« 이전계속 »
hundred years Church leases had been renewed, because the lessor, being at most a tenant for life, had no interest in running them out in favour of some unknown successor, at the sacrifice too of almost his whole income. Parliament had created, in the Commission, a new kind of lessor, who had no personal interest in the matter, and who was bound to make the estates as productive to the Church as possible. The leases had hitherto been put into settlements, and had been mortgaged, with as much confidence on both sides as to the permanence of the tenure, as if they had been freeholds. If the Commission should simply refuse to renew, the leaseholder's security would be turned into disaster, and in some cases into ruin. Mortgagees will call in their money, having lost their confidence in the security; and as the tenants can no longer borrow money to replace it, the mortgagees must foreclose and take possession of the houses and lands, and endeavour to reimburse themselves during the limited time allowed by the lease. Besides, it is likely to be very injurious to the lands affected, that they should be held by those who have no interest in their improvement, but rather an interest in getting out from them all possible profit during a short remaining term. All costly improvements will be discontinued. Old pasture-lands will be broken up. The land will be put under the most exhausting crops ; and when it finally comes into the hands of the Commission, it will be instantly destroyed, and can only be restored after a long delay, and much outlay and loss. On every ground, therefore, it was desirable that the brute and passive method of effluxion should not be adopted ; that the lessor and lessee, who are joint owners of the property, should agree upon some plan by which the interests of each should be secured. Apart from the justice of the case, the Commission would have been harassed at every step by a formidable army of observation, the Church lessees; and these were so strongly represented in Parliament, that the Commission would have been unable to obtain from the Legislature such additional powers as it required from time to time, whilst this vexing question remained unsettled.
In 1845, the Commission resolved to deal with lessees on the footing that the interest of each party should be valued, and that the Commissioners would either sell the reversion, or purchase the lessee's interest. With regard to estates which it was desirable to retain for the endowment of Sees and Chapters, the Commissioners could only offer to purchase the leasehold.
In order to be quite exact, it is necessary to observe that the two values of the interest, of lessor and lessee, do not together make up the sum which the estate, entirely free, would realize in the market. Owing to the objections to the leasehold system, alluded to above, the leasehold property is only worth twentyfive years' purchase; but the same property, when enfranchised, would in no case sell for less than thirty years' purchase.
The difference of five years' purchase, the Commission aimed at securing for their fund. They purchased the interest of a lessee, at its estimated value as leasehold, but they sold to a lessee for a sum equal to thirty years' purchase, deducting the value of the lessee's interest only. In either case, five years' purchase was gained to the Commissioners; nor could the leaseholder complain, for if he was a vendor, he had received the full value of the lease he sold ; if he was a purchaser, his now enfranchised estate would at once sell for what he had paid; or, being retained, it was worth the larger sum, being exempt from the difficulty and vexation of fines and renewals. By and bye, however, the lessees sought a share in the profits of this arrangement, and since 1851 the valuation for both parties was made at thirty years' purchase, as if the estate were free, and so the enhanced value, five years' purchase, was shared rateably between lessor and lessee.
But for many years the disputes with leaseholders, and the open animosity of that powerful class, exposed the Commission to much and often to unjust criticism. No public office has ever been so unpopular. How far the unpopularity has been deserved, let the facts disclose. For twenty years this body has been the subject of loud complaints, on the one side, from those who complain of its over-rigour in exacting its due; on the other side, from those who have been disappointed in the distribution of the Common Fund. On the one side it was too exacting, on the other too niggardly; and the result of these two opposite complaints, is a hazy impression that somewhere in Whitehall Place is a secret hoard, an enormous and increasing treasure, kept back from the purposes to which it was destined, to the scandal of mankind.
The income of the Commissioners in 1843, arising from the suppressed canonries and prebends, was somewhat more than £30,000. Anxious to do something to justify their existence, the Commissioners hastened to distribute this amount. They made 600 grants to livings, in no case, however, raising a living to the amount required for the decent maintenance of a clergyman and his family. They also assisted in the erection of sixty parsonage-houses. But these slender succours seemed rather to irritate than relieve the sore under which the Church of England was labouring. The existing livings were left unsatisfied, and, on the other hand, the great masses of population that had sprung up in the mining and manufacturing districts whilst the Church slept, were left altogether uncared for. The only mode
of quickening its operations appeared to be that of anticipating largely the income of the Commission.
Sir Robert Peel brought in a Bill to empower the Commission to borrow £600,000 of the money in possession of Queen Anne's Bounty Board, to enable the Commissioners to create 200 new districts in populous places, each being endowed with £150 a year. This was a wise measure, for the need was too pressing to wait, but the charges it entailed on the common fund of £30,000 a year for grants, and £18,000 interest to Queen Anne's Bounty, exhausted the resources of the Commission for many years to come. From 1844 to 1850 little could be done for the general objects for which the Commission was instituted, although the charges on the common fund amounted in 1850 to nearly £100,000 a year.
During this barren period, with the question of leaseholds still partly unsettled, with a clamorous crowd of expectants, whose appetites had been whetted by the first distribution, but by no means appeased, the Commission had need of great circumspection; in order to be safe, it must be immaculate. It was neither circumspect nor immaculate.
