§ Order for Committee read.
§ MR. ROUNDELL PALMER
(in the absence of Sir W. Heathcote, whose name stood on the paper for the Motion) said, he would beg to move, "That it be an instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provision therein for the case of Winchester College, in connection with New College." He understood that the Government would not oppose that proposition, and it was, therefore, unnecessary to detain the House with any observations in support of it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, on the part of the Government, that their opinion was that this question, although it was an important one in itself, and connected itself with others of still more importance, would yet be much more conveniently discussed as a whole when the House got into Committee on the Bill, and, therefore, they would not refuse the powers which this Motion would confer upon the Committee.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Motion made, and question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. HEYWOOD
rose to move as an Amendment that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. He did so, because, in his opinion, many of the details of the Bill could not be conveniently discussed in a Committee of the whole House. Many of the recommendations of the Royal Commissioners had been omitted from this Bill, and the governing body were proposed to have an organisation which had anything but the national character which it ought to possess. He could not consent to the preamble of the Bill, which professed to preserve the endowments of the colleges in accordance with the will of the founders. Now, the colleges were for the most part old monastic institutions, and before the Reformation the colleges at Oxford were intended principally for the secular clergy of the Church, and their offices were almost exclusively in the hands of ecclesiastics; but he objected to the continuance of such an ecclesiastical constitution for the University of Oxford in the nineteenth century. He believed the Government to 922 be supported to a very great extent by public opinion in seeking to reform the University of Oxford. The question was not viewed merely in reference to the admission of Dissenters, the constitution of the governing body, and the endowments of the fellowships—the whole system of the University was in a very unsatisfactory state; the heavy debts incurred by the young men who were sent there, and the very slight results which were produced from the education they received, had engaged public attention; and he believed that the whole subject of the studies, and of the appointment to offices, required just as much revision and amendment as the ecclesiastical tests did, before the University could be looked upon as a national institution. In moving that the subject be referred to a Select Committee, he must observe to the House that in the seventeenth century a Committee of both Houses of Parliament sat to conduct an inquiry with regard to the University of Oxford, and that the University had been regulated by the recommendations thus originated. In like manner he (Mr. Heywood) was of opinion that if a Select Committee were now appointed, many details of the present measure which required much careful deliberation, might be investigated with advantage, and a much fairer and better Bill might be introduced in another Session. On the question of admitting Dissenters, the Commissioners had been instructed not to inquire, and consequently there was no provision in the Bill on the subject; but he (Mr. Heywood) thought that the proposition of having a theological professor of the Church of England on the Council of the University was open to great objection; and, at all events, an equal right should be conferred upon the professors of other denominations. He (Mr. Heywood) considered that there should be a separate arrangement for the education of the clergy in Oxford, just as there usually is in other Universities. The general pursuits of literature and science might be carried on; and the young men intended for orders might also receive a special education under their own teachers, in the manner that would be most agreeable to the Church of England. The constitution proposed for the governing body was, in his opinion, very objectionable. At present that body consisted of between 200 and 300 members, and conducted its debates in Latin, so that the little it did—which amounted, in fact, to hardly more 923 than silencing parties who disagreed with it—scarcely became known. He regretted to find that this Bill proposed to perpetuate to a great extent the clerical element in that body. He feared that, supposing this Bill to pass, and the congregation to be composed in the manner proposed, they would have a kind of little Convocation sitting at Oxford, and discussing and deciding theological subjects in a manner agreeable to themselves. The Congregation, too, as proposed by the Bill, would consist of a large majority of the officers of the University. The heads of colleges were necessarily a part of the Congregation; they had the nomination of the college tutors, and they generally nominated clergymen to that office. College tutors, also, were to belong to the Congregation, and thus there would be not less than 200 clergymen in that body. In respect of the tutors a thorough reform of the University system was required. When a person went to college, the first subject which engaged, his thoughts was the selection of a private tutor—the college tutors were almost always passed over; and one of his objections to this Bill was, that it made no provision for giving to the private tutors that amount of power to which they were entitled. In truth, the Bill ignored the existence of the private tutors, in whose ranks were to be found some of the first men in the University; and as the examinations had become more severe, the employment of men of talent as private tutors became more and more necessary. In very early times, the University professors were the persons by whom instruction was imparted. Afterwards arose the system of instruction by college lectures and college tutors; and at the beginning of the present century another change took place—namely, the institution of examinations. As these examinations became more and more strict, the necessity for private tutors increased, and these gentlemen, in consequence, now performed a large share in the business of education. At Cambridge, in particular, the college tutors' lectures were usually disregarded after the first year, and the real business was done in the rooms of the private tutors. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe) was for a considerable time a private tutor at Oxford, and one of the best there; and he mentioned in his evidence that, although an order had been issued to the undergraduates of Christ Church that they should only read 924 with Christ Church tutors, these young men read with him in another college notwithstanding; and the hon. Member had also recommended that private tutors should be recognised; but there was no proposition in the present measure to recognise them. He (Mr. Heywood) thought that the private tutors should have some object of ambition placed before them in the University to induce them to remain at Oxford, and that they should not be compelled to go off to Australia or elsewhere to improve their fortunes. The best prizes at the Universities were the headships of houses, which were worth from 800l. to 2,000l. a year; and there were the professorships and the college tutorships; he thought it should be arranged so that private tutors should have some prospect of being elected into these appointments. He thought that no one would dispute the proposition that Oxford, with its high prestige and its vast wealth, ought to command the greatest talent in teaching. Was that the fact? Every one knew that the answer must be in the negative, and that the inefficiency of the system of education was continually complained of by the friends of those who were at the University. This was no modern complaint, but dated as far back, at least, as the sixteenth century, when Lord Burleigh, when Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth, wrote to the Vice Chancellor of Cambridge, stating that "diverse both worshipful and wise parents" had complained of the "loss of their children's time and the greatness of their charges;" on which account he requested the authorities to redress these grievances. The heads then took time to consider, but no practical change had been suggested. In respect to the property possessed by the colleges, much of it was applied to the purchase of church livings. He might instance "Hulme's Charity," in the county with which he was connected. This endowment had been intended for the support of a number of young men who should study divinity at Oxford after having obtained the degree of Bachelor of Arts. This property by process of time very much increased in value, and the trustees were desirous of instituting more exhibitions; but the authorities of Brazenose College, who were consulted, did not recommend the appointment of any new exhibitioners, and, instead, therefore, of applying the funds to exhibitions, time trustees obtained an Act of Parliament 925 and bought church livings. No doubt this was a perfectly legal proceeding, but it was at the same time a very injudicious one. The Commissioners had recommended Parliament to make any similar appropriation illegal, but they did not recommend that the money belonging to the colleges should hereafter be devoted wholly to purposes of education. It was his intention, therefore, to move, by way of instruction to the Committee, that a clause be inserted in the Bill for that purpose. The Government had very properly proposed to do away with the restrictions with regard to birth in different counties and dioceses; but there were some grave subjects which they had left entirely untouched—he meant, compulsory ordination and the enforced celibacy of the fellows. He believed, on the whole, that the country would support the House in a very much larger measure than that which the Government now proposed, and that it required that these University institutions should no longer remain in a monastic state. In regard to compulsory ordination, the rule in the majority of cases is, that every person becoming a fellow must enter holy orders. That was the system at Oxford. It was different at Cambridge. The fellows of King's College, Cambridge, were allowed to take orders or not, as they pleased. Many of the fellows refused to take holy orders, assigning as a reason that since the Reformation the form of taking holy orders had very much changed; that the candidates for holy orders are now required to affirm that they trust that they are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take orders in the Church of England, whereas the real reason which induced them to do so was that they might retain their fellowships. He did not see that the Church gained much by compulsory ordinations, and considered that it would be much better served by persons who entered voluntarily into it, and assuredly, if a person had not an inclination for the duties of a parish priest, he had much better enter into some other profession. He was supported in these views by the Commissioners, who stated that the going into holy orders should be left perfectly optional. Another point to which he wished to allude was that of celibacy, which was required on the part of persons holding fellowships. That was an old monkish custom. It was quite right, no doubt, that there should be a succession to the fellowships; but that ought to be provided for in some other 926 way, and not by making marriage the means of depriving a fellow of his appointment. He should also call attention to the fact, that supposing a clever engineer should go to Oxford, he would be only allowed to hold a fellowship for one year, which was as much as to say that the University of Oxford was to patronise those sciences that were in vogue 300 years ago, and that all modern improvements should be ignored, so far as regarded any continuous possession of the endowment. Government had proposed that a certain number of the fellowships should be held for eight years. He considered that the question with respect to those fellowships required a great deal of consideration; and he should be glad if some plan could be devised whereby the fellowships might terminate at a moderate period in such a way as would allow the persons holding them to be married or single, or to go into holy orders or not, according to their own wishes. In making these remarks, he did not mean at all to depreciate the University itself. He looked to it with respect, on account of its antiquity, and as the place where Wycliffe had been allowed to preach the doctrines of the Reformation. He believed there was more liberty at Oxford at that time than there was now, and he wished that they should now enjoy similar liberty with a constitution adapted to the present day. He did, however, most deeply regret that so largo a portion of the community should be excluded from its walls by reason of the restraints that were imposed by subscription tests. It was manifestly unjust, and he believed that it was at the same time most injurious to the University itself. It deprived the University of many men eminent for learning, science, and literature, and compelled it to accept of persons of inferior attainments and talent for the highest offices—sometimes of men of secluded habits and narrow prejudices. If they took the persons who governed the University—if they took the highest class, the heads of houses, they would find that they had an inferior class of men, in consequence of maintaining these tests; but if the nation were allowed to compete for those offices in an open and free manner, they would have a superior class of men to fill them. A man might be unable to take holy orders because he could not sign the different tests, a man might be unable to take a master's degree because he could not sign similar tests, and such persons, 927 however well qualified, could not be elected into the station of heads of houses, the consequence being that clever men were compelled to seek other situations in other parts of the country. The parties who elected the heads of houses should have the whole country to choose from. According to the custom in German Universities, when a vacancy in a professorship occurred, any person who spoke the German language was eligible to be chosen, and they chose the best they could get, and the consequence was that the professors thus selected soon attracted additional students to the University. There was a difficulty in going on with the Bill, because, as he understood, Government wished this to be a permanent and final measure; and if they carried this as a permanent measure, how was it possible to introduce hereafter those fair and open modes of electing college officers, when Parliament had already settled the mode of election? It was very much on this ground that he was desirous that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee. He believed there were many Members well acquainted with the subject to whom the Bill could be referred, and who felt that the University ought to be maintained in a state of the highest possible perfection, and that every improvement should be introduced into it that would make it worthy of being regarded as a great national institution. The hon. Member concluded by moving as an Amendment, that the Bill be committed to a Select Committee.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, it was not very probable he should agree in much that had been said by the hon. Member for North Lancashire (Mr. Heywood), yet he should vote for his Amendment, though on very different grounds from those stated by that hon. Member. He voted for the Amendment because he believed a great number of hon. Members did not really know or understand the constitution of the University of Oxford, what means of self reform it possessed, and what were the privileges of which it was about to be deprived. It was quite a mistake to assume that the heads of the University were opposing themselves to all reform, when the 928 fact was, that the Government had been obliged to make great haste in order to anticipate and intercept their proposals for renovating the organisation of the University. He was surprised to find the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer combining with the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) in an attack on the University of Oxford, which he represented. The measure before the House proposed to deal with an ancient corporation against its will, and Parliament was asked to interpose its authority to intercept the power of self-government which it possessed. The University was a corporation consisting of clergymen, lawyers, and others filling the highest stations in society throughout the country; yet the measure before the House virtually proposed to disfranchise that great body in all that related to its corporate government. For it was now proposed that another body should be constituted, who were to have the power to decide what subjects, or whether any, should be submitted to Convocation—the legitimate legislature of the University—for adoption or rejection; so that, in fact, the University would be utterly powerless to deliberate, unless it pleased the Congregation, this new creature of the Bill, to allow the University, assembled in Convocation, to consider questions that might affect it materially. He therefore begged the House to mark the consequence of such a proceeding—that one of the most enlightened, most ancient, and purest constituencies of the country would be debarred from considering any questions but those which a body of nominees, created by this Bill, should think fit to permit. He begged the House to pause before they consented virtually to disfranchise so ancient, so intellectual, so time-honoured a corporation, and debar them from the consideration of measures for their internal improvement, as well as measures of political importance, and he entreated them, therefore, to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. He was surprised to find the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who represented the University, asking the House to exercise their authority so as to interpose a bar, a hindrance, or obstacle to the free action and deliberation of the University body. He confessed his surprise that the right hon. Gentleman should so far forget that something more was due from the representative of the University than from other Members, that 929 he ought to be, at all events, the lenient and enlightened judge, if not the advocate of those whose rights and privileges he was especially, by common understanding, bound to defend. He was astonished, therefore, to find the name of the right hon. Gentleman on the back of a Bill which, as far as he could understand it, crippled the action of the University by the interposition of another authority. He did not wish to detain the House, otherwise he might go at length into the various details of the Bill, and criticise the machinery by which its objects were to be effected. He would, however, at present content himself with reading the protest that had been signed by hundreds of men of the highest talent and information, all enfranchised members of, and many of them still more closely connected with the University, who had declared the Bill to be subversive of the independence and corporate action of the University, and to be destructive of the purposes of the founders. They declared the Bill before the House,—
Now he thought that the substance of this declaration alone ought to induce the House of Commons to pause, and to decide upon sending the measure before a Select Committee composed of the ablest men of their body. He should, therefore, vote, as he had previously stated, for the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Lancashire, on the ground that that House ought not to proceed with a measure which was to cripple the action of and disfranchise an ancient corporation closely connected with the Church of England without a previous examination of its past history and adequate 930 information of the probable consequences of the proposed change.
