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the claims of those parishes whence any of the property which should vest in the Commissioners was derived, and, next, the wants of populous districts. To this purpose were to be applied the proceeds of sixty canonries (towards which the Cathedrals of Durham, Worcester, and Westminster, contributed six each, Windsor eight, Winchester seven, and other cathedrals smaller numbers); also the endowments of sinecure rectories in public patronage; and the whole of the endowments of the non-residentiary canons in all cathedrals of the old foundation; and certain payments imposed on the holders of deaneries and canonries on the rich foundations of St. Paul's, Durham, and Westminster. This was a great and startling change, and could not but provoke criticism. All holders and expectants of cathedral dignities, and all those more disinterested, who, looking more to the theory of the cathedral establishment than to the existing state of things, viewed it as the council of the bishop in spiritual matters, and the refuge and the reward of learning in the Church, were indignant at the measure. Yet Archbishop Howley and Bishop Blomfield gave their support to a measure more sweeping in its reach, and more important in its results, than any act of legislation for the Church which had taken place since the time of Elizabeth. We may well presume that such men were no foes of cathedral institutions. It was not that they loved cathedrals less, but that they loved straying souls that have no shepherd more. It was not that they thought large cathedral establishments useless, but that they thought that the solution of that problem, how to deal with the parishes in England for which no adequate provision was made, affected the very life of the Church of England. Be that as it may, a host of mourners thronged the grave of each canonry as it fell, and denounced the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, whose sacrilegious hands were busy with its burial, and were making haste to gather its succession.
Sing, Muse, the wrath of Sydney, son of Smith! If the witty incumbent of Foston had not become Canon of St. Paul's, there had been no Letters to Archdeacon Singleton to celebrate the passing of the Cathedral Act. Ruin, says this illustrious Whig, ruin, and no less will befall the Church of England. This bill past, every man of sense acquainted with human affairs must see that, as far as the Church is concerned, the thing is at an end. Plunder will follow after plunder, degradation after degradation. The Church is gone, and what remains is not life, but sickness, spasm, and struggle. Woe to them who have caused the destruction! 'Victoria Ecclesiæ Victrix,' the two Archbishops who perhaps may sell their options,' though they have not; the Bishop of London, with his 'ungovernable passion for business ;' the Bishop of Lincoln (Kaye), who ‘has the art of saying nothing in many words beyond any man that ever existed; and when he seems to have made a proposition, he is so dreadfully frightened at it, that he proceeds as quickly as possible to disconnect the subject and predicate, and to avert the dangers he has incurred;' Bishop Monk, who ‘has been the cause of much more laughter than ever I have been; I cannot account for it, but I never see him enter a room without exciting a smile on every countenance in it;'—thus severely does the wit lay his hand upon all those who were daring to despoil the chapters for the sake of the populous parishes; yet scarcely with his wonted success, and certainly without his usual good-nature. The story of Simon of Gloucester is incomparable in its way; and good Bishop Monk, who has left behind him so many traces of his benevolent heart, could hardly fail to feel it keenly. Yet, were not the bishops almost avenged? The sudden transformation of the loud reformer into the loud opponent of a reform that comes too near him is almost ludicrous. The bold Whig reviewer, fearless of change, has suddenly borrowed the Tory cry, 'The Church is gone;' and the comic features lend themselves uneasily to the tragic lamentation. But Sydney Smith gathered up into these Letters much that could be said from a Conservative standing-point against the proposed change ; and they therefore express the views of a section of the enemies with whom the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had to contend.
The fruits of this measure began to be perceived immediately upon its passing into law. Much to their honour, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and other patrons of canonries, had refrained from filling up vacancies, in consequence of the recommendations of the Inquiry Commission, made some years before, and the proceeds of these vacant canonries were at once available. By the year 1844 the fund was in possession of £30,000 a year. The Commissioners were met at the outset by the question, How were leasehold properties to be dealt with? The lands and tithes which came to them were in the form of reversions after long leases; and the actual assets were confined to small renewed rents, and fines upon renewals. In order to show the importance of this question, under which lay most of the troubles of the Commission, and a large part of its success, a short explanation may be necessary, for the benefit of readers who have not paid much attention to so dry a subject.
From the time of Queen Elizabeth all ecclesiastical corporations have exercised the power of granting leases, either for lives or for a term of twenty-one years. All such corporations, except Bishops, have also had the power of granting leases of houses in any city, borough, or town for forty years. Of leasehold property, it is evident that there are two owners, not one; and the fee-simple value is shared between them, according to the length of time which shall elapse before the lessee's interest terminates, and that of the lessor commences. The lessee has a fleeting possession, but it is immediate ; the lessor has a permanent possession, but deferred. In the case of a property with a net annual value of £100, if we assume that it is worth twenty-five years' purchase, or £2500, and that a lease of it for twenty-one years has just been granted, then of the whole value of £2500, £1097 represents the share of the lessor, and £1403 that of the lessee. But, so far as the lessor is concerned, this calculation is too favourable, and, owing to the want of demand for property of which the actual possession is so remote, probably no such sum could be realized for it. After every seven years that had elapsed in a lease of twenty-one, a fine was paid, varying remarkably in amount in different dioceses, but equal, on an average, to about two years' rent for a new lease for twenty-one years complete. After every fall of a life in a lease for lives, a fine was in like manner paid for a new lease, with a new life added to those of the two survivors. The Bishop or the Chapter never failed to renew the lease, because they had no other income but what arose from such fines, and they had no interest in practising self-denial for their successors. A lessee seldom failed to renew, because mortgages and settlements depended on his doing so, and in other respects it was his interest to prolong his term of possession. Hence the two joint-owners, the lessor and the lessee, regarded the tenure as perfectly secure, and had no expectation of anything that could disturb it.
