HC Deb 08 July 1831 vol 4 cc982-8

On a Resolution for granting 958l. 5s. for the Salaries and Allowances of Professors of Oxford and Cambridge, for reading courses of Lectures for one year,

Mr. Hume

observed, that Oxford was rich enough, and ought to support its own Professors. Those who went to Oxford should pay for their own education. Why should the people of England be required to assist in paying for the education of the sons of noblemen, and other gentlemen of great wealth. This was, therefore, a very proper item to reduce. He thought it improper, too, that a vote of this kind should be brought forward among the Miscellaneous Estimates. He protested against the vote, and against the manner in which it was brought before them, and only refrained from taking the sense of the Committee out of consideration to the situation in which Government were placed.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, that the Universities were not devoted exclusively to the highest classes of society; many of the humblest received the benefit of education in those venerable institutions. The principal part of the emolument of the Professors was derived from their fees from students; but it was necessary they should have some certain allowance. His hon. friend the member for Middlesex had been connected with the London University, and must be aware that there ought to be some certainty on the part of the Professors of obtaining an income independent of their scholars, to make them a little independent of their classes.

Mr. W. Y. Peel

was surprised that the hon. member for Middlesex, who was so great a friend to the diffusion of knowledge, should object to such a grant as the present; to be applied as a slight assistance to those who were most eminent in learning and scholarship at the Universities.

Lord Milton

observed, that the situations of some of the Professors were by no means lucrative, and were sometimes the cause of considerable expense to those who filled them. His hon. friend seemed to have an idea, that the wealthier classes ought to provide for these Professors, but that would tend to introduce a still more invidious distinction than already existed between the different classes who frequented the Universities. It would be a bad piece of economy to deprive the Professors of the little aid which the proposed grant was calculated to afford them.

Mr. Hunt

asked, if it was right that the weavers of Manchester should be called upon to contribute to such a purpose? But the noble Lord seemed to have no objection to apply the money of the poor to purposes in which the rich alone were interested. The House was called upon to vote 1,000l. to certain Professors in the Universities, and it was preposterous to expect that the poor weavers and other labourers who were nearly starving, should be called upon to pay for taxed soap and taxed candles, in order to provide a fund for the education of the sons of the rich. The hon. member for Oxford might call out "haw, haw!" but if he and the noble Lord were not destitute of all regard for the poor, they would oppose such a grant as the present. He had that evening presented a petition—

Mr. George Robinson

rose to order. Was it competent to any hon. Member to impute to any other hon. Member an indifference to the welfare of the poor?

Lord Milton

observed, that the hon. member for Preston had asked if the weavers of Manchester ought to be required to contribute to such a grant as that under consideration. In the first place, the purpose for which the grant was required was befitting a great country. The question was, whether the powerful and wealthy community which formed the British empire should, out of the public funds, apply a trifling sum in aid of the education of youth; but it should also be recollected, that several of the Professors, in aid of whom this sum was to be voted, were able teachers of natural philosophy and mechanics. The hon. member for Preston had probably heard of that venerable man Professor Parish, who had done so much by his explanations of mechanical science to advance that species of manufacture in which the spinners of Manchester and the weavers of Preston were so deeply interested. Would it be a wise exercise of economy, even with reference to the poorer classes alone, to refuse such a grant to individuals to whom those classes were so much indebted?

Mr. Hunt

appealed to the Chairman if it were conformable to the usage of the House, that, having been called to order by an hon. Member, the noble Lord should avail himself of the interruption to make a speech. When he was called to order he was about to say, that he had that night presented a petition from 19,000 of the operatives of Manchester, complaining that they had no share in the Representation of the people. Was it fair to take money out of the pockets of such persons to pay the Professors of Oxford? He would repeat his notice, that when the clause in the Reform Bill respecting the 10l. qualification came under consideration, he—

Mr. Spring Rice

spoke to order. The hon. Member must feel, that it was as disorderly to talk of the Reform Bill in a discussion respecting the Professors of the Universities, as it would be to talk of the Professors of the Universities in a discussion on the Reform Bill.

