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ART. VIII. A View of the Agriculture of Middleses ; with Obser. i vations on the Means of its Improvement; and several Essays on
Agriculture in general. Drawn up for the Consideration of the Board: of Agriculture, by John Middleton, Esq. of West-Barns Farm, Merton, and of Lambeth, Surrey, Land Surveyor, &c. Accompanied by the Remarks of several respectable Gentlemen
and Farmers. Svo. Pp. 600. 95. sewed. Nicol, &c. 1798. 19 f merit always gained precedence, even from those who are
desirous of so allotting it, this work would not have been so long neglected by us. Could any doubt be entertained of the truth of King Solomon's observation that “time and chance happen to all,” or that there are accidents, lets, hindrances, and molestations, in all undertakings, we should feel ourselves compelled to apologise to our agricultural readers, for having so long omitted to announce the pleasure and satisfaction which they may promise themselves from the perusal of this elaborate and well-digested Report: but we are persuaded of the futility of such excuses. The county of Middlesex has been fortunate in its surveyor ; and the Memoir here coma posed for the Board of Agriculture will not only be interesting to the inhabitants of the county which it describes, but will be acceptable to all men who are concerned in discussions relative to rural affairs and political economy. 'Mr. Middleton has collected a great variety of matter concerning this rich and populous district, which he has arranged with a patient and displayed with an intelligent mind; and if, as a late writer has remarked, he may furnish some instances of the facility with which « conjectures accommodate themselves to hypotheses,” át should not be forgotten that this is an evil almost constantly attached to philosophic examination. Our own system is the me dium through which we all contemplate things; and this is very Tarely, if in any case, so pure as to suffer every ray to pass through it un-coloured and un-distorted. Though Mr. M. has a sys.tem, however, it occasions no weak delusion. He argues ably even when he does not convince, and is always desirous of giving the best and most satisfactory information.
Mr. Middleton's remarks on the subjects of Tithes, Management of the Poor, and Inclosures, are very judicious; and we hope to be more than excused for inviting the attention of our readers to what he has advanced, respecting topics now so necessarily connected with the welfare and prosperity of the country.
It would be speculating in too wide a field, to inquire whether the circumstances of Europe may not, in the course of a few years, oblige us to a general commutation of tithes : it is sufficient to consider how far the taking them in kind operates against agricultural improvements. There are different opinions on this subject, but the series of these Reports has made it apparent to which sside the general opinion leans. Mr. M. has given his sentiments on this head in so clear and decided a manner, that it may not be unacceptable to our readers, if we extract the whole of the Section entitled Tithes :
• In many parishes of this county, the tithes are taken in kind; and which is nearly the same, in others they are annually valued; and compounded for. In several parishes, a reasonable composition is taken ; in some it has been very little advanced during the last twenty years ; happily there are farms which pay a modus, and others that are entirely tithe-free.
• I doubt not but I shall stand excused for relating the following oppressive cases of tithes. It is in order to shew more clearly than I could otherwise do, that tithes operate against the improvement of the soil, and consequently against the interest of the nation.
I met with an instance near Longford, in this county, of a farmer having with great pains, and by an expensive culture, raised large crops. He offered a guinea* an acre as a composition for the tithe of his wheat ; but it was refused, and was spitefully and maliciously taken in kind.
'A late rector of Kensington, in this county, after having for some time harassed his parishioners in the court of Exchequer, obtained a decree that pine apples, &c. which are well known to be raised at the expence of hot-houses, and other considerable expences, should yield their tithe in kind. I have not heard how many hothouses were pulled down on that occasion, but a very exorbitant com position was demanded and received from the inhabitants, in lieu of paying their tithes in kind.
Jonathan Tyers, Esq. was at the expence of making a hop-plantation at Denbys (Surrey). The vicar refused to compound on any reasonable terms, and insisted on taking the tithes in kind, and also on having them picked. A suit in the court of Exchequer was litigated, and the decree going against Mr. Tyers, he grubbed up his hops, sowed grass-seeds, and made a pasture of the land. Thus was a produce of upwards of thirty pounds an acre reduced to three.
