§ Mr. Brougham
said, that though he should feel it to be his duty to oppose that part of the bill which exempted from the scrutiny of the commissioners those charities which had special visitors yet even if the bill passed with that exemption, it would come near to that measure which he had formerly proposed, and which had been altogether altered in the other House. The bill before the House approached to the nature of the bill which he had proposed, by increasing the number of boards into which the commissioners were to form themselves, and diminishing the number of commissioners in each board. There were now to be five boards, each consisting of two stipendiary commissioners. The boards, too, were enabled to call for papers and records by compulsory process, and there was he danger of its being resisted, as there was no limit to the fine which they, might im- 1297 pose. One objection which had been made to the constitution of the commission on its present footing was, the amount of the expense, and the length of time during which the country might have to beat it. It was certainly a ground of objection to a measure, if expense was incurred without adequate cause; but he should show that neither was this the case, nor would the expense itself be heavy. Under the bill of the last session, there were two boards of stipendiary commissioners and one of honorary commissioners, now there were five boards of stipendiary commissioners. If the five boards proceeded ac cording to the rate at which the two boards had proceeded, they would in the year get through 1,200 cases. But there was every reason to expect a more rapid progress. The commissioners would by habit naturally become more expert, and the very knowledge that the commission was in operation would produce such an effect upon the parties concerned, that the labours of the boards would be much lessened. After the inquiry had been further proceeded in, and when the House knew how much had been saved to the poor by the labours of the commission, it would be in their power to apportion a certain share of those funds for the expenses of the commission; for they might reasonably assume, that but for the labours of the commission, those funds would have been lost to the poor altogether—The hon. and learned member then alluded to the magnitude of the importance of the inquiry, and went into some computations founded on the data afforded by the digest of the returns to the queries of the education committee, to show, that there were in the whole 40,000 charities of all kinds in the kingdom. As to the effects produced by the inquiry, it would be found in the digest that the revenues of the charities in the county of Berks were 3,500l.; on inquiry, the commissioners had found them to amount to 5,500l. Those in Kent were reported in the digest to amount to 6,500l. a year; by the inquiries of the commissioners they had been raised to 8,500l. a year. This effect produced, without allowing the fear of inquiry time to operate, and without any legal proceeding, was a pretty strong proof of the value of an investigation. In the counties of Kent and of Berks, the only ones which had been examined into, numerous instances had been found of neglect and 1298 malversation. In the elaborate and able report of the commissioners, there was scarcely a page in which some abuse was not mentioned, either in the school or the machinery of each establishment; and there was a prospect that an estate to the value of 4,000l. a year would, through the means of their investigation, be ultimately recovered for a charitable foundation. A company who were trustees and visitors of the charity, had carried to their own account the surplus of the rents of this estate, after paying 3 or 400l. a year to the purposes of the charity. If, as it seemed probable, this sum was awarded to the charity and nothing more was to be accomplished, the labours of the commissioners would not have been lost. But they had done more by pointing out the almost universal abuse of free grammar schools, which the masters generally regarded as perfect sinecures; for whether from the decay of the places at which they were established, or the smaller importance now attached to the learned languages (the masters generally conceiving themselves bound to teach nothing else), good houses and gardens and glebe land and often ample salaries, were enjoyed by masters who taught no free scholars, but kept private boarding schools for their own profit. In the next session he should have to propose a measure founded on the digest which he had mentioned to the House. But whether or not the House acceded to this proposal, the reporting the names of those who enjoyed the revenues of these schools would necessarily produce a good effect. He should now proceed to state his objections to that clause of the bill which exempted from inquiry such charities as had special visitors. His great reason for opposing the exemption was this—without supposing that these was any connivance on the part of the visitors, yet seeing there was a probability of abuses existing which, had not come to their knowledge, there could be no objection to the interference of the commissioners who, would inquire and not act, who would aid and not supersede the visitors. But the exemption of these charities, while others were inquired into, was a gross inconsistency. The exemption of charities having special visitors was defended on the ground that the presumed will of the founder was not to be interfered with; that cujus est dare ejus est disponere— that he who gave the property could appoint the 1299 person who should inquire into the disposal of it, and that to attempt to control him was to interfere with the sacred right of private property. This, however, was not the principle on which the legislature had proceeded. When no visitors were specially appointed, the founder and his heirs were the visitors. If he mentioned no other visitor, he was supposed by law to have willed that he and his heirs should visit the charity, yet in the statute of last year and the statute of Elizabeth, which went further than the statute of last year (for it constituted not merely a commission to inquire into, but a court of justice to try abuses), all charities not having special visitors were brought under the commissioners. With what consistency then was it said, "We will exempt the charity from inquiry where you have appointed a stranger, but we will not exempt it when you and your heirs retain the management." But if it was argued, that when the founder had shown a delectus personœ by appointing a special visitor, parliament should not interfere, because it was implied that the visitor possessed the full confidence of the founder what would be said when the confidence of the founder in a particular person, was so unbounded that he appointed him not only visitor, but also a trustee, manager, or governor? Why, in this case the act of last session, as interpreted by the commissioners, gave them a power to inquire. So that in cases in which the founder reposed a less degree of confidence, parliament would not interfere in deference to his will; yet when he showed an extraordinary degree of confidence then the commissioners stepped in to inquire. If the House negatived this exempting clause they would confer a benefit on honest visitors: they would supply the deficiency of unfrequent visitations; they would relieve them from the necessity of standing in the odious character of accusers. Arbitrators would be afforded who would examine dispassionately and according to the strict rules of evidence. There were persons, in high stations, who, from their situations, were visitors of many charities, who far from wishing to avail themselves of that clause, were the last persons in the world to desire it. If he failed, which he trusted he should not, in inducing the House to strike out the clause altogether, he should propose an amendment, to allow the commissioners to examine all cases in which the special visitors desired it. He 1300 recalled the attention of the House to the striking difference between the present measure and the statute of Elizabeth, which not only gave power to the commissioner to inquire, but to "direct, order and decree." The present bill would (if the clause were omitted) be subsidiary to the power of the visitors—the statute of Elizabeth, but for the proviso, would have ousted them altogether. Even if the clause were rejected, it would be recollected that the universities and the schools under their visitation, and all the great schools, and the charities connected with cathedral churches, would continue exempted. As to the proportion of charities, having special visitors, the commissioners had found out of 260 cases, which came under their cognizance 12 or 14 having special visitors. There were others within the bounds of that inquiry having special visitors, which had not come under the notice of the commission; but at least there were five in the hundred? in this condition, which, according to the computation (which however, he believed to be an exaggerated one) of 40,000 charities in England and Wales, gave 2,000 charities having special visitors; and according to the lowest computation, either of the total number of charities, or the average of those having visitors, there-would be several hundred of them, and those, as might be expected, of more than ordinary value.
said, he saw so many gentlemen around him much better qualified than himself to enter into the merits of the question, that he should be very brief in his remarks upon it. He must, however, contend, that the argument of the hon. and learned gentleman with respect to the exemption of charitable institutions committed to special visitors, was by no means conclusive; for he could see no reason why the will of the founders of such institutions should be violated; and where by such will individuals holding certain offices were appointed as special visitors, it appeared to him that their conduct should not be meddled with, unless special abuse were shown to have occurred. But how came it that the hon. and learned gentleman had not brought forward a distinct motion with respect to public charities, and the reports of the two committees of 1816 and 1818 regarding them, at an earlier period of the session? So much wit and eloquence had been displayed upon the subject of those 1301 charities by the hon. and learned gentleman and others out of the House, that he felt quite unable to make any adequate reply to such exhibitions. But it would be recollected, that upon the proposition in that House of the committee of inquiry in 1816, it was never mentioned that any investigation as to charities of this nature was to be referred to that committee. That committee had, indeed, materially exceeded the authority with which it was invested. He was as ready as any man to admit the great advantages derived to the House and the country from the institutions and labours of committees, but he must protest against the right of any committee to exceed the powers granted, or the instructions given to it by that House. The committee of 1816 was appointed to inquire into the education of the poor in the metropolis, and into the way in which the children of paupers found in the streets might be best disposed of. That, indeed, was the specified object of the hon. and learned gentleman in moving for the appointment of that committee. Such, then, being the object, no one could have ever contemplated that such a committee would have undertaken an inquiry into the great scholastic establishments of the country. No one, for instance, expected that any investigation would have been instituted by that committee with regard to Westminster or Eton. It might be said, that some words were added, upon the proposition of an hon. friend of his, to the instructions originally given to the committee, but he was speaking only with respect to the constitution of the committee in the first instance, and he contended that a very wide departure had taken place from that construction, even before the addition of those words. If it were asked, why the attention of parliament had not been called to the reports of the committees of 1816 and 1818, especially in so far as those committees had exceeded their powers, he would reply, that the report of the former committee was not printed for some time after the termination of the session, while that of the latter was not printed until after the dissolution. But if it had been expected that any of those committees were to exercise the power of instituting any inquiry with respect to the universities, it was impossible that the House would not have been more particular with respect, to the constitution of such a committee. He 1302 meant no reflexion upon the members of the committee, but it appeared that among them there were none connected with or peculiarly interested about the universities; and had the House contemplated that any inquiry respecting those universities was to take place before those committees, he apprehended that some such gentlemen would have been selected to mix with them. But to enable the House to judge of the constitution of these committees, he would read the names of the committee of 1818; and in doing so he had no intention of imputing the slightest charge against any of them. He had divided them into three lists:—the individuals who were generally denominated independent—those who usually took the same views of politics with the hon. and learned gentleman—those whose opinions usually coincided with administration. Those on the first were—
Mr. Butterworth, Mr. Bankes, sir T. Acland, Mr. Wilberforce, and Mr. Babington. On the second were, Mr. J. Smith, Mr. J. H. Smyth, Mr. Lamb, Mr. Warre, Mr. E. Smith, the marquis of Tavistock, Mr. Abercromby, sir J. Mackintosh, Mr. Brougham, sir S. Romilly, sir R. Ferguson, sir H. Parnell, sir F. Burdett, Mr. Bennett, Mr. Calcraft, Mr. Gordon, and lord Ossulston.
§ Mr. Brougham
, while the names were repeating, requested that the right hon. gentleman would read them slowly, that he might be able to take them down.
replied, that he understood the sarcasm, but as it did not touch him, he was ready to comply.
