HC Deb 28 June 1853 vol 128 cc912-3

said, that before proposing that the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of this Bill should be postponed, he begged to make a statement in reference to an alteration which he proposed to make in the Bill. He was in great hopes that the question had reached the point at which they might hope for a settlement that would be satisfactory to all parties. Communications had been made to him on the part of gentlemen who had hitherto opposed the views he had taken on the subject of the University tests, for the purpose of seeing whether, in the present state of public feeling, and after the amount of discussion the question had undergone, they might not find some middle arrangement in which they could agree. The present test excluded every person who did not profess the faith that had been established in Scotland, and conform to the worship of the Established Church in that country; and the Bill which he introduced, while it did away with that test, provided a declaration by which every professor on his admission was to declare that he would not exercise the functions of his office to subvert or prejudice the Church of Scotland as by law established. Two views were taken of this proposition. On the one hand, some hon. friends of his thought that such a declaration was almost as bad as a test; but he owned that he had no sympathy for that opinion, because he could not see it was imposing on any party anything of which he could complain to require of him not to do that which, as an honest man, he was bound not to do. It was suggested, on the other hand, to propose a test that would exclude parties professing certain religious opinions; to that proposition, however, he could not agree. As regarded the declaration made by the professor, he had always held it open to insert in that declaration anything which only implied a course of action right in itself, and did not imply a statement of belief. Accordingly, he now proposed, and, he believed, it would be agreeable to a very large portion of the representatives of Scotland, to vary the declaration in the Bill in these terms:— I, A. B. do solemnly and sincerely declare, that as professor of—, and in discharge of the duties of the said office, I will never endeavour, directly or indirectly, to teach or inculcate any opinions opposed to the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures or the Westminster Confession of Faith, ratified by law in the year 1690, and that I will never exercise the functions of the said office to subvert or prejudice the Church of Scotland as by law established, or the doctrines or privileges thereof. He also proposed to introduce into the Bill a provision, under which, if a professor should wilfully violate that declaration, a complaint might be made to the Lord Advocate, and, upon a representation being made by the Lord Advocate to Her Majesty in Council, a Commission might be issued to inquire into the complaint, and, if it were well founded, such measures should be taken for the dismissal of the professor as might be deemed necessary. He was anxious to make this statement, not for the purpose of raising a discussion at present, but in order, if the Bill should not come on in the course of the day, the House and the public should be aware of the course he intended to follow.


Do I understand that this question is considered to be decided by the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend?


If the other Order of the Day is finished in time, I will move the second reading to-day.