Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter VI.: COMMUTATION. - Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside)
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Chapter VI.: COMMUTATION. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside) 
Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside) (London: Charles Fox, 1834).
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The bells, or the rumours of them, made themselves heard beyond the parish. The vicar was little moved by them; but uncle Jerom was seen by Alice, the next morning, approaching in a state of sad perturbation. As he could not prevail upon his brother to modify his system through a consideration for his personal safety and dignity, he now tried a different kind of appeal. He asked whether it was not a deplorable scandal to the church that there should be bell-ringing at the prospect of a clergyman being taken from his flock.
“It was less that than the belief that I had been rebuked by my superior which caused the exultation,” quietly replied the vicar. “But you know that neither the one nor the other is true. I will not, by yielding my own claims, give occasion for the supposition that my superior yields those of the church.”
“But if you allow proprietors to buy up the tithes on their own lands,—Parker for instance,—you will cease to have such for enemies; and it will be a very different thing from selling the dues of the church to an intermediate layman.”
“Ah! Jerom, there you touch my conscience in the only tender part. I have long repented letting my tithes to Peterson, as you recommended. It was bad advice, Jerom, as is all advice to rate at an average a revenue for sacred objects, of which revenue it is the primary quality that, as God’s seasons vary, it must vary. Jerom, your’s was bad advice.”
“Indeed it seems to have been so, by the aggravation of your troubles since Peterson became your lessee. But I find from him that Sir William Hood is about to allow the great tithes to be bought up, in order to put a stop to the deterioration of husbandry in the parish; and I really think you could not do a better thing than follow his example when so good an opportunity offers.”
The vicar spread both hands before his brother, in emphatic refusal.
“Papa,” said Alice, “I wish you would do as you are bid, sometimes, as you are always telling me to do. Why don’t you mind what uncle Jerom says, and what every body says? Well, it may not be every body’s business; but I know what Jane says; and I am sure she is as fond of you as any body can be.”
The being fond of him argued such a right mind towards the church, that the vicar was immediately prepared to hear what Mrs. Byrne had to say.
“She says that she is frightened to hear how people talk; and that she shall never be easy to see you out walking till you have somehow put other people into your place about collecting the tithes. If there must be tithes, so that Mr. Parker must always look out of humour, and the Lamberts grow sad, and Mr. Byrne give up more and more things in his garden, the blame ought to go where it is due, she says; and that is to the church, and not to you. And it would be so, she thinks, if people all bought their own, and there was an end of the quarrelling that there is now, twice a year.”
“I wonder who suggested the idea to her,” observed the vicar. “If I thought it was Mr. Mackintosh—”
“I think it was not Mr. Mackintosh, papa. I think it was the man that—”
“I know whom you mean,” said Jerom; “the stranger who has been hanging about the parish lately,—no one can tell why. Some of my people suspect that he is an agent in the rickburning plot. I am sorry that Byrne lets him within his doors.”
“And so is Jane, I think,” said Alice. “She always tries to prevent my seeing him, if he happens to be in the cottage; and once I observed her cry the moment she saw her husband bringing him up the road. Perhaps he will go away, papa, if you will do as they wish you should.”
This was not the very best kind of appeal that Alice could have used. He yielded so far, however, as to allow his brother to bring him word how the bargains for the great tithes between Peterson and the payers were framed, and what effect they appeared to produce on the minds and manners of the discontented. He would determine accordingly as to revising his scruples, or dismissing the matter entirely from his thoughts.
