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first fruits

first fruits. A tax, usually of the first year's income, paid to a feudal or ecclesiastical superior. Before the Reformation, first fruits for all clerical benefices went to the pope, together with an annual payment of one-tenth of the income. The Act of Annates (1532) declared this unlawful, payments were diverted to the crown, and a treasurer and court established to collect them. Mary did not restore the payments to the papacy. In 1649, after the abolition of the monarchy, the Long Parliament used the first fruits to support preachers and schoolmasters, but at the Restoration it became once more part of royal revenue. Charles II frequently used it for non-ecclesiastical purposes, such as the support of his bastards. In 1704 the revenue was diverted to found Queen Anne's Bounty, to augment the incomes of poor livings. Since the initial payment, and the accumulation of tenths during vacancies, could be a substantial burden, legislation exempted livings of less than £50 p.a. value. In 1838 the collection was removed from the First Fruits and Tenths Offices and handed over to the Bounty Office. Payment ceased altogether from 1926.

J. A. Cannon

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First Fruits

First Fruits. Papal dues, subsequently paid to the Crown, essentially the first year's income of a cure, plus annual payment of a twentieth part of that income. Abolished in England in 1704, in Ireland a Board of First Fruits was established (largely through the influence of Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) ) to fund the building and repair of ecclesiastical buildings and glebes of the Church of Ireland (the Established (until 1869 by 32&33 Vict. c.42) Anglican Church). The Board received substantial grants from the Irish Parliament during the late C18 and early C19, enabling an impressive building-programme to be undertaken. The functions and income of the Board passed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1833 with the Whig Government's momentous Church Temporalities (Ireland) Act (3&4 Will. IV, c.37) imposed on the Church of Ireland.

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First fruits

First fruits (Heb., bikkurim). The portion of harvest which, according to Jewish law, must be given to the Temple. In Israel today first-fruit celebrations are still held on Shavu'ot and donations are made to the Jewish National Fund.

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