§ Mr. Brougham
denied that he meant any thing sarcastic; it was necessary that he should be furnished with the names, if the question were made to depend upon the political propensities of the individual:; bearing them.
again read the names of the six impartial members, and of the seventeen who usually voted with the hon. and learned gentleman. It seemed that it was in the contemplation of the proposers of the committee, that the universities of England should come under its cognizance. It was therefore to be expected that some gentlemen would have been named upon it, connected by knowledge and interest, with those establishments. Three individuals had been selected who generally voted with ministers; and on them it seemed was to rest the burden of protecting the rights of the two universities of 1303 Oxford and Cambridge; and who, did the House imagine, had been chosen by the hon. and learned gentleman; selected no doubt for their romantic attachment to those great and venerable institutions, where in early life their genius had been nurtured by the beauties of classic lore? Who were the Horatii taken from the Roman camp to be the favoured champions on this occasion?—Sir James Shaw, Mr. Alderman Atkins, and sir W. Curtis, Respectable, most respectable individuals, certainly; but perhaps not the best calculated, from the early attachments of education, to perform the duty to which they were appointed. In this way the committee had been constituted. [Mr. Brougham suggested that other members were added to the committee.] Mr. Peel admitted this; but observed, that he had correctly stated the committee, as it was originally constituted. From time to time other members had undoubtedly been added, particularly when the inquiry was extended to Scotland; but he firmly believed that he had mentioned all the hon. gentlemen who had been originally appointed.— Here the right hon. gentleman commented upon the bill brought forward in 1818, in consequence of the report of the committee, and upon the desire of that committee, that all the members of the proposed commission should be nominated upon the recommendation of the committee, and not appointed by the Crown. But this was not all; for there was this extraordinary provision in that bill, namely, that if any person should refuse to produce any document, or part of a document, with respect to charitable institutions, it should be competent to any two of the proposed commissioners to commit such person to any prison in the kingdom, there to be detained without bail or mainprise, until he consented to the production required. Much had been said of the severity of confining men under the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act; and no doubt such confinement could only be warranted by imperious necessity. But if parliament was so jealous of investing the established authorities of the country with the power of depriving the subject of his liberty, it was surely its duty to guard against the grant of such power to an authority newly constituted, and for a temporary purpose. It was, indeed, most extraordinary to propose, that two of those commissioners should possess the 1304 power of sending a man from Devon to the castle of Edinburgh, if he refused to produce any part of any document which they required to see upon the subject of public charity. The proposition of the committee, however, upon this subject was decidedly rejected, and the bill was passed with modifications. He could not avoid adverting to the course which the committee had pursued in some of its examinations, particularly that of the head of St. John's college, Cambridge. When he considered the objects for which the committee was appointed, and the character of the individual alluded to, he certainly thought that matter should have been differently entertained. A question had been put to that respectable individual, as visitor of a school in the north, importing such a charge as ought never to have been insinuated. It would, indeed, have been much better if that question had been omitted altogether. Then, as to the publication of the statutes of Eton college, he condemned that proceeding most strongly, because, by the rules of the college, those statutes were forbidden to be published. But this publication was the more exceptionable, as Dr. Goodall had stated before the committee, that the copy of the statutes alluded to, which that committee had obtained from the British Museum, was exceedingly imperfect. When Dr. Goodall was called upon to produce the statutes, he made the objection that, by the oaths he had taken, and by the will of the founder, he was precluded from so producing them. But the committee thought it proper to procure those documents from another source; and they sent to the secretary of the British Museum, desiring to be furnished with a copy of them (it being understood that one was deposited there), which they procured. [Mr. Brougham here manifested some symptoms of dissent.] He understood the hon. and learned gentleman to say, that there was no objection to the furnishing of that copy; but he was not speaking to that point. He was speaking to the question, whether the committee were authorized to publish to the world, documents which particular individuals of certain establishments were bound to retain in their own possession, by their own oaths, and the express directions of the founder. Here he was speaking of those of Eton college, as well of those which were given, as of those of Winchester college, which 1305 were not given. Now, he found that the rev. P. Hudson being asked, "Whether the statutes of Eton were open for public inspection?" answered "No; it was not permitted that they should be." The next question was, "Had they ever been printed?" the answer was "No; that was forbidden." Dr. Goodall was asked, "Whether he bad ever seen Dr. Huggett's copy of those statutes in the British Museum?" He replied that "he had; but he knew it to be incomplete." When they were informed that this was the case, the original impropriety of publishing them at all, became considerably heightened. If the statutes of Eton were to be published at all, surely a simple unadorned text ought to have been published. But it so happened, that in the published copy there were marginal notes attached, calculated to give any tiling but a fair or just construction, or to convey any thing but a fair or just impression with regard to the subjects they purported to illustrate; and yet bearing all the appearance of parliamentary authority, and consequently calculated to produce an undue prejudice in the public mind. The statutes were printed in the 4th report. They were in Latin, with various annotations. One of them he should especially notice. The right hon. gentleman proceeded to read a passage in the text, and the annotation; which, he observed, was a specimen of their general character. The latter was to this effect— "This vice-provost's book is that generally used in college business; no argument is allowed upon it, and consequently it is generally used." Now those were annotations which ought not to have been published. They were observations not issued under the authority of parliament; or at least he might say, they were Sin abuse of that authority. He repeated that if it was necessary to publish the statutes of Eton at all, they might have been printed without any marginal annotations, tending so completely as those did to prejudice a clear view of the subject. But there were other circumstances in the conduct of this inquiry about charitable institutions to which he felt it necessary to advert. In the year 18l8, parliament was dissolved, and of course, all bodies to which it had committed the exercise of certain powers, committees for instance, were presumed to have been dissolved with it. On this point, however, something occurred, which, although it ori- 1306 ginated, he had no doubt, in inadvertency or mistake, he felt himself bound to call the attention of the House to, inasmuch as if unnoticed, it might hereafter become matter of dangerous precedent, and interfere with those established forms and usages of which it behoved them to be so observant, and which were of so much importance. The dissolution took place on the 10th of June; and, of course, every body imagined all committees to be at an end, and the proceedings of those bodies to have terminated also: when a gentleman of his acquaintance, quite unacquainted with the course and nature of parliamentary business, sent him (Mr. Peel) a letter, from the country, requesting to know whether the education committee was still sitting? As this was in the month of July, he had no hesitation in acquainting the gentleman in his answer, that they could not be sitting. Now, this was a letter, dated from the House of Commons, 10th July (one month after parliament had been dissolved), franked by Mr. Freeling, and directed to the rev. the minister of—. The frank contained two letters; one of the 13th of April, signed "Henry Brougham, chairman;" and proposing to the rev. gentleman several questions; and the other of the 10th July, which was of no importance, but as it formed part of a dangerous precedent, if such a practice were to be permitted. As he had observed before, the circumstance might have originated in mistake; he made no charge; but he thought it necessary to call the attention of the House to the matter. The letter, dated the 10th of July, purported to be from the committee of education, and was signed by George Whitham, clerk to the committee. It was a circular directed to all clergymen not having made their reports according to the former instructions of the committee; and after expressing unwillingness to report the individual's name, as one of those who had not so reported, it went on to request that the communication might be immediately forwarded "directed as above," viz. to Henry Brougham, esq. chairman. Now this was really very wrong, and calculated to produce an erroneous impression on the minds of the public, as to the fact of a committee's sitting after the dissolution of parliament. And when they were so scrupulous as to form, let them not be wanting in a due care of those which were 1307 immediately connected with the course of their proceedings. The letter which had thus proceeded from the hon. and learned gentleman, from, not to use a stronger term than he meant to do, inadvertency, might, he thought, have been couched in better terms. [The right hon. gentleman then read the commencement of the letter, which was in substance as follows:] —"Reverend Sir; it will be rendering very essential service to the inquiries now carrying on by the committee for the education of the poor," &c. It might have been presumed, therefore, that such inquiries were carrying on by authority of parliament. But what he had most to complain of was, that this letter was sent as from the House of Commons, and franked by Mr. Freeling. It was leading those to whom it was addressed to think that there was an obligation on them to answer it, and in the way required. In one other respect, he must say, that he thought the hon. and learned gentleman had over-rated the powers of the committee. In the letter addressed by the hon. and learned gentleman to his lamented friend Mr. S. Romilly, there was an allusion to his (MY. Brougham's) conduct as chairman of that committee, in which their powers were greatly over-rated. In it the hon. and learned gentleman had declared, that he was so studiously determined to avoid all imputation in regard to the extraordinary affair of St. Bee's school, that he appeared at the Westmorland election resolved upon refusing all applications for access to the evidence touching that singular business. Why, he could not give any such information; for information given to such a committee he was not at liberty to divulge. He (Mr. Peel) did not know of a more alarming and important abuse of such powers than the doing so. So far from over-rating the justness of that determination by taking any credit for his forbearance, the hon. and learned gentleman should know that he would have been grossly forgetting his duty, if he had permitted the information to be used at all for private purposes; but much more so, if for electioneering purposes, he had been induced to give such permission. As to what he had observed upon the letters in question, he did think that these were proceedings which, if passed over without any comment, would form most dangerous and inconvenient precedents. He was, therefore, most anxious that this opportunity should not 1308 go by, without his entering his protest most decidedly against them. He discharged his duty on this occasion with great reluctance, but this might be the only time that he would have an opportunity of observing on the proceedings in question, and he did not wish to let them pass unnoticed. He thought many of those proceedings were improper; he thought they would form bad precedents —precedents inconvenient and dangerous; he must therefore enter his decided protest against some of them, to afford an opportunity of correcting the inadvertency, if inadvertency it was.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, that after the speech of the right hon. gentleman, the House, he was sure, would extend its indulgence to him. He was suddenly called upon to defend his individual character, and that of his colleagues, whose confidence he was proud to have enjoyed from the first day he sat as their chairman, to the last when he reported their proceedings. At a moment when almost the whole of that committee were absent, he was called upon to answer the premeditated and much-laboured harangue of the right hon. gentleman, surrounded by those who doubtless were well aware of the charge to be preferred. While he lamented the absence of the committee, he could not but laud the exemplary candour of those who were taking this opportunity of leaving the House. They hardly yielded in fairness to their right hon. leader. He had, with singular delicacy, selected a moment for his attack, when he thought himself secure of catching the accused unprepared, and having him convicted without a defence. They, content with having heard the charges, were departing quite satisfied of his (Mr. B.'s) inability to repel them. To repel all and each of them, however, he should instantly proceed; and in order to meet the peculiar fastidiousness of the right hon. gentleman on matters of form, and to satisfy his very nice sense of order, of which he had made so mighty a parade in his solemn lecture upon parliamentary procedure, he should begin with giving notice that he would, before he sat down, move to refer the Report of the Education Committee to a committee of the whole House. He felt his situation as almost unexampled. Without any thing like notice, any thing that could give him a suspicion that such a discussion could possibly arise; without reflexion, or preparation, or a 1309 single document or note to aid his recollection of details, he was called upon to answer an elaborate and artificial invective against his conduct, and that of his colleagues, from the year 1816 to the present day. But he must meet it. He well knew how he should be treated if he did not. It would be said, that the right hon. gentleman's observations were too strong; that they cut too near the bone; that they were not loose insinuations; that his performance was not composed of school-boy rant, or college declamation; that he was a business-like man, who gave chapter and verse for what he alleged, and dealt largely in names' and dates; and if his charges were left unanswered, it was because they were unanswerable. It would be held, that the absence of the committee furnished no reason for delay; that he was himself present, and should require no notice for that which he should at all times be prepared to defend, his past conduct, no matter in what manner arraigned, nor how unexpectedly the charges, so maturely prepared, and industriously gathered from so many quarters, might have been brought together against him. He should therefore forthwith enter upon his defence against that lecture, the produce of the daily toil and midnight oil of the right hon. gentleman, assisted probably by several fellows of colleges, and certainly distinguished by all that knowledge of the law, and custom of parliament, which might be expected in such authorities.