Of course, those who were visited by Mr. Peterson and his companion varied in their eagerness to buy up their tithes, in proportion to the duration of their interest in the land. A farmer who had just entered upon a long lease offered a twenty years’ purchase at 7l. per acre, all round,—arable and pasture. Others who were near the end of their lease, and were discouraged by the unfavourable aspect of the season, desired to buy up their tithes year by year, if they could but be secure against competition. Mr. Parker was willing to make a liberal thirty years’ purchase, in order to free his own estate, and leave himself at liberty to improve it without discouragement, or bequeath it to his son without disadvantage. The sum demanded from him, as a hop-grower, was, however, so enormous, that he declared he would rather give up growing hops, as others had done before him, than pay such a merciless impost. Peterson asked him what he would have; and showed him that other people’s hop-grounds had yielded at the rate of 3l. per acre. Mr. Parker wished to proceed upon the basis of an average of the last five or seven years; but this was declared to be the most fallacious of guides. Peterson contended that the seasons had been peculiarly unfavourable, and that the modes of management had so varied within six years as to leave no reasonable average. He proposed to value the land and the tithe, deducting the poor-rate and a per centage for the owner’s trouble in stacking, thatching, and threshing his farm produce, and carrying his hops to market. He considered it very liberal to offer a further reduction of 20 per cent. in consideration of the security of the impropriator from the accidents of chance and change: but Mr. Parker hesitated and grumbled, and treated Peterson’s companion with nearly as fine a lament over the assimilating qualities of the church as Mr. Mackintosh himself could have offered. He related that he had a pretty farm near town which had never before been let by him for less than 5l. per acre. It was with difficulty that he could now get 3l., on account of the enormous tithe. It was bad enough to have the poor’s-rate as high as 13s. per acre, and the sewer’s-rate perhaps 7s. or 8s. more; but the amount of tithe paid in addition was intolerable. The three rates together amounted to nearly 3l. per acre over the whole farm. He hoped Mr. Hellyer thought he contributed his share towards promoting the piety of the nation, when his land thus paid 3l. per acre to maintaining a single clergyman.
Peterson wished to know in what proportion the different kinds of produce yielded. Mr. Parker was remarkable for a good memory as to the several amounts of tithe.
And garden and farm-yard poultry according to circumstances. A certain amount was to be paid for all small tithes, whether the tenant produced the titheable articles or not.
“There are plenty of men like you,” observed Mr. Parker to Peterson, “who talk of an average of a few years on each separate estate,—five or seven years,—and would have any commutation that is proposed proceed upon such an average. Now, here is a case which shows you the injustice of such a principle. My interest in my land would be almost annihilated if I allowed it to be calculated to yield 2l. per acre to the church. To perpetuate such a charge as this would be to ruin the owners of land near London, and in many other situations. They say the price of produce would rise accordingly; but before it could rise enough to repay me for such a sacrifice, the people would be boiling acorns and stewing nettles for food.”
“And it would ruin the church in some other districts,—” Jerom was going on to say; but Mr. Parker interrupted him with,—
“Not so completely as the present plan, sir. The worst enemy of the church,—Mr. Mackintosh himself,—could not desire more than to see the church consuming the state, as it is doing now. As for men that we think wiser than Mr. Mackintosh, they are of opinion that religion was given us to bless our bread, to prosper us in basket and store, and not to devour our plenty. The people cannot but see that the reverse is the case with the established religion of this country;—that in plentiful seasons, the clergy take much, (legally, I allow,)—and that in bad seasons they take more, (legally, and therefore the more gallingly.) The people cannot but feel that as the net produce of the nation grows smaller in proportion to the gross, and as the clergy seize a larger proportion of the net produce, the question must come to this,—whether the people shall have state-priests or bread. How the clergy are likely to fare in such an alternative, I leave it to you to guess.”
“So, you allow that this is a question pertaining to the people. You allow that the landlord does not alone support the church.”