Mr. Hunt

said, that if he was to be continually interrupted in that manner, all that he could do would be to sit down, and say No! when the Resolution was put to the vote.

Mr. Goulburn

rather wished, that the hon. member for Preston had been allowed to detail all his objections to the proposition, however different those might have been to any advanced by other persons, in order that the hon. Member might have received a more complete answer. There was something irresistibly ludicrous in resisting the appropriation of such a sum for such a purpose. He wished to ask the hon. Member what was the fraction of that sum which any weaver in the kingdom would be called upon to contribute out of his soap and candles towards these salaries of 85l. each to be paid to the Professors? It was so imperceptibly small, that he suspected all the hon. Gentleman's acuteness aided by all the hon. member for Middlesex's arithmetical knowledge, would not suffice to describe it. But if it were ten times more, the poor received from it much more than an equivalent benefit. As the noble Lord had well observed, the development of the sciences led to the increase of the employment of the poorer classes. Those particular weavers to whom the hon. member for Preston alluded, had been greatly benefitted by the chemical and philosophical discoveries and improvements of such men as those to whom the proposed vote referred. Nor should the benefits which the poor derived from the teachers of anatomy, and the consequent establishment of hospitals and dispensaries be forgotten; and he was persuaded, that, if the opinion of the poor could be consulted, they would gladly call on Parliament to aid the expression of their grati- tude by increasing grants such as that now proposed. The salaries were no source of profit to the Professors themselves. They did not pay the expenses to which they were liable in preparing their lectures which were delivered to all classes of students, high and low, who had thus equal opportunities of attaining a knowledge of all the branches of science and philosophy which were taught by these Professors.

Sir R. Inglis

observed, that he thought it so exceedingly unfair that any individual in that House should assume that he had a peculiar feeling for the poor, or should arrogate to himself a sympathy for their welfare which he denied to all others, that he had been unable to restrain himself, when he had heard the hon. Member for Preston lay claim to such an exclusive feeling. He might perhaps have to apologize to the House for the interruption he had caused, but it was wholly involuntary

Mr. Labouchere

said, he should be very sorry if a single word should drop from him that might be supposed to proceed from a disrespectful feeling towards those venerable seats of learning—the Universities. But they would best consult their own interests now, when it was so necessary that a strict and rigid economy should be observed, and having, as was believed, large funds at their own disposal, by remunerating their Professors in some other way than by an annual grant from Parliament. He readily allowed the benefit which even the poorer classes derived from the labours of the Professors. If the hon. member for Preston pressed the question to a division, he certainly should not vote with him; but at the same time he must say, that he did not think that the proposed mode of contributing to the remuneration of the Professors was the most judicious.

Mr. Hunt

appealed to the House if he had on any occasion shown a disposition to trespass upon their time, or to be pertinacious. He also appealed to the hon. member for Oxford, if he had acted quite fairly in saying that he (Mr. Hunt) was the only man who had objected to taking money out of the pockets of the poor. He had made up his mind most solemnly, that if on any question he was put down, as he had been on the present, by coughing, or similar interruption, he would divide the House upon the question, and he was resolved to do so upon this occasion.

Mr. Ruthven

was satisfied the people would not object to this trifling sum to afford remuneration to the most eminent Professors. He was astonished it should be exclaimed against, and he was disposed to increase rather than to diminish it. He should wish, however, to propose similar grants to the Universities of Ireland and Scotland.

Mr. Goulburn

assured the hon. member for Taunton, that the University he had the honour to represent had no great fund at its disposal, all its resources being subject to heavy demands. The hon. member for Middlesex objected to the manner in which the vote was brought before the House; and he could explain how that happened. The King being considered as head of all the establishments of the country, in 1815, when a revision of the Civil List was effected, it was arranged that these salaries should be taken from it, and voted annually in Parliament. He thought the alteration at the time impolitic, and he still continued to think so; however, the House had made it, and these salaries had since been regularly brought under its consideration.