The right hon. gentleman had charged him with grave offences, which he had visited with what he no doubt considered as punishment adequate to the gravest of crimes—the weight of his censure—a censure delivered almost as if it had proceeded from the chair; and which, he must say, would have been nearly as forcible if it had fallen from the chair. In these most unprecedented circumstances, gentlemen were now most unexpectedly called upon to decide against the Reports of the Committee, and against his (Mr. B.'s) conduct and that of his colleagues, and against the conduct of the House in two several sessions, both as regarded their own acts and deeds, and their omissions. But if he did not now satisfy all who heard him, that the committee were right, that he was right, and the right hon. gentleman wrong—if he did not succeed in proving, to the bean's content of every man of common candour and understanding, that 1310 the right hon. gentleman was utterly wrong in all the charges he had made-wrong from beginning to end of his laboured oration—if he did not, in a few minutes, and by referring to a few plain matters, strip that performance of every claim to credit—if he did not show him to be mistaken in his facts, out in his dates, at fault in his law, ignorant of all parliamentary precedent and practice, grossly uninformed (perhaps misinformed) upon the whole question, which, in an evil hour, he had undertaken to handle with no better helps than the practical knowledge and discretion of those who had urged him to the attack—then he (Mr. B.) would consent to suffer—what should he say?—to endure whatever punishment the right hon. gentleman might think fit to inflict upon him and his colleagues, even the weight of his censure—which would doubtless, in his own estimation, be quite equal to their demerits, how large soever they might be. But he hoped the House, mercifully regarding his situation while such a judgment was impending, would allow him, ere the awful decree went forth, to avert, if possible, from their devoted heads, a fate so overwhelming. The bill immediately before the House obtained but a small share of the right hon. gentleman's notice. He was not here for that purpose—he was hurrying on to his severe attack—that was what he must get at; the matter in question signified nothing; yet he just said enough upon it to show, that he completely misunderstood the whole drift of the legal discussion. When he treated the argument respecting special visitors as reasoning from analogy—to be sure he made a sort of apology for not being very well able to grapple with such points; but then why did he touch them at all? Would it not have been better to leave them to those who could comprehend them, such as his truly learned and right hon. colleague, and not show himself off in so merciless a fashion? Besides, his incapacity to follow the legal argument, did not make him at all slow to pronounce an unqualified and dictatorial judgment upon it. But all this he soon dispatched, and came to the main business of the day. First of all, the right hon. gentleman had charged him with not having brought forward the subject early in the session, when, it seems, he was anxiously waiting for an occasion of delivering himself upon it. But could he not recollect what had prevented him? Was he so entirely ig- 1311 norant of what had passed at the opening of parliament? If he was, where could he find another man in the House who had so completely forgotten it? It seems he must be reminded of these things; and he should be reminded. At the very beginning of the session, he (Mr. B.) was prepared to move for the re-appointment of the Education Committee. This was well known; and his determination to make the motion forthwith, was no secret.
On the second night of the session, however, the member for Liverpool came down with a notice from his noble friend (lord Castlereagh), who was generally considered as the organ of government in that House; whether he was so or not he would not now stop to inquire, perhaps the right hon. gentleman and he differed on this point also—but be that as it might, he, and he believed the rest of the House, were wont to regard the noble lord as the leading personage on that side. The tendency—the necessary effect—nay, he might say, the avowed intention of that notice was to make him postpone his motion. He thought he was the more safe in doing so, as the right hon. gentleman had not then assumed the guidance of affairs, and the notice was a statement that the noble lord, as minister of the crown, intended immediately to introduce a specific measure, which would render it unnecessary. The right hon. member (Mr. Peel) knew of this; he knew that it must have the effect of silencing him (Mr. B.), and yet he now came forward and taxed him with having refrained from proposing any measure until the end of the session. His only object in proposing the re-appointment of the committee was for the purpose of supplying the defects of the measures adopted last year. He came forward openly and fairly to complain of these defects—he did not lurk behind—he did not allow the proceedings of 1816, 1817, and 1818, to go unnoticed. He disapproved of the measure proposed by government—he lamented the course which had been followed, and he fairly avowed his disapprobation of it. He felt it necessary to back the commissioners with the ample powers of a committee, as he thought the powers vested in them insufficient to attain the end proposed. This was one reason for moving the re-appointment. But the noble lord's measure was announced to be an augmentation of the powers of the commissioners; 1312 another reason was, that the objects of their inquiry had been limited, and a committee would be desirable to investigate those cases which the board were prevented from examining. But the noble lord's notice comprehended an extension also of the objects of inquiry. Here, then, was a prospect held out of such a measure as might render the re-appointment of the committee wholly unnecessary; but at any rate, until it was seen what the measure was, who could for a moment expect him (Mr. B.) to persist blindly in moving for the committee? What man in or out of the House but must have perceived that the notice at once and effectually suspended for the present his further proceeding. "But," said the right hon. gentleman, "who could have thought that a committee appointed to inquire into the education of the poor of the metropolis, would have called before them and examined the masters of Eton and Westminster!" That the master of Eton school had been, prior to last session, called before the committee, he much doubted.
§ Mr. Brougham
. Well then, the hon. member now expressed his surprise that the masters of Westminster and the Charterhouse schools had been examined. Did not the right hon. gentleman know this from the report of the committee in 1816? Had he not the evidence of his senses in that report, that those examinations had been entered into? He, in his turn, had a right to marvel—to lift up his hands and eyes in wonder at the conduct of the right hon. member. Was it not food for astonishment, to those who after could feel astonished at any thing, to perceive that the right hon. gentleman, notwithstanding the evidence then before him, should have waited until 1819 to remark on the manner in which the committee had overstepped the bounds of their instruction in 1816? The natural time to complain of the inquiries of 1816, was when the result of them was laid on the table, and discussed and animadverted on by others. The right hon. gentleman, it is true, was not then installed in his present academical situation, and he was only looking upwards to the height which he has since attained. But the iniquities which had escaped the penetration of expectant zeal, were again overlooked by the circumspection of the right hon. gen- 1313 tleman in calm and quiet possession. When others objected to the proceedings of the committee in 1816, and among them, the member for Liverpool, who in a fair, manly, and candid manner took the first opportunity of expressing his doubts whether the committee had not gone too far, the right hon. gentleman, now all-clamorous with astonishment at events three years old, was then dumb, not with wonder but indifference, at the same events quite recent, or happening before his face. But in 1817 he was in the House when the committee was re-appointed— had he disapproved of their former conduct, he might have opposed their renewal. At any rate, if he deemed that they had, through mistake of their powers, exceeded the authority under which they acted, as he says he blames nobody—he only regrets and observes—and far be it from him to impute any motive—surely it would have been but fair to have warned the committee not to pursue the course into which they had been betrayed by their zeal when acting formerly under the self-same commission. But no such thing—still not a whisper from the right hon. gentleman. In 1818, the same profound silence, when the committee was for the third time appointed; and afterwards, day after day, for weeks, to the very end of the session, when reports were laid upon the table, and made the subject of constant discussions; although he was now member for that body which he now so faithfully represents—a body whose attachments to constitutional freedom stands recorded in every page of our history— it seems that he alone of all in, and almost all out of the House, heard nothing of what was doing in the committee. But though his ears might be closed to every thing that passed around him, surely his more faithful eyes could not have deceived him when the printed reports were put into his hands. Besides, the committee was not a secret one; it was open to all the House; any member might have attended; many in fact did attend daily, who did not belong to it. The whole proceedings—the very inquiries into schools and universities, were in all men's mouths—they formed the topic of general conversation—the town as well as the college talk. The right hon. gentleman must therefore have heard for years of what he now inveighs against with all the artless ardour of fresh passion, and the innocence of ingenuous astonishment. 1314 Then, when the dreadful mischief might have been stayed in its course, if not prevented, not a sign was made, not an expression even of warning escaped him. Now, when it is all over, and most people have forgotten the whole matter, he had come down straining with wonder and indignation. By way of aggravation of his charge, too, he now urged, that one of the instructions of the committee which presumed to inquire respecting the public schools, had been, to consider the state of the children of paupers found begging in the streets of the metropolis. Did he not know the history of that clause in their instructions? Had he never heard (what all the House knew), that it was no part of the original instructions under which the committee acted? Could he be ignorant that it was added some time after the formation of the committee on Mr. Rose's motion, and that no one but Mr. Rose ever paid the smallest attention to it? But whatever might be its origin, surely he must know that it formed no part of the instructions in 1817 and 1818, when the inquiries that chiefly alarmed him were perpetrated. How, then, did it happen, that his serenity of mind had never been in the least degree ruffled in 1816, when the committee, acting under such an instruction, presumed to examine the Charter-house and Westminster-school; but now when the committee had been appointed without any such limitation at all, he is utterly astounded at finding it proceeding as he had quietly and without one gesture of surprise suffered it to proceed three years ago, while the clause about beggars' children was in force. To be sure, it might not then have been so easy to raise an outcry against the committee—because the foul misrepresentations of its conduct out of doors had not been disseminated, which made it now somewhat safe to join in the attack. But be the reason what it might, certain it was, that until that very evening not a twinkling spark had been descried of the fiery zeal which had now burst forth for good order, and the foundations of the establishments, and the regularity of proceedings, and the rights of the subject, and his defence against the aggressions of committees. All was then gloomy in the quarter from whence had now proceeded a blaze, no doubt intended, or probably expected utterly to consume the committee, and all its works, and from which it was very strange, he could not 1315 tell how, except by God's good providence, they had escaped unscathed.
