribution to the "statute labour," whilst now, he is, if not the largest, one of the largest contributors. Again, the farmers practically pay half their assessment to the highway-rate in kind, employing their carts and horses in the conveyance of material, in the profits of which cart labour the clergyman does not participate. The result of my observations also leads me to the conclusion, that much more money is laid out in this way in country parishes, in proportion to that expended in manual labour, than is required or than is laid out on turnpike-roads repaired on different principles.
Many indeed are the plans by which a clergyman's income is made to endure more than its fair share of parochial burdens.
The highway rate is often 5 per cent., and in one case before us, 8 per cent., on tithe rent-charge. One clergyman we know of, whose use of highways is almost confined to pedestrian visitations through his parish, has to pay no less than 691. for the luxury of seeing other people's corn go to market, and of seeing the neighbouring gentry drive about in handsome equipages, who pay only to the expense of the roads on the assessment of an ordinary dwelling-house.
It is almost depressing, and may strike some as even querulous, to be enlarging our catalogue of burdens; but we are engaged in a stern matter of business, and must duly complete it. Land-tax is a serious item, amounting often to twenty or thirty pounds. Where this payment was taken into account, at the time of the commutation, perhaps no complaint ought now to be made; but the terms then agreed upon have no power to vestrain, in defence of the Church, any increased demands of the land-tax which may since have been made.
During the last few years, a very general re-adjustment of this tax has taken place, (on the appeal of various owners who have imagined their property overtaxed, the result of which
has often been, the increase of this tax on rent-charge from a very trifling sum to a serious and important charge. We know of one case, where an estate was bought very cheap, on the express ground of its being subject to a heavy landtax. The purchaser afterwards appealed, and eventually succeeded in having the land-tax of his parish wholly re-arranged, one result of which happened to be that the rector, whose commutation was made irrespective of any serious payment under this head, found himself mulcted to the extent of 331. per annum.
Many clergymen, in addition to the varied taxes we have enumerated, suffer much from unjust arrangements made in times past under the name of composition of tithe. Moduses, to a very trifling amount, are all that is received for land whose rental would now be of considerable value. Then also there are other compulsory deductions on income, which we should be sorry to see classed altogether as burdens, inasmuch as they are connected with the primary object and use of all tithes; those, we mean, connected with the discharge of the duties of the church and the repairs of the chancel.
We have now considered the ecclesiastical and the parochial, i.e. the cavalry and the infantry, of that hostile army which a clergyman's income has to encounter. There remains the artillery of the Queen's taxes, which apply to him in common with others. Income tax, moreover, falls on him with peculiar force, because the deductions which we have shown to exist on a clergyman's income, themselves repeated income-taxes, are by no means amply allowed for, and thus he is compelled to pay on what he never receives. House-tax is charged on the parsonage as rigorously as on other dwellings; and Mr. Heyworth (according to a notice given the first day of this session) even desires to make him pay succession duty, a monstrous idea, the bare mention of which, under existing circumstances, will, we trust, turn out the providential means of deliverance from the injustice we have exposed. The stamp alone for presentation is often 201., and surely this is succession duty enough. If more charges are added, it will be a hard matter to find a man rich enough to accept the smaller livings of our Church, which are in the hands of public patrons, encumbered as they are with increased duties, at which we rejoice, but with increased burdens, which we deplore. The poor but deserving student would thus be excluded more than ever from the Church, while the power of wealth would be more and more dominant, in secularizing the position of an incumbent. .
Other taxes which the Clergy pay in common with all her Majesty's subjects, do not come within the province of our ' review to discuss. We have shown how heavy are the burdens
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