“Look at the owners of tithe-free lands, and see the folly of such a question. They are getting rich under the operation of our precious system of inequality. And how? Not merely because their farms are in an universally better condition than the tithed: not only because the abbey farm is better worth 20s. per acre rent than the Quarry Wood farm is worth 13s., for the reason that the one does not pay tithe and the other does,—and so on, through all farms that bear this distinction; but because these landowners are profiting by the high prices of produce which must cover the sacrifice of the tithe-payer. No, no: landowner as I am, I never was heard to say that the landlord pays the tithe, in a general way, any more than the farmer. They both have their grievances, and their occasional losses under the system;—they are vexed from month to month, and eat dear bread and meat in their own families, and pay high wages to their labourers; but these sacrifices are made by them in their character of consumers; and it is the people who pay the tithes; the poor Stockport weaver in his garret, and the half-starved apple-vender in her cellar, as truly as the Lamberts and myself.”
“You would sweep away tithe, at once and for ever, I suppose, in pity to these poor people; and set your vicar and myself to weave in a garret, or sell apples in a cellar.”
“No; it may be left to Mackintosh to preach up such a scheme of spoliation as that. If the clergy alone were concerned, I might be willing,—not that they should weave and sell apples,—but that they should obtain their support, like other servants of society, from the hands of those whom they serve. But tithe property has become so complicated with other property as to be equally sacred with that other property: and I should cry out as vehemently against its abolition (without compensation) as against reducing the interest of the debt. No wise man—no man of honour—can advocate either kind of public robbery.”
“Since there is this complication of tithe with other property, it had better be let alone. You can no more disentangle it than you can pay the debt. You will never achieve a scheme which will satisfy both tithe and land owner.”
“Probably. It would be strange if a perfectly unobjectionable plan could be formed to lead us out of the mischiefs of a pernicious system whose evil influences have been accumulating for centuries. But, if the church and the landowners understand anything of their own state and prospects, they will be anxious for a final settlement of their accounts within a defined and early period. Such a settlement must take place, sooner or later, since this tax involves the very principle of perpetual growth. Nothing but absolute transformation can prevent it enlarging till it swallows up everything.”
“I am sure my brother and I do not find it so.”
“Because you cannot recover your dues; but the farmer can instruct you here. My father had a favourite little farm of a hundred acres, which was left to him in 1791, and came into my hands in 1812. When he first let it, the rent was 80l., and the tithe 14l. 9s.; in 1798, the tithe had risen to 17l. 12s.; in 1805, rent was 95l., tithe 23l. 7s.; in 1812 the tithe had risen to 29l. A farm of mine, which let, a few years ago, for 240l., then paid 30l. in tithes. It now lets for 689l., and the tithes are 140l.: that is, the tithes are nearer five-fold than the rent three-fold what was paid before. And, in like manner, there must be an increase all over the country, since the same proportion of the gross produce must be paid in tithe, through every increase of the expense of such production. Therefore, above all things, let us know, in rectifying our tithe system, that we really are to have done with it by and by; and when.”
“And how do you propose to reconcile the clergy to the tithe system thus being brought to an end?”
“Those of them who understand their own position see, like other men, the folly of the clergy stickling for tithes. The clergy have only a life-interest in tithes; and the possession of a certain income is the circumstance which is of most consequence to them. Some contend for tithes as if they were the most secure source of income in the world, or as if they were an inheritance for a future generation; but many more would be glad to depend on a fund less precarious, and less odious in the collection.”
“Do you allow nothing for attachment to ancient ecclesiastical institutions?”
“In your simple brother: but there are faithful churchmen, just as much attached as he to ancient ecclesiastical institutions, who have eyes to see the different effects of the tithe systems of Ireland and Scotland, and who reason from them. They see how, in Ireland, the farmer becomes a peasant, and then is hunted out of house and home by the tithe-procter, and then turns on the proctor to maim and murder him; while in Scotland, the farmer carries home his harvest without interruption, and looks with compassion on his English brother. In the first case, appears an aggravated repetition of the abuses of the English system; in the other, the tithes are drawn with comparative harmlessness, whether by the crown, the clergy, or laymen, in the form of a fixed rent. So long ago as Pitt’s time, there were not wanting bishops to approve of the church being supported by a civil fund. It is true, the plan would have been all for the benefit of the clergy, in the very point in which it is most important to obtain relief.”
