HC Deb 15 April 1836 vol 32 cc1101-6

Lord John Russell moved the second reading of the Bishopric of Durham Bill.

Sir Robert Peel

asked whether the noble Lord had any objection to state what was intended in respect to the University of Durham?

Lord John Russell

was understood to say, that that matter was as yet entirely open. There might be some difficulty in the present state of proceedings in settling it, as the Bishop of Durham was to take the see with certain regulations, and under certain restrictions, which were hereafter to be defined.

Sir Robert Peel

ventured to express an earnest hope that his Majesty's Government, in whatever measures they might adopt, would fulfil the intentions of the late Bishop of Durham in respect to this subject.

Mr. Jervis

hoped, that not one penny of the revenue of the see would be applied to the purposes of the University of Durham, unless the Dissenters of the north of England were equally admissible to it as the Members of the Established Church. It was the principle of all, or nearly all, the universities of Europe, that parties were admitted without distinction of religion, and he did not see why the same principle should not apply to this new university, the more particularly as the two universities of Oxford and Cambridge were closed to all but members of the Established Church. It was, he thought, monstrous in the present day to confine establishments for the dissemination of learning to one religious denomination only. He would appeal to the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) below him, who had ever shown himself the friend of the Dissenters and of religious toleration, and put it to him whether he would sanction an exclusive establishment of this kind. He hoped that in this, or early in the next session, the noble Lord would be prepared with some measure by which Dissenters of the north, as well as members of the Estab- lished Church, would be equally admissible to this University.

Mr. Arthur Trevor

differed wholly from the proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman who last addressed the House. He looked on the University of Durham as a splendid monument of the munificence of the late most estimable prelate, and believed it was well known that it was the intention of that right reverend Prelate that it should be for the clergy of the north. That intention would be altogether defeated if it were thrown open to Dissenters; and for his own part he would rather see the whole establishment fall to the ground;, than that it should be open to Dissenters. He regretted that the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had not been prepared to give an answer to the right hon. Baronet, as to the intentions of Government with respect to this University. The intentions of the late right rev. Prelate with respect to the Durham University were notorious, and had received the sanction of Earl Grey. It was the wish of the right reverend Prelate that the income of three stalls in the cathedral of Durham should be reserved for the salaries of the warden and professors. Now, this sum he thought should be held in trust by the bishop for these purposes. With respect to the Bill before the House, he thought there were parts of it with which the inhabitants of the county and of the city which he had the honour to represent would be greatly dissatisfied. There was the abolition of local courts and other institutions which the late bishop had fostered with great care. He did not think that the administration of justice would be better or cheaper in consequence of those changes. On these accounts he was anxious that time should be given for the due consideration of the Bill before it went into Committee, for he feared the time would come when some of the proposed changes would be regretted by all classes in the country. He thought the income of the see was so much reduced in the Bill, that he did not hesitate to say, it would be found difficult to get persons to accept the see with such limited means. He also objected to the Bill, that in the application of the surplus revenue it made no provision for the spiritual wants of many parts of the county. All that the Bill proposed was, to plunder the see of a part of its revenues, to enrich other parts of the county, In conclusion, the hon. Member repeated his objection to seeing the University of Durham thrown open to Dissenters, and he added that the Dissenters of Durham did not look upon the University with any hostile feeling; on the contrary, they regarded it as an establishment which would be greatly beneficial to the neighbourhood. The hon. Member, after thanking the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, for the interest he took in the University, gave notice, that should the Government determine not to fulfil the intentions of the late Bishop with respect to it, he should feel it his duty to oppose any measure they might introduce with that object.

Lord John Russell

rose in consequence of the last remark of the hon. Gentleman concerning Earl Grey, and his wish that a University should be established in Durham. It was quite true that that noble Lord had expressed an anxious wish that there should be a University established in the north; and he (Lord John Russell) believed that there were two points on which the late Bishop of Durham and Lord Grey had differed, while they agreed in the expediency and propriety of appropriating a certain portion of the revenues of the chapter and see of Durham to the support of that University. The first related to the income of the stalls applied to the professorships, Lord Grey thinking—and in his opinion most judiciously—that the whole income of a stall would be much too large a salary with which to endow a simple professorship. The objection of the late Bishop to the proposition of Lord Grey might be deemed very natural and very just at the time at which it was made, the right reverend Prelate not liking, perhaps, as there was no general measure upon the subject, to break in upon the particular constitution of the establishment of Durham. There was another point to which allusion was necessary, in consequence of the feeling which Lord Grey had been said to have expressed of decided dissent from the opinion of the late lamented Prelate. The Bishop expressed his opinion that the emoluments of the University should be completely and entirely confined to the members of the Church of England. From that opinion Lord Grey did not dissent; but he expressed (as he had been lately informed) his strong and decided opinion that with respect to all honours, including under the term degrees, they ought to be open to persons of every religious persuasion. The late Bishop of Durham did not agree in that opinion in the terms in which Lord Grey stated it; so that when that noble Lord's opinion was referred to as that of a minister most anxious to see a University established in the north, he (Lord John Russell) thought it due to him to mention, that he stated at the time that while he was most anxious to see such a University there established, his anxiety was equally great to see it established, if possible, on those principles of religious freedom, by which all persons in the north might enjoy the benefits of study, and the honours then to be attained, without reference to their religious creeds.