However, as, after all, (incredible though it might appear to the right hon. gentleman), the fact still seemed to be, that they had survived, it remained for them to pursue their defence the best way they could;—and he should next advert to the charge of having packed the committee, than which he never yet had heard any more groundless accusation, nor one supported by such an entire contempt of all facts and dates. But first, suppose he had named a greater proportion of his own friends upon it—was there no precedent for this? He should remind the right hon. gentleman of the course taken by some folks when they had the naming of committees—committees too in which the complexion of men's general political opinions and party attachments was infinitely more important than in an inquiry concerning the education of the poor. He should take the very last select committee named by the right hon. gentleman's friends—the finance committee. Of twenty-one, who composed it, at least twelve were members who always vote with government, but he believed he might rather say, fourteen; however, suppose them to be only twelve, four belonged to those whom the right hon. gentleman called neutral, and treated as a class of little account; neither one thing nor another; a milk and water compound: so that there remained only five Horatii, to make a stand for the constitution [Mr. Peel said across the table that there were only three Horatii]. Mr. B. continued—He was quite aware of that—he was speaking of their character, not their numbers; but, indeed, any one might have known the number of the Horatii who had happened to frequent the opera-house of late years, even though he might not have had the advantage of a Christ church education. However, the right hon. gentleman had himself kept to the real number of the Horatii only by misstating the numbers of the ministerial members on the education committee. If he had been content to adhere to the fact, as he should now prove from the list just put into his hand by the worthy person at the table, he would have been compelled either to, abandon his jest from the Roman history, or to increase the members of the Horatian family. Instead of the three worthy aldermen who had been called by such classical names, and who were 1316 broadly stated to be the only members from that side of the House, how happened it, that the right hon. gentleman had thought proper to leave out some eight or ten others of the same description? Was Mr. H. Wrottesley, for example, a gentleman who usually now voted on his (Mr. B.'s) side of the House? Was Mr. Holford a member who had ever so voted? Was Mr. C. Grant? Was Mr. Sheldon? Then why had he passed over all these names in order to allege that there were but three ministerial members named? But he had left out a number of others; and it would not do to say that they were only added when the committee extended its inquiries to Scotland. Some had been put on long before any such extension was in contemplation. Here Mr. B. went into the dates of these several appointments, and enlarged upon the constitution of the committee, and the party connexions of the members. The committee was admitted on all hands to have been selected from every part of the House. The right hon. gentleman had himself admitted, that there were members from various sides, and had descanted learnedly on the different squads and sections. The nomination of the aldermen seemed, indeed, to puzzle him; but it was strange, that one who had received so liberal an education that he thought nobody else knew any thing, should be unable to explain this phœnomenon. Did it never occur to him, that as the committee was originally appointed to examine the state of education in the metropolis, so it was a matter of course, according to the every day's practice of the House, to name the members for London and Westminster. They were therefore named, with the exception of Mr. Alderman Combe, whose health had prevented his attendance for a session or two. But were the interests of learning and the rights of the Universities left to the protection of those worthy magistrates? They served well indeed, giving their patient attendance while the city charities were inquired into; and neither keeping out of the way while the matter was discussed, nor throwing invidious obstacles in the way of investigation. But there were others on the committee in whose hands the cause of learning seemed to him almost as safe, as in those of the right hon. gentleman, who would suffer no one but himself to touch a college or a school. What did he think of sir S. Romilly, of 1317 sir J. Mackintosh, of Mr. F. Douglas, of Mr. W. Lamb, of Mr. Wilberforce, of Mr. Smyth, the member for Cambridge? And how happened he, in his much meditated lecture of this night, to have overlooked all those names, in order to represent the great establishments of education, as left to the protection of three aldermen? But if a sufficient proportion of such members had not been chosen, whose fault was it? Had he (Mr. B.) ever thrown the least impediment in the way of increasing their numbers? What gentlemen had ever asked to be added, whom he had not on the spot moved for? Whose nomination had he ever opposed? Did he not himself propose in the course of the inquiry, from time to time, seven or eight names besides those he had mentioned, all of them ministerial members? He might instance sir J. Graham, when the St. Bee's affair was to be examined,—the Lord Advocate, lord Binning, Mr. H. Blair, Mr. W. Douglas;—Mr. Boswell, when the instruction was given as to Scotland;—and all these members took part, of course, in the other inquiries, as well as in the single half hour devoted to the Scotch part of the question, if the right hon. gentleman had desired to add any other names, could any one for a moment suppose that it would have been objected to? Can he himself really believe, that he (Mr. B.) would not have been glad to adopt any such proposal? Why did not he come forward with it at the right time? Why not ask to be on the committee himself? A single word, a hint, would have sufficed, as he (Mr. P.) well knew. He must know that he, and as many of his friends as he might choose, would at once have been added. Then, why did he not pursue so obvious a course, at a time when he seemed to have heard of nothing from day to day, but the inroads made upon the universities? It was mighty well to complain of those attacks, now as something sacrilegious, for the purpose of aiding in the House the insidious or ignorant clamours raised out of doors. But where was he while the deeds of violence were doing, and before they were yet consummated? Then was the time for him to have come down, protesting, and declaring, and imploring— but no,—he saw Oxford menaced, Cambridge invaded, Eton insulted, Winchester sacked, and still he made no sign. The imminent danger even of his own alma mater could not draw a word from 1318 him; he left her with the rest to be defended from the outrages of a revolutionary committee, by the prowess of the worthy and Horatian members for the city.
So much for the formation of the committee; it was fit now to see what its conduct had been when its operations began. But here he must again complain of the unfair time and manner of this attack; he was left almost alone to defend the committee. As far as argument went, perhaps, he had no right to complain of this, for it might be said, that it was his duty to be master of the subject; but was it nothing to be left without witnesses to his statements of fact? The worst insinuations, the most unfounded statements, were flung out respecting what passed in the committee. Was it nothing to stand there deprived of the testimony which every one of his colleagues would have been ready to give in his favour, had they been present, and which all of them would, he well knew, have hastened to their places for the purpose of giving, had they suspected that an attack would have been made, of which no mortal could possibly have dreamt!— Nevertheless, without the benefit of such irrefragable evidence, and at a distance from every document or note which could serve to assist his recollection, and without a moment's notice to turn over in his mind the various details over which the right hon. gentleman had been poring, he found himself dragged into the discussion of all that had passed in the committee, from 1816 to the dissolution of the late parliament. But he did not in any wise shrink from the task. He should leave no one remark of the right hon. gentleman unanswered. He trusted to the indulgence of the House, in permitting him thus closely to follow him, as it must be evident that the office imposed on him was not of his seeking; and he again plainly put his case on this issue,— that the right hon. gentleman was utterly wrong in every tittle of his accusations, and that he himself was content to have it said he had done nothing, if he did not succeed in proving him to be so.—But the right hon. gentleman said, and repeatedly said, that he preferred no charges. Far be it from him to impute any impropriety; for his part, he blamed no one in any respect. He was the last man in the world, to make personal allusions; no he, indeed, nothing of the 1319 kind; and the charges were many on these disclaimers all through his speech, or rather through a great part of it; for they were thickly sown among insinuations, and charges, and personalities as thickly sown. Each succeeding accusation was prefaced and concluded by some such denial of all intention to accuse any body of any thing. And the speech was wholly made up of invective, save and except the portion devoted to those denials of any design to inveigh. But what signified such special disclaimers, in an harangue, which, from beginning to end, was one undisguised chain of inculpation? Or who did he think he had to deal with, that was likely to regard the parentheses, and overlook the substantial parts of the discourse, among which they were interjected? For his part, he must view all those candid professions as mere surplusage, and pass them over as wholly immaterial to the body of the charges into which they were so lamely and uselessly introduced. In this spirit the right hon. gentleman said, he would not affirm the committee had acted wrong; but he would assert that it was necessary to watch with great strictness, all recommendations coming from committees, and to scrutinize all measures grounded upon them; in illustration of which position, he referred to the clause in the original bill, giving powers to the commissioners to compel disclosure, by imprisonment of refractory witnesses. Now, a more unhappy instance of his maxim he could not have given; for it did so happen that the clause, which he read with so much pomp and circumstance, was no invention of the committee; and did not originate in any recommendation of theirs; but was copied verbatim from another act of parliament, the handy work of a ministry, to which almost all the right hon. gentleman's friends belonged: it formed a distinguishing feature in the most remarkable measure of that administration. He begged leave to refer him to those around him (Messrs. Vansittart, B. Bathurst, lord Castlereagh, &c), for a more detailed account of its merits, and should content himself with reading the words of the statute, in order to show that they had been copied literally [Mr. B. here read the clause from the act of 1802]. This provision, however, brought forward by lord Sidmouth, and supported by all his colleagues, was now an object of un- 1320 speakable alarm to the right hon. gentleman, who showed such a true regard for the liberty of the subject as was truly touching, but not very happily timed; for all this work was made about a clause that never passed; and yet its rejection was not even in the least degree owing to the right hon. gentleman. Greatly as he dreaded such a provision, fatal as he deemed it to the rights of property, and hostile to every principle of the constitution, it might have been the law of the land at this day, for any thing he ever did or said while it was in the House, and under discussion. Till that day, he had never opened his mouth upon the subject. Very different was the conduct of the member for Liverpool, whose manly and consistent demeanor, it was impossible not to praise as often as it was mentioned, even at the risk of repeating the same expressions as he had before applied to it; but when a person acted again and again in the same laudable manner, it was a consequence, that the example which he set, drew forth a repetition of the same commendations. He from the first objected to the clause, not as coming from the committee, but on the ground upon which he had originally resisted it, with great energy and ability, though without success, when lord Sidmouth formerly introduced it. He did not he by until the eleventh hour; or rather until the work was done, and nothing remained, but to carp and cavil. He did not keep up his objections, or leave others to urge them, and a year after they had prevailed, come forth with a solemn denunciation of mischievous intentions, which he had done nothing at the moment to frustrate or oppose. Those parts, of the bill which he disapproved of, he resisted openly and fairly, and at the time when his objections might be effectual; and if there were any parts of which he had not then expressed his dislike or doubt, he at least did not now for the first time, rise up and pronounce a sentence against them.