“In that of the perpetual increase of which you complain?”
“Yes. When the tithe should have been bought up, in the same way that it was intended that the land-tax should be, and the proceeds invested in the funds, the people were not to flatter themselves that they had done with the tax. The income was to be so adjusted as to admit an increase, from time to time, in proportion to the rise in the price of grain. The bishop who recorded this scheme breathed no syllable about the desecration of the church by this mode of augmenting its funded income: and the objections of his brethren were of a different cast.”
“As different, probably, as mine from my brother’s, when we sit down to talk over the prospects of the church. I have not the least objection, as he will tell you, to an alteration in the source of our incomes, if the change could be innocently brought about; but I never could see how injustice and tyranny, towards one party or the other, are to be avoided. It is tyranny to the landowner to compel the universal and immediate purchase of the tithe; and it is injustice to the clergy to prohibit that natural increase of their revenue which they consider to have been guaranteed to them by the very institution of tithes.”
“Suppose a plan which should contain an alternative by which both these objections should be answered. Suppose a scheme of commutation under which a tithe-rate should be instituted, subject to increase upon a demand for a revaluation of land, from time to time; while an option should be given to the landowner, to be subject to this increase, or to make a twenty or thirty years’ purchase,—that is, a final purchase of the tithe. I think there might be such a plan.”
“And then those who paid the most tithe would be the first to redeem. But how would you set about ascertaining a tithe-rate, afraid as you are of taking an average of a few years as a rule?”
“That objection applies only to perpetuating the limited average of an individual estate. If the average is extended over a parish, or over a county, the calculation becomes a much fairer one. I see no other principle to proceed upon than that of taking an average; and the question of fairness lies between taking in a longer period of time and a larger extent of space. I feel that it would be hard upon me to perpetuate the tithe of my farm near town at 2l. per acre; and though it would be fairer to take for a basis the average of tithe which it has paid for fifty years, a better plan still would be to find out the proportion of tithe to yearly value of land all through the county, and to fix the tithe-rate according to this proportion.”
“You could never get such a valuation made fairly. When you meet with a modus, what are you to do with it? And how are you to settle what is arable land and what pasture? And every farmer will protest against some kinds of produce that are particularly profitable being no more taxed than others. There would be complaints of you,—a hop-grower,—being let off as easily as a grower of corn.”
“All these matters of detail might be settled when once the general principle is agreed upon. If hop-grounds now pay considerably more, from the nature of their produce, than other lands, let them be subject to a fair extra charge. Let a term be fixed,—five years, perhaps,—within which the tillage of lands shall cause those lands to be called arable. And what is easier than to deduct any modus from the tithe-rate? Give us the principle of a good scheme, and its application will not be long delayed by difficulties about these minor matters of detail.”
“Your plan would be to have an ascertainment of the annual value of the land, and of the tithe, upon an average of a few years. You would settle their relative value, and declare it in the form of a poundage upon rent for the county. You would allow a periodical revaluation on the application of the tithe-owner—”
“Or of the landowner.”
“Of either party, of course. So the tithe remains liable to increase or decrease—”
“It would be increase. The nature of the tax insures its perpetual increase. But the bad effects of this increase would be guarded against by obliging the tithe-taker to accept from the tithe-payer a twenty-five years’ purchase of the tithes, as a final redemption of his land from tithes. If this tax be really the grievance it is declared to be, the permission to redeem will be made ample use of. And the church—”
“Ah! how do you propose to reconcile the church to the extinction of tithes?”
“To the perpetuation, I suppose you mean. If you should happen to live a few years longer under the present system, you might chance to be taught a little more correctly what extinction is. If you now find it impossible to collect all that is due to you, you may have no chance of collecting any thing twenty-five years hence. The church may be very thankful to have its present amount of revenue secured to it, and to be allowed the opportunity of making a permanent property of it. My great doubt is—”
“Under what agency the commutation is to be effected so as to satisfy the parties. Who will undertake it?”