. The parish of Hutton, in Essex, was much occupied by the suckling of calves. The clergyman insisted on taking the tithes in kind. The inhabitants were willing to set out one-tenth of every meal's milk, and it was the only means they had of continuing the suckling business.
• This, however, would not content the parson—no: he insisted on having all the milk of every tenth day, though he must know that it would ruin their suckling system. They of course resisted; the parties were several years at law, and at last an unreasonable composition was obtained from the farmers t.
• * Which was exactly the rent he paid per acre.-7. M..
+ Tithes are not only oppressive in their own nature, but the method of taking vicarial tithes in kind, is ruinous to the occupier.-J. M.
• The · The success of these, and like cases, stimulated a vicar of Bata tersea to draw the tithes of that parish in kind, which was continued for two or three years, during which time nothing was more common than to meet his carts in the streets, retailing his tithes, with a person in cach, vociferating, “ come buy my asparagus !--oh rare cauliflowers !” &c. &c.
• A few instances equally oppressive with these, have happened in every county in England; and the necessary consequence is, that they have severaily put a stop to some expensive, but promising im. provement. Every matter of this kind becomes a subject of general conversation among farmers, and of course prevents their making the like attempts. In short, an act of parliament to prohibit the improvement of land by any considerable expenditure, would not more effictually do it than the rithe-laws*.
Had tithes never been established, happy would it have been for this country, and still more so for the clergy. They are a powerful 'cause of many quitting the church, and of creating and supporting sectaries : they are the never ending source of ill.wil, quarrelling, and litigation, and are, unquestionably, one great cause of the conti nuance of so much common and uncultivated land in these kingdoms. Within the narrow limits of my own knowlege, several premeditated bills of inclosure liave been given up, rather than the land should be subjected to yield tithes in kind, after the great expence of the act, the commission, the survey, the making of new roads, the building of bridges, the fencing, and erecting new buildings, and cultivating the land, should be incurred.
A meeting was lately held, for the purpose of considering an application to parliament for inclosing the commons above Pinner, in this county. It did not suit the sector to attend the meeting; he therefore sent his proposal in a letter, which was, that a particular part of the commons, containing 300 acres, should be allotted to him in one piece, inclosed with a ditch, bank, and park paling, and maintained in good repair for ever, at the expence of the other persons who had a right of common. As such an unreasonable request could not be complied with, it of course defeated the intended application, and the land still continues in common.
• For about 794 years after Christ, tithe had no establishment in this Island; and then, only over a small part of it, till about the year 854, when they were extended to the rest of England. The occa. siont of their being given, is a powerful reason against their continuance. It was at a time, too, of great superstition and very gross ignorance; and tithes are continued to these days, by a barbarous policy which sets an insurmountable obstruction in the way of every great improvement, and lays an intolerable burden on the most vit.
** The practical Mr. Boys, in his excellent Report of the county of Kent, says, "nothing can be devised, that would so much set improvements aftoat, as a commutation for tithe.”—7. M.'
* + For the occasion of their being taken from the laity of this realni, and given to the clergy, see Burn's Ecclesiastical Law: title, Tithes.'
fuohs and valuable class in society, to which half the property in these kingdoms contributes nothing. The operation of this tax is, to keep down or reduce the produce of the earth to much less in quantity than it would otherwise be, and of course to increase the price, and pro. mote our dependance for bread on the importation of corn from fo. reign countries, which could with case be raised at home.