- "1. To be subversive of the independence and legitimate corporate action of the University, and also of the discipline secured by the collegiate system; and to be regardless of the solemn obligations of the visitors, the heads, and the fellows of the colleges.
- "2. To be destructive of the original purposes of the foundations, by discouraging the valuable class for whom they were intended—poor, well-conditioned, and ingenuous students; making intellectual attainments the almost exclusive standard; affecting unduly the connection of Colleges with great schools for the encouragement of well-deserving youth in particular localities; restraining the period of the benefits proposed by the founders; diverting their bequests in part, to purposes altogether alien from their intentions; and, finally, making the fellowships intellectual prizes, rather than endowments for men fitted to serve God in Church and State.
- "3. To be suggestive of anew principle of dealing, not only with all trust property, but with all other property in the kingdom by Act of Parliament."
§ MR. EWART
said, that as a member of the University of Oxford, he greatly rejoiced that this Bill had been introduced. He had read the Report of the Oxford University Commissioners with great approbation, and most heartily did he concur in the reforms which they suggested. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had spoken of privileges of the University. Now, the word privilege was very suspicious—it implied something which, most likely, should be abolished, because a private law was restricted to particular persons, and denied to We general community. He thought this Bill should go further. But, as it was, it would unfetter and extend the system of education pursued at the University. The instruction now given was still somewhat like that alluded to by Chaucer:—A clerke there was of Oxenforde also,Who unto Logic hathe long ygo,And Aristotle and his philosophie;and in these times, as in those, it produced subtle refinements of thought, and cramped the intellect. Such was the opinion of many eminent persons. It was especially that of the Professor of Moral Philosophy (Mr. Wilson), as expressed in his written evidence. But the present system was not only intellectually wrong, it was morally so. Artificial distinctions were encouraged. They engendered false feelings. The nobleman wore a different dress from the gentleman commoner; the gentleman commoner from the commoner; all from the poor eleemosynary servitor. So there were distinctions of place in hall and chapel, and of food. The present system, therefore, encouraged pride in the highest degree, and was quite contrary to the spirit of humility which Christianity taught us. Whilst a student at Oxford, he had been grieved to see the poor students, known by the name of servitors, compelled to bring in the dishes for the richer students, simply because they were poor, and the others were of higher rank or greater wealth. Those distinctions, he hoped, would be abolished by the measure before the House. The Bill, he regretted to say, was defective, in not making provision for the admission of Dissenters. While the nation was entirely Roman Catholic, the University, being Catholic, was a national institution. When it became Protestant, at the Reformation, its national character, en- 931 larging itself with the changes of opinions, ought still to have been retained. To exclude the Dissenters from the Universities was to ignore the existing state of society. It was laid down in the Report of the Commission, that the Universities were national institutions; but they could not be so unless they adapted themselves to the changes which the nation underwent. The system of education and of discipline pursued in them ought to run parallel with, and not counter to, the feelings of the age. He thought that the Bill proposed to give too great a preponderance to the clerical character in the University. Such a preponderance was in opposition to the recommendation of the Commissioners. There was also a proposition to permit the erection of private halls. He thought that the provision should go further, and that students might be permitted to reside in lodgings, subject to the superintendence and inspection of the University. This was the ancient system at our Universities. It was still retained in foreign Universities. It was the only system by which the Universities of England could be really opened to the poorer class of students. So thought the Commissioners, and so they expressed themselves in their Report. That system was still pursued in the Scotch Universities. In Scotland a poor student might go to the Universities and lodge and board himself wherever he pleased, and at a cost quite incredible to an Englishman. But so aristocratic are our English Universities that it would be quite impossible for a poor student to pursue a similarly inexpensive course at the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge. The sons of labourers in Scotland, if they could succeed in obtaining a certain sum by the contributions of their friends, or by their own labour at the plough and at the harvest, would to a University and support themselves during the whole time of their studies on a few shillings a week. He knew the sons of hedgers and of working masons who were thus educated. When travelling in Scotland, about a year ago, he was driven by a postilion who informed him that it was his habit to go to Glasgow University for one-half of the year. He carried a copy of Virgil in his pocket, and quoted several passages from that poet. This young man had made progress in the mathematics; he had profitably attended the lectures on geology, and had thence become perfectly familiar with the geological features of his own country. With the money he earned 932 during the summer by driving tourists he supported himself at the University of Glasgow during six months of the year. Similar instances were referred to by the Commissioners in their Report. Why should not the poor English student enjoy similar rights with the poor student of Scotland? Until this, liberty of lodging in the town existed, free trade could not be said to prevail in education. Although somewhat alarmed at the support the Amendment would receive from certain quarters, he was disposed to vote for it. He confessed he distrusted the proferred alliance of the hon. Member for Warwickshire and Ids confederates. He feared the Danai, even when "offering gifts." Still, the Amendment would open the question of admitting the Dissenters, and on that account he was inclined to support it, if his hon. Friend (Mr. Heywood) persisted in proposing it.
§ MR. HORSMAN
* Sir, I feel considerable difficulty as to the vote I ought to give on the Amendment proposed by the Member for North Lancashire. On the one hand, I feel, in common with all who wish for an improvement in our Universities, under great obligations to the Government for having undertaken to legislate on this important subject. I think they have undertaken that task at the right time and in a right spirit, showing so much consideration for the feelings of University authorities that, until I heard some of the speeches on the other side of the House, I thought it impossible that any one could suspect them of approaching the Universities in any but a friendly and reverential spirit. And their measure has been preceded by the inquiries and Report of a body of Commissioners who have discharged their duty with a zeal and judgment and ability that have rarely been surpassed. On the other hand, I cannot but agree with the Member for North Warwickshire and my hon. Friend who has moved this Amendment, on the only point in which they agree with one another—that this Bill has been very imperfectly discussed—that it is very imperfectly understood; and the most material Amendments which I should wish to see considered are such as are more likely to be adopted by a Committee upstairs than in the more hurried procedure of a Committee such as we are invited now to enter on. I am reluctant to go into Committee on the Bill as one of mere clauses and details, and involving no higher considerations than whether a particular school shall continue to 933 benefit by a particular charity, or fellows of a college shall enjoy their fellowships for five years or eight. We are debating the question, not of a small cluster of colleges, but of one great national University; and it involves considerations, affecting the intellectual and moral and religious condition of the nation, of so large a character, that in importance and interest it ranks second to none that can engage the attention of Parliament.
And I approach it with the more anxiety, because I cannot but feel that this period is a somewhat critical one for the Universities. It cannot be denied that the general education of the country has, to a great extent, of late years been escaping out of their hands. A feeling of indifferentism to the Universities, more especially among those who are not of the aristocratic class, an inclination to let them go out of the national sight, has taken the place of that affectionate regard with which they were wont to be associated. And we are living in an age when their diminished influence is peculiarly to be regretted. We are living in an age when the philosophy of cheap knowledge is making great strides, an age of knowledge rather than of faith, of which the tendency is to seek materials for cultivating the intellect rather than the heart; an age less of thought than action, more of movement than reflection. And the time may be approaching when the practical results of our past neglect of our Universities, in permitting the abdication of their highest and noblest functions, may visit us with a fatal penalty, when we find ourselves, in the rapidly advancing intelligence of those around us, under the dominion of a knowledge which is not learning, and an education which does not give wisdom.
We have most of us been reared in the belief, historically derived, that it is the function of national Universities to lead the national mind both in learning and in religion; that the Universities, in fact, should be to the nation what the heart is to the body—the seat of moral and intellectual and religious life, and in proportion as the source is healthy, so will all the streams of national vitality or renovation circulating from it be pure and vigorous and progressive. It is with these feelings that I approach this measure. That some reform is necessary is now generally admitted, and even by the Universities themselves; the only dispute is, from whence and how far it shall proceed. The demand 934 for reform proceeds mainly and most prominently from three parties.
I pass over the much-agitated topic of University expense and misapplication of college funds, not as by any means of small, but at present of subordinate importance.
- 1. Dissenters asking for admission.
- 2. Men of science dissatisfied with the extent of the University curriculum.
- 3. From resident members of the Universities, chiefly working men, of the highest attainment, brightest premise, and deepest devotion and attachment to the Universities, in which, however, they see and feel defects which this Bill is brought in professedly to remedy.
Now with respect to the first of these reforms, the admission of Dissenters. I deplore, as much as my hon. Friend who moves this Amendment can do, the shortcomings of the Bill in this respect. I think the continued exclusion of Dissenters from the Universities is even more injurious to the Universities than unjust to the Dissenters; but as we shall have an opportunity of discussing that question more fully and appropriately on the clause of which notice has already been given, I shall not at present say another word upon it.
With regard to the second, the complaints of scientific men as to the narrow range of studies, it must be admitted that the Universities have themselves shown some disposition to remedy that defect; and it falls clearly within their power: and I own I do not attach so much importance to this reform as some of my Friends are disposed to do. I do not hold it to be the function of an University to give a smattering of universal knowledge. In the estimation of all the best thinkers, education has for its end, not so much the imparting of profound and accurate knowledge, as the sharpening of the tools, the teaching the mind how to use its powers, the showing how to pursue knowledge, rather than any very great or universal progress in it: and while I do not deny that a wider range of study, a more extended system, might in some respects be desirable, yet I do think that the substitution of accurate attainments in chemistry, geology, botany, aye, or even modern languages or modern history, for a deep study of the ancient languages and literature, would be a great calamity for English education.
But I come to the third class of reformers, men of the highest education, connected with the Universities, ardently 935 attached to them, and deploring deeply that they do not, either in their uses at home or their reputation abroad, maintain that high place to which, from their eminent advantages, they might be held entitled. It is to the representations and remonstrances of this class of reformers, as of most national importance, that I am anxious to direct the attention of the House; they are deserving of all consideration and all sympathy.
I will test the justice of their complaints by the simplest of all processes, an appeal to facts, to facts which are patent to all, and especially familiar to those of us who have been at the Universities. Let us join company with an University man, and become part of his college life from the moment he enters as a freshman to his gaining the highest post the University has to offer; and let us see what the system is, and its results, not merely what they are, but what they must be.
Let us consider separately the two classes of undergraduates, the one reading for honours, the other faking a poll degree; and I will begin with the non-reading undergraduate. He is admitted at eighteen or nineteen, practically without an examination or any literary qualification. At the end of the first year he passes his little-go examination, which any fifth-form boy from a public school could pass at his admission. At the end of the third year he passes the great examination for his degree; any sixth-form boy should pass it without trouble in his first year. With the great majority of those who take poll degrees, all the reading is done in the last year, not unfrequently in the last term. The two previous years are spent in idleness; and, as far as literary acquirements go, they are two years lost. After three years' residence, the passman obtains his degree by going through an examination which involves a very inferior amount of attainment, and totally inadequate as the result of expensive education up to twenty-two.
But now I take the other, the candidate for honours, the first-class man or wrangler. His, it must be admitted, is a very different case. After a course of most severe study, he signalises himself among numerous and powerful competitors, and obtains a distinction which in after life hardly ever leaves him. The examination he has passed is of a high order. His education is unquestionably a superior one; not that his literary or scientific attainments are by any means complete; far from it. He is 936 not made a philosopher, or a divine, or an historian, or even a great scholar; but he is prepared to become one or more of these. He has dived to a considerable depth in all these departments for his years; he has felt his strength; he has proved his powers; his mind is greatly enlarged and cultivated; he has views opened into all the most important departments of human knowledge; and, taking him all in all, his expansion of intellect—his development of character—his knowledge of books and men—his self-reliance and his energy—he presents at twenty-three a higher moral and intellectual combination than any other nation can produce anything to approach at the same age.
A magnificent promise! and now let us see the fruits.
On issuing from the Senate House, two paths are before him; the one conducts to the world, and the active enterprise of life; the other retains him by a fellowship at the University with permanent residence. I deal only with the latter. He becomes a college fellow; and he enters on his fellowship by again subscribing a multitude of oaths which he is not expected to regard, but of which Dr. Peacock gives this description; he says, speaking generally of University oaths, thatThey are so minute and absolute in the conditions of obedience which they impose—so pregnant with dangerous responsibilities to those who take them, that it is impossible even to read them without feelings of awe and apprehension.Having achieved these oaths, which the fellows of his college, ecclesiastics as they are, would many of them be surprised if he looked on as more than a mere formality, the next ordeal he has to face is the condition by which he retains his fellowship. He must go into holy orders; he must bow to that unwise and irrational compulsion by which many who are unfit for the Church are brought to minister at the altar, and many who would be ornaments to literature are driven from the University. He takes orders, becomes a private tutor, shortly afterwards college tutor; and then the process of deterioration rapidly sets in.
