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ples of those, who place all difference in, opinion concerning public matters, to the score of disaffection; whereof I am at least as innocent as the loudest of
Dublin, Feb. 24. 1731-2.
THE BILL FOR SETTLING THE TITHE
HEMP, FLAX, &c. BY A MODUS.*
The clergy did little expect to have any cause of complaint against the present house of com
* In 1733, a bill was presented in the Irish House of Commons for encouraging the growth of flax, by which in imitation of a similar regulation in England) it was provided, that the tithe upon that production should be commuted for a certain modus, os composition in money. As flax is the staple .commodity of Ireland, the loss which the clergy of that kingdom must have sustained, by the proposed commutation, especially in the course of years, must have been very great. Accordingly, a petition was presente ed, subscribed by our author, Dr John Stewart, Daniel Jackson, John Grattan, and others, on behalf of the clergy of Ireland, praying to be heard by counsel against the bill. Not satisfied with this interference, the dean arranged his arguments against the proposed plan of a modus, in the shape of the following pamphlet; nor did his usual weapon, satire, remain sheathed upon the occasion. For this bill, with the resistance made to the tithe of pasturage, called agistment, occasioned his bitterest and last poetical diatribe, entitled The Legion Club.
The opposition to the bill proved so effectual, that it was dropped. mons; who, in the last session, were pleased to throw out a bill* sent them from the lords, which that reverend body apprehended would be very injurious to thein, if it passed into a law; and who, in the present session, defeated the arts and endeavours of schismatics to repeal the sacramental test.
For although it has been allowed on all hands, that the former of those bills might, by its necessary consequences, be very displeasing to the lay gentlemen of the kingdom, for many reasons purely secular; and that this last attempt for repealing the test did much more affect at present the temporal interest than the spiritual; yet the whole body of the lower clergy have, upon both those occasions, expressed equal gratitude to that honourable house for their justice and steadiness, as if the clergy alone were to receive the benefit.
It must needs be therefore a great addition to the clergy's grief, that such an assembly as the present house of commons, should now, with an expedition more than usual, agree to a bill for encouraging the linen manufacture, with a clause whereby the church is to lose two parts in three of the legal tithe in flax and hemp.
Some reasons why the clergy think such a law will be a great hardship upon them are, I conceive, those that follow. I shall venture to enumerate them, with all deference due to that honourable assembly.
First, the clergy suppose that they have not, by any fault or demerit, incurred the displeasure of the nation's representatives : neither can the declared loyalty of the present set, from the highest prelate to the lowest vicar, be in the least disputed : because there are hardly ten clergymen through the whole kingdom, for more than nineteen years past, who have not been either preferred entirely upon account of their declared affection to the Hanover line, or higher promoted as the due reward of the same merit.
* For the bishops to divide livings. See the preceding Tracts:
There is not a landlord in the whole kingdom residing some part of the year at his country seat, who is not in his own conscience fully convinced, that the tithes of his minister have gradually sunk for some years past one third, or at least one fourth, of their foriner value, exclusive of all nonsolvencies.
The payment of tithes in this kingdom is subject to so many frauds, brangles, and other difficulties, not only from papists and dissenters, but even from those who profess themselves protestants, that, by the expense, the trouble, and vexation of collecting or bargaining for them, they are, of all other rents, the most precarious, uncertain, and ill paid.
The landlords in most parishes expect, as a compliment, that they shall
little more than half the value of the tithes for the lands they hold in their own hands; which often consist of large domains: and it is the minister's interest to make them easy upon that article, when he considers what influence those gentlemen have upon
The clergy cannot but think it extremely severe, that in a bill for encouraging the linen manufacture, they alone must be the sufferers, who can least afford it. If, as I am told, there be a tax of three thousand pounds a year paid by the public, for a farther encouragement to the said manufacture, are not the clergy equal sharers in the charge with the rest of their fellow subjects ? What satisfactory reason can be therefore given, why they alone should bear the whole additional weight, unless it will be alleged that their property is not upon an equal foot with the properties of other men? They acquire their own small pittance, by at least as honest means, as their neighbours, the landlords, possess their estates; and have been always supposed, except in rebellious or fanatical times, to have as good a title: for no families now in being can show a more ancient. Indeed, if it be true, that some persons (I hope they were not many) were seen to laugh when the rights of the clergy were mentioned ; in this case, an opinion may possibly be soon advanced, that they have no rights at all. And this is likely enough to gain ground, in proportion as the contempt of all religion shall increase, which is already in a very forward way.
It is said, there will be also added to this bill a clause for diminishing the tithe of hops, in order to cultivate that useful plant among us: and here likewise the load is to lie entirely on the shoulders of the clergy, while the landlords reap all the benefit. It will not be easy to foresee where such proceedings are likely to stop ; or whether by the same authority, in civil times, a parliament may not as justly challenge the same power in reducing all things titheable, not below the tenth part of the product (which is, and ever will be, the clergy's equitable right), but from a tenth part to a sixtieth or eightieth, and from thence to nothing.
I have heard it granted by skilful persons, that the practice of taxing the clergy by parliament, without their own consent, is a new thing, not