* Tithes create grievous heart-burnings on account of their partial operation, and which is visible in most parts of this county, by, a very great number of the most wealthy persons living in expensive houses, or carrying on the largest manufactories, and who pay to the clergyman nothing, or at the most, only a few shillings a year, as a composition in lieu of the tithe of a garden. But mark the reverse. The smaller farmers are a very numerous class in society, supporting their families by the utmost exertion of their industry : many of them are unable to keep the wolf from the door, although themselves, their wives and children, would think it an indulgence, could they afford to fill their stomachs with the coarsest fare. Yet will the tithe-laws not fail to compel such miserable, but valuable beings, to pay a sixth, a fifth, or even a fourth, of the rental value of their land; and in some cases, more than the rent. Thus the poor farmer pays to the clergyman from 1ol. to upwards of 100l. a year, while his wealthy neighbour does not pay so many shillings
Every possible argument in favour of tithes upon land, in exclu. sion of houses and other property, ia insupportable. Why tax the land to build churches ? Does the land go to them? Is it benefited by them ? There is not, nor can there be, any connexion whatever between the land and the church. Religion, in a word, is a mere personal concern; and of course, every possible expence relative to it, ought to be defrayed by a personal tax, without reference to any particular species of property. A greater absurdity can hardly be found, than to tax land, houses, money, stock in trade, merchandize, shipping, &c. for the support of the church. Land has certainly no more analogy than shipping, to the church, yet no one ever thought of taxing shipping for the support of it. Neither, 1 repeat, ought land to be assessable for that purpose.'
As to the mode of employing and extending relief to the Paori Mr. M.'s opinion is in unison with our own; and we congratulate the children of Indigence on having so intelligent an advocate, who wisely and humanely has respect to their comfort, virtue, and importance as members of the community.--Gentlemen who have taken the leadin the management of the Poor have commonly been disposed to congregate chem. In order more cheaply to feed and more effectually to govern them, they have collected them from their huts and cottages into large workhouses and houses of industry: but the expectations of the projectors of these institutions have rarely been gratified. We have already hinted our ideas on this subject; and our inquiries
5* Several additional cases of oppression may be seen in the Annal, of Agriculture vol, xxi. p. 438, &c.'
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and examinations tend to confirm them.' Of heavy poor-rates, and profligate poor, we shall ever have to complain, unless we change our system. We should not think of improving the morals of one of the lower members of the community by forcing him from his cottage, to take shelter with his brethren in penury in a huge work-house ; nor suppose that they can be less burdensome in a mass, than separate in their respective lowly dwellings. Is an army, is a navy, fed as cheaply as the individuals who compose it can feed themselves? This, however, is not the first consideration. When the poor cease to act for themselves, and to have a home of their own, they lose their little independence and activity of mind. They have no interest in ány thing around them, and in course are deprived of the ordinary motives to patriotism, loyalty, and virtue. If the sum that is injudiciously expended in this country, according to the present system, were laid out in the erection of cottages, in allowing assistance to the necessitous poor at their own homes, and in training them to decency and 'virtue ;-if the rich would take them under their care and protection, (every parish, according to its number, being divided into small classes for this pure pose,) instead of abandoning them to careless overseers and hard-hearted farmers of work houses; we are confident that the good effect would be soon apparent. We could say much more on this subject : but we will only add a part of Mr. Middleton's observations, as agreeing with onr own sentiments :
• Lodging and diet in the work-houses, in every instance, are superior to what the industrious laboures can provide for his family. It is obvious that this must have an influence over their minds, and be come most injurious to the interests of society. It holds out encou: ragement to prefer the work-house to labour; and, by filling the poor-houses with improper inhabitants, it reduces the amount of in. dustry.
• In those parishes with which I am acquainted, the annual ex, pence of each pauper is about fifteen guineas ; a stout healthy labourer in husbandry, with a wife and three children, earris only thirty for the support of five persons,
· The earnings of the inhabitants of work-houses, on an average of the whole of this county, do not amount to eight shillings per head per annum; which taken from the former sum, leaves ħfteen pounds seven shillings, or near six shillings a week, as the expence of supporting each pauper. This is a profuse expenditure of parish money, as two-thirds of the whole number of
would support themselves out of the house, on being allowed only two shillings a weck each*.!
• If it be true, that two-thirds of the number can be supported for two shillings a week, in their own houses, the whole might, in that case, be maintained for half the expence incurred under the present system.--. M.