As private or college tutor, he is called on simply to retain the knowledge he previously acquired. If he be a superior man, he will improve himself within the limits of the subject he is teaching. But he is not called on to do so; nay, it would be a positive disadvantage to him, as private or public tutor, to go on widening his know- 937 ledge, so as to become a complete master in any of the sciences he has studied; for knowledge, beyond what is required to train his pupils for a first class, is an useless encumbrance—to press it on him would be to oppress a student already overloaded with work.
Hence, as a general rule, the college tutor does not become a student in any department of knowledge; and as the senior members of the University are mostly men like him, the best of them only advanced at twenty-three, but with no motive to advance afterwards, the University remains without really learned men, except the few who cultivate learning as a matter of personal taste, uncalled for and unconnected with the requirements of the University.
Further, as a fellow, he is not allowed to marry. He therefore looks on his tutorship as a temporary post, he does not devote himself to the University or to literature as a profession.
But neither is he preparing himself by his tutorship to adorn any other post. After fifteen or twenty years of tuition, he is not a learned and probably not an active man. The goal of his expectations is a college living, for which his previous habits have very much unfitted him (and the system of college livings, I may remark in passing, is a great evil), or he may look to some other ecclesiastical preferment or headship. But these are all prizes neither to be won nor retained by further intellectual exertions on his part; he is not called on to furnish learning or knowledge when he has reached them. Hence he has no motive, and is at no pains to acquire it; and the result is, that the University is left, as I have already said, without first-rate scholars, or historians, or divines.
But we are taking a very favourable view of the system if we assume that all college tutors are necessarily men of talent, or owe their fellowships to their learning. That is, as regards Oxford at least, very rarely the case; there, most fellowships are close; the qualification is one of accident rather than capacity, the being born in a particular town or county, educated at a particular school, called by a particular name, and such capricious qualifications, ensure the fellowship; and the standard of tutorial attainment is of course proportionally much reduced.
Such being the system, and a very unattractive one to men of genius, we cannot wonder that a large proportion of those 938 who, on issuing from the Senate House, have all the future prizes of the University at their feet, turn their backs upon it as soon as their academical course is run. They will not throw away the abilities they had from nature, nor the promise of their brilliant degree—they dread the cheerless, spiritless, aimless vegetation of a college life—they recoil in horror from the worn-out tutor, hardly past middle age, turning to descend the vale of life with no higher object of ambition or of hope than a college living, on which he feasts his vision as a distant Paradise with perhaps a venerable Eve waiting for him in the garden.
But these men, nevertheless, forced though they are to turn their steps elsewhere, retain all their love and veneration for their literary parent. Their warmest aspirations are connected with it. They are profoundly imbued with all that is peculiar and great and noble in our English University. Their longings are to devote their whole lives to it if it would but open to them a sphere; and it is the want of that sphere—the discouragement which it presents to self-cultivation and progress among those who should sustain its intellectual life—that they feelingly and painfully deplore.
"Oh! but," I hear some Gentlemen say, "you have forgotten the professors—those eminent men, whose reputation and attainments it is impossible to dispute." No, Sir, I have not forgotten, and I am not disposed to depreciate the claims of those eminent men. That they are most learned and most eminent cannot be doubted; but, unfortunately, they are no part of the University system. They are altogether on the outside, and shut out from it. Many of those professors do not lecture at all; and those that do can hardly be said to have a class, the number of students attending the lectures of the most eminent, being, from the Reports on our table, in some instances four or six or ten. The truth is, if these professors were altogether removed from Oxford, they would not be missed. Why? because they are not incorporated with the system. The Universities are occupied solely about getting honours, and degrees, and fellowships. For all these great, and, almost sole, objects of the University, the professors are left out; their connection with the academical system is not even nominal. Every one knows how subjects are got up on which a first class depends; the value of that in the 939 great market of England is well understood. The professor's learning is not in demand—not because intrinsically it is not of the highest value, but because there is no sale for it at Oxford. A man cannot buy his first class with it; it is only an incubus on his time and energy, which are wholly wanted for the struggle in the Senate House. And this is no theory of mine. I am but echoing the words of those very professors. No one has painted the evil more forcibly than the professors themselves, the most eminent of whom have proclaimed, what cannot be disputed, that they would find better audiences in any town in England than among the students of Oxford or Cambridge.
Here then are two classes of men—the young tutor and the mature professor—the one that ought to be the hope, the other the pride, of the Universities—extinguished under your system. The first is placed in a position the most cruel of all for a man of genius and energy and love of literature—he is practically forbidden to improve himself; and taught to look at the University, not as his field of labour or as his home, but as a lazy resting-place to another and obscurer stage. The grievance to the individual is considerable; but the evil to the country far greater. First, it practically lowers the qualities of the leaders of education; next, it prevents any of the great subjects, classics, history, divinity, philosophy, being studied as a whole. Men and tutors think only of what is wanted in the schools. Everything beyond, as I have already said, is a mischievous encumbrance, because endangering the grand desideratum—not knowledge, but a first class.
The professor, on the other hand, having devoted a life to science—having achieved an European reputation—finds himself set down at the most splendid literary establishments in the world—surrounded by aspiring intellects and the noblest hearts. But the wants of the place pay no reverence to his genius. Without an audience, without a sphere, without even standing room in the academic circle—his functions, his uses, render him subordinate to the smallest functionary of the smallest college whose relation to the founder may have raised him to a fellowship. And what is the result? Why, if our Universities neither rear great men nor reward them, they must soon find themselves without them; and is not that notoriously the case now? I do not say that there are not able 940 men, and very able men, to be found at the Universities; there must be some men of genius, no doubt, whom a system cannot extinguish, as it cannot create. But such are fortunate exceptions—the atmosphere of the place is not favourable to their growth; and they are too few to redeem its character. For it cannot be denied that, among the Universities of Europe, we hold a low place—we are found wanting in great men and great works—with no independent and self-supporting literature; and for the study of our schools, we are constantly and increasingly importing from continental Universities the authorities and commentators we cannot produce ourselves.
And here I cannot but notice a cry which is set up against all who are desirous of reform, that the tendency and the results of all such proposals must be to Germanise the Universities. But if Germanising the Universities means introducing German works and German systems, the process of Germanising is going on even now to a great and deplorable extent. I say deplorable, because, though we might be content to leave to foreign competitors an undisputed ascendancy in the pursuits which constitute their system, it is deplorable that they should excel us in the studies which we call our own. A German student gives more time to the sciences than we do. Philosophy, divinity, history, engross much of the years which the English youth devotes to Greek and Latin. This almost exclusive attention on our part to the ancient languages may, according to men's notions, be bad or good; but in one thing we shall all agree, that at least it should produce great scholars and great works. But is it so? Where are they? do the Universities contain them? Why, the Germans not only monopolise the field which we neglect, but they excel us in that to which we are exclusively confined. All the most approved editions of classic writers which have been produced in modern times are German; all the great commentators are German; it is a fact, that all our best and working editions of Greek and Latin books are German; German text and German notes form the manuals of our Universities. It is the same with ancient philosophy, and not a little modern. In Roman history, Niebuhr's work is not only the best, but if is a fountain—a well-head—a most instructive example of profound and original inquiry, which makes it an object of incessant 941 study. We are compelled to follow the Germans as our masters in every branch of philology. Formerly it was not so—Bentley and Porson were more than equals of any other scholars in Europe. But now, Greek and Latin poetry, antiquities, orators, philosophers, historians—all are in the hands of Germans. We have no original, independent, coequal scholar of our own. If one does suddenly start up with an attempt to rescue us from our obscurity, by a work of such rare power as that by which Mr. Grote has lately imparted a fresh interest to Grecian history, it only increases our marvel that, for a scholar of such classical acquirement and deep philosophical research, the University, his appropriate sphere, should afford no attraction and no home.
So much for classics, the branch of English education most attended to; and in that branch of study, as far as imitation and subjection can accomplish it, we are already, under the present weak system, becoming Germanised: another system may make us less German, it cannot make us more so. But I approach now, and with a concern that is deepened by its importance, another subject, in which the deficiency is yet more apparent, and the mischief far more serious. Again, I only refer to this topic in reply to the charge of Germanising the Universities.
Our Universities are great theological seminaries—the nursing places of religion—originally endowed in connection with the Church—holding the key of admission to its ministry—and claiming, as their ancient and exclusive prerogative, the theological training of the nation. Now what theological teaching do they impart? This is a point far too serious, and a fact much too incredible, for me to state it on my own authority; but let me give you the evidence of the highest authorities in each University. And it is not with theology as it is with classics or mathematics, that one or other of the Universities makes it a prominent study: theology is common to both, and each claims an equal share in supplying the national want. And how do they supply it?
Among all the branches of learning cultivated at the Universities," says Dr. Thirlwall, now Bishop of St. David's, "there is none that occupies a smaller share of our time and attention.It happens," says Dr. Peacock, "that their academical life is concluded before their theological studies have begun; and they present themselves to the bishop at a later period as candidates for holy orders, without any academical or other 942 testimonial of theological proficiency beyond a certificate of attendance upon the lectures of the Norrisian Professor of Divinity.That is Cambridge; and now hear what Dr. Pusey, Regius Professor, says of Oxford:—One fortnight comprises the beginning and the end of all the public instruction which any candidate for holy orders is required to attend previous to entering his profession.One fortnight! "Previous to entering his profession;" but need he know more after entering it? Not at all. For the service of the Church, the most solemn which human responsibility can undertake, differs from every other service in that respect—that a man may enter upon its duties without any of that preparation and ascertained fitness for them which in every other business or calling in life, from the highest to the lowest, is an indispensable condition of his employment. In law, in medicine, in politics, a man cannot hold a front place without a considerable proficiency its knowledge; but in the Church (in which the exception is the more strange since you compel men to enter it, and our Universities are founded expressly to fit men for it), we take so little thought of a noviciate's fitness, set so little store by it, that a man may mount to the highest eminence through the successive dignities of doctor and dean and bishop, even to the primacy of all England, without even a smattering of theology beyond what is possessed by every Gentleman in this House who has taken a common University degree.
But this is not the worst. We have no theological teaching at our Universities; but is much theological learning found there? Why, our weakness in this respect is even more apparent and deplorable than it is in the classics. It is not that among theologians at large that we are esteemed—we are not even thought of. Even the Americans, in this respect, stand before us; and the works which have been lately published by some of their professors have been noticed and discussed by foreign commentators with a respect never shown to us. The Germans have brought a very superior philology and scholarship to bear on the Bible: we have nothing, actually nothing, readable in that line. Mr. Alford, a late Fellow of Trinity, published not long ago a work of great merit, and evidently destined to a great circulation. It was quoted to me in refutation of what I am now saying—but when it was sent for and referred to, it proved to be my 943 strongest witness—for Mr. Alford had set forth in his preface a list of the many books and authorities referred to in his work, either to praise or refute—and there was not one profound modern work which was not German.
The reason is, that the Germans are the only students who have applied the present knowledge of the original tongues to the interpretation of Scripture, and our students have no other resource but to appeal to them as authorities. This cannot be denied by any one who has taken an interest in the subject; and I repeat, in answer to the cry that we are about to Germanise the Universities, that here again the apprehension has come too late. For in theology, even more than in classics (and to our shame be it spoken), every modern work of any authority at the Universities is German. We have no modern theology whatever; we have failed to establish any connection between theology and the general development of learning. Some prominent men, like Dr. Pusey, refer us to the interpretations of the early Fathers—others, again, cite Calvin and Luther; but none can refer us to any commentator of this century who is not German. But of Germans it would be easy for me to mention the names of a whole catalogue of authors—all men of deep and original research, of most extensive scholarship and great ability, to whose works our students not only must be, but are, referred more and more by English divines of every party. So, again, we are familiar with the names of Germans who reign paramount in Hebrew. And practically there is no exception to all this; and the fact is more remarkable, because we might have expected that, if our Universities could produce learned theologians to defend us from this dreaded inroad of Germanism, sonic effort might have grown out of that religious move which has of late years acquired notoriety at Oxford—the author of that move filling a high theological post, and declaiming beyond other men against the danger to be apprehended from the introduction of German systems. And yet this party, so led—full, as we know, of zeal and activity, and combining erudition with devotion—has not succeeded in producing any great work that can be appealed to as an authority, even in England, and much less in Europe.
