HC Deb 08 May 1851 vol 116 cc722-6

MR. COWAN moved for leave to bring in a Bill to regulate admission to the Lay or Secular Chairs of the Universities of Scotland. He proposed to exempt from the operation of the Bill all the Theological Chairs. The measure proposed would do away with the power of a bare minority to prevent a Professor from being admitted to a Chair. A similar measure had been introduced by a Member of the Government when they were in opposition, He, therefore, hoped for their support. He was anxious to obtain permission to introduce the Bill at the present moment, because the Church Courts would be holding their annual meeting within a fortnight's time, and would, if the measure were brought in and printed, be afforded the opportunity of giving their opinion upon its merits.


, in seconding the Motion, said, that, representing as he did the seat of one of the universities in question, he was enabled from experience to assure the House that the want of a measure of this nature was a great evil.


expressed his entire approval of the proposition, and his readiness to give his assistance in passing the measure.


said, that when this Motion was to have been brought forward, some five or six weeks ago, he un- derstood that certain members of the Government had requested the hon. Member for Edinburgh not to press it. He saw no reason why they should not oppose the measure at the present stage. The object of the hon. Member for Edinburgh was to separate the religious community of Scotland from the professorial duty, and to enact that in future the professors of any thing but theology might be persons of any or no religion at all. He asked the House whether it was willing to acknowledge that principle by giving leave to introduce this Bill? Holding these views, he had hoped that the Government would have protected the religious education of the people of Scotland from that violence which was directed against it in the present Motion. The existing system had been found to work well for two centuries; and in the absence of any arguments of a conclusive nature from the hon. Gentleman who had proposed the Motion, he would oppose it.


said, that a Bill similar in its character to the present, had been introduced by a right hon. Friend of his some years since, which he had supported. He did not think that the security to which the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir Robert Inglis) referred, was one which was at all valid or effective. He believed that the restriction, if rigidly enforced, would prevent Episcopalians, of either the English or Scotch Church, from being appointed professors in the universities in Scotland. If this were the case, it might be the means of excluding valuable and learned men, and all who did not belong to the present Church of Scotland. He would give his support to the Motion now before the House, because he believed the existing tests were of no benefit whatever.

Leave given:—Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Cowan, Mr. Edward Ellice, Capt. Fordyce, and Mr. Alexander Hastie.