HC Deb 01 July 1831 vol 4 cc580-2
Lord Makon

presented a Petition from 770 of the resident Bachelors and Undergraduates of the University of Oxford, against the Reform Bill, which the petitioners prayed might not pass into a law. The total number of that body varied from 1,000 to 1,100, so that the majority were decidedly averse from the measure. The petitioners stated, "that the Bill of Reform lately submitted to Parliament seems to your petitioners far more than commensurate with any existing amount of grievances; that your petitioners, however alien to their condition the expression of an opinion on political questions might appear under ordinary circumstances, and however reluctant to intrude on the attention of the Legislature, are, nevertheless, unwilling to contemplate such results in silence, and humbly and earnestly pray, that the said Bill may not pass into a law." A petition to the same effect had lately been presented by one of the hon. members of the University, from the Masters and Graduates, and the present petition was of great im- portance, as showing, that the former did not proceed merely from timid old age or long-rooted prepossessions, but that the attachment to our present Constitution was as strong amidst the younger as amidst the elder members of the University. In the debates two years before, it had been thought a strong argument in favour of the Catholic question, that the rising talent of the country was anxious that the claims of the Catholics should be granted; and in support of the fact, that such were the sentiments of the rising talent of the country, it had been stated to the House, that in a debating society at the University of Oxford, the Catholic question had been carried by a majority of two to one. As that circumstance had been much relied upon by some hon. Members on the occasion to which he alluded, he begged now to state to the House, that, the same institution still existed, that it comprised as formerly, the most able and aspiring young men at Oxford, and that the Ministerial measure for Reform, being there debated, was rejected by a majority of not two to one, but three to one. He would make no comment on these facts, leaving them to the consideration of the House, but he must express his great satisfaction, that a declaration of attachment to the ancient institutions of the country should have been the first step in the career of these youths, which he hoped and trusted would be to them, each and all, a career of private worth and public usefulness.

Lord Morpeth

said, that it was impossible that he could speak of a body from which he had so lately emerged, and to which he had so many reasons to be attached, in other than terms of kindness and respect. He could not controvert the statement of the noble Lord respecting the feelings of the majority of this body with regard to Reform, but he could say, that it contained a minority respectable at once for talent and for numbers. Why the minority had not raised their voices against the majority, he could not tell; but perhaps it was because they considered it hardly consistent with their academical pursuits to approach this House as petitioners; or perhaps they might think, that their approbation would not add much weight to a measure which had already been approved of by the great body of the nation. With regard to the petitioners, he would only say, that as they advanced in life, and had opportunities of mixing with larger masses of the community, he had no doubt they would imbibe opinions more in unison with those of the people, of whom he trusted the petitioners would one day be the support and the ornament.

The Petition to be printed.