Now all this is a very delicate, and, for obvious reasons, not a very agreeable topic to dilate on; and I should not have ven- 944 tured on it if the danger of Germanising our Universities had not been made so much of. But if there be such a danger, it is obvious that it can only be averted by a change of system; for if they who have got up the cry be consistent and sincere—if German writers and systems introduced among us are so certain to destroy us—they must feel that we are even now standing over a volcano. For it is notorious that all these German writers, now so much studied at the Universities, differ in an enormous degree from the common view of Christianity in this country. Not one of them, except, perhaps, Hengstenberg, looks upon Scripture as inspired in the old sense as received in England. Many of them impute all sorts of mistakes to the sacred writers—most reject not a few books of the canon as spurious, and of no scriptural authority; yet, with all these terrible drawbacks, they are translated and getting into increased circulation in this country. And, as editors and commentators of these ancient books in dead languages, their superiority is so transcendant, that we have absolutely no writings to dilute them with, except of three centuries ago; yet these cannot suffice, because our knowledge of Greek and Hebrew and Biblical antiquities is immensely increased since then. To give one example—Ewald, the first living Hebrew scholar, has published a very able and very elaborate history of the Jews, and is unquestionably the first commentator on the Psalms; yet he never once speaks of any real revelation throughout the whole Jewish history—presumes that no one dreams of there having been a revelation from God to any person of the Old Testament—treats the story of the three patriarchs and the twelve sons of Jacob as pure poetry; while nothing can be more full of knowledge and fire and talent than his history of the Judges. And this is what English students must read without any antidote, except old views which are being gradually undermined.
Now, I say this is all a case of infinite moment to the English nation—that our University system should prevent the development of so all-important a matter as Biblical interpretation; and it is a hard case on English parents, that you should first affright them with terrific descriptions of German literature and dogmas, and then, when they send their sons to the Universities, that they should find them plunging deep into German commentators whom it is vain for you to stigmatise as infidel and 945 abhorrent. They find at the Universities that they possess the scholarship, the knowledge, the learning, that will be sought and must be had. This is unceasingly felt, and German exegetics are increasingly in demand.
It is impossible to overrate the magnitude of the evil; and it was this which turned the eyes of many to the Universities some years ago. The danger was at that time approaching. Since then we have had poured upon us the works of young men fresh from the Universities—and whose reputation and influence, derived from the Universities, ensure to their writings, some of which are for abandoning revelation, others for rejecting inspiration, a ready and large circulation. And all this, I repeat, with no antidote—no works of Englishmen to contend with this gigantic evil—no great scholars, no eminent theologians. The plague is upon us; and when we look to our Universities as citadels of our faith—as storehouses of great and learned men—planted, like so many fortresses, to prevent a sudden incursion of error from occupying the land—those venerable watchmen respond to the cry by presenting a memorial to the Minister, entreating him to respect their privileges, and not to disturb their slumbers.
Now, if all this which I have endeavoured (and not without support from authorities in both Universities) to show, be true—if our Universities have fallen from their high place as fountains of faith and learning—if they do not raise our historical literature, nor sustain, if I may so term it, our national theology—if our classical students are referred to German commentators, and our theological inquirers are committed to German exegetists—if, producing no great works for our youth to study, and few great men for our youth to reverence, they do not, as great and powerful and privileged institutions, fulfil the high ends of their existence—then I say that the necessity for legislative interference is quite established—the determination of the Government to act temperately, but vigorously, is fully vindicated; and it should be the duty of us all, by an united effort, to terminate the contrast unhappily exhibited between such magnificent endowments and such inadequate results.
Having shown the defects at present existing in the Universities, I should have wished now, if I had not already trespassed so long on the indulgence of the House, to 946 have examined the provisions of the Government measure, and shown where it fails in the attempt to apply an efficient remedy. I have said that, under the present system, the college tutor is a stationary being: so he may remain after this Bill is passed. The professor is insignificant and unemployed: this Bill does not promise him either importance or occupation. We lack theological learning and classical scholarship at the Universities. I do not see that either will be promoted by the Bill as it now stands. But I do not wish my opinion of it to be mistaken. I think it possesses the materials of an excellent measure—conceived in a right spirit and based on sound principles; but inasmuch as, acknowledging and proclaiming existing wants—aiming and professing to supply them—it does so in an obscure, uncertain, and imperfect manner—and inasmuch as some of the Amendments suggested from the other side are founded, in my opinion, on a misconception of our position and duties in relation to the Universities, I believe we should do well to refer this Bill to a Committee upstairs, where opposite views might be discussed more fully and clearly than in a hurried passage of its clauses through a Committee of the whole House; and thus the object of the Bill more generally acknowledged and understood, its provisions might be brought into conformity with its professed aims.
But there is one provision of the Bill to which I must more particularly refer. There was no part of the speech of the noble Lord who proposed this measure to which I listened with so much satisfaction as where he expressed a desire to restore life and vigour to the professorial system. There are few of us who do not, as years add to our experience, become more impressed with the impolicy of discarding what is old in order to substitute what is entirely new; for though institutions or systems may have come down to us defaced by time, still when the dust and disfigurement have been removed, something useful and good is always discovered beneath. So it is with the professorial system. That was the ancient system of the Universities in their golden days, when they were an embodiment of the learning and progress of the age. Originally, as we know, it was the duty of every Master of Arts to lecture. His opening a school was the condition of his degree. Professors, like Abelard in Paris, drew students 947 from all parts of Europe; and even now in Germany (where the old English professorial system exists, but without the catechetical intruction and examination by which we should adapt it to modern times) an eminent professor attracts crowds of students to one University in preference to another.
With the decline of the professorial system the Universities declined. What was the cause? The increasing importance of the colleges, as distinct from the University—their growth and their monopoly. Each college is now a small preserve on which no poaching is allowed. The student is restricted to the lectures of the college tutor; and the college tutor, by means of this monopoly, has superseded the University professor. Instead of the teacher's mind being fixed on one subject on which he should become eminent, he has got to lecture on many of which his knowledge is superficial. Thus the University has succumbed to the college, and the college has dwindled down to the school; and our Universities have become great public schools—seats of teaching, not of learning—engrossed with the one task of preparing men for the degree, but no more influencing the public mind of England or Europe than the public schools of Eton or Westminster, of which they are but reproductions on a larger scale.
And then we have been told that we cannot emancipate ourselves from this depressing system because the colleges have Statutes of their own, which render them independent. I think that objection has already been completely answered; for it has been shown that the colleges have no scruple about dispensing with these Statutes when their observance is inconvenient, and their sanctity is only urged when some interest is promoted by it. I deny that these colleges are, or by their founders were ever intended to be, independent of the University; but everything, on the contrary, goes to show that they were meant to be subordinate and subsidiary endowments. Their founders, I believe, never dreamt of their usurping legislative functions to strangle and destroy the parent institution. All their preambles set forth one object—to promote learning and religion; but if the effect of their endowment were to defeat the very object the founders had at heart, it is the plain duty of Parliament to step in—not to set aside founders' wills, but to restore them to a conformity with founders' intentions and 948 common sense. Whatever, therefore, impedes the free action of the Universities, renders them unattractive to learning, and lowers their just influence and reputation, should be at once removed; and in place of it, we should rear up a system on the principle which has ever been proved the most sound and safe among us, where modern improvements are grafted on an old stock, and become thus the fruits rather of experience than experiment. We have the system both of tutors and professors, ready to our hand, now existing in the Universities. The last has fallen into decay, and the former degerated into abuse; for the college tutors have become only nominally the teachers—the real work of instruction being carried on by the private tutors, a most important new body, whose existence is not even acknowledged in this Bill.
Now, it should be our aim to combine these two systems, and in such a way as to give life and reality to both. No practical man will dream in these days of imparting education solely by the public lectures of a professor; for however eminent the man, and however eloquent and attractive his instruction, the knowledge so acquired must, at the best, be superficial. But, on the other hand, no practical man would extol a system from which the most eminent teachers were shut out, and the student was tied down to instruction from a tutor who was himself of inferior attainments. Under the present restrictions as to college tutors and examiners, all chance of healthful progress is at an end; but if some such arrangement as the Commissioners have suggested were carried out—if, in the third year, when it is notorious that undergraduates have ceased to attend college lectures, those of the professor were substituted—the lectures of the professor being accompanied by catechetical teaching on the same subjects by the College tutor acting as the professor's coadjutor—and if the professor were one of the examining body—the stationary routine would be broken through; the professorial and the collegiate systems would be powerfully united; and the student's mind, carried by the higher teacher through boundless fields of science or knowledge which he had himself explored, would have the views thus opened to it fixed and methodised under the close work of the class tutor: and education, thus elevated and perfected by two agencies—the inspiration of genius and the discipline of the routine 949 master—would advance under a system more ennobling in character and more practically beneficial in its results than any of which we have ever yet had experience. The tutor himself must under such a system become a student to keep himself up to the professor's standard. A new object of ambition would be opened to the college fellow: he would have the highest motive to improve himself in that department of literature which offered a new prize to his exertions. For the office of a professor would be one of honour and emolument; and throughout the successive grades of undergraduate, fellow, tutor, professor, there would be a constant incentive to labour and self-improvement; and a connection with the University would be a source of pride, as implying a connection with all that is great and learned.
And we ought to aim at some such change; for it is a very serious national loss not to have the most eminent men engaged in the highest walks of learning. Nay, in our age, it is a national danger. For there is no question of such unutterable importance to the future destinies of the human race, as that which is now in progress of solution in Europe—namely, the relation which Christianity bears to the state of knowledge, and the general development of civilisation, as it is called, in modern times. There are signs of truly awful significance which no good man, much less any statesman, ought to overlook. That whole nations may be brought practically to abandon Christianity is proved beyond dispute, disguise it as we may, by the actual state of the Continent. We see there, in one nation at least, and a very leading one, a spectacle unparalleled in the history of the human race—the profoundest irreligion and depravity—the most open and undisguised profession of materialism, sensualism, and atheism, combined with the highest development of the intellect. It is the coexistence of these two phenomena that is so unspeakably formidable. Greece at various times, and more especially Rome under the Emperors, sunk into a debasement equal to anything now exhibited abroad, and also perhaps more general. But on the other hand, there was not the pure light of Christianity—the same model of goodness and virtue then propounded; there was therefore no sinning against the same amount of light and knowledge, and consequently not the same hopelessness for the future. There existed the hope, and it was realised, that the proclaiming of a 950 lofty and inspiring creed would awake all that was noble and great and holy in the human heart, and create such a regeneration of society as should give a new impulse and a new future to the human race. But if the highest conceptions of virtue and purity and goodness are despised and trampled on, whence shall we seek for a new gospel—a new hope—a new dawn of a new era—a new array of motives—a now civilisation?