The grand charge against the committee was, their examining into public schools and colleges. They had been attacked as if they had. run a muck indiscriminately at all the seats of learning in, the land. The prominent part of this charge was, their having dared to call before them the master and senior fellows of St. John's, who were described as having been sent for abruptly to disclose the mysteries of their house, and treated 1321 rudely in the examination. Every part of the accusation was unfounded. The facts as they really stood were these: Pocklington school in Yorkshire, had long been the scene of great and most notorious abuse, and the committee were desirous of inquiring into it. It appeared that the master of St. John's was the visitor of the school, and that he had recently exercised his office (though for the first time it might be remarked), by twice sending the senior fellows there to inquire and report. They had but just returned from the second of those missions, and the master himself had been with them. The propriety of at once examining those learned and respectable persons themselves, both as to the nature of the endowment, and the result of their own inquiry, was obvious. It was both more fair towards them, and more expedient for the investigation, than to seek for information from less authentic quarters. But there was no pleasing some folks in the mode of proceeding, except perhaps by doing nothing at all. If the principals were called, it was denounced as an outrage upon the heads of houses, who were pathetically described as dragged before an inquisitorial committee; if the school-masters or the neighbours alone were summoned, the evidence was decried as drawn from imperfect, or partial, or tainted sources. Well, the master and fellows were examined; but he positively denied that any discourtesy was practised towards them by himself, or by any member of the committee, as far as his recollection served him. In the course of a long examination, in which a number of persons bore a part, it was impossible for him to remember every question put, or remark made, any more than he could be answerable for each interrogatory that appeared on the minutes, though he had repeatedly seen himself made responsible for parts of the investigation in which he had never interfered at all, either by bringing forward the case, or asking any of the questions. But he repeated, that he had no recollection of any one thing having passed which could be represented as deviating from courtesy towards any witness, either in the substance or in the manner of the examination. Persons who hastily read the evidence, had mistaken for a sifting cross-examination of Dr. Wood, what was in reality only a repetition of questions made (and acknowledged by himself at the time to be so) for the purpose of 1322 enabling him to give a more explicit contradiction to reports, very prevalent, respecting certain fellowships of his college. But he appealed to the members of the committee who assisted at the examination, if any were present, whether he or any other witness had a right to complain of his conduct in the chair. He had accidentally heard of ample testimony having been borne to his demeanor by a most respectable gentleman, wholly unknown to him, and in politics constantly opposed to him (Mr. Sheldon), a friend of his from the north, having seen the falsehoods so boldly and so industriously propagated respecting him, and being, from his knowledge of his (Mr. B.'s) habits, somewhat surprised at finding how violent and rude an inquisitor he had all of a sudden become, had not unnaturally asked Mr. S. if it really was so; but he had been much relieved by finding that gentleman express his great astonishment at the imputation, from having been himself present at the investigation as a member. But he must protest against this novel method of imputing all that is done in the committee, and recorded in its minutes, to the chairman. The right hon. gentleman had acutely and learnedly classified the members of it into various divisions and squads, as he termed them. The majority of those who gave their attendance were not his (Mr. B.'s) political friends, but his own. Some were of a third party—some had leanings—some were of no party at all. As soon as a case was entered upon, or a witness called, the members of both sides, or rather of all the five sides—plied him with questions, some more, some less regular and judicious. It was impossible to prevent or control all their observations. Was he, then, to be answerable for the sins, not only of himself and his friends, but of all the rest Was he chargeable with the irregularities of all the squads— of whatever might be done by this motley committee, this pentagonal body, in the course of a long and animated proceeding?
But to return to the specific accusations. The right hon. gentleman was pleased with even unusual solemnity to attack— he ought perhaps rather to say, reprimand them, for what he termed the disregarding the obligations of the Winchester oath, compelling the fellows to produce the statutes which they had sworn to conceal, and then publishing these arcana to the world. The right hon. gentleman should have learnt the case better before he set 1323 to getting up his lecture. If it did not suit him to attend the committee, he should have informed himself, at least, of the elements, the mere a, b, c, of the controversy, before he ventured to take a part in it—a part too, evidently intended to be so very prominent. The Winchester statutes were never published at all—never —and purposely, because, on account of the oath, it might be deemed objectionable to publish them, or disclose more of their contents than was absolutely necessary for the investigation. The right hon. gentleman was thinking of the Eton statute; but then there was no oath at all pleaded in the Eton case—and, indeed, none existed to plead. This might be enough, to show the candour, or let it only be called the accuracy, of the right hon. gentleman, and his qualification to join in this discussion with so authoritative an air and tone. It might be a caution to people before they begin lecturing, to learn a little. But the whole accusation about the Winchester oath was equally founded in a gross ignorance of what had really passed, and an entire disregard of the established law of parliament. Surely the right hon. gentleman had never taken the trouble to read the oath which he gravely charged the committee with forcing the fellows to violate. Had it contained no saving clause, still the committee had an unquestionable right to disregard it, and compel those who had taken it, to produce their statutes. No such oath is in law binding, or can stop the course of justice in the lowest tribunal known in this country. Far less can it be obligatory on persons under examination before the House of Commons. But it happened that there was an exception in the oath, and a pretty large one; and one, too, which had been very liberally acted upon by those who took it. They swore not to reveal— "nisi quâdam necessitate cogente, vel utilitate suadente,"— and they added, that they were themselves to be the judges of both the necessity and the utility—how had they acted upon this? It appeared from their own statements to the committee, that as often as any end whatever was to be served for the college, they produced their statutes with all freedom, and made them as public as the occasion required. They exhibited them in all suits in courts of law—they laid them before courts of equity—they gave them in the whole, or by piecemeal, to their solicitors and counsel, in discus- 1324 sions before the visitor; and when it was deemed expedient for their interests to have reports of those proceedings published in pamphlets, they allowed large extracts of those most secret and mysterious documents to be printed; and Mr. Williams, the barrister, one of their counsel, and one of their own body, who had taken the oath himself, told the committee that he had, in publishing a report of one case, inserted parts of the statutes in it, and not only those sections which had been used at the trial, but other passages, which he printed in a note, for the further illustration of the Winton argument. He (Mr. B.) had no manner of doubt, that this use of the statutes by his learned friend came strictly within the letter of the salvo in the oath; because he was sure the pamphlet, if not required by some necessity, was very likely to prove of great utility. But then, what could be more absurd than to set up such an oath, so limited and so observed, as a bar to the jurisdiction of the House of Commons? What more ridiculous, than to fancy that it prohibited the production of those statutes, even according to the strict letter, in the course of their lawful investigation? They had not been called for rashly, or peremptorily, or without the fullest deliberation, and the most careful examination of the scruples which' might arise from the oath. All that could be urged by those who had taken it, was fully heard from themselves, and after maturely weighing it, the committee came to the only decision which they could give without at once abandoning the whole rights of the Commons, and overturning every thing like the law and the privileges of parliament. But in the exercise of their discretion, though the right was undeniable, they had limited the exercise of it by the exigency of the occasion, and had refrained from printing the statutes in their minutes. With respect to the Eton statute, the case was different. There no oath interfered, and they were ordered to be printed, as well as those of Trinity and St. John's; that in case there be in practice any deviations from them, it may be observed, whether they are all such as change of circumstances warrants, or even makes an improvement. But the right hon. gentleman finds out, or somebody tells him, of a marginal note in the Museum copy of the Eton book, and which, it seems, has been printed with the rest of the manuscript. Of the existence of that 1325 note, he (Mr. B.) positively asserted, he was unaware till he beard it read now. It had entirely escaped him; and he had no hesitation in saying, that he disapproved of its having been printed. But it was reserved for the peculiar spirit and temper in which this controversy had been carried on, to pick out a little typographical oversight in a volume of many hundred pages, and charge it upon the chairman of a committee, who must indeed be endued with omniscience as well as excessive industry, to prevent all such accidents from happening.
He begged pardon of the House for all the particulars into which he was forced to enter, but he rather apologized for the right hon. gentleman than for himself; he stood far more in need of such indulgence. A very serious and alarming charge followed next—that of prolonging the operations of the committee after the dissolution; continuing, as it were, the noxious existence of that hated monster, after the period of its fate had arrived. It seemed that,—marvellous to relate,—at the distance of one whole month from the end of the session, a circular is found, signed by a clerk of the House, who had been clerk to the committee, and yet,— more prodigious to tell,—sent free through the post office. Now, he gave up the whole defence, if this, which was attacked as a dangerous innovation, was not found to be the uniform practice of every committee in every session, and absolutely necessary to the expediting of the public business;—if what the House was warned against as alarming and strange, and leading, no one could say to what consequence, had not been constantly and most notoriously done, from all time, down to the present day. Let but one session of parliament be shown in which any such inquiries were going on to the end of the sitting, and in which the prorogation prevented the work of digesting and correcting, from proceeding, and he was willing to stand convicted of having introduced a new practice,—a great improvement in the method of carrying on such inquiries. In fact, the question would not admit of any doubt. Every one knew that, long after the end of each session, the reports and other papers of that session were printed or circulated, and many of them finished. And there was not in this respect the smallest difference between the end of a parliament, or of a session or between one kind of work upon the 1326 papers and another. But for such a convenient irregularity the parliamentary business would be suddenly stopped by each prorogation; nothing would be done till next year, and then a mass of matter would be poured at once upon the House and the public, which never, by possibility could be turned to any account—beside the necessary suspension of the new business, in order to finish the digesting of the old. The right hon. gentleman, if he had been at all acquainted with the practice of parliament in the best times, and under the sanction of the highest authorities, could never have brought forward such a charge; and if he was so miserably ill-informed on these matters, and gathered his notions of parliamentary usage from persons who knew—who could know, nothing whatever about it, what business had he, upon no better foundation than his own ignorance and theirs, to rear up the presumption with which he brought forward his accusations? Take the plan of the right hon. gentleman and his instructions,—adopt his new law of parliament, —let the close of each session not only stop short every investigation in which the committees were engaged, but stay all steps toward preparing for the use of the House the results of inquiry already obtained,—and the necessary consequence must be, that not a tittle of the matter required for deliberation could be arraigned or distributed, until at length, the next session saw the House overwhelmed with such a mass of papers as defied all reading, arrangement, or understanding.—But he had well nigh forgotten the dreadful circumstance, the ground of so much amazement and protestation, that the Circular of July was dispatched in a cover, signed by Mr. Freeling, and went free from postage.—For this extraordinary natural appearance, the right hon. gentleman could by no means account. He (Mr. B.) wondered, in his turn, that a theory for explaining it had not presented itself to a person who deemed so highly of his own learning. It might have struck him that there was no other means of sending letters post-free, and that the post-office having received instructions to forward the other circulars under covers, signed by Mr. Freeling, the same covers were naturally enough used upon this occasion also.
