Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XII.: Of Tythes. - The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 1
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CHAP. XII.: Of Tythes. - Sir William Petty, The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 1 
The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, together with The Observations upon Bills of Mortality, more probably by Captain John Graunt, ed. Charles Henry Hull (Cambridge University Press, 1899), 2 vols.
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THe Word Tythes being the same with Tenths, signifie of it self no more then the proportion of the Excisium, or part retrenched, as if Customs upon imported and exported Commodities should be called by the name of Twentieths, as it is sometimes called Tunnage and Poundage; wherefore it remains to say, that Tythes in this place, do together with the said proportion, consignifie the use of it, viz. the maintenance of the Clergy, as also the matter or substance out of which this Maintenance is cut, viz. the immediate fruit of the Land and Waters, or the proceed of mens Labour, Art, and Stock laid out upon them. It signifies also the manner of paying it, viz. in specie, and not (but upon special and voluntary causes) in money.
2. We said the matter of Tythes, was the immediate Fruits of the Earth, viz. of Grain as soon as ‘tis ready to be removed from the ground that bare it; and not of Bread which is Corn thresht, winnowed, ground, tempered with liquor and baked.
3. ‘Tis also the second choice out of the young of multiparous Cattle taken in specie, so soon as the said Younglings can subsist without their Dams, or else a Composition in Money for the Uniparons.
4. ‘Tis Wool, so soon as it is shorn; ‘tis Fowl and Fish, where Fowling and Fishing is rather a Trade then a meer Recreation, & sic de cæteris.
5. Moreover, in great Cities, Tythes are a kinde of composition in Money for the labour and profit of the Artisans who work upon the materials which have paid Tythes before.
6. Tythes therefore encrease within any Territory, as the ‖ labour of that Countrey increases; and labour doth or ought to increase as the people do; now within four hundred years the people of England are about quadrupled, as doubling every two hundred years, and the proportion of the Rent of all the Lands in England is about the fourth part of the Expence of the people in it, so as the other three parts is labour and stock.
7. Wherefore the Tythes now should be twelve times as good as they were four hundred years ago; which the rates of Benefices in the Kings books do pretty well shew, by comparing of times; something of this should be abated because the proportion between the proceed of Lands and Labour do vary as the hands of Labourers vary: Wherefore we shall rather say, that the Tythes are but six times as good now as four hundred years ago, that is, that the Tythes now would pay six times as many Labourers, or feed six times as many mouthes, as the Tythes four hundred years ago would have done.
8. Now if there were not onely as many Parishes then as now, more Priests in every Parish, and also more Religious Men who were also Priests, and the Religion of those times being more operose, and fuller of work then now, by reason of Confessions, Holydayes, Offices, &c. more in those dayes then now, (the great work in these dayes being a compendious teaching above a thousand at once without much particular Confession and Catechising, or trouble about the Dead; it seems clear1 , that the Clergy now is far richer then heretofore; and that to be a Clergy-man then was a kinde of a Mortification, whereas now (praised be God) ‘tis matter of splendour and magnificence; unless any will say, that there were golden Priests when the Chalices were wood, and but wooden Priests when the Chalices were gold; or that Religion best flourisheth when the Priests are most mortified as was before said of the Law, which best flourisheth when Lawyers have least to do.
9. But what ever the increase of the Churches Goods are, I grudge it them not; onely wish that they would take a course to enjoy it with safety and peace to themselves; whereof ‖ one is, not to breed more Churchmen then the Benefices as they now stand shred† out, will receive; that is to say, if there be places but for about twelve thousand in England and Wales, it will not be safe to breed up 24000. Ministers, upon a view, or conceipt that the Church means otherwise distributed might suffice them all; for then the twelve thousand which are unprovided for, will seek wayes how to get themselves a livelihood; which they cannot do more easily then by perswading the people, that the twelve thousand Incumbents do poison or starve their souls, and misguide them in their way to Heaven: Which needy men upon a strong temptation will do effectually; we having observed, that Lecturers being such a sort of Supernumeraries, have preached more times in a week, more hours in the day, and with greater vehemence every time, then the Incumbents could afford to do; for Grœculus esuriens in Cœlum, jusseris, ibit1 . Now this vehemence, this pains, this zeal, and this living upon particular donations, makes the people think, that those who act them are withall more Orthodox, nay better assisted from God then the others. Now let any man judge, whether men reputed to be inspired will not get help to lift themselves into Church-livings, &c. But these things are too plain from the latest experiences.