“Agents so various as to secure impartiality. Royal Commissioners, perhaps, might make the original valuation: and they might be followed by arbitrators who should settle disputes. Then the mechanical part of the business,—the ascertainment of the tithe-rate,—might be done by the justices. The business which most nearly concerns the church,—the final bargain with the landowner, and the investment of the purchase-money either in land for glebe, in the funds, or in mortgages, might be managed by a corpo ration of churchmen.”
“But how many landowners who may wish to redeem will be ready with the cash?”
“Why must the church be paid in cash? A mortgage on the land to be redeemed, with, a good rate of interest,—say 4 per cent.,—would suit the convenience of all parties. A small per centage on the tithe-rate collected would defray all expences.—I do not see how any difficulties which can attend a scheme like this can be shown to bear any comparison with the evils daily endured under the present system. The doubt I spoke of is whether the great body of the people would not complain of the church being too well treated, its chances of existence being too favourably computed, under such a scheme as I have given you an outline of. I, for one, should say so, if I supposed that the church must either retain its present form or perish. But, believing that there is an alternative, I am willing to do my part in such a compromise as I have proposed.”
“What kind of an alternative?”
“The transformation of the church, so that it may fulfil the original purposes of its establishment. When the church was established for the promotion of religion, religion was the only kind of education which could be given to the people. The time is come when not only must the church be made an educational institution, in order to fulfil its original design, but the religion which it professes to protect cannot be supported without the aid of education. If it could be, it would be superstition, and not religion.—Yes, the days of the present mode of existence of the Church of England are numbered. Religion flourishes so much more eminently, so much more extensively when supported by the free-will of the worshippers, and has been so indisputably proved incapable of an incorrupt union with the state, as to leave no doubt that the Church of England, already a very minute sect among the worshippers of christendom, will soon become too insignificant and weak to maintain its place, unless it quits the ground of its present monstrous assumption, and takes its stand on the cultivated reason of its supporters. I do not know why you,—a clergyman as you are,—should look surprised at what is far from surprising to those who are not clergymen. Look at the map of christendom, and see what space is occupied by our church. Look at Great Britain alone, and mark what proportion the dissenters bear to the church. Observe how many are coming forth from her,—and those the zealous and the dissatisfied, while, from the very nature of the case, the lukewarm and indifferent remain in the bosom of the establishment. Mark the certainty that the worldly and careless will go over to the dissenters from the moment that dissent reaches the point of ascendancy over conformity, and then say whether there be any other alternative than this,—that the Church of England must enlarge its office, and improve its ministrations, or fall.”
“My brother will preach against you for a person as dangerous as Mr. Mackintosh.”
“He will not make Mr. Mackintosh less dangerous, but more so, by preaching against him; and as for me, he might perhaps do more wisely in hearing me than in marking me out to be questioned by those in this parish who do not love the church as they once did.”
“And you would tell those questioners that they must not love their church any more till it is no longer a church, but a school.”
“Till the vices of the institution are exploded,—till the clergy cease to be the organs and tools of the oligarchy, for whose purposes the corrupt system of church patronage is kept up. If the clergy were paid according to their services by those whom they serve, instead of being made the pretext for keeping up an ecclesiastical fund useful for filling the pockets and disposing of the younger sons of the aristocracy, there would be an end of the overgrown wealth of some of our dignitaries, and the disgraceful poverty of too many of our working clergy. There would also be some chance of the clergy ceasing to be below every other class of men in a reputation for moral and political independence.—‘By teaching we learn;’ and there may yet be hope that such of the clergy as shall be qualified to begin imparting the elements of the morals required by an advancing age, may be able to bear the ark of christianity through the troubled waters which they must soon encounter. Such of them as are unfit for this office will sink, and, while sinking, will cry that the ark has perished. But there will not be many to believe it.”
“God will support his own church.”