But he (Mr. B.) was fated, it seemed, to answer for another, circular letter, written still longer after the dissolution, 1327 even in the present session, to the parochial clergy; and that letter was represented by the right hon. gentleman as tending to deceive those to whom it was addressed, into a belief that the education committee was still in being, and that the application was made under its authority. Unfortunately for the right hon. gentleman, the letter in question was only resolved upon after the utmost deliberation, and was then worded with very great care to avoid all possibility of misconstruction. For he (Mr. B.) was well aware when that letter was sent, whatever he might have been before, of the endless variety of malignant misconstruction, and foul and wicked misrepresentation to which any man exposed himself who acted for the benefit of the poor, with disinterested motives, and without fear of obloquy, exposed the hidden mysteries of abuse. He had slowly and reluctantly determined upon issuing that circular. He had before been obliged in his official capacity to give much trouble to the clergy,— he meant the residing parish working clergy—the honest and pious men, who for a very moderate recompense, discharged most important and laborious duties, to their own immortal honour, and the unspeakable benefit of their fellow-creatures. Their conduct throughout the whole of this inquiry had been far, very far above his praise; yet still he intreated them to accept so humble a tribute to their great merits—for their honest zeal—their unwearied benevolence—their pious care of the best interests of their flocks, shown forth in their universal anxiety to promote the great objects of the committee—the education of all the poor. He had been most unwilling to press harder than was absolutely necessary such willing fellow labourers, and he had therefore delayed sending the circular in question, which had for its object to obtain the same information as to unendowed schools, as the former letter had procured respecting endowments. The first letter had been dispatched at a time when the bill was expected to pass with a clause requiring the commissioners to examine the state of education generally, as well as the abuse of charities; it was therefore principally calculated to obtain such information respecting endowments, as might serve to direct the inquiries of the boards. When that clause was, with others, struck out, the returns became 1328 the only source from whence the general information respecting the state of public education could be obtained. It was therefore most desirable to supply the defects in these, as far as regarded the unendowed schools. Yet, as a considerable proportion of the returns to the original circular had, through the praiseworthy zeal of their reverend authors afforded the information required, he had, for a considerable time, indulged a hope, that a sufficient number might be found upon which to form an estimate of the average for the whole country, and thus to preclude the necessity which he so greatly desired to avoid, of giving the clergy further trouble. With this view, besides long and repeated consideration of the details by himself, he had consulted professional gentlemen deeply skilled in calculation; and it was not until it appeared impossible to trust the average obtained from the full returns, that he reluctantly had recourse to the circular in question. There were living witnesses, perhaps not very far distant, to the repugnance which he felt to taking this step,—not indeed through any apprehension of incurring the right hon. gentleman's displeasure (which had never once crossed his mind, and if it had would have left a very slight impression), but from tenderness towards those most excellent persons upon whom it was to impose a new task. When he had resolved upon issuing it, he had weighed the terms of it with extreme care, to guard against the very imputation flung out by the right hon. gentleman, of usurping an authority with which he was no longer invested; not that he felt this at all needful, were he to be judged only by those who knew him; not that he should before the commencement of this controversy have thought such a precaution necessary, even to prevent misconception in the world at large—for he had yet to learn the risks which a man's character runs, for merely employing himself in the disinterested work of befriending the poor;—but the circular was written when he had been made aware of this danger; and he studied (in vain as it now seemed) to guard against misrepresentations which he now saw would be attempted to describe all he did as encroachment and usurpation. In the simplicity of his heart, he imagined that he had succeeded. That night had showed him how meanly he had estimated the inventive subtlety, 1329 and the unconquerable pertinacity of polemical malice. For they in whose hands the right hon. gentleman was an instrument of aggression (perhaps more accommodating than powerful) had discovered that the language of the letter was that of assumed official authority. It alluded to inquiries going on with respect to public education; and were not such inquiries in progress when he had laid reports respecting them upon the table, given notice of a measure to be brought forward; and informed the House that the digest of the returns was preparing, and would be printed from time to time? But could the most defective understanding of the person least acquainted with parliamentary proceedings, suppose that a letter was officially written by a chairman of a committee, in which the writer began with saying that he should consider it as a favour if the person addressed could conveniently give him certain information; and concluded with begging him to date his answer, if he should be kind enough to oblige him with one. Was that the style of official letters—of requisitions and precepts from chairmen of committees? The first circular from himself as chairman had been very differently worded. "I have to require that you -would return answers to the following queries."—And the difference in the style was perceivable by every person who received the second letter; for every one had previously received the first, and the second expressly referred to it. Indeed, with the inconsistency which has marked every step of the adversaries of education, this first circular has also been attacked—it was uncourteous and peremptory—and there was a doubt expressed of the committees authority to issue it. As for the style, it was less peremptory than the established form of an order for the production of a paper, or attendance of a witness. That form begins, "It is ordered that A. B." &c. The circular began "I have to require," &c.—As to the right of demanding answers—any doubt of it was bottomed in the grossest ignorance, and the most childish inattention to the shape of the proceeding. The committee had a right by their instructions to send for all persons, papers and records. They might have summoned the clergy to Westminster to be examined. Was it not a relaxation of this right, to allow them at their own homes to answer the circular queries?—He did not im- 1330 pute all this wretched blundering to the? right hon. gentleman. His objections could not have originated within these walls. They must have been gathered, from some coarse manufactory abroad. But he should have been far above suffering any designing or bigoted person from getting possession of him, and pursuing him in so great a matter. [Mr. B. here entered into some details respecting the Digest of Education—which he was enabled, with the aid of his reverend coadjutors, to make so perfect that it would be easy at a single glance to see, not only what the general state of instruction was for the whole community, but what were the most minute details, connected with the subject in every one village and hamlet throughout the whole island. This good work he trusted would not be impeded by what had passed that day, though he doubted not there were some persons out of doors who indulged hopes that it might. He should, for his part, persevere. He was beset and attacked at every step, as if he was pursuing some object of personal advantage or aggrandisement, and as if the enemies of the cause supposed, that a person giving up his days and nights to such a work, must needs have some bad purpose to serve. But he should leave it to time, and the contempt of the community to cure them of such absurd prejudice, which he assured them gave him no sort of angry feeling, and only moved his pity.
The last charge preferred by the right hon. gentleman was of a singular description. It was not for any thing which he had cither done or left undone in the committee, nor indeed for any substantive part of his conduct at all, either in or out of parliament; but it seems he had in his letter to sir S. Romilly taken credit for not doing something, which if he had done, he would, in the right hon. gentleman's opinion, have been guilty of a breach of duty as chairman. Perhaps he ought to be sufficiently well pleased to find the gentleman and his instigators reduced to such flimsy accusations as this, which, if well founded, was really no very mighty matter. But it happened to be, like all the rest, quite groundless, He did not exactly recollect the words used by him; he had not of late been so conversant with his own writings as the right hon. gentleman seemed to be, who he was sorry to see had thrown away much valuable time upon what he feared 1331 he might find an unprofitable study, at the best, but the more especially if he did not comprehend what he read. He should, however, take the quotation as given by him—and to what did it amount? Only that, in order to prove how little truth there was in the charge so often reiterated, from the first day of these discussions to the present, of his having been actuated by party views in the committee, he had cited the known fact of his having refused his partisans in the North, access to the evidence respesting St. Bees school? But how could he have granted this access, said the right hon. gentleman, without betraying his trust as chairman? Why in various ways. What was there to prevent him from lending his own notes? What to keep him from communicating any private copies he might have of the printed and unpublished evidence? Then who before questioned the right of a chairman to regulate the manner and time of printing and circulating the minutes of a committee? He had known recent instances of notes being used for private purposes by warm friends of the right hon. gentleman, although the chairman of the committee had joined with the Speaker in impounding them to prevent publication. They had been published to the injury of every individual, for whose protection the original minutes were impounded. Of such conduct, indeed he greatly disapproved. For him to have communicated his notes, or to have allowed the publication of the report some weeks sooner, would clearly have been no such impropriety; yet still he deemed that it would have been blameable, it would have been perverting to party purposes an inquiry that should be kept free from all such connexion. And therefore, it was that he had abstained from it. Nay, had interposed to prevent it. He had done so because he deemed that it would have been improper; and the right hon. gentleman sagaciously answers, had he done so, it would have been an impropriety. There he left him, and his ingenious instructors.—Mr. B. then recurred to the general state of the question, the nature of the attack, and the course pursued against him and the committee; and having dwelt at some length on these topics, he concluded by apologizing for the time which he had been obliged to occupy in the defence of himself and his colleagues. As far as regarded their cause, they had much reason to 1332 complain of being taken unawares; but the House, too, had been a sufferer, in being compelled to hear a statement, not only inadequate to the greatness of the occasion, but necessarily rendered prolix by the suddenness of the demand which had imperiously, though most unexpectedly called it forth. It was a satisfaction to him, that how defective soever in other respects, he at least believed it to have been full, and to have honestly met each individual part of the accusation. In casting his eye back upon the large space over which he had travelled, he could descry nothing that he had left untouched. He rather feared he might be blamed for stopping to take notice of some things which merited none. But he deemed this the safer side on which to err, as being made aware by experience of the shifts and devices to which malignity has recourse. If he had passed any thing, if it should be found on further reflexion that there was a single point overlooked by him, he begged to be instantly informed of it; he pledged himself to take the earliest opportunity which the forms, or the kind indulgence of the House afforded, of supplying the omission. He had not shrunk from the fullest inquiry, in circumstances which gave him a very fair ground for demanding some delay; and he still courted the most unsparing investigation of every part of his conduct in the chair of the committee, and of every single incident that had happened in the course of their whole proceedings.