The wastefulness of this system to the lessor-in this case the Church—will be evident from the following rough statement :—The actual value of an estate of £100 per annum is thirty years' purchase, or £3000. Of such an estate, leased on lives, the lessor's interest might be assumed to represent about one-third of the value, and that of the lessee two-thirds, the lease being in the average condition as to renewals of those which vested in the Commissioners, so that the lessor's share of the value would be about £1000; but in order to provide for the payment of all the fines upon renewal, and thus to make himself the virtual owner of the whole, it would be necessary to set aside, to accumulate at compound interest, not, as one would expect, a sum equal to the lessor's interest, but a sum of only about half that amount; in other words, the lessor's interest was worth £1000, and the lessee's was worth £2000; but the lessee had it in his power, provided only that he could be sure of renewals, to put himself in a position equal to that of lessor and lessee by setting aside £500 to accumulate at compound interest for the payment of the fines; and as the lessor would never get anything save the compound interest of this £500, his share was practically only one-half of what it was laid down in theory to be. Before we glance at the reason of this paradox, it is well to observe one important consequence of it upon the operations of the Commissioners. To sell the reversion of a Church estate for one-third of the fee-simple value appears at first sight a wasteful transaction ; for the estate is gone for ever, and the purchase-money will only suffice to replace it by another of onethird the value. In reality it is a profitable transaction for the Church, because she is now in the unfettered possession of £1000 ; whereas she only received before the interest of £500, with a possibility that the tenant might be unable to renew.
The reason of the discrepancy is not difficult to see. This payment of a fine is in fact the purchase of a limited reversion; if it is for a lease of years, seven years, at the end of fourteen that still remain to him, are added to the term of the lease; if for a new life in a lease for lives, the lessee pays for so much of the new life as will extend beyond the two lives already secured to him. This distant advantage must be paid for by a considerable outlay of capital, which it is inconvenient for the tenant to raise. There is a natural aversion to buy by a present sacrifice the distant advantage which we may not live to reap; hence it is necessary to tempt the lessee by allowing a high rate of interest; and it is usual to allow him to make seven per cent., without respect to the current rate of the day. At seven per cent., the worth of twenty-one years' possession of an estate of £100 a year, is £1083; but if the lessor were to invest that sum in the funds, he would receive rather less than £36, being all that remained to him of what was producing the lessee £100. Mr. Finlaison showed in his evidence how reluctant people are to purchase reversionary property 'In the National Debt Office, life-annuities are sold, either commencing immediately, or at any future period which the purchaser chooses to fix, as a provision for old age; the former are very costly, the latter a mere trifle in comparison; yet in the last five years 8000 immediate life-annuities have been purchased, and not so many as ten perhaps of the deferred annuities.'
But why does the lessor submit to these disadvantageous terms ? Lessees would find themselves obliged to renew as the term became shorter, and then at a higher fine. True; but the lessor is unable to wait. His income depends on the renewal;
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and there is no fund out of which the fine can be advanced to him, so that he may hold out until favourable terms are accepted by the other party. His own life, beyond which neither he nor his have any interest in the property, is not a selected life, like those in the lifehold lease; he may be promoted, or may resign before the bargain is completed. All these reasons dispose him rather to accept disadvantageous terms than to delay; whilst the lessee, with two select lives still remaining, has not the same reason for haste. On the other hand, the lessee has his own quarrel with the system, because he must in prudence insure the lives in the lease; but they are not under his control, and sometimes will not take the necessary steps towards the insurance. Fines, too, are an advance of capital, which the lessee would more willingly employ on the land than lock up in a reversion.
In addition to the inconveniences felt both by lessor and lessee, there is the great public inconvenience, that the improvements of modern agriculture, which involve considerable outlay, are discouraged by this system. The lessor will not undertake them; his interest is too remote; he has no capital for such purposes ; he could not live to reap the fruits of it if he had. The lessee shrinks from them, because they may be valued against him at the next renewal, or, if not, certainly at the next but one; and his enterprise will be visited upon him in the shape of an increased fine.
Fortified by the opinion of a Committee of the House of Commons upon Church leases, which reported in 1839, the Commissioners resolved to get rid of the wasteful, vexatious, and uncertain system of leases. But here the simple and obvious course, to allow the leases to run out, and in the meantime to do nothing, was one which could not possibly be adopted.
In the first place, the Church expected the Commission instantly to come to the succour of those necessities, the pressure of which was the only justification for the great powers which had been intrusted to it. To have run out the leases, foregoing the fines, which were for this purpose income and not capital, would have condemned the Commission to a long inaction. On the other hand, to have run out the leases, borrowing the fines as they would have accrued, would have required a large capital, far larger than could possibly have been supplied for this process, if all the leases were to be dealt with.
There was another obstacle even more powerful. The body of Church lessees was entitled to an equitable consideration, and it was numerous enough and powerful enough to enforce a hearing. Now, whatever the objections to the leasehold system, uncertainty of tenure had not been one of them. For three