I own that the prospect to me is full of danger. It is our duty to look well to what is occurring on every side around us. We busy ourselves with precautions against that physical pestilence with which we are periodically threatened; but there is a moral pestilence, yet more dreadful, against which it would be well to take precautions not less timely. Our people, thank God, are as yet right-hearted; we have as yet a national faith; we are in reforming, and not destroying, times; our appreciation of the useful has not extinguished our veneration for what is ancient. But we have a great mission to discharge. We have been eminent in arms, in arts, in commerce. It was our proud distinction, that, amid revolutionary excesses, we were the shelter of every unfortunate and the harbour of every exile. But a higher and a holier mission may yet await us. Christianity itself, without a home or resting-place in Europe, may seek a refuge on our shores; and then, where should we look, if not to our Universities, for champions who, combining the highest erudition with the purest faith, may turn back the tide of infidelity from our homes; and reanimate the truth on which the practical philosophy of France and Germany have cast a doubt—that, even among the old nations of the world, the freest institutions are compatible with the highest morality; and the most profound and critical investigation of the evidences of Scripture but establish the conviction that inspiration was their source and revelation their distinctive title.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I have listened, as many who sit round me, I am sure, must have done, with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down. At the same time, I have not been successful in gathering from that speech his intentions as to the vote he proposes to give to-night; indeed, if I understand the hon. Member rightly, he did not intend himself that any one should gather his 951 intentions. I will say a few words, before I refer to the Motion before the House, on the general tenor of the speech of the hon. Member. As far as I comprehend his objects, his fears and hopes, and the principles to which he has given expression, I sympathise very much with his views on the subject of the functions of the Universities, the duties incumbent on them under the circumstances of the times, and the dangers to which both they and the truths which it is the main part of their business to uphold are exposed. But, however much I may sympathise with the hon. Member on those points, and though I am also disposed to go with him in his lamentations on the present defective state of our Universities, particularly in regard to theological learning, yet I am sure he will forgive me for saying that whilst no one could hear the speech without being ready to pay tribute to the perfectly fair and dispassionate tone which characterised it, I yet think it was pervaded by a tone of exaggeration. It seemed to me that both as to the dangers themselves and the means of meeting them, though there is much truth in what has fallen from him, the case is far from being so bad as he has represented. I confess I do not think, thought there are many sad and ominous signs in the aspect of the times, that Christianity is about to be exiled from the Continent of Europe, and to come as a suppliant to our shores. I do not think we are so deficient in the means of defending the faith we profess as my hon. Friend believes. It would not be difficult to refer to the cases even of living divines in this country, connected with both our Universities, who have achieved very considerable works, which are known and quoted with honour both in this and other countries, and who are well worthy to take rank with the eminent theologians whom England has produced in former times, or with the eminent men who in the present age have conferred honour on other countries by their labours in this great branch of learning. Still, Sir, I frankly own to the hon. Member, and I have never disguised my conviction, that there are many great deficiencies in our Universities. We have not had from them for several generations more than a small proportion of the benefits which, under better legislative regulations, they might have yielded to the country. But let me point out one great though unconscious injustice of which the hon. Member has been guilty. I think he has spoken 952 too much as if the whole duties of the Universities were connected with the press, and the production of learned works. If there are great deficiencies in respect to the study of theology in this country, let him not at all events ascribe those shortcomings so much to the Universities as to the genius of the people. It is the active and practical intelligence of the people, the disposition of all men to hurry in early life to the discharge of its active duties—the immense efforts you have been making, and the immense progress you have achieved in all those departments of industrial art and enterprise which he remote from the domain of speculative thought—this it is which has made it difficult for you, whether in the Universities or out of them, to keep your ground as regards theological or ethical speculation. That, I think, ought to be said on behalf of the Universities. At the same time, the purpose for which we are here is to take practical views of this question, and I would invite the hon. Gentleman, who, I am glad to say, has kept in reserve any declaration of his intention as to his vote—I would invite him, upon the very ground of public benefit to be attained, and of rendering the Universities more effective for the objects for which they were instituted, to give his vote in favour of the Bill going into Committee. The hon. Gentleman has stated that in the present condition of things the tutors are to be regarded as the bane of the University. Really, I think that on this point the hon. Gentleman has spoken altogether in error. If he means that we must not look to the tutors of the University generally for profound resources and an extensive range of learning, no doubt that is a condition which attaches essentially to the nature of this class of academic teachers, and the duties they have to perform. But is the tutorial system on that ground to be called the bane of the University? That system discharges a most important part of the business of education in this country. A great portion of the mind of England is formed in the University. I grant that much more ought to be, and I hope that much more will be formed there; but the work to which these academic fuctionaries are devoted is that of forming certain practical habits of mind and character in those whom they instruct, and in this I do not think it can be said they have been unsuccessful. The hon. Gentleman has spoken of the learning of German writers, and on this subject it is 953 impossible to do anything else than echo what he has said. I have often been ashamed to think that by far the most considerable works produced in reference to our Universities, giving much the best living picture of their condition, should be due to a German author—I of course refer to Huber—who has reviewed, with the greatest industry and ability, the whole history of our Universities, and especially that of Oxford, from their origin, and has worked out the subject in such a manner as to make his work a treasure to all who are interested in them. Not being blind to their defects, not at all attempting to suppress or palliate them, having his own feelings and views as a German, he has presented us with a more complete account of our Universities than any native author ever attempted. If the hon. Member will refer to Huber, he will find that the English Universities have discharged a great and essential part of the functions of national life, quite in harmony with the character of the institutions of this country, in training up a class of educated persons, the best qualified, by their habits of mind and the formation of their character, to guide the future destinies of this country, and to discharge the various duties of society, each in the occupation to which he may be called. Now the course taken in this debate has been of a twofold character. While, upon the one hand, the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) has entered very much at large into the case of the Universities, upon the other hand we have to consider likewise the Motion of the hon. Member for North Lancashire (Mr. Heywood), and the speech he made with a direct bearing on that Motion. I would say that, passing from those portions of the speech of the hon. Member for Stroud which were of a more general character, there was one question which he put to which I think it my duty to give an answer, and which I consider it easy to answer in a way which will be satisfactory, both to the hon. Member and to the House. The hon. Gentleman, after having stated that there was no theology, and little or no learning, to be found in the Universities, and that they had no influence on the mind of the country, went on to ask, what provision in this Bill was there which tended to remedy this defect. Certainly if there was no provision which tended to remedy that defect, I should have been sorry to have been a party to submitting such a Bill for discussion in this House. But I 954 should have been induced to say, on the contrary, what provision is there in this Bill which does not tend to remedy these defects? I should say that every one of those provisions of the Bill which may be described generally as infusing a Spirit of freedom into the institutions of the University, and as releasing its government from the fetters to which its action has been long subject, will tend to remedy that defect. But the hon. Member must have seen that the Bill is also full of the most specific provisions having the strongest tendency in that direction. At present a large portion of the endowments at Oxford are held by persons chosen to enjoy them, not on account of their great learning or of their high character, but because they are either born in some particular spot or related to some particular person. If the general rule of this Bill is that these endowments should be held up and offered to the country on time principle of detur digniori—if, generally speaking, every farthing of these endowments is to go towards prizes for merit, instead of being converted into pensions for individuals, respectable no doubt, but in a great number of instances nothing more—provisions like that must have a powerful tendency to remedy the evil of which the hon. Gentleman complains. It is proposed by this Bill to reorganise the professorial system of the University upon an extended scale as to numbers, emoluments, and dignities. The hon. Member for Stroud has a solemn notion of the importance of the functions of the professors; but surely if this Bill creates a large and effective staff of officers of that kind, he will admit that it tends directly to remedy the defect to which he has adverted; because, unquestionably, one recommendation attending the increased strength of the professorial body is, that it will tend to produce and maintain a class of men devoted to profound and comprehensive study. But the Bill does not stop there. There are provisions which go still more directly to the point, by providing that every fellowship and emolument of the colleges in the University shall be held in connection with the discharge of active duty. After all this I really think the last objection that can fairly or seriously be made against the Bill is, that it has no tendency to remedy the defects of learning, and the defects especially of theological learning in our Universities.
But we have likewise to consider the question involved in the vote we are to give 955 on the Motion before the House. I think the hon. Member for North Lancashire must understand the probable effect of his own Motion at the present moment more fully than he did when he entered the House this evening, because he has had, as we have all had, the great advantage of listening to the speech made on that Motion by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate). He sees now by that speech what is the tendency of his Motion to promote the purposes of University reform. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lancashire has long made most consistent and energetic efforts for the attainment of this object; but I think he will now begin to question whether the character of his Motion is not changed, when he finds himself not only cheered, but supported, by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. This is a Motion which in its tendency and effect aims at getting rid of the Bill altogether. There can be no mistake or misunderstanding on that subject. I have one presumption in my favour to commence with, and that is the speech of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. That is good evidence, which would be admitted anywhere, and which is perfectly unimpeachable so far as it goes. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire may be mistaken, but I do not think he is. I wish here to look at this matter in a practical point of view. It is complained, and justly complained, that we shall lie under great inconvenience when we go into Committee, because so small a number of the Members of this House are conversant with the institutions of Oxford and the nature and provisions of this Bill. But I do not see that the proposal to refer the Bill to a Committee of fifteen Gentlemen upstairs has any very powerful or immediate tendency to remove that evil of which we complain. I do not deny the inconvenience, but in my opinion to allow the Bill to go into Committee is, under the circumstances, the best course we can adopt. But I look at the question with reference to the fate of the Bill altogether. This is a Bill containing. I believe, fifty-eight clauses. Those clauses, many of them, branch out into a variety of particulars. But not only this; the Bill brings into existence other powers in the hands of the University, in the hands of the colleges, and in the hands of the commissioners, under which a vast number of distinct processes of what I may call sub-legislation 956 must go on. The University has a history running over from 600 to 800 years. In that period an immense number of institutions have grown up, of which there are scarcely any two that have precisely the same form, and a vast number of other institutions extraneous to the University having again separate and almost countless interests under innumerable schemes of communication, which, during the last twenty ages or so, the benevolence or the caprice of different individuals has devised. There is not a school in the country interested to the extent of 10l. a year in any one of the exhibitions of which I speak, that will not desire to be heard before the Committee upstairs, should it be appointed on the Motion of the hon. Member. I could not, were I the hon. Member's most bitter enemy, condemn him to a severer punishment than that of conducting the Committee which he has so rashly invoked. We have had some experience in preparing such a Bill as the present; and I may say a word as to the time which such a Committee would be likely to last. I do not think the hon. Gentleman would find that the lapse of six weeks or two months would enable him to bring back this Bill from such a Committee in a satisfactory shape for the consideration of this House. If that is so, really the question comes to be whether it is desirable—first, that this Bill should be rejected for the year; and, secondly, whether it is desirable that it should be rejected after it has been affirmed without a division upon the second reading of the Bill, and under the form of a Motion which contemplates an object altogether distinct? I think, if the Bill is rejected, it should be rejected in a plain and intelligible manner, upon a Motion directly aimed at its merits. In this way we should understand what are the motives of those who reject it, and the reasons they assign for its rejection, whether it does too little or too much; a course which would be far more desirable and far more worthy than rejecting it through the agency of a chance combination. I say this Bill ought not to be rejected. Summoned from all England as the members of the University were, to discuss this Bill, the result has shown that the numbers who assembled at Oxford for that purpose were equally divided; but if, not content with numbers alone, you analyse the composition of those numbers, you will find that of the men engaged in doing the work of the University, the 957 vast majority were favourable to the principle of the Bill. I do not believe the House of Commons will refuse to consider in its details a measure which has been framed by the Government with all the care and caution which they could bring to the task, and which, being a large measure of reform and improvement, is held by this University itself, or at least by a majority of its working body, as likely to relieve them from undue restraint, to give greater efficiency to their labours, to make their endowments really available for the purposes for which they were intended—in short, immensely to increase the benefits which the University has conferred upon the country. I do not think the House will reject a Bill so framed and so received, and which, after ample discussion and time for preparation, was allowed, without a vote, to receive the sanction of this House on the second reading. When we have gone into Committee and grappled with the difficulties which I freely admit to exist, and ascertained how near we can come to one another—where we agree and where we differ—I can quite understand how, after that, it might be a rational as it would be a perfectly competent course for any hon. Member to say—"I feel myself incompetent to the full consideration of this measure, and therefore I should wish to see it referred to a Committee upstairs." But this is clearly not the occasion on which such a course ought to be taken, and I repeat that, if in the circumstances I have spoken of this Bill should be consigned to a Committee for the consideration of its details, the effect will be the inevitable postponement of the Bill for the present Session.