§ Mr. Sheldon
said, that he had acted as a member of the committee, and approved of all that was done in it. He had narrowly observed the conduct of the hon. and learned chairman, and had uniformly found it correct, polite, and proper.
Mr. V. Fitzgerald
declared, that he would be the last man to comment on the tone and language of any hon. member who stood up to vindicate himself, unless where that tone and language assumed the character of conveying invective and sarcasm against another. It was on that ground he complained of the speech of the hon. and learned gentleman who had converted a defence of himself into an accusation of his right hon. friend. He knew, and could excuse, the feeling and temper likely to be excited on such an occasion; but there was in the language and sarcasm which the hon. and learned gentleman had used, in speaking of the course pursued by his right hon. friend, what 1333 might easily be separated from the necessity of vindicating his own conduct. He warmly applauded the conduct of his right hon. friend, and argued, that the hon. and learned gentleman had no right to say that he was taken by surprise, after publications had gone forth on this subject—after it had, indeed, been discussed and debated throughout the country. In fairness, his right hon. friend had no right to give notice to every member of the committee that he meant to make the remarks he had offered. It was sufficient that he had brought forward the charge, when the hon. and learned gentleman was present. The hon. and learned gentleman had accused his right hon. friend, and accused him most unfairly, with having lain in wait, at the lag-end of the session, in order to make the observations which he had felt it to be his duty to offer to the House, when he might, have uttered his sentiments earlier. But, undoubtedly, his right hon. friend had a right to use his own discretion with respect to the period at which he would make his observations. As to what had been said of the formation of the committee, he would put it to the hon. and learned gentleman and to his friends, whether they could conscientiously declare that the bodies—the ancient establishments throughout the country, which were materially affected by the inquiry—were sufficiently represented in that committee?—If they declared that they thought they were, be should be very much surprised—but he would not attempt to remove that which was evidently an erroneous opinion. The hon. and learned gentleman complained of the manner in which his right hon. friend had read the names of the committee, because he had not mentioned individuals who were subsequently added to it; but his right hon. friend was not called upon to do so—since he spoke only of the original conformation, and the power originally proposed to be given to the committee. The hon. and learned gentleman complained, that he was accused with having placed members on the committee, who were bassed and swayed by particular views—that he had, in fact, packed a committee—and, to show that that was not the case, he said, "the names of Mr. C. Grant and of Mr. Sheldon might have been recollected." But how stood the fact? At the very same period, when those two members were added to the committee, Mr. W. Smith, 1334 sir T. Baring, and three other gentlemen, whom the hon. and learned member had not mentioned, were placed, at his suggestion, on the committee.—Thus, while his right hon. friend had omitted to name to two members, the hon. and learned gentleman had altogether passed over five.—An authority had been exercised by that committee, which, he would undertake to say, never had been intrusted to any committee. Did the hon. and learned gentleman mean to say, that it was proper to send forth the letters which had been alluded to—superscribed as if they emanated from that House— for the purpose of procuring information, after the dissolution of parliament? If he did not think it was proper, how could he vindicate the having exercised such an authority? No part of this subject could be touched on without causing the hon. and learned gentleman to exclaim, that he was harshly treated. Much, however, of what was adverted to, did not refer to him. With respect, for instance, to the publication of certain marginal notes, the hon. and learned gentleman was not accused with having authorized their publication. What his right hon. friend condemned was, sending forth to the country certain statutes, which the fellows of societies, to whose care they were intrsusted, were bound by oath not to divulge. He not only deprecated the publication of those statutes, but the accompanying remarks, which reflected strongly on men of great learning and high moral character. The hon. and learned gentleman had defended himself from the imputation—if he had not done so, his responsibility would have been serious indeed, The hon. and learned gentleman had declared that it was perfectly parliamentary to print documents emanating from committees, during the recess. This he denied —unless by a special order of the House. The hon. and learned gentleman could not, with respect to what was published under his sanction, plead that he had such an order. It was done by his sole authority—and he could point out no precedent for it. That the hon. and learned gentleman believed he was right, he had no doubt; but his own opinion was no justification of the act. The clause in the original, enabling the commissioners to punish with imprisonment all persons who might refuse to answer any questions respecting public charities, or who might withhold any papers that might throw 1335 light upon such matters, was said to be taken from a bill of lord Sidmouth's which inflicted such a penalty on public accomptants having had the management of the public money. But in the two cases there was no analogy whatever.
§ Mr. F. Douglas
, as a member of the Education Committee, bore testimony to the accuracy of every part of his hon. and learned friend's statement. He defended the committee from the attack made upon them by the right hon. member—an attack which, although sobered and brought down to the meridian of the House, was very much like one that had been rendered public by other means, and which though it had not less acrimony, had more wit and vivacity. It was evidently a prepared diatribe against his hon. and learned friend, and against all those who had taken an active part in promoting the inquiry. It was a diatribe not called for by circumstances, and was calculated solely to sooth the irritated feelings of some angry ecclesiastical bigot, who felt displeased or injured by the proceedings of the committee. He contended that his hon. and learned friend had been fully justified in completing the report of the committee, after the dissolution of parliament. With respect to the power proposed to be vested in the commissioners to punish with imprisonment persons refusing to give necessary information, it was a power that was wholly indispensable; it was such a power of committal as was vested in every justice of the peace in the country, and, if it were withheld, the whole inquiry would be neutralized.
said, he was not at all surprised that his right hon. friend should have warmly felt and expressed his own sentiments on the conduct of the hon. and learned gentleman, as well as the sentiments of those respectable bodies of individuals, who came within the scope of the inquiry under the consideration of the House. Although the hon. and learned gentleman had made a very reasonable statement on the present occasion; although, after a more deliberate consideration, he had not imputed to charities generally corruption, or to government a disposition to skreen abuse, it was natural enough that his right hon. friend should not forget, that at no very distant period, the hon. and learned gentleman had loudly preferred such accusations. It now appeared that the report, of the com- 1336 missioners had fulfilled all the expectations of the hon. and learned gentleman. The hon. and learned gentleman had, indeed, endeavoured to find, in one part of the report, a justification of all his former representations. Because the report stated, that the commissions had discovered in the management of Tunbridge school what they might possibly raise a question upon in a court of equity, the hon. and learned gentleman thought all his charges were confirmed. He congratulated the hon. and learned gentleman that he had so far opened himself this night as to admit that the utmost extent of evil which he believed to exist was, that there were some things which might be brought under inquiry in a court of equity. With respect to the expense of the commission, he really believed that the money required for effecting the objects proposed, would be, in point of economy, well laid out, in order to obtain a security that charities were properly conducted; but he wished to prevent the indulgence of such a delusive notion as that the money saved by this inquiry would go to pay the expenses of the commission. The inquiry might be expected to continue for nine or ten years, but the result would be a confidence that charities were properly managed. Besides the very appointment of tile commission would give an activity to charities which they could not otherwise have, and for this reason he had always been a friend to it. With respect to the clause respecting charities having special visitors, he thought it whimsical and hard that he must defend against the hon. and learned gentleman a clause which the hon. and learned gentleman, had himself introduced into his bill of last year? What was there dangerous or objectionable in the clause? Those who had founded charities, considered the management of them sufficiently secured by the appointment of a special visitor; but when they had required that all the trustees should be subject to visitation, it must be presumed, that visitors mixing themselves with the trust ought, according to the intention of the founder, to be treated as mere trustees. The whole of the commission was rather in aid of the Court of Chancery. The arrangement of the commission was much improved by this bill. The machinery was more applicable to the purpose. There was also another improvement, namely, the mode found out for compelling the attendance 1337 and evidence of witnesses, without following the example of the committee of military inquiry.
§ The Speaker
also observed, that the most convenient mode of proceeding would be, to read the bill a third time, and then hon. members would have an opportunity of speaking on the several clauses as they were brought up.
§ The bill was read a third time.
§ Mr. Brougham
then proposed a clause, enabling trustees, with consent of the commissioners, to apply to the Court of Chancery, or any of the courts of equity, for the correction of certain deficiencies that might be found to exist in the powers granted to them under the charter.
expressed his regret at being again compelled to offer himself to the attention of the House. Charges, he said, had been made against him by hon. members opposite, which, in their nature were somewhat inconsistent. It had been alleged, that he had prepared what was called a bill of indictment against the committee, having associated to himself in this invidious task, several other persons; but he could assure the hon. and learned gentleman, that whatever might be the nature of this bill of indictment, to himself (Mr. Peel) alone was it to be attributed. He did not imagine it was a fair ground of charge against him, that he had canvassed the proceedings of the committee in private with his friends. Gentlemen who pushed themselves forward in that House into public situations, such as chairmen of committees, must expect to have their conduct very freely and fully examined, provided no personal or improper motives were imputed to them. He could assure the hon. and learned gentleman that he would never shrink from animadverting on his public conduct whenever that conduct seemed to demand animadversion. The hon. and learned gentleman had complained that the charge was brought forward in the absence of the committee; but as he entered the House he perceived at least ten members of the committee present, and in any case he should consider it a new doctrine, if the members of that House were to be precluded from making any observation on the conduct of committees, unless the members of such committees were served with regular notice to attend. As to his not having made the charges before, there was no opportunity. On the 5th of April 1338 1818, the bill was first introduced; on the 6th of June the report which contained the examination of Dr. Wood, was laid upon the table; and on the 8th the parliament was dissolved; and though it was competent to him more recently to have made a motion on the subject, he was prevented by the notice of his noble friend preparatory to the introduction of the present bill. He would also remind the hon. and learned gentleman, that he was absent himself for a great part of the session, and therefore might very properly have accused him, if he had stood forward before, of making an attack upon him in his absence. He still thought, notwithstanding all that had fallen from the hon. and learned gentleman, that the chairman and the committee had exercised an authority which was not contemplated by the House at the time of their appointment. Reverting to the examination of Dr. Wood, he again maintained that the tone and manner of the examination were not warranted. He confessed that he did feel that romantic attachment to the seat of his education which the hon. and learned gentleman had attempted to overwhelm with sarcasm and ridicule; and, instead of its being a matter of charge against him that he did so feel, he was convinced that he should be justly chargeable if he did not. He thought of the university of Oxford as of the scene of his youth, and as an institution to which he felt that he was indebted beyond the power of repayment. If, therefore, he had declined to appear in its cause, he would have been guilty of a dereliction of duty. All that the hon. and learned gentleman had said could not remove the impression of one fact from his mind, that after the dissolution of parliament the committee thought proper to call upon certain individuals for an answer to the circular, and that the request was signed by the clerk of the committee, and dated from the House of Commons. He concluded with remarking, that though he might have strong political feelings upon various subjects, he hoped he could not be justly charged with a want of candour or fairness in the expression of them.