Sir Robert Inglis

said, this University was established five years ago, out of the funds of the late Bishop of Durham, out of the revenue of the Church for the promotion of the Church Establishment, and it would be as unjust to divert that University to other objects than those contemplated by the founder as it would be to divest the funds of any noble Lord who had invested them in any foundation of any kind whatever. The founder had always a right to limit the appropriation. The Bill proposed to separate the spiritual from the temporal duties of the Bishop of Durham, and consequently to deprive that Prelate of much of the dignity which now attached to his office. Against this he begged leave to enter his protest. He did not think there were too many of what were technically speaking, called prizes in the Church; and, great as was the outcry against the large income attached to the bishopric of Durham, this he would confidently say, that no income, however large, could have been spent in a manner more consistent with the spirit of true Christianity or more calculated to promote the welfare of the community than the income of that see by the late Bishop. By little and little they sought to deprive the Church of England of its temporal dignities, but its spiritual character was fortunately beyond the reach of its assailants.

Mr. Pease

said, that the Church Commission having reported so completely upon the state of the bishopric of Durham, and it being concluded that it was no longer for the interests of that bishopric, nor for the good of the Established Church, that so large a sum should remain in the hands of one individual, while there existed districts in the county in which the money was needed, and in which it might be applied to much greater effect in forwarding the cause of religion, and of the common happiness of the people, the House was bound to consider well whether they could co-operate with a Government disposed to carry the recommendations of the Commissioners into effect. He felt bound to say, that he could not co-operate with the Government if the money were to be appropriated as he understood it would be. There was an increasing population in the county of Durham much in want of instruction; and he was not prepared to give to the opulent town of Manchester, rivalling the first of our cities in wealth and importance, or to the rich agricultural district of the West Riding of Yorkshire, those funds which could be well applied in the general cause of religion, and for the spread of education and morality among a class of people who, though they were his constituents, were, he grieved to say, very devoid of that which was likely to promote happiness among men. It happened to be the practice in that county to accompany the calendar of prisoners for trial at the Assizes with a statement, showing to the Judge upon Circuit what proportion of the prisoners were educated, how many could read and write, &c. The following remarks had been made by the Judge in his charge:—"The list before him presented a larger display of the more atrocious description of crimes than the calendar for the Central Criminal Court for Middlesex had exhibited during the last twelve months. He knew not whether this was to be attributed to the state of instruction in this county; but he feared that where they were perpetrated, religion and morality had not spoken to the hearts of the inhabitants. He had not seen the name of any person who read well, or was tolerably instructed, in that calendar." He asked, then, that some consideration might be given to the peculiar circumstances in which his constituents were. There could not be the same feeling entertained with respect to the funds of the bishopric of Durham, as could be indulged in by an individual looking to ecclesiastical revenues springing from other sources, and aiming at other ends and objects. The greater part of these funds were of peculiar origin, and were appropriated to the keeping up of that princely and palatinate jurisdiction which was at present annexed to the see. Unless the Crown were disposed to relieve the county of Durham of the various expenses arising out of the holding of Courts, the many appointments, conservatorships of rivers, &c, which were at present borne by it, he apprehended that there could be no ground for the proposed diversion of the funds into other districts. He felt bound, therefore, to protest against such an abstraction of a large portion of the revenues of the bishopric from the county, and to give his support to every proposition which, while it avoided all needless interference with the feelings of members of the Established Church, gave at the same time to all in that part of the country the opportunity of enjoying a liberal education—such, indeed, as every member of that Church must wish a Dissenter to receive, if he were a friend to his own religion, on the principle that such an education would supply those clear and enlightened views of which the Dissenter was supposed to be in need, and the want of which were alleged to be the cause of his dissent. Under these circumstances, he hoped that the House would place that University on a liberal, extended, and open footing; nothing was more desirable for the county of Durham, and even for the University itself, which, without being so placed, would not thrive. With respect to the Court of Common Pleas, and the minor arrangements affecting other institutions, he believed that the Government would not press the alterations proposed by the Bill on those points, if it were proved that the county relied on the continuance of those Courts for the attainment of expeditious and cheap justice.

Mr. Roebuck

thought it the greatest satire which could be pronounced on the Church, that the district of the country where the richest bishopric in England was situated, should contain, as it was stated, the most demoralised people. When the Church had in its possession large sums of money which were diverted from their proper objects, it was the duty of Parliament to interfere, for the purpose of compelling a just application of them.

Bill read a second time.