There is only one other topic which it is necessary to mention, and it is this—the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Ewart), who followed and supported the hon. Gentleman who has made this Motion, gave us to understand that they wished to refer this Bill to a Select Committee in consequence of its not containing any provision for the settlement of the question which has been raised respecting the admission of Dissenters to the University. I thought we were to have had a fair discussion and debate, both on the whole merits of that important question and upon the expediency of mixing the consideration of that with the consideration of the present measure when we got into Committee on the Bill. The hon. Member for North Lancashire (Mr. Heywood) gave notice that he 958 would raise that question on the Bill going into Committee, and, in these circumstances, I submit that he ought not to propose to take the Bill from us altogether on account of its not containing spontaneous clauses upon that subject. I will not forestall any question that may be raised in Committee as to the admission of Dissenters into the Universities. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) says, I am under peculiar relations and obligations to the constituency which I represent. I admit that, and one of the obligations I owe to that constituency is, that on all questions in which their interests or feelings are engaged I shall be most circumspect and cautious as to the choice of times and opportunities for discussion. I am unwilling, therefore, now to refer to the question of the admission of Dissenters to the Universities, because it would be impossible to enter fully and satisfactorily into it; but I put it to the hon. Gentleman whether he will pursue a course so ungenerous as to attempt to intercept a great measure of improvement for the University of Oxford because it does not contain some other improvement which he thinks essential to a full and satisfactory settlement? The hon. Member for Dumfries said that, very often, to grant a certain portion of reform had the effect of stopping all other reforms. I grant that it has the effect of stopping further reforms of the same kind; but what I say is, that if you think it desirable that the real sense, the real mind of the University of Oxford itself, should in the first instance be taken into consideration—that it should give full and fair consideration to the question of the admission of Dissenters, then do not raise the question on this Bill. We are going by this Bill to restore the liberty of a corporation which, through the intervening agency of a particular Statute, has lost the ancient liberties that it possessed. It has come to be in a condition in which its actual power to say aye or no on a simple question depends entirely not on its own sense or judgment, but on the opinion of twenty-four gentlemen, of the greatest respectability no doubt, but twenty-four gentlemen not chosen by the University, not put in to govern the University by the University, but chosen by particular societies to manage the affairs of those societies. I do not call that freedom. We are going to give the University something like a constitution; we are endeavouring to pro- 959 vide—and Parliament, I hope, will approve the proceeding—that the governing body of the University shall be a real transcript and representation of its mind. Now, on this subject of the admission of Dissenters to the Universities, I say, without prejudging what the view of the University of Oxford will be, that it never has had the opportunity of considering that question. It never has had the means, it never has had the organs, through which to consider that question—to look into the question, and see how far it is possible without departing from the essential principle of their body, to meet the reasonable and natural wish of Dissenters to avail themselves of these institutions. We ask you now to pass this Bill which will give to Oxford a representative government that will enable them to consider that important subject, and thereby advance the question to that point that will lead to its final solution. On these grounds I venture to express the hope that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Heywood) will not persist in a course of action that is liable to the imputation of indirectly preventing the improvement of the Bill in Committee. At all events, the course of the Government is clear. As the effect of this Motion would be the utter ruin and destruction of the Bill for the present Session, the Government have no option but to meet it with a most emphatic negative.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he was desirous of explaining that in the remarks he made in reference to the tutors, he spoke only of the system under which they acted, and not of the men themselves. He did not mean to apply the term "bane" to a body of men for whom, collectively and individually, it was impossible for any one not to have the highest respect. He wished also to state that had he seen a possibility of the Bill being considered and passed this Session, after having passed through a Committee upstairs, he should have voted for the Motion of the hon. Member for North Lancashire.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, he hoped the hon. Member for North Lancashire (Mr. Heywood) would go to a division. What was this Bill to him, or to those who, for 150 years and more, had been excluded from the Universities? He would have been better satisfied if he had received any assurance from the Government that it was their intention to admit Dissenters to the advantages of the Universities; but no such assurance had been given, and the inference was drawn by him and all 960 his friends that it was not intended they should be admitted to the University of Oxford. He thought the country, and the Dissenters in particular, were exceedingly indebted to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) for the very able speech he had addressed to the House; and if anything could reconcile his (Mr. Hadfield's) mind to the deprivation of himself and his family, arising from their exclusion from the Universities, it was the dreadful exposure which the hon. Member had made of the short-comings of those Universities. That was a state of things which could not long be endured. He thought the House might fairly understand that there was a division in the Cabinet on the subject of the admission of Dissenters, and that a compromise had been made among them, the effect of which was the production of a Bill beneficial only to the Universities. The Universities had done very little to raise the character of the country. What could have been done towards evangelising the country if that important matter had been left to the Universities? The Protestant Dissenters, without their assistance, had attained to a position and an influence which gave them a decided majority in the country; and yet the Government came before the House of Commons, and actually introduced a Bill for continuing their exclusion from its seats of learning, and that without leaving them any redress. He had no sympathy with such a Bill, and he would cordially vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Lancashire.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I did not intend, Sir, to have taken any part in this discussion, and would not have done so but for the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield). I must confess that I cannot agree with him, and I protest against the spirit in which he has addressed the House. If there is illiberality in any party—if there is any illiberality on the part of the Church—if there is illiberality on the part of our laws and institutions, or in any department of the State—the illiberality of the hon. Gentleman completely distances any illiberality of which he can complain. The hon. Gentleman asks, "What is this Bill to me, and what good will it do to us who are excluded from the Universities?" I may be permitted to mention that I have always been a member of the Church, and so have my family always been members of 961 it; but I belong also to a society the principles of which is, that schools shall be established without reference to the Catechism or the Church, in order that Protestant Dissenters may be enabled to obtain the benefit of education for their children. But what if I were to say, "Of what use is this to me? Of what use is it to me that Dissenters should have the benefit of this education, and not Churchmen? therefore I will not support such schools." I hold such an illiberal principle ought not to have been propounded by a Protestant Dissenter? Protestant Dissenters, ever since the commencement of the reign of the House of Hanover, have always professed liberality on these subjects, and this is the first time I have heard it urged, with reference to a case of reform, that it is one that does no good to the Dissenters, and will only suit some 5,000,000 Churchmen, who will be the only persons benefited in the matter. I ask, are not these Churchmen the fellow-subjects of the hon. Gentleman? Are they not inhabitants of the same country as himself? If their education can be improved—if poorer members of the Church are to be better rewarded for their learning, can the hon. Gentleman not support such claims—has he no fellowship, no sympathy but for those who belong to his own religious communion? I really think the members of the communion to which the hon. Gentleman belongs will hardly approve or sympathise with such sentiments. Then the hon. Gentleman says this Bill is a compromise between the Members of the Government. He is as equally unfounded in that imputation as he is uncharitable in the statement to which I have just adverted. When I assented, on the part of the Crown, to the proposal for a Commission—when the hon. Member for North Lancashire (Mr. Heywood) who has been most earnest and zealous in this question—proposed a reform of the Universities, and when I stated that the then Government had advised Her Majesty to issue a Commission, I stated expressly that I thought the improvement of the Universities should be made a subject of itself, and that the admission of Dissenters should be reserved for separate and future consideration. My right hon. Friend who sits near me, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was not connected with me in a political party at that time. We had no political connection whatever. I said at the time that I thought such a course was the best that could be followed for 962 both branches of the subject—that it would be of advantage to the cause of University reform on the one hand, and that it would be an advantage to the cause of the admission of Dissenters on the other. I have always been, as the hon. Gentleman well knows—having at no time disguised my sentiments—I have always been in favour of, and given my vote for, the admission of Dissenters to the Universities, whenever that question was brought forward. Twenty years ago and more I voted in favour of their admission; but there have always been presented by the Universities great obstacles to the granting of that prayer. It was stated, for example, that it would interfere with the discipline and the organisation of the colleges now existing in Oxford. By this Bill it seems to me that those who might bring forward a measure on that subject will stand on a far better ground than before. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) says that is an objection to the Bill. I can understand how the heads of houses who oppose a formidable obstacle, that is not successful in this House, whatever it might be in the other House of Parliament, should oppose the admission of Dissenters. I can understand, also, when a master of arts has opened a private hall in the University of Oxford, if this Bill passes, that he should say all Dissenters ought to be admitted to the Universities, because he, in his private hall, could make such rules as would not render it obligatory on Dissenters to attend that kind of religious instruction which did not accord with their own conscientious views. I say, then, that in promoting this Bill, I am promoting the cause which the hon. Gentleman has at heart. But I feel quite sure of this, that if we take care that a Churchman, when he goes to a University and distinguishes himself by his knowledge of mathematics and natural philosophy, shall not gain any benefit to which he would be thereby entitled, because there was another boy, a Dissenter, who is not admitted, we shall be acting on a maxim most unfair and illiberal, and one which must tend to postpone indefinitely the reforms we desire. I ask, therefore, in the cause of practical reform, that the House will not allow an objection of that kind to operate with regard to this measure. With regard to the hon. Gentleman who has made this Motion, it seemed to me that his objections, whatever degree of force might belong to them, were ques- 963 tions specially for the Committee, and that they are questions that can be freely discussed in Committee alone. With respect to many of the suggestions that he has made, it may appear on discussion that my hon. Friend is right, and, at all events, he will have a fair hearing for those suggestions. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has truly said that, if the hon. Member (Mr. Heywood) persists in his Motion for a Select Committee, we may expect that that Motion will be decisive of the fall of the Bill. What my hon. Friend can least of all expect is, that this House will name a Committee favourable to his views. It is evident that if he proposed fifteen gentlemen, with nine or ten of them holding his views, his seconder would get up and propose that seven of these should be left out, and thus the majority of the Committee would be favourable to maintaining the University of Oxford as it is, or with a minimum of reform that the heads of houses themselves might approve of. Therefore, as a practical object, my hon. Friend would gain nothing by his Motion, and I hope that, seeing the turn this discussion has taken, he will not persist in pressing it upon the House.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he believed there must be good ground for the statement of the lion. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield), that that Bill was the result of a compromise between the Members of the Government. The noble Lord the Member for London had just told them that the Bill would afford facilities for the admission of Dissenters to the Universities; while they had a right to assume, from the antecedents of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that that right hon. Gentleman was opposed to such a step. He had not heard the hon. Member for North Lancashire (Mr. Heywood) say anything that would lead any person to the inference that he wished by his Motion to throw the Bill overboard; therefore, such should not be assumed. The object of sending the Bill to a Select Committee was that it might be fully discussed in such a way that it could not be in that House. It had been stated, with great adroitness, that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) had seconded the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Lancashire. Such was not the fact. His hon. Friend had spoke in support of the Amendment, but had not seconded it, though the right 964 hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had cleverly taken hold of what he supposed to be the fact for the purpose of mixing together the actions of two parties who were not ordinarily in the habit of taking the same views upon political subjects. He (Mr. Henley) thought the Bill would come out of a Select Committee much less objectionable than at present; and, therefore, he should vote in favour of the Amendment.
§ MR. MIALL
said, he had listened to the speech of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) with great surprise, and with some regret at the tone with which he charged his (Mr. Miall's) hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) with illiberality, because his hon. Friend said, with regard to this Bill, "What interest have we, the Dissenters, in it—what does it do for us?" The noble Lord appeared to assume that his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield could take no interest except in such matters as might be found within the small range of his own denomination. Now he knew his hon. Friend far better than that, and could say that his liberality and zeal did not know any denominational bounds. But it was somewhat amusing to be charged with illiberality by those parties who would not allow them the benefit of a national institution. Government, by the introduction of this Bill, admitted that this was a national institution; that it had not been made to cover the whole nation, and that the advantages of it were intended for one sect only—that sect comprising about one-third of the population of the kingdom. They, the Dissenters, objected to this Bill, on account of its illiberality. If this were not legislation, it would be another matter; but they came there to legislate not for a sect but for the country, and they objected to this Bill because it purposely set aside a considerable portion of the population, and they believed it was not for the advantage of the country that they should be continually paying deference in their legislation to the bigotry that was to be found in another place. The Government knew that the Bill would pass easily in another place if it obtained the sanction of the episcopal bench; and in order to bring it in conformity with the opinions of that bench, they had framed it in its now illiberal spirit. By taking the course they did, they were exalting the illiberality he had mentioned, and we should have not simply King, Lords, and Commons, but likewise episcopal illiberality as one of the institu- 965 tions of the State, which it would be absolutely necessary to consult before passing a Bill into law. He was forcibly struck with one thing in the discussions which had taken place on this subject, the grateful affection with which every Member of that House who had been educated at Oxford, spoke of his alma mater. He could thoroughly enter into and sympathise with that feeling, notwithstanding the disadvantages and drawbacks that existed at Oxford, and of which the speakers themselves were sensible. He sympathised with their fond affection for the University at which they had acquired the learning they possessed, and of which they had made so favourable a display, but it must be admitted that they who were purposely and systematically excluded from the advantages of an Oxford or a Cambridge University education needed no small patience to listen to those glowing eulogies of the advantages to be derived from Oxford and Cambridge; and it could hardly be charged on them as factious that they did not take much interest in a Bill that was not only not intended to promote their interests, but which actually went beyond the line of justice in order to exclude them from any participation in the benefits of these Universities. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) when he appointed a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Universities, purposely excluded Dissenters from the benefit of that Commission. They, the Dissenters, had had no inquiry preceding legislation. The noble Lord had referred to the Motion of the lion. Member (Mr. Heywood) as if it were virtually to get rid of the Bill, but the noble Lord had himself referred Private Bills to a Select Committee, and the right hon. President of the Poor Law Board had referred the Settlement Bill to a Select Committee. If, indeed, they got rid of the Bill this Session, and got a better Bill next Session, he did not think the country would have to find fault with them. A Church Establishment existed in Scotland, without University exclusion, and there was not the same exclusion in Dublin that there was at Oxford and Cambridge. But what had Government done? They had, first of all, denied them the right of inquiry before the Committee, and now wanted to legislate, and said to them, "You stop all progress," and so they would ever be treated till they knew how to respect themselves. They had been twitted that evening that they could not possibly give a sound vote 966 in company with the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate). He had not much sympathy with the general opinions of that hon. Gentleman, but he was not afraid to vote with him when he thought he was voting right. He should vote for the Committee on the ground that an inquiry was necessary. Legislation was fitly preceded by inquiry, and as inquiry had taken place by Royal Commission on all the points except that which affected Dissenters, they now asked for a Select Committee before which Dissenters themselves might bring forward evidence calculated to clear unwise and ill-founded prejudices and objections out of the way. He believed they could do that if they had an opportunity, but an opportunity was denied them, and so they would ever be treated until they knew how to respect themselves. The real object which he had in view in supporting the Amendment was to obtain for Dissenters the same measure of justice which was given to the members of the Established Church, and if time House allowed them to discuss the question honestly and fairly in a Committee, he felt satisfied that they would be able to adduce such evidence as would convert the greater portion of those who wished to maintain the exclusive character of the University.
§ MR. HEYWOOD
said, the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) introduced the Bill without mentioning the ecclesiastical organisation, and he (Mr. Heywood) was not aware what the nature of the Bill was till he saw it, and it seemed to him the best policy then was to vote for the second reading on account of its being a great step for the Government to take up the subject at all. He also thought the time had arrived when the University of Oxford ought to be reformed. After the second reading it was the usual course that private Bills should be referred to a Select Committee, and it seemed to him desirable that this Bill should be referred to one also. He differed from the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, who thought that the clerical interest ought to preponderate at Oxford. When they examined into this matter it would be found that this clerical preponderance arose from the original monastic character of the colleges. He thought it a great misfortune that they were not reformed to a greater degree in the time of Henry VIII. and Edward VI.