“God will support the true faith; and his support must be looked for in the usual mode of manifestation,—in the support of man,—in the recognition by man of what is just and right.”
“Your proposed method of commuting some of the property of the church is to be recognized as just and right, I suppose.”
“I believe it has a pretty good chance of being so, if one great consideration be attended to in time;—a consideration which is at present by far too little regarded. This measure can hardly be called just to the people at large, unless it be followed up by another.”
“Ah! that is the way. Every innovation brings another after it.”
“How else is the race to advance? You yourself believe that the great innovation of christianity brought many others after it; and, you may believe me, these of which we are speaking form part of the sequence. Justice requires that there should be an alteration in our corn-laws, to meet the enlargement of demand that must follow upon the relief of land from the burden of tithe.”
“You do not mean that the clergy now eat more corn than they will eat then?”
“No; but the price of corn is now higher than it will be then. No one knows better than you, as a clergyman, that not above one half of the sums drawn out of their natural channel under the tithe system goes to the clergy. Half of it goes into the pockets of the owners of tithefree land, in the shape of increased rent. This rent would fall; and after it, the price of produce; and the fall of price would be followed by an increased demand; and this demand would be supplied,—not only by increased importation, (the import duties having previously risen with the fall of prices at home,) but by the cultivation of inferior soils, now no longer subjected to the burden of tithe. A quantity of the capital of the nation must thus be buried in inferior soils, and tend to increase rent,—i. e. to enrich the landlord, and, once again, the church, at the expense of the people.”
“But the great obstacle to the repeal of the corn-laws at present is the amount of capital which is invested in inferior soils.”
“The very best reason for not tempting or compelling a further investment of the same sort. The whole benefit of the commutation depends upon this. If the import duties be so lowered as to admit of the usual supply from abroad, our people will obtain the desired relief from the change of system. If not, it will matter little to the weaver and the apple-vender, at the end of five years, whether they pay their tax to the clergy, or to the barrenness of the ground. It should not, in this conjuncture, be forgotten that the plea of landlords for maintaining the corn-laws has always been the taxes upon agricultural production,—and tithes above all the rest. If, when tithes are commuted, the landlords should change their plea, and declare that it was not they who formerly paid tithes, but the public, and that they therefore need the protection of the corn-laws as much as ever, I trust the legislature will perceive that the corn-laws ought not to have been kept up thus long, instead of fancying that they must be maintained yet longer.”
“You are hard to please,” observed Jerom, with a grim smile. “Though a landowner, you are no more fond of corn-laws than of tithes.”
“I grant that you and I should find it difficult to settle which is the worst,—for ourselves, and for the people at large. I only wish I could make you, a clergyman, as discontented with tithes as I, a landowner, am with corn-laws.”
“Some people,” observed Jerom, “complain of tithes as being bad in a deteriorating country; but you have been murmuring at their operation on your father’s improving farm.”
“For the good reason that tithes are injurious in the extreme, in either case. In an improving country, where there is capital ready for application, tithes are bad as discouraging the application of that capital. Witness that pretty field of mine which must lie waste till I can cultivate it without having all my profit swallowed up by the church. In a deteriorating country, the tithe is bad, because it tempts to the cultivation of inferior in preference to superior soils, and raises wages, and augments, both in value and amount, with scarcity. Witness its effects upon the Lamberts,—the poor ground they have sown this year, and the better that they have let alone, and the general air of deterioration caused by the higher price of labour. I am afraid Peterson is plaguing them again about some new claim or another. He left us long ago, and walked that way. He is fond of doing business with them, because, as Quakers, they can offer no resistance. Shall we go and see?”
As was anticipated, Peterson was found worrying the Lamberts. Wherever the axe and mattock were heard, there, as a matter of course, was Peterson; and his quick ear had caught the sound of the chopping of wood while Mr. Parker and Jerom were arguing. The Lamberts’ labourers were busy in making faggots of a good deal of wood which had been cut some time before; and of these faggots Peterson was claiming his share.