10. Now you will ask, how shall that be done, or how may we know how to adjust our Nursery to our Orchard? To which I answer, that if there be twelve thousand Church-livings in England, Dignitaries included, then that about four hundred being sent forth per ann. into the Vineyard, may keep it well served, without luxuriency; for according to the Mortality-Bill-observation2 , about that number will dye yearly out of twelve thousand Adult-persons, such as Ministers are as to age, and ought to be as well as to speculative knowledge, as practical experience, both of themselves and others.
11. But I have digressed, my main scope being to explain the nature of the Tax of Tythes; nevertheless since the end of such explanation is but to perswade men to bear quietly so much Tax as is necessary, and not to kick against the pricks; and since the end of that again, and the end of all else we are ‖ to do, is but to preserve the publick Peace, I think I have not been impertinent in inserting this little Advertisement, making so much for the Peace of our3Jerusalem.
12. But to return to Tythes as a Tax or Levy, I say that in England it is none, whatsoever it might be or seem to be in the first Age of its Institution; nor will the Kings Quit-rents in Ireland, as they are properly none now, seem any in the next Age, when every man will proportion his Expence to the remainder of his own Rent after the King is paid his; for ‘tis surprize and the suddenness of the Charge, which a Tax supervenient to a mans other expences and issues makes, that renders it a burthen, and that intollerable to such as will not understand it, making men even to take up Arms to withstand it; that is, leap out of the Frying-pan upon earth into the fire even of hell, which is War, and the calamities† thereof.
13. Now Tythes being no Tax, I speak of it but as the modus or pattern of a Tax, affirming it to be next to one, the most equal and indifferent which can be appointed in order to defray the publick Charge of the whole Nation as well as that of the Church; for hereby is collected a proportion of all the Corn, Cattle, Fish, Fowl, Fruit, Wool, Honey, Wax, Oyl, Hemp, and Flax of the Nation, as a result of the Lands, Art, Labour, and Stock which produced them; onely it is scarce regular in respect of Housing, Cloth, Drinks, Leather, Feathers, and the several Manufactures of them; insomuch, as if the difference of Tythes which the Countrey payes in proportion to the City, were now de novo to be established, I do not see what in likelihood would sooner cause a grand sedition about it.
14. The payment of an aliquot part to the King out of the same things as now pay Tythes, in specie, would have no‡ inconvenience, because, the Kings Rents would be like the Dividend in Colledges, viz. higher or lower according to the prices of those Commodities, unless the said inequality in colledges happen by reason of the fewness of particulars, according to the market rates whereof their Rents are paid in money; whereas the whole of all the particulars might well enough ballance ‖ each other, a dear or plentiful†† being but an appellation secundum quid, viz. with reference as to Corn onely, as the chief food of the multitude; whereas ‘tis likely, that the same causes which makes Corn scarce, may make other things in plenty of no less use to the King; as repairing in one thing what he wants in another.
15. Another inconvenience would be that which was observed in Ireland, when the Ministery were paid by Sallary1 , and the Tythes in kinde paid to the State; who because they could not actually receive them in specie, let them at farm to the most bidder; in the transaction whereof was much juggling, combination, and collusion. which perhaps might have been remedied, had not that course been used but as a sudden temporary shift, without intention of continuing it.
16. The third inconvenience is, that abovementioned, viz. the necessity of another way of Tax, to take in the Manufactures of those Commodities which pay the Tax of Tythes; whereas possibly there is a way of Tax equal in its own nature, and which needs not to be pieced up by any other; so as the Officers about that may have a full employment, and none others wanted, whose wide intervals of leasure shall make them seem Drones, as they are also the Caterpillars of any State.
Conjectural emendation; “about the dead); It seems clear.”
[†]read [shared] for [shred]
Juvenal, Sat., III. 78.
See Graunt, Index, entry 96.
1679 omits “our.”
[†]read [consequences] for [calamities]
[‡]read [an] for [no]
[††]after [plentiful] interline [year]
Perhaps under Act of 1654, c. 32, Scobell II. 313, 317.