§ Mr. Brougham
called the attention of the right hon. member to his argument with respect to the oaths of secrecy administered in colleges.
read the 45th statute, which declares that the statutes shall be kept secret, and to the observance of that, as 1339 well as of all other statutes, the fellows were bound by oath.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, that the right hon. gentleman's charge did not merely state that the fellows had taken such an oath, but that they had pleaded their oath to the committee, who compelled them, notwithstanding, to make disclosures.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, every body who knew any thing of the question, knew that Mr. H. was not a fellow of Eton, but that of King's. He (Mr. P.) had better leave the Eton and Cambridge interests to be defended by those who were acquainted with the subject. He supposed his hon. friend (Mr. J. Smyth) the member for Cambridge, was not much indebted for his volunteering to protect his constituents.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
claimed the privilege that he had always exercised during the forty-three years which he had been a member of that House, of asserting his opinions with the utmost freedom and sincerity. He must say, that the right hon. gentleman had not made him feel less pain upon this occasion, than he should have felt, had he been himself personally concerned in it. There was nothing which appeared to him to have justified the right hon. gentleman in not giving the House previous intimation of his intention to bring forward a charge against the committee. What the right hon. gentleman had said in his last speech, confirmed the opinions which he (Mr. W.) had originally entertained, with respect to the character of Dr. Wood; and he made this observation with greater pleasure, because he had never heard the evidence of Dr. Wood before the present moment. As that gentleman had been one of his co-mates in earlier life at the university, he should take that opportunity of stating to the House, that he was an honest, respectable, independent man, deserving to be held up as an example of what integrity and perseverance could effect, to those who were entering upon life under many inconveniences. How the case of Pocklington school had escaped his notice he did not know, and should not pretend to explain; but considering the number of years during which he had represented the great and populous county of York, he could not help taking it as a matter of shame to himself; that he had not brought 1340 it forward as a case well worthy of parliamentary inquiry. That case, as it related to a spot where he had himself been educated, had excited no inconsiderable portion of his grief and indignation. But, leaving that case for the present, he must be allowed to state, that no man in the world was less capable of conducting an examination with severity than his hon. friend, Mr. Babington, who had been upon that committee. It was possible (though he knew it not, having been absent from the committee) that his learned and hon. friend might conduct it with a certain degree of professional, and, if he might be allowed the word, inquisitorial severity; but was such a circumstance as that, even if true, to be considered as more than a balance to the benefits which it had conferred on the public? When the right hon. gentleman expressed the regret which he felt at this asperity, had he entirely forgotten the solid results which had been produced by this inquiry, and which were likely to remain in existence to the immortal honour and glory of his hon. and learned friend? He was surprised that the right hon. gentleman, who possessed such acuteness on other subjects, should be so blind as not to see the incalculable benefits which had been effected by this mode of investigation; indeed, if it had been any other person who had shown such fatuity of intellect, he should have said that the man was totally insensible to the admirable administration of justice in this country. It would be folly in him to express such an opinion of the right hon. member, but still it was with no little satisfaction that he congratulated the House on their having made such progress as they had done in the cause of public education. It was peculiarly fortunate that his hon. and learned friend, with all those splendid qualifications of eloquence, argumentation, and assiduity, by which he was distinguished, should have applied himself to those pursuits which many others would have deemed to be far below their notice and observation; and though he willingly allowed his claims to public gratitude for the attention which he had given to another subject, which was near and dear to his (Mr. W.'s) heart, he could not help considering his claims to it on the present occasion to be superior. The investigation to be rendered useful, ought to be made in a fair and impartial manner. He knew something of the abuses which existed in public charities, 1341 from an attempt which he had once made to check their increase. When he first brought in his bill for the registration of charities, he received letters from all parts of the country, containing proofs of the existence of such abuses as the House could not possibly be aware of. A friend of his, by taking a hint from a grave-stone in a country church-yard, had been led to prosecute his inquiries till he had recovered 16,000l. or 18,000l. per annum, which were now applied to their original purposes. As the pressure of the times was now such as to curtail even the comforts of those who were in possession of large funds, it was the duty of the House to take care that that pressure fell as lightly as possible on the lower orders; and where it did fall, that it should be mitigated to the utmost, by the application of all charitable funds to their proper purposes.
§ Mr. J. H. Smyth
was anxious to express his sentiments upon a question of so much importance, and one in which he, as representing his constituents, was so greatly interested. As a member of the Education Committee appointed in 1816, he felt an anxious desire to lend his aid to the investigation of the subject; and he could assure the House, with the utmost sincerity, notwithstanding the insinuations which had been thrown out by a right hon. member, that he had entered the committee with no prejudices on his mind, or political bias. It was a duty incumbent upon him to contradict such aspersions, in 1817 the committee did not sit, and in 1818, when the transaction alluded to took place, he did not attend the committee, as he then attended another committee, which he thought had a paramount claim on him. But if he had not had that excuse, he did not think he should have attended it; for though he admitted parliament had a right to inquire into the funds possessed by the university for the education of the poor, yet he doubted as to the expediency of their making use of that right at present. With respect to one university, at least, he was sure the more its affairs were inquired into, the more it would stand exculpated; but the House could not, with any advantage, enter into so wide a field of inquiry. Had he been on the committee, he should have expressed an opinion different from that of the majority in two cases. As soon as it was known that the funds bequeathed were not for the purpose of education, the 1342 committee had no right to inquire into the subject any farther. Had he been present on the occasion of the examination of Dr. Wood, he should certainly have objected to the questions put to that learned gentleman; because some of them might seem to convey imputations unbecoming the situation of Dr. Wood, and were, to his knowledge, unfounded. He had the honour of being acquainted with that gentleman, and he knew him to be distinguished for honour, talents, and learning. He could not too much regret the very unnecessary and very unprovoked discussion which had been introduced that night by the right hon. member for Oxford, and which had generated an acrimonious feeling on a question of practical philanthropy and benevolence.
§ Mr. John Smith
, as a member of the committee, begged leave to say a few words. The right hon. gentleman had insinuated that party zeal animated him on that committee [No, no! from Mr. Peel]. He could say, on his honour, that he had never seen the spirit of party less pervade any committee than the one alluded to. The whole proceedings of that committee had been grossly misrepresented out of the House. He had read the most scandalous libels on the committee: he had seen questions stated to have been put which never were put; and persons stated to have been examined, who never were examined. His hon. and learned friend, the chairman, had been roundly stated as bringing forward cases, and putting questions which others had wholly done without any interference on his part. He could enumerate a number of the most gross misrepresentations, if he were not ashamed to take up the time of the House with them. His hon. and learned friend knowing his (Mr. Smith's) anxiety for the diffusion of the benefit of education, might think that he could be of use in the committee, and on that account might be induced to name him. From the same motive he might be induced to name other members. But this he was sure of, that those who were most in the habit of attending the committee generally voted on the other side of the House. He owned he was concerned, that the right hon. gentleman with his rising fame should have risked an attack on his hon. and learned friend. He knew of no man in the House who had done more towards the support of the cause of justice and humanity than his hon. and 1343 learned friend. He hoped the right hon. gentleman might live to do as much—he was sure he could never do more. He had always thought, and should think to! his dying day, that the proudest circumstance of his life was his being a member of that committee over which his hon. and learned friend presided. He did not like in any case a disposition to concealment—fraud and mystery were, in his opinion, nearly allied. He might here allude, by way of contrast, to the conduct of that pious and worthy body of men called Quakers. It happened that some of that body who were in London at the time of their annual meeting, commissioned him to state their wish, that it would afford them satisfaction to have their schools examined into, as they wished the nature of their institutions to be known to the public. He did not mean to institute a comparison between this body and the two universities; but the disposition manifested by them on this occasion did them the greatest honour, as concealment did honour to no man or body of men.
§ Mr. Holford
described the manner in which he had been nominated upon this committee, and denied that the majority of it was composed of the usual supporters of government. He had however from the beginning declared his intention not to attend a committee from which members of great learning and high character were excluded, and to which the aldermen who represented the city of London, as well as other persons belonged; persons who, however respectable, were not in his opinion the best calculated for the inquiry they had in hand.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, that the value of the last observation of the hon. member might be appreciated, when he said that among the committee were sir J. Mackintosh, sir S. Romilly, Mr. J. H. Smyth, Mr. W. Lamb, and other gentlemen of learning, diligence, and talent.
§ The clause was added to the bill.
§ Mr. Brougham
then proposed the striking out the clause exempting colleges, free schools, or other foundations having special visitors, from the operation of the bill. He took that opportunity of stating, that his opinion with respect to the abuses of charities for education was not altered. What he had stated originally was, that the bulk of the cases must have arisen more from negligence than from wilful and corrupt design. He had uniformly 1344 stated, that people of property really did not know of all the charitable trusts with which they stood charged. But he had also asserted then, and did so still, that there existed cases in all parts of the kingdom which did not admit of the excuse of negligence. If he had been wrong in this, and ought to have lowered his tone, so ought also my lord chancellor Eldon— so ought also my lord Kenyon, had he been alive. Lord Eldon had stated, as a judge, that the grossest abuses prevailed in the administration of charitable trusts. Lord Kenyon had said from the bench, that if all visitors of charities had done their duty like the late archbishop of York, they would not see, as they did in all parts of the country, grammar schools so grossly abused—that no business was done in them but receiving the salary. Borne out as he thus was, he would do any thing but lower his tone.
Sir W. Scott
opposed the amendment on the ground that the will of the founder, whether provident or not, should not be interfered with.
§ Mr. Scarlett
contended, that a power given to inquire into the abuse of a charity, which might be most inconsistent with the will of the founder, could not be construed into a contravention of that will.
§ Mr. Ellice
complained of the clause of exemption, as founded on an unjust and aristocratical principle.
§ The House divided: For the amendment, 75; Against it, 107.