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tions lie against almost all such answers, in extraordinary cases; which the greatest volume can scarce enumerate.
But if 1. It be the seller's own doing to withdraw his liberality so far from his tenants, as to sell his land on hard rates, on the supposition that the buyer will improve it. 2. And if it be a tenant that cannot either by custom or any other plea, put in a claim in point of equity to his easyrented land. 3. And if as bad a landlord would buy it if you do not. 4. If it be not a real scandal; I say if all these four concur : 5. Or (alone) if the tenant consent freely to your purchase on these terms; then it is no injury. But the common course is, for a covetous man that hath money, never to consider what a loser the tenant is by his purchase, but to buy and improve the land at his own pleasure; which is no better than oppression.
Quest. 11. May not a landlord take as much for his land as it is worth?'
Answ. 1. Sometimes it is land that no man can claim an equitable title to hold upon an easier rent, and sometimes it is otherwise, as aforesaid, by custom and long possession, or other reasons. 2. Sometimes the tenant is one that you are obliged to shew mercy to; and sometimes he is one that no more than commutative justice is due to. And so I answer, 1. If it be an old tenant who by custom or any other ground, can claim an equitable title to his old pennyworth, you may not enhance the rent to the full worth. 2. If it be one that you are obliged to shew mercy as well as justice to, you may not take the full worth. 3. The common case in England is, that the landlords are of the nobility or gentry, and the tenants are poor men, who have nothing but what they get by their hard labour out of the land which they hold; and in this case some abatement of the full worth is but such a necessary mercy, as may be called justice. Note still, that by the full worth' I mean, so much as you could set it for to a stranger who expecteth nothing but strict justice, as men buy and sell things in a market.
But 1. If you deal with a tenant as rich or richer than yourself, or with one that needeth not your mercy, or is no fit object of it. 2. And if it be land that no man can by custom claim equitably to hold on lower terms; and so it is no injury to another, nor just scandal, then you may law
fully raise it to the full worth. Sometimes a poor man setteth a house or land to a rich man, where the scruple hath no place.
Quest. 111. May a landlord raise his rents, though he take not the full worth?'
Answ. He may do it when there is just reason for it, and none against it. There is just reason for it, when 1. The land was much underset before. 2. Or when the land is proportionably improved. 3. Or when the plenty of money maketh a greater sum to be in effect no more than a lesser heretofore. 4. Or when an increase of persons, or other accident maketh land dearer than it was. But then it must be supposed, 1. That no contract. 2. Nor custom. 3. Nor service and merit, do give the tenant any equitable right to his better pennyworth. And also that mercy prohibit not the change.
Quest. IV. How much must a landlord set his land below the full worth, that he may be no oppressor, or unmerciful to his tenants?'
Answ. No one proportion can be determined of; because a great alteration may be made in respect to the tenant's ability, his merit, to the time and place, and other accidents. Some tenants are so rich, as is said, that you are not bound to any abatement. Some are so bad, that you are bound to no more than strict justice and common humanity to them. Some years (like the last, when a longer drought than any man alive had known, burnt up the grass) disableth a tenant to pay his rent; some countries are so scarce of money, that a little abatement is more than in another place; but ordinarily the common sort of tenants in England should have so much abated of the fullest worth, that they may comfortably live on it, and follow their labours with cheerfulness of mind, and liberty to serve God in their families, and to mind the matters of their salvation, and not to be necessitated to such toil, and care, and pinching want, as shall make them more like slaves than freemen, and make their lives uncomfortable to them, and make them unfit to serve God in their families, and seasonably mind eternal things.
Quest. v. What if the landlord be in debt, or have some
present want of money, may he not then raise the rent of those lands that were underlet before?'
Answ. If his pride pretend want where there is none, (as to give extraordinary portions with his daughters, to erect sumptuous buildings, &c.) this is no good excuse for oppression. But if he really fall into want, then all that his tenants hold as mere free gifts from his liberality, he may withdraw (as being no longer able to give). But that which they had by custom an equitable right to, or by contract also a legal title to, he may not withdraw. (And yet all this is his sin, if he brought that poverty culpably on himself; it is his sin in the cause, though, supposing that cause, the raising of his rent be lawful.) But it is not every debt in a rich man, who hath other ways of paying it, which is a true necessity in this case; and if a present debt made it necessary only at that time, it is better (by fine or otherwise) make a present supply, than thereupon to lay a perpetual burden on the tenants, when the cause is ceased.