“Do look at him!” said Parker. “He is going to measure trees, I do believe, to see if they are of the required twenty years’ growth. He carries his measure about with him, as a surgeon does his lancets.”
“If thou wilt only go and ask any lawyer,” said Joseph, who was much heated, “he will tell thee that thou hast no more right to the tops and lops of our pollard oaks than thou hast to the tenth chamber of any house. With all thy boast of law, thou mightest know that, I think. The loppings are exempted as much as the bodies.”
“We shall see that, friend. Meantime, I shall take leave to measure what I call, in a legal sense, underwood, and you timber. You will please to show me the beeches from which all this wood was cut.”
“Thou mayst try and find them out. But, friend, I give thee notice that it will do thee no good, if thou shouldst chance to find the right tree, and that it is twenty-five inches in the girth. Thou hast apparently forgotten some purposes that wood may be cut for.”
“By no means; but you cannot deny that these ash-poles are for sale to Mr. Parker for his hops, and these faggots for the market.”
Mr. Parker denied that he meant to purchase any ash-poles of the Lamberts; and Joseph declared that the faggots were for use on the farm. Peterson would not believe it, so great as the quantity was. Was he to believe that these half-dozen men, all chopping and binding, as if to supply the parish with fuel, were merely preparing wood for farm purposes?
“Yes: we have to burn bricks; and, in this rainy season, there is no time to be lost. And now, friend Peterson, art thou satisfied?”
“By no means, till I know what the bricks are for. They may be for sale.”
“They are for enlarging our house on the Abbey Farm.”
“Enlarging. Hum. Not repairing. If it had been mere needful reparation, the wood for burning the bricks would not, as you say, have been titheable. But enlarging is a different matter, as my book will show you. You must set out tithe of this billet wood, and these tops and lops.”
“I assure thee, it is not for our pleasure, or for any purpose of vanity, that we are going to enlarge our house. Indeed, the times are not suited to such an intention. We are merely preparing to receive a family of orphans who have no other home to look to.”
Peterson had nothing to do with this. Sir William Hood was not to suffer for there being orphans in the parish.
“Cannot you contrive, now,” asked Mr. Parker, “to tithe these orphans, as well as the wood that is to burn the bricks that are to build them a dwelling? If there happen to be ten of them, I dare say Mrs. Lambert will not grudge one of them to the church.”
Joseph could have made a long and eloquent reply to this; but he was particularly anxious not to detain the tithe-gatherer, lest any accident should lead the conversation round to his precious ewes, so as to put Peterson upon missing them from their accustomed places. He briefly said that he and his brother should, as usual, decline to set out tithe of wood; and if the agent chose to seize it, the proceeding must be at his own risk. He took up a hatchet, and made noise enough to show his troublesome visitor that no more conversation was desired. There was no use in entering with the Lamberts on the subject of a sale of their tithes, as their principles forbade their admitting the right to levy a tax for the support of religion.
Mr. Mackintosh could not bend his spirit to a compromise. His tithes must be taken by seizure, if at all, so long as he remained at the rectory. Others were more ready to compromise,—particularly those who wished to free land of their own from an interference which made them feel very much as if the land was not their own; but there was so much trouble in settling the averages, in agreeing about the deductions, and determining the proportions according to the longer or shorter term of years for which the purchase was to be made, that, before it was over, all parties began to wish that some principle had been established for general guidance;—that, in a case so peculiar, the negociators could have been assisted and protected by government sanction.
There was no hope of the vicar’s becoming such a negociator, when a reduction of 20 per cent. in consideration of contingencies, had once been mentioned as one of the grounds of an agreement. He would never consent to surrender any of the dues of the church,—more especially as a letter from a lawyer this day gave high hopes that the authority of the church was about to be vindicated by the issue of his lawsuits with his parishioners being in his favour. This was an encouragement to his firmness and zeal which he could not disregard.