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There ought to be a symmetry between all the parts and orders of a State. A poor Clergy in an opulent nation can have little correspondence with the body it is to instruct, and it is a disgrace to the publick sentiments of religion. Such irreligious frugality is even bad economy, as the little, that is given, is entirely thrown away. Such an impoverished and degraded Clergy in quiet times could never execute their duty, and in time of disorder would infinitely aggravate the publick confusions.
That the property of the Church is a favoured and privileged property, I readily admit. It is made with great wisdom, since a perpetual body with a perpetual duty ought to have a perpetual provision.
The question is not the property of the Church, or its security. The question is, whether you will render the principle of prescription a principle of the Law of this Land, and incorporate it with the whole of your jurisprudence; whether, having given it first against the Laity, then against the Crown, you will now extend it to the Church.
The Acts, which were made, giving limitation against the Laity, were not Acts against the property of those, who might be precluded by limitations. The Act of quiet against the Crown was not against the interests of the Crown, but against a power of vexation.
If the principle of prescription be not a constitution of positive law, but a principle of natural equity, then to hold it out against any man is not doing him injustice.
That Tithes are due of common right is readily granted;—and if this principle had been kept in its original straitness, it might indeed be supposed, that to plead an exemption was to plead a longcontinued fraud; and that no man could be deceived in such a title; as the moment he bought land he must know, that he bought land tithed. Prescription could not aid him, for prescription can only attach on a supposed bona fide possession.
But the fact is, that the principle has been broken in upon.
Here it is necessary to distinguish two sorts of property.-1. Land carries no mark on it to distinguish it as ecclesiastical, as Tithes do, which are a charge on land; therefore, though it had been made inalienable, it ought perhaps to be subject to limitation. It might bona fide be held.
But first it was not originally inalienable; no, not by the Canon Law, until the restraining Act of the 11th of Elizabeth. But the great revolution of the dissolution of Monasteries by the 31st H. ch. 13, has so mixed and confounded ecclesiastical with lay property, that a man may by every rule of good faith be possessed of it.
The Statute of Queen Elizabeth, ann. 1, ch. 1, gave away the Bishop's lands.
So far as to Lands.
As to Tithes, they are not things in their own nature subject to be barred by prescription upon the general principle. But Tithes and Church
Lands, by the Statutes of Henry VIII. and the 11th Eliz. have become objects in commercio; for by coming to the Crown they became grantable in that way to the Subject, and a great part of the Church Lands passed through the Crown to the People.
By passing to the King, Tithes became property to a mixed party; by passing from the King, they became absolutely Lay property; the partition-wall was broken down, and Tithes and Church Possession became no longer synonymous terms. No man therefore might become a fair purchaser of Tithes, and of exemption from Tithes.
By the Statute of Elizabeth, the lands took the same course, (I will not inquire by what justice, good policy and decency) but they passed into Lay-lands, became the object of purchases for valuable consideration, and of marriage-settlements.
Now, if Tithes might come to a Layman, land in the hands of a Layman might be also tithe-free. So that there was an object, which a Layman might become seized of equitably and bona fide; there was something, on which a prescription L
might attach, the end of which is to secure the natural well-meaning ignorance of men, and to secure property by the best of all principles, continuance.
I have therefore shown, that a Layman may be equitably seized of Church Lands-2. Of Tithes -3. Of exemption from Tithes; and you will not contend, that there should be no prescription. Will you say, that the alienations made before the 11th of Elizabeth shall not stand good?
I do not mean any thing against the Church, her dignities, her honours, her privileges, or her possessions. I should wish even to enlarge them all; not that the Church of England is incompetently endowed. This is to take nothing from her but the power of making herself odious. If she be secure herself, she can have no objection to the security of others. For I hope she is secure from Lay-bigotry and Anti-priestcraft, for certainly such things there are. I I heartily wish to see the Church secure in such possessions, as will not only enable her Ministers to preach the Gospel with ease, but of such a kind, as will enable them to preach it with its full effect so that the Pastor shall not have the inauspicious appearance of a Tax-gatherer;-such a maintenance as is compatible with the civil prosperity and improvement of their Country.
FOR AN ESSAY ON THE DRAMA*.
is generally observed, that no species of writing is so difficult as the dramatick. It must indeed appear so, were we to consider it upon one side only. It is a dialogue, or species of composition, which in itself requires all the mastery of a complete writer with grace and spirit to support. We may add, that it must have a fable too, which necessarily requires invention, one of the rarest qualities of the human mind. It would surprise us, if we were to examine the thing critically, how few good original stories there are in the world. The most celebrated borrow from each other, and are content with some new turn; some corrective, addition, or embellishment. Many of the most celebrated writers in that way can claim no other merit. I do not think La Fontaine has one original story. And if we pursue
* These Hints appear to have been first Thoughts, which were probably intended to be amplified and connected; and so worked up into a regular Dissertation. No date appears of the time, when they were written, but it was probably before the year 1765.