Quest. VI. What if there be abundance of honest people in far greater want than my tenants are, (yea, perhaps preachers of the Gospel,) and I have no other way to relieve them unless I raise my rents; am I not bound rather to give to the best and poorest, than to others?'
Answ.. Yes, if it were a case that concerned mere giving; but when you must take away from one to give to another, there is more to be considered in it. Therefore at least in these two cases you may not raise your tenants' rents to relieve the best or poorest whosoever : 1. In case that he have some equitable title to your land, as upon the easier rent. 2. Or in case that the scandal of seeming injustice or cruelty, is like to do more hurt to the interest of religion and men's souls, than your relieving the poor with the addition would do good; (which a prudent man by collation of probable consequents may satisfactorily discern :) but if it were not only to preserve the comforts, but to save the lives of others in their present famine, nature teacheth you to take that which is truly your own, both from your tenants, and your servant, and your own mouths, to relieve men in such extreme distress; and nature will teach all men to judge it your duty, and no scandalous oppression. But
when you cannot relieve the ordinary wants of the poor, without such a scandalous raising of your rents as will do more harm than your alms would do good, God doth not then call you to give such alms; but you are to be suppo
sed to be unable.
Quest. VII. May I raise a tenant's rent, or turn him out of his house, because he is a bad man: by a kind of penalty?'
Answ. A bad man hath a title to his own, as well as a good man; and therefore if he hath either legal or equitable title, you may not; nor yet if the scandal of it is like to do more hurt, than the good can countervail which you intend. Otherwise you may either raise his rent, or turn him out, if he be a wicked, profligate, incorrigible person, after due admonition; yea, and you ought to do it, lest you be a cherisher of wickedness. If the parents under Moses's law were bound to accuse their own son to the judges in such a case, and say, "This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard; and all the men of the city must stone him till he die, to put away evil from among them." Then surely a wicked tenant is not so far to be spared, as to be cherished by bounty in his sin. It is the magistrate's work to punish him by governing justice; but it is your work as a prudent benefactor, to withhold your gifts of bounty from him. And I think it is one of the great sins of this age, that this is not done, it being one of the most notable means imaginable to reform the land, and make it happy, if landlords would thus punish or turn out their wicked, incorrigible tenants, it would do much more than the magistrate can do. The vulgar are most effectually ruled by their interest, as we rule our dogs and horses more by the government of their bellies, than by force. They will most obey those on whom they apprehend their good or hurt to have most dependance. If landlords would regard their tenants' souls, so much as to correct them thus for their wickedness, they would be the greatest benefactors and reformers of the land but alas, who shall first reform the landlords? And when may it be hoped that many or most great men will be such?
r Deut. xxi. 18-21.
May one take a house over another's head (as they speak), or take the land which he is a tenant to, before he be turned out of possession?'
Answ. Not out of a greedy desire to be rich, nor coveting that which is another's: nor yet while he is any way injured by it: nor yet when the act is like to be so scandalous, as to hurt men's souls more than it will profit your body. If you come with the offer of a greater rent than he can give, or than the landlord hath just cause to require of him, to get it out of his hands by over-bidding him, this is mere covetous oppression. But in other cases it is lawful to take the house and land which another tenant hath possession of; as 1. In case that he willingly leave it, and consent. 2. Or if he unwillingly (but justly) be put out; and another tenant must be provided against the time that he is to be dispossessed. 3. Yea, if he be unjustly put out, if he that succeeded him have no hand in it, nor by his taking the house or land do promote the injury, nor scandalously countenance injustice. For when a tenement is void, though by injury, it doth not follow, that no man may ever live in it more but if the title be his that is turned out, then you may not take it of another; because you will possess another man's habitation. But if it should go for a standing rule, that no man may in any case take a house over another man's head, (as country people would have it,) then every man's house and land must be long untenanted, to please the will of every contentious or unjust possessor; and any one that hath no title, or will play the knave, may injure the true owner at his pleasure.
Quest. Ix. 'May a rich man put out his tenants, to lay their tenements to his own demesnes, and so lay house to house, and land to land?'
Answ. In two cases he may not, 1. In case he injure the tenant that is put out, by taking that from him which he hath right to, without his satisfaction and consent. 2. And in case it really tend to the injury of the commonwealth, by depopulation, and diminishing the strength of it: otherwise it is lawful; and done in moderation by a pious man, may be very convenient; 1. By keeping the land from beggary through the multitudes of poor families, that overset it. 2. By keeping the more servants, among whom he may keep up