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BOOK THIRD

VINDICATION OF RECONSTRUCTION

CHAPTER I

LEGAL OBSTACLES TO THE AUGMENTATION OF ECCLESIASTICAL INCOMES

The obstinate and refractory clergy had been deprived and the rest reduced to better order and conformity: the Visitation of 1605 and the general endeavors of the Archbishop, coupled to his efforts while Bishop of London, had infused into the Church an institutional vigour and a consciousness of corporate strength which were invaluable in the struggles of the coming years. Nevertheless, the much-needed reform of the Church, which Bancroft had long had in mind, was far from consummated because nothing effectual had as yet been accomplished towards the augumentation of ecclesiastical incomes, upon which, as has already been shown, depended the efficiency, character, and learning of the clergy. His attempts in the year 1604, the one in the secret conferences between the bishops and the Privy Council and the other in Parliament, had both failed to produce fruit and it was unlikely that similar proposals to succeeding Parliaments would be better received. The Archbishop was forced to look elsewhere. Much was accomplished by the union of small benefices which adjoined each other, as many did in the towns and cities and not infrequently in the country; and more yet by the exchange of benefices held in plurality by clergymen residing in different dioceses, so that each might secure two or more so near together that he could serve both on the same or alternate Sundays. The extent to which this practice was carried on is evinced by the large number of resignations and cessions of benefices recorded among the lists of institutions in the various diocesan registries. Often it is possible to trace the benefices which were thus exchanged in the same diocese. From a fifth to a fourth of all the institutions in England, during Bancroft's time, were probably made for this purpose. To have reduced the scandal and abuse consequent upon pluralities was, in truth, an achievement of no small magnitude, but it did not alleviate the real suffering and could not permanently cure the difficulty at all, for it did not in

the least remedy the inadequacy of ecclesiastical incomes. It merely exchanged one benefice for another and did not even decrease the number of pluralists. 1

Yet there could be no question that clerical incomes must be increased if any efficiency of administration was to be maintained in the Church. Only two possible solutions existed; the one, to add to the present income by the resumption of a part of the impropriations and other ecclesiastical property secularised at the Reformation: the other, to restore the old incomes by the payment once more of the full value of the tithes of all property, either by a renewal of the old payment in kind or by a new commutation on the basis of the new prices. In the face of parliamentary opposition, any general change in commutation was not to be hoped for and the most feasible method of reinstating tithing in kind was through the decisions of the ecclesiastical courts. When some individual brought a modus decimandi to his attention in an actual suit at law, the ecclesiastical judge should declare it void, unless it was established beyond reasonable doubt, and reinstate tithing in kind. There were certainly many fraudulent claims in 1600. In many parishes, where there had been no custom, the villagers were now seeking by every possible means, even by perjury, to establish one. In other districts, they sought to overlook recent agreements, made to relieve to some extent the distress caused by the economic changes,

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2 Some incomes were increased by not a temporary or voluntary increase voluntary contributions from the pa. which might, any day, be rescinded rishioners or from the patron (the or decreased, but a legal and permaPuritan cases are well authenticated nent augmentation. instances) but what was needed was

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