§ MR. HEYWOOD
said, then he would only add that he could not accede to the suggestion that was made, and he must divide the House on his Amendment.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, if the hon. Member for North Lancashire had consented to withdraw his Amendment I should have remained silent; but, as he has determined to divide the House, I feel it my duty to express my opinions on the subject. It appears to me that the Amendment made by the hon. Member is not an irrational one; for it was admitted by the noble Lord, when he introduced his measure, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) whose name is on the back of this Bill, and the noble Lord himself, had not agreed upon the admission of Dissenters to the University. The noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman have since expressed opinions on this subject quite contrary to, and the reverse of each other, and therefore it is certainly not very absurd in the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) to think that there may be yet other arguments to be used and other reasons to be suggested. Those used by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night have assuredly not been very satisfactory, and I cannot in any way lend myself to the opinion that, by acceding to the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Lancashire, we should necessarily be creating unlimited delay, or, at any rate, be subjecting the measure to useless procrastination. Surely this is not a class of argument to which the Government ought to have recourse, especially this Session—when we have seen reforms of much greater importance than even those of the University of Oxford postponed. Surely, Sir, if we can afford to delay a reform of the English Constitution, it is not a very unreasonable thing if fair reasons are adduced that an hon. Member should suggest the propriety of deferring for some time, or until proper inquiries should be made and satisfactory evidence obtained, the consideration of these University reforms. But I deny the assertion which has been made—that a reference of this measure to a Select Committee is necessarily a postponement of it. If this Bill were sent before a Select Committee it would in my opinion be possible to produce a Bill from it for the consideration of the House, which might accomplish great advantages, and 968 which would still be free from the objections that, I think, are obvious on the face of the Government project. What I object to in this Bill is, not that it attempts to reform and reconstruct an ancient institution of the country—it is not that it may lead to very great changes, not in the constitution, but in the administration of the University—but that it strikes a blow—a fatal blow, in my opinion—at the self-government, the freedom, and the independence of the University. That blow, I think, is an unnecessary one, and I am sure that if this Bill were referred to a Select Committee, all the results might be obtained which are required, without dealing the blow, which, I am sure, Gentlemen on both sides of the House must reprobate and disapprove. That is my great objection to this measure.
You propose to form a new constitution for the University of Oxford. Grant that a necessity is now admitted to exist for the establishment of a new constitution for the University—why do you attempt also, at the same time, to realise what should properly be the results of the action of that new constitution? What you propose is not only to establish a new constitution for the University, but also to enter in minute detail into all those subjects the ordering and management of which are the proper office of the new constitution which you are about to establish. If the House of Commons is to settle how students are to be lodged—if it is to adjudicate upon the scheme of education to be given by the University—if it is to decide what portion of the revenues of a college is to be devoted to the maintenance of the particular objects for which that college was founded, and what portion is to be dedicated to the more general purposes of the University—if the House of Commons is to decide on all these subjects, where, I ask, is the necessity for creating and establishing a new constitution for the University at all? If you established a new constitution for the University, and if you left to it to decide upon all these questions of detail, which are comprised in the sections of this Bill, you would not be attacking the power of self-government in the University—you would rather be increasing it, and giving strength and expansion to its freedom and independence. I may be asked, however, how it was that, entertaining these objections to the Bill, I allowed it to go to a second reading without opposition? Perhaps, Sir, 969 if I had altogether followed my own inclination, I should have opposed the second reading, and it certainly was not, I may say, without great anxiety and consideration that I acceded to that stage of the Bill; but I thought the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the member for North Lancashire (Mr. Heywood) would give me an opportunity for expressing my sentiments with regard to the measure. The result at which the House has at present arrived is, that there must be some change in the present constitution of Oxford; but if the Government project is referred to a Select Committee, that Committee may propose a new form of Government, while it may omit all those clauses which refer to what I think ought to be the natural results of the action of that constitution of the University. Take, for instance, the question of private halls—establishments which, perhaps, I may say, are rather hostile to the colleges than not. Surely this question, if the University has an adequate constitution provided for it, is one which will be much more profitably decided by the University than by the House of Commons. But, Sir, I doubt much whether this Bill, in any one of its proposals, will effect any great and considerable change in the aspect and general character of the University. I do not believe that if you consent to pass this Bill—that if you do actually provide for the entertainment of the students at what are called private halls—you will at all provide for that class of indigentes, of whom so much has been said. The extension of the University in this manner is one of the great objects which you have in view; but I doubt very much whether this Bill, if passed into law as it stands, will effect it. Look, too, to another point—the professorial system, of which we have heard so much. I doubt greatly whether by this Bill you will be able to accomplish that great change in the system of Oxford which has been so much talked of, and which by many is so much feared. A professor—at least such a one as is expected by the supporters of this Bill—is not a man that can be suddenly created, even if you increase his income to a considerable extent.
We have heard much to-night from the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) of the results of the professorial system in English Universities, as compared with its results in foreign Universities. Sir, I believe there is a great fallacy in that 970 view. Take Germany, for instance. What sphere is there for the genius, the intellect, the talent, and the energy of Germany but in the professorial chair? Give Germany a House of Commons, and do you think that she would then produce those men of profound erudition, of commanding eloquence—men who can bury themselves in speculative abstractions, and produce those results of erudition which, we are told, shake the world? The fact is, that in Germany, with a gifted population double the extent of ours, there is no avenue for any man by which he can make the world conscious of his powers, except by the chair of the professor. In this country you may increase the salaries as much as you please, but to suppose that you can produce a class of men like the German professors is chimerical. You may see plain and conclusive evidence of what I urge in the revolutions of 1848, when you had popular chambers springing up in all directions all over Germany. Who were then the Members of Parliament? Who were the Presidents and Vice-Presidents of National Conventions? Who were Secretaries of State, and even Prime Ministers, but the professors of the country? I should like to know what was the condition of the German universities during that period when half their chairs were engaged in public affairs? The eloquence that had formerly adorned the professorial chair now attempted to influence a division; the man who had been the ornament and glory of a university was now lost in the depth of a cabinet, acting with the responsibility of the fortunes of his country and of Europe on his conduct. Why, Sir, you had the whole ability of the country devoted to politics; and if we have not these profound professors in England, it is because the character of this country is different; the character of our life is contrary to it. We are a nation of action, and you may depend upon it that, however you may increase the rewards of professors—though you may give them 2,000l. instead of 200l.—ambition in England will look to public life—men will look to the House of Commons, and net to professors' chairs in the Universities. I believe, therefore, that this is another great point in which you will not find any material change effected by what you contemplate with regard to this revolution—this great revival of the professorial system. You will not be able, however you think you may, to lay your hand upon twenty-five or thirty professors suddenly, 971 capable of effecting a great influence on the youth of England. You cannot get these men all at once; it will be slowly, by degrees, with great difficulty, by fostering and cultivating your resources, that you will be able to produce one of these great professors—a man able to influence the public opinion of the University. Whether, then, you look to the great change which you propose with respect to these private halls, which is, in fact a revolution of the collegiate system; or whether you look to the great alteration you contemplate by the revival of the professorial instead of the tutorial system—on both points you will meet, I think, with disappointment.
What is the third great feature in these changes—I mean that portion of the Bill which professes to deal with the property of the colleges? I think it is neither more nor less than an appropriation clause. It may not at first assume the hideous aspect of such a proposition, but if you analyze it, if you calmly reflect upon it, it is neither more nor less than an appropriation clause. But if you find, on the one hand, that the University is not extended by your private halls, and, on the other, that this new system of education by professors instead of tutors is one which works very slowly, and which does not, even with the long sequence of time, effect the changes which you anticipate, you may say that the property of the colleges will not be considerably assaulted or diminished. Grant all this. But you grant at the same time that the Bill before us is a harmless Bill; because, in fact, it will effect little or nothing. Upon subjects of so great importance I cannot say that I am in favour of supporting a Bill simply because I think it may do no harm, according, of course, to my view of moral and social injury; the very fact that you are dealing with great subjects and great interests, although you may ultimately accomplish little, is in itself a vast evil. But I do not rest my objection on this, what may be considered, limited ground. Admitting that this Bill is not an effective measure—admitting that it does not produce any considerable change—admitting that it does not materially affect the character and condition of the University—will there not, I ask, be a feeling of great disappointment excited by it? The real University reformers will naturally rise and say, "This Bill of yours which we supported turns out just as we suspected from the first—it does no good at all; 972 Oxford is open to all those objections which we have always urged against it; it is characterised by all those evils which we have so often denounced; it remains somewhat modified, perhaps, in form, but in spirit the same, and therefore what we require now is a thorough and real reform." But will not these real reformers find some advantage in the Bill before us, although it may not have produced any results? Will they not take advantage of the clause in this Bill which appropriates a portion of the revenues of the colleges, studiously and subtily as the application of that clause may at present be guarded, and will they not come forward with redoubled force, appealing to your failure as a fatal precedent for a stronger measure? I see in a moment what must be the consequences of the legislation now recommended; if this Bill be successful according to its avowed objects, you do not meet the real difficulties with which you have to contend, and if it fails to produce any absolute and actual change in the general character and condition of the University, it gives a standing ground of immense advantage for the future assaults of those whose designs I cannot sympathise with, and whom I wish to oppose. But if this Bill be referred to a Select Committee, shall we not have means to counteract this difficulty? We shall then have the opportunity of framing the constitution of the University in that manner which we may think most likely to accomplish all that is necessary, and we can invest it with all the power which is necessary to produce the desired results. Then, if the University ever effects changes—if it deals with the question of increased accommodation for students—if it deals with the question which system of education should be most encouraged by the University—if it deals even with the appropriation of college property—it will be from its own action, with entire independence, with entire freedom, with entire self-government, which, in my opinion, it is of the utmost importance for us to encourage in those great seats of learning whose fortunes are now under our consideration.
I know it may be an observation distasteful to many, though I make it with every respect—but I cannot help feeling that if we do that which is somewhat difficult, if we free ourselves for the moment from that heated political atmosphere in which we all of us move, and if we take a general glance at our conduct for the last twenty years, I say, we must observe that there 973 has been what may be called a morbid desire on the part of the Legislature of this country to effect changes in the institutions of the country. I say, on the part of the Legislature, because I am bound to say, that I do not see that desire for change and innovation on the part of the people of this country. On a point like this there is nothing like a reference to facts. About twenty years ago, or less, there was on the part of the Legislature an assault on the estate of the Church. Then it was said that the ecclesiastical revenues of a considerable portion of the Church were not directed and devoted in the manner most advantageous to the State; there were anomalies and imperfections which ought to be removed, and an appropriation clause was proposed in this House with respect to those revenues. It was not the will of Parliament or the authority of the Sovereign that prevented that appropriation, but it was the good sense and the good feeling of the great body of the community. Twenty years have now elapsed, and I should like a question of that kind to be brought before the House of Commons at present. I have no doubt that the verdict of the House of Commons would sanction the good sense and the good feeling of the great body of the people. There is no one at the present moment but recognises that that was a proposition on the part of the Legislature of a revolutionary character, which was not justified by circumstances, and which futurity has not sealed with its approbation. Well, Sir, there is another great question in which I see the same morbid desire evinced by the Legislature to deal with the institutions of the country, which, in my opinion, is not shown by the people of the country, and that is the reconstruction of Parliament. During the last twenty years there has been no scheme, however wild or however matured, which has not been brought forward by statesmen and by Gentlemen opposite upon this subject. From the Charter down to the last scheme of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) you have had propositions brought forward in their turn to effect great changes in one of the most important institutions of the country—the House of Commons. But I say that the morbid desire evinced by the Legislature to deal with the institutions of the country in that respect has not been shared by the people, because, certainly, with regard to Parliamentary reform, as well as with respect to 974 the attack upon the ecclesiastical revenues, it has not been the Opposition that has prevented the measure passing, but it has been the good sense of the people of this country. In these attempted changes we have had the estate of the Church attacked, and we have had the construction of the House of Commons assailed by the Legislature. The unhallowed hand is now laid upon the ark of the Universities, and the same plea is urged on the same fallacy. And what is that plea? The plea is, that there are anomalies and imperfections that ought to be removed; the fallacy is, that in removing these anomalies and imperfections we never calculate and we never consider that much greater injury is done to a country like the present by outraging the principle of Prescription upon which our institutions depend than by removing a few anomalies and imperfections.