Mr. Briscoe

did not object to the grant. He considered it beneficial, and believed the labours of the Professors were of public advantage. He was much attached to the old Universities, but he thought that the Professors at the new Universities in the metropolis had equal claims on the public. They were founded for the express purpose of giving a liberal education to those who could not bear the heavier expenses of Oxford and Cambridge.

Lord Althorp

considered the grant more consistent with principles of economy than many others of a more specious appearance, because it was a grant for the promotion of that kind of knowledge and science which was most useful to the lower orders.

Mr. Maberly

opposed it, on the ground that similar applications might be made, with equal justice, by the Scotch Universities.

Mr. Hume

maintained, that if such grants were to be made, no distinction whatever should prevail; but he said, give not at all. The reason of his declining any further connexion with the London University was, because the Council would give salaries. If any grants were made, it would be more advisable to direct them to the education of the poor. He denied that such persons could receive an educa- tion in the English Universities, or profit by the lectures delivered there. Many of the individuals who were connected with them lived in great state on the funds placed at their disposal. Gentlemen had taken great pains to stop a bill which was proposed to investigate these funds. He would not attempt to discover the fractional part paid by the weavers of Lancashire; but there was one tax which might be taken off, he alluded to the tax upon pamphlets, which would be of much greater benefit to the poor, and tend more to their instruction, than the continuance of this grant. He objected to that on two grounds—first, because he wanted to know the extent of the funds of the Universities; and next, because, if the House gave to one, it ought to give to all. If the Committee divided, he should oppose the vote.

Mr. Bonham Carter

observed, that the hon. member for Middlesex forgot the number of poor scholars who were maintained, and received a gratuitous education, from the funds of the various Colleges, and of the richer persons who resided there. Many persons in the humbler ranks had derived advantages from the lectures of the Professors for whom this grant was proposed.

Sir T. Fremantle

stated, that he had some difficulty with respect to this vote. His objection was more to the manner in which it was proposed, as part of the necessary supplies for the year, than to its amount or the object to which it was to be applied. He believed there were ample funds at Oxford to pay all the Professors, and he felt assured, that if this proposition were refused, the University would find means to pay the Professors themselves.

Mr. Warburton

was a member of the University of Cambridge, and had partaken of the advantages of these Professorships, and therefore was probably one of the last men who ought to say a word against the grant now proposed; but he concurred in the opinion, that the Universities possessed ample funds, and thought it should be proved, before any grant was made, that all their funds were applied to the purposes of education. He himself remembered, that by a vote of the Senate of Cambridge, a sum of money had been appropriated to the erection of a statue to Mr. Pitt, and the Senate voted large sums for other purposes. He should, therefore, feel himself bound to vote against this grant, until it-was proved, that the Universities had not the means of paying the Professors themselves.

Colonel Sibthorp

should feel it his duty, for many reasons, to support the vote. The economy attempted to be enforced in this instance was mischievous and unnecessary.

Sir J. M. Doyle

was as anxious as any hon. Member to support economy; but he conceived the present was not a proper occasion to exercise it. He must, therefore, vote for the grant.

Mr. Wilkes

said, that although the lectures given by the Professors were directed to the most valuable branches of science, yet it would be more honourable to the Universities to pay them out of their own funds.

The Committee then divided. For the Grant 203; Against it 15—Majority 188.

List of the Minority.
Bodkin, J. J. Paget, T.
Dawson, A. Sheil, R. L.
Dixon, J. Strutt, E.
Hunt, H. Warburton, H.
Moreton, Hon. H. G. Wood, J.
Musgrave, Sir R. Wyse, T. Junr.
O'Connell, D. TELLER
O'Connell, M.
O'Ferrall, R. More Hume, J.

A Vote of 13,156l. to defray the charges of the Insolvent Debtors Court was agreed to.

On the grant of 3,856l. being proposed for the Alien Office,

Mr. Hume

objected to it, because it was a sum devoted to a system which was purely continental—a system of espionnage,—Motion agreed to.