Mr. Hughes Hughes
rose to present three Petitions from the Ministers, Churchwardens, and inhabitants, of the several parishes of St. Peter-in-the-East, St. Aldate, and Holywell, in the city of Oxford. All the petitioners stated, that should the measure sought by the Universities' Admission Bill (the second reading of which had been fixed for that evening) receive the sanction of the Legislature, the most serious consequences would ensue; that it would be an infraction of the ancient rights of the Universities, an innovation of their discipline, would lead to schisms amongst the students, to the overthrow of those regulations which time had proved were so essential to the promotion of learning and the advancement of the great and solid interests of the country in Church and State, and eventually to the subversion of the established religion; and that the union which had so long and so beneficially subsisted between the Universities and the Church of England (deeply felt by the petitioners) would virtually become extinct; but, beyond what the petitioners had thus submitted to the consideration of the House, there was another fundamental objection to the Bill, viz. that it proposed to admit, not only persons of every or any religious persuasion, but to allow men destitute of all religious principle whatever, to matriculate and take degrees; and, so privileged, they would go forth to the world with all the force and effect which learning could confer, to forward and accomplish their mischievous designs. He had on a former occasion, when presenting a similar petition, unanimously agreed to by the Corporation of Oxford, read to the House the declaration of all those immediately connected with the instruction and discipline of the University of Oxford, to the effect that it was their determined purpose, to the utmost of their power, to maintain inviolate their present system of religious instruction. Since that time, the number of Members of Convocation and Bachelors of Civil Law, who had signed a declaration, expressive of their approval of the 10 declaration of the tutors, and the concurrence of their feelings and opinions with those which were so seasonably and suitably expressed in such declaration, had increased to 1,830. The Vice-Chancellor, Heads of Houses, and Proctors, had also signed a declaration of their deliberate and firm opinion that the Bill in question, if passed into a law would violate their legal and prescriptive rights, subvert the system of religious instruction and discipline so long and so beneficially exercised by them; and, by dissolving the union between the University and the Church of England, impair the efficiency and endanger the security of both. Fully agreeing in opinions entitled to so much weight, he would add only one remark with reference to an observation of the hon. and learned member for Bath, one of the principal advocates of the Dissenting body. The hon. and learned Gentleman had broadly asserted, that religion was not taught in either of the Universities. Now he (Mr. Hughes Hughes) held this to be a gross calumny; but admitting, for the sake of argument, that it was true, how happened it that the Dissenters were so anxious for the admission of their children and connexions into colleges, in which, their organ said, the principles of religion were not inculcated?
§ Petitions to lie on the Table.