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“I have that honor, Sir.” “May I ask what college?” So many Cantabrigian sins rushed to my conscience, though it had slumbered over them for years in peace, that I was awe-struck by the interrogatory, not less than by the pomposity of his tone, and the inflated dignity of his manner. “Certainly, Sir; but excuse me for first inquiring why you ask?” “Sir, I am unfortunately compelled, by conscientious principles, to embark in a controversy of the most painful nature with one of my parishioners; and as mine is a peculiar, indeed I may say a very uncommon case, I would fain avail myself of the assistance of a legal adviser whose sympathies, not less than his professional zeal, would be enlisted in my behalf. I heard in our combination-room, that you and I, Sir, were both children of the same Alma Mater, and hence I inquired your college to assure myself of your identity.” This long-winded enunciation of himself and his business, did not by any means prepossess me in favor of my visitor: however,
six and eight-penee is worth having, come from what pocket it may, so I declared my col lege, and satisfied his doubts: he then proceeded. “It is most painful, Sir, to any man who feels the due importance of the pastoral relation, to be involved in a controversy with a parishioner about the temporalities of the church; but we owe a duty to our successors, which is too frequently opposed to our natural inclination to yield, rather than assert by law, our most undoubted rights.” The sentiment was awfully impressive, and might possibly be sincere. I bowed, and hemmed acquiescence. “I need not remind you, Sir, that though in the present day, and for some centuries past, that revolution that occurred in our ecclesiastical polity in the days of the eighth Henry, completely secularized all property in tithes, and subjected them to the manifold incidents of a lay-fee, yet on the acknowledged principles of our common law, spiritual persons alone are entitled to receive them.” The Archdeacon now became awfully learned! I again bowed and hemmed, but with somewhat more of the hem critical, than the hem acquiescent: he advanced in his syllogism.
“I, Sir, am a spiritual person, as my card has doubtless assured you. I am the vicar of Dumbleton cum Quagland, in the county of Lincoln; and by virtue of the endowment, I claim, as of indisputable right, all the tithes of hay, wool, agistment, sheep, calves, poultry, and garden stuff, and all oblations, mortuaries, and dues thereto belonging, or in any way appurtenant to the same.” It admitted of no question; on my part it would have been downright folly to doubt it: my assent to the position was this time most cordial. “Easter offerings, Sir, are, as you of course well know, dues of common right.” He paused, as if for a professional confirmation of the dogma, but I knew nothing about it, though I was afraid to say so. My policy was to parry the thrust by a simple “Well, Sir?” “I may be wrong, Sir; I do not pretend to be an authority in such matters, but the slight research which my clerical duties have allowed me to make into them, has taught me to consider this as an axiom in law; for I find it so laid down by my Lord Coke, and also recognized in the learned book of Peere Williams, “for,” says the chief baron Gilbert, ‘Easter offerings are a compensation for personal tithes, or as other authorities maintain, for the tithe of personal labor; inasmuch as by the statute 2 and 3 of Edward VI, chap. xiii, sec. 7, it is enacted, that every person shall yearly, at or before Easter, pay, for his personal tithe, the tenth part of his clear gain, his charges and expenses being allowed according to his degree.” I began to gasp for breath, having long since been out of my depth, but my venerable visitor had not got to the beginning of his case ; and in spite of exchequer suits in view, I trembled at the prospect. Silence was obviously my cue, and I allowed him to go on without interruption. “It was determined in Newn versus Charnberlain, 1 Equity Cases Abridged, page 366, that the clear profit of a corn-mill must be reckoned after deducting the charge of erecting the mill; and this has been decided over and over again, for which see Ambler, Vernon, Brown, Lee, and many other old and
I was absolutely in consternation: examination before admission was nothing to it; I quaked horribly, and could only still reply: “Well, Sir?” “Well, Sir; Peter Tyler, the miller at Dumbleton cum Quagland, my wealthiest parishioner, sets me at defiance, and insists that the sails are an annual charge to be deducted from his clear profits before he will pay his personal tithe of labor, commonly called Easter dues!” I began to suspect a hoax, but it was not prudent to avow the suspicion. “I thought, Sir, at least I always understood, that two-pence or three-pence per head was universally recognized as the rate of Easter dues!” “I know not by what law or statute that limit can be prescribed, Sir, nor do I know any precedent that can overrule the act of Edward the Sixth. Will you favor me with a case, Sir?” I was convinced the man was hoaxing me, and I resolved to be even with him. “The case of Twitch and Tweakem is decisive on that point.”