About the time of the Reformation, many popish bishops of this kingdom, knowing they must have been soon ejected, if they would not change their religion, made long leases and fee-farms of great part of their lands, reserving very inconsiderable rents, sometimes only a chiefry; by a power they assumed, directly contrary to many ancient canons, yet consistent enough with the common law.
The late Archbishop of Dublin had a very different way of encouraging the clergy of his diocese to residence: When a lease had run out seven years or more, he stipulated with the tenant to resign up twenty or thirty acres to the minister of the parish where it lay convenient, without lessening his former rent; and with no great abatement of the fine; and this he did in the parts near Dublin, where land is at the highest rates, leaving a small chiefry for the minister to pay, hardly a sixth part of the value.
As Swift points out, about the time of the Reformation, a trade was carried on by the popish bishops, who felt that their terms of office would be short, and who, consequently, to get what benefit they could while in office, "made long leases and fee-farms of great part of their lands, reserving very inconsiderable rents, sometimes only a chiefry."
If a gentleman's estate which now yields him a thousand pounds a year, had been set for ever at the highest value, even in the flourishing days of King Charles the Second, would it now amount to above four or five hundred at most? What if this had happened two or three hundred years ago; would the reserved rent at this day be any more than a small chiefry?