Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

-a patient investigation of which might have repaid them with useful knowledge,

The contemplation of the general Benevolence of the Kingdom during a succession of Centuries can scarcely, however, be thought by any person to be devoid of interest, and even the Statesman may be disposed to reflect on the dispositions and apprehensions of men,

when he sees that an annual surplus of a Charity, so late as the year 1810, is directed to be set apart“ to accumulate as a provision, for the event of a National reduction of In

terest.”2

When William the Conqueror had leisure, in 1081, he begun and finished an undertaking, which proves his extensive genius, and does honour to his memory,-it was a general Survey of all the lands in the Kingdom, their extent in each District, their proprietors, tenures, and value,—the quantity of meadow, pasture, wood, and arable land, which they contained, and, in some Counties, the num

Rep. XIII. p. 190.

ber of tenants, cottagers, and slaves of all denominations, who lived upon them. He appointed Commissioners for this purpose, who entered

every particular in their register by the verdict of Juries,and, after a labour of six years, (for the work was so long in finishing), brought him an exact account of all the landed property of his Kingdom. This monument, called “ DOMESDAY-Book,” the most valuable piece of antiquity possessed by any Nation, is still preserved in the Exchequer.S

It may be asked, why an instance apparently so foreign to this subject is here introduced ?-I answer,

, that THE REPORTS to which reference is now made, display such benevolence in a great Nation, as is unparalleled in history,—and, as Humanity is proudly the Englishman's birthright, I am free to think, that those who have laid Human nature under the strongest obligations of Gratitude, are at least as deserving of praise as the man,

3 Hume's Hist. of Engl. vol. i. p. 275.

who only paved the way for Servitude and Taxation. Domesday-Book is indisputably entitled to the highest commendation,—but the present Reports yield to no other in their beneficial consequences and importance. A series of numerous facts are here faithfully recorded, which are of great moment in the History of the Country, and are the surest guides to truth for those who may have occasion to found Legislative measures upon them.

SUPPRESSION OF THE MONASTERIES.

On the Suppression of the Monasteries by King Henry the Eighth, we are informed by history, that great murmurs were every where excited on account of these violences,--and men much questioned, whether Priors or Monks, who were only trustees or tenants for life, could, by any deed, however voluntary, transfer to the King the entire property of their estates. In order to reconcile the people to such mighty innovations, they were told that the King would never thenceforth have occasion to levy taxes, but would be able, from the Abbey lands alone, to bear, during war as well as peace, the whole charges of Government.

While such topics were employed to appease the populace, Henry took an effectual method of interesting the Nobility and Gentry in the success of his measure, -- he either made a gift of the revenues of Convents to his favourites and courtiers, or sold them at low prices, or exchanged them for other lands on very disadvantageous terms. He also settled Pensions on the Abbots and Priors, proportioned to their former revenues or their merits,—and he gave each Monk a yearly pension of eight marks.

But, beside the lands possessed by the Monasteries, the Regular Clergy enjoyed a considerable part of the Benefices of England, and of the Tythes annexed to them,--and these were also at this time transferred to the Crown, and by that means passed into the hands of Laymen, -an abuse, which many zealous Churchmen regarded as the most criminal Sacrilege.

In order to dissipate their revenues, and support popularity, the Monks lived in an hospitable manner,-and, besides the Poor who were maintained from their superabundant victuals, there were many decayed Gentlemen, who passed their lives in travelling from Convent to Convent,

« AnteriorContinuar »