The story of the palace at Stapleton exhibits every feature of mismanagement. When the sees of Gloucester and Bristol were united, it was provided, in order to satisfy the people of Bristol, that the Bishop should reside part of the year in or near Bristol, an improvident arrangement, since it burdened the see with two houses of residence. In 1840 the Bishop pointed out Stapleton House, four miles from Bristol, as a desirable residence for the see, and proposed that it should be the only residence. As this proposal was against the very terms of the order in Council, the Commission objected to it, but acceded to an amended proposal that it should be bought as a second house. It was purchased, without any regular survey, for about £12,000, and no less than £12,000 more were spent in making it a suitable residence. The Bishop employed one architect, the Commissioners another, and the plans of the latter actually undid some of the work which the former had done. Alterations, much larger than the Bishop asked for, were made, and in this way an amount slightly beyond the whole fee-simple value of the house and land was muddled away on improvements. The Commissioners have since demonstrated in the same diocese that a see-house could be built from the very foundations for little more than the cost of the Stapleton repairs. On the death of Bishop Monk, his successor ceased to occupy Stapleton House, as inconvenient in every way for the work of the diocese. The rational opinion then came to prevail, that one house might suffice the one bishop of a compact diocese. Stapleton was sold to a Bristol charity, to be turned into
VOL. XLIV.—NO. LXXXVII.
a school, for about £12,000, the original cost, and the £12,000 spent upon alterations were as though they had not been.
Thus, in a matter requiring judgment and firmness, the Commission was at the mercy of architect and contractor. Set up to lead and guide the temporal affairs of the Church, it allowed itself to be dragged by the tail, like the cows into the cave of Cacus the robber. Why was a house bought, the cost of which would be doubled by alterations? Why were rival architects allowed to do and undo each other's work at the public expense? Why were more costly alterations forced on the Bishop, who knew best what was wanted ? Would not a moderate house at Clifton, such as three successive bishops since that day have been wont to hire for themselves, have been a sufficient supplement to the gloomy state of the palace at Gloucester ? These questions, and many others, let those who are conversant with the physiology of jobs answer as they can. On the completion of this strange transaction, the see possessed two houses, and one of them was sold for half its cost to rebuild the other. Men of a very large benevolence may perhaps find some consolation in this dreary tale of brainless mismanagement and waste, in the fact that at least the architect who made the alterations at Stapleton duly received his commission
Much has been said in the way of censure of the other transactions connected with bishops' houses, in which the Commissioners were engaged. It was a great misfortune that the two funds created by Parliament, the episcopal and the common fund, were not able to keep equal pace; that whilst the parochial clergy looked to a fund which as yet had nothing, the bishops depended on a fund which their richer brethren had at once endowed. But most of the expenditure on episcopal houses was forced on the Commissioners by the changes made by Parliament. Two new dioceses, Ripon and Manchester, required new houses ; in Rochester and Lincoln it was thought necessary to move the residences to a position more convenient for them, and Stapleton was purchased on account of the pledge to Bristol. There was a sixth case, which did not rest on the same grounds, but the house as it was positively forbade, what the restored house has practised in a manner the most exemplary, a large and kindly hospitality to the clergy and candidates for holy orders.
These six cases have been for nearly twenty years the reproach of the Commissioners; and it must be owned, that by putting forward the glaring case of Stapleton, by reckoning all the outlay on new houses without setting off the receipts from the sale of the old, and by the usual commonplaces about bishops and curates, the cry has been maintained with success. But a time has now come when a rational view may be taken. When Parliament created an episcopal fund applicable to episcopal purposes only, comparisons were sure to be made between that fund and the Common Fund,' with its slow-coming assets, and the prodigious hunger it had to meet. The proceeding was not wise, but Parliament was the author of it. This admitted, each of the six cases must stand upon its merits. A sweeping condemnation for each and all is out of the question. If there was extravagance, it was at the expense, not of the needy parishes, for Parliament had tied up the fund for episcopal purposes only, but at the expense of other sees and bishops.
We will now suppose that the Commissioners, surrounded by every form of entreaty, demand, suggestion and vituperation, and conscious within of the need of larger means, and of a certain badness of constitution, have reached the year 1850. Experience has proved that a large Board, formed for the most part of those who have important duties at a distance, is practically irresponsible. The Board of one week is not that of the next, and an important affair that would not have passed a full meeting may pass unharmed through a thin one. This large nebulous body required a solid core or nucleus. In 1848 a Committee of the House of Commons had advised that permanent lay members should have the management of the property. The hostile lessees still hovered in force upon their flanks, and had the ear of the House of Commons' Committee of 1848. About the same time a Royal Commission on Episcopal and Capitular Revenues said its word for the lessees, and suggested that the fines should be converted into a permanent rent-charge, calculated on a basis very favourable to the lessees. The suggestion went to this, that at a time when, from wise policy, all legislation tended towards enfranchisement and freehold tenure, the Church was to accept in lieu of estates that were rapidly being enfranchised, a permanent base tenure, against which many of the objections to leaseholds were equally applicable, whilst it had other formidable objections peculiar to itself. The general policy of the Legislature made it impossible that this proposition, so hostile to the Church, should be adopted. As to finance, the Commission found itself able to pay its way, but there was little hope of any new operations for many years. The funds were anticipated, first by the first batch of grants alluded to above; next by the working of the Peel Act, which had left a debt of £600,000, and the interest thereon ; and, lastly, by grants made in the interval between 1843 and 1850, amounting to about £20,000, for the most part to satisfy expectations which the Commission had raised somewhat improvidently in the first flush of its hopes.