I have had occasion to say before, and I am not ashamed to say it now, that this country is ruled by traditionary influences. You may have a stronger Government than you have at present, by getting rid of these traditionary influences—you may have a standing army—you may have a logical, inexorable, and vigorous system of centralised administration—you may have State education or secular education; you may have a stronger Government, but you will have a weaker people. And, Sir, among these traditionary influences the influence of the Universities of the country has not been the least considerable. Its direct action has been great; its indirect action has been greater. If I were asked, "Would you have Oxford with its self-government, freedom, and independence, but yet with its anomalies and imperfections, or would you have the University free from those anomalies and imperfections, and under the control of the Government?" I would say, "Give me Oxford, free and independent, with all its anomalies and imperfections." But, Sir, the painful alternative is not placed before us. We have a propitious occasion at present, in which we are invited, as it were, by the Universities themselves to increase their powers—to give them an enlarged sphere of action. Why do we not take advantage of that opportunity? Why do we not come forward and say, "We will construct for you a constitution (which, indeed, under this Bill you are professing to construct) adequate to the occasion. We will leave it to this new constitution, with all its independence and freedom preserved and respected, to 975 make all those alterations, and to effect all those changes which the course of time and the altered circumstances of the country, of the age, and of the University require?" So far you could advance with truth, with justice, and, I believe, you would advance with success. But the moment you quit that line you are degrading the University, and you are destroying one of those influences which, in the aggregate, forms one of the elements by which you govern this country. Remember what is at stake. It is the national character of the country that depends upon your respecting the institutions of the country. I know well the objection may be made, and it has been made by an hon. Gentleman opposite, that the University has had the opportunity to make the necessary changes, and that the University has been found wanting. But is that true? It is very true that in 1837 the University of Oxford acknowledged that considerable changes should be effected, and that in 1850 all the changes deemed necessary had not been accomplished. But was the task easy? It is not true that in the interval nothing was done. Much was done, but it is not an easy task for a University which had existed for 800 years to accomplish in a brief space all that is asked for and required. I have said before, you will have much to answer for if you place the Universities of this country under the control of the State. I believe that is the great point at question, and I cannot understand how Gentlemen opposite, though they may be University reformers, and though they may be extremely anxious to see great changes, especially in the University of Oxford, for reasons that may influence them—I cannot understand how they can consent to obtain such results at so costly a price as to place a University, which, of all institutions, should be independent and free, under the control and management of the State. There is one topic upon which, though I touch with reluctance, I cannot allow this night to pass entirely in silence. It is that strange appeal which has been made to the House tonight in support, as I believe, of this policy of interference in the management of the Universities of the State by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman). I say I believe, because I am at this moment at a loss to understand what course the hon. Gentleman is about to take. [Mr. HORSMAN made a remark which was indistinctly heard.] I am told that the hon. 976 Gentleman has said at a moment I had not the pleasure of listening to him that he intends to oppose the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Lancashire, because, until he had heard the statement of Government, he had not been exactly aware what the object of that Amendment was. I am surprised that an hon. Gentleman who goes so far into futurity—
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he had been misunderstood. He had not stated what the right hon. Gentleman had represented him to have said; but what he really had stated was this, that if the Bill were sent to a Select Committee and would come back to the House this year in time to pass the Legislature, he would have supported the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Lancashire; but that, as he believed, if the Amendment were carried, the Bill would be rejected for a year, he preferred giving his support to the proposition of Government.
§ MR. DISRAELI
That is an objection which I have already noticed. I do not think upon the subject of the University that delay can be more fatal than upon the subject of the British Constitution. And, if we can postpone the reform of Parliament, not for a year; but for even an indefinite period, I am disposed to think we shall not incur too grave a hazard in voting for the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Lancashire and sending this Bill before a Select Committee. But the point which I wish to touch, and which I touch in this House always with great reserve, is the appeal made to the House of Commons to support a measure which I believe in itself would be ineffective for the purpose it asserts and alleges, and which I think would lead to most dangerous consequences, upon the strange and startling grounds alleged by the hon. Member for Stroud. We are told we must pass this Bill because Christianity is in danger, because we have a prospect before us of the religion in which we all believe finding a solitary refuge in the British Isles. Such is the statement of the hon. Gentleman, and such his opinion of Divine revelation, that it is a contingency more than probable, and it is a result we must arm against, he says, by the immediate institution of professors at Oxford. But, Sir, I may presume to remind the hon. Gentleman that, however highly he may think of the erudition and the philosophy of Germany, there was a period when a country not less enlightened, not 977 less civilised, not less qualified by human accomplishment, under Divine favour, to influence the fortunes and the opinions of mankind—I must remind the hon. Gentleman that there was a time when such a country produced men who, in their genius, in their acquirements, in the brilliancy of their conception, and in the splendour of their diction, would not yield even to German professors. That country was France—a country enlightened by Voltaire and inflamed by Rousseau. That was the country where all the philosophers of Europe assembled; where they devoted themselves to the destruction of that system which the hon. Gentleman thinks now in danger—which he thinks can only be preserved by University reform. Well, the effort was successful. The greatest intellectual powers directed to a common purpose accomplished its end. There was not a church that was not closed. There was not a sacred image in that country that was not desecrated. Every holy tradition, every divine thought in the inspired literature of the Hebrew people, in whatever language it was written, was treated with contumely and contempt. You bad the triumph of philosophy (I know not who were the professors of philosophy at Oxford at that moment)—the world witnessed the fatal success of that insurrectionary attempt which now appals the hon. Gentleman. Long years have passed since that catastrophe. We have all of us probably since visited that land. We have seen the churches in that country supported by no State endowment, but upheld by the sympathy of believing millions. We have seen devoted to that Christianity which the hon. Gentleman thinks in danger all the resources of art and all the divine attributes of genius, and I cannot forget that at this moment, when, after a peace of nearly half a century, England is again embarked in war—when England has entered upon a contest the fortune of which may alarm the boldest and make the most sanguine timorous, I cannot forget that the ruler of the nation to which I have referred is our most trusty, and I believe most trustworthy ally. When I remember this, I defy the efforts of the German professors; let them shut up their churches, let them tear down their sacred images, and what will happen in Germany is that which has happened before in France—the temples will be reopened, the altars will again be adorned, and the cause of truth will be upheld by an influence more powerful than University reform.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, it is not my intention to keep the House from a division by any lengthened observations. Indeed, I think myself rather incompetent to discuss this question perfectly, inasmuch as I am one of those who belong to those classes of the population of this country who have been purposely excluded from any enjoyment of the advantages of the institution to which this Bill refers. I therefore feel that I should be, as it were, out of my depth, if I were to attempt to criticise the various clauses and the various provisions of this Bill. But what I learn from its friends and from its opponents, and from those who do not exactly know what opinion to form upon it, is just this—that it is a measure very much like others which we have lately had—a compromise; a compromise of a doubtful character, where there is something good in one clause, but where there is something which very much counteracts that which is good in a subsequent clause. There appears likewise to be a very general impression that the total effect of the Bill will very much strengthen the ecclesiastical or clerical power in the University of Oxford. Now, I am not one of those who have much faith in clerical or ecclesiastical power being strengthened for any good. I believe that the more you infuse that power into your education, the less will be the value of your education; and that the more that power is infused into your politics, the less valuable will the freedom of your country become. I am, therefore, not in favour of the Bill from any explanations I have hitherto heard with respect to that particular point; but what principally strikes me on this matter is this—that there have been two principles at work in the formation of the measure. The noble Lord the Member for London is, I believe truly, and always has been, very liberal—probably as liberal as any one in this House—upon the question of University education. If I am not much mistaken, the noble Lord has spoken and voted in former years in favour of all classes of the people being admitted to the benefits of the Universities without respect to creeds. Upon the other hand, it is equally well known that there are Members of the Government who have been greatly opposed to that principle. Indeed, I think, if I am not much mistaken, that a distinguished Member of the Cabinet—no less than the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—upon a former occasion expressed his opi- 979 nion that if a proposition were made for the admission of Dissenters, he should feel bound to vote against it. Yet I think the right hon. Gentleman indicated, to-night, that it might be worth the while of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House to vote for this Bill, because it appeared to be a step in the direction of that proposition which he himself would afterwards feel bound to oppose. Now, I do not think that was a fair argument for the right hon. Gentleman to use. It argued great simplicity on this subject in hon. Gentlemen on this side the House; and certainly it was not exactly that kind of morality which I should have looked for from the right hon. Gentleman in debate in this place. The question, however, is this: whether, there being two opinions in the Cabinet on this question, the Cabinet is not rendered powerless for any good or compulsory measure in relation to it. I doubt whether, when a Government cannot agree upon the fundamental principle of any measure, it is the duty of that Government to propose such measure; and, therefore, I doubt whether it is for the interest of the country that this question should now be brought forward, or attempted to be settled, under their auspices. We are here, after years of discussion—for long before I was a Member of this House Motions were submitted to it for the admission of Dissenters to the Universities—again debating that question. Some of those Motions were carried. We have had a great deal of discussion upon it, too, out of doors, and many of our most eminent statesmen have been in favour of such admission. We have had protracted Commissions of Inquiry into the constitution of the Universities; and now we come, in the year 1854, under a Government supposed to have an overwhelming majority in both Houses—having dismissed every other topic to another Session—asking us to support a Bill which Oxford University reformers—I speak more particularly of Gentlemen who think as I do—doubt whether it is any reform at all, and which certainly proposes to shut out from that University one-half the population of England and Wales. When I use the term "Dissenters" I do not mean only those who are members of religious dissenting bodies—I use the term because there is not another word that I can find which expresses exactly what I mean; but I mean all that portion of the people who object to do what is now required to be done in 980 order to obtain admission to the advantages of the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford—all who are not members of the Church of England, all who do not believe in the Thirty-nine Articles, or in certain rules and in certain canons to which I need not now refer. To me it is a source of great humiliation, and there are Gentlemen opposite who also participate in the feeling, that we should be now legislating upon institutions which we call Universities—I suppose because the term is intended to imply that they are for all—and which we call national, because they are supposed to be for the nation—yet that, apparently without feeling and compunction, we are committing the injustice of excluding expressly by Act of Parliament, and by not including them now we may exclude them for many years to come, not less than one-half of the population of England and Wales. It is very late in the day for us to be considering the propriety of such an exclusion as this; and it is this which makes me dislike this Bill altogether. The evil is, that we are invited to co-operate in a tinkering amendment of the constitution of an institution which professes to be a national institution, yet from which 5,000,000 of men, who hold my sentiments with regard to the Church of England, are excluded. Yet we are told that this institution, though a national University, is one in which we can have no sympathy or part whatever; so that, in point of fact, we are just as much excluded from that which you call national as if we were excluded from voting for Members to sit in this House, or from sitting in this House ourselves. And so we are rejected from this national institution, as though there were something in our character or position, or in our objects, which made us unworthy to participate with our fellow-citizens in the advantages of those institutions which the nation possesses. This institution, then, is still to be kept up for a sect. I do not think, however, that its success has been very marked, even with regard to that sect. I recollect that the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), in a celebrated letter which he published, spoke language which gave great offence to many hon. Members who sat near me, and to those they represent in Ireland; and when the language of the noble Lord was protested against and blamed, it was understood that he corrected that which was the impression Of what he said by charging upon persons 981 who professed to belong to the Church of England that they were guilty of the practices which he stigmatised in phrases to which I will not further allude. But those practices arose from parties in this very University. This very University is the source of that teaching which I am not going to describe, because I should be ashamed to call in question the religious opinions or practices of any party in this House, and of those practices which a very large class of persons in this country condemn. I contend, therefore, that the exclusive possession of this University by the Church of England has not led to unity in the Church, nor to unity in the practice, or teaching, or preaching of its ministry. Suppose this Bill to pass, either in this Session or in the next—it being understood that it is not a real reform, that it is but a little amendment, that it disturbs somewhat and loosens some of the bricks of the old fabric, but that it does not establish anything either new or sound—what will be the position of Dissenters and of those who are excluded? Why, if it is passed in 1854, in next year, or in the year after, you will find it will be considered a great settlement of the University question. I am sure that the noble Lord the Member for London, and the persons who have probably been connected with its formation, would reply that the question had been thoroughly discussed and settled in the Session of 1854, that longer trial of it ought not to be given, and that they were unwilling to reopen the question of exclusion, as it had in some degree been settled. Thus the Dissenters would be forgotten, and if they stirred in the matter they would be told, "Oh, it is unreasonable that the Government should be embarrassed, and the Government is remarkably well disposed." This is generally said when Dissenters are asked not to press claims of this character; it has been said for the last 200 years, and it will be said for the next 200 years, when they have complained of the injustice and inconvenience which Parliament has been too ready to inflict upon them. Whether the Bill shall go into Committee to-night depends, I suppose, upon the votes of Members on this side the House. I believe, however, that if it goes to a Committee upstairs it will come before us again in a better shape—it will come before us in a shape which will not exhibit so much of that compromising spirit which mistrusts or destroys the utility of every measure of reform in which it is 982 found. I am, therefore, not in the least afraid of sending it to a Select Committee. If delay is thereby caused, the Universities will not suffer very much from the want of the Bill this year; the public will not suffer; the Government will not suffer at all, because they are perfectly accustomed to the postponement of their measures "for another year;" neither will the Dissenters suffer, because the Bill does not intend to include them. Let it be postponed until next year by the votes of those who now wish to see Dissenters admitted, and I will undertake to say that their interests will be consulted in it at any rate more than they are at present. Dissenters are always expected to manifest very much of those inestimable qualities which are spoken of in the Epistle to the Corinthians—"To hope all things, to believe all things, and to endure all things." We are always exhorted to accept whatever Government proposes to give, although, somehow or other, it is always convenient for them not to take the slightest notice that we have claims on our own part, and upon the part of those that we represent. If the Government are unwilling to do full justice to the whole population of the country in respect to this Bill, they do not deserve the support of this side of the House. I believe, however, that there are some Members of the Government who are perfectly willing to do so, but that others are unwilling, and, the two parties not agreeing, the thing is not done. But if the Government is not competent to do that which ought to be done, they ought not to meddle with the question at all; they ought not to fill the position of a Government, but that of an Opposition. A party holding opinions which they cannot carry into effect is much better upon that (the Opposition) side of the House than upon this, because, when they bring measures in under such circumstances they disappoint their friends, they weaken their position, and they damage the question with which they have undertaken to interfere. The noble Lord has undertaken, in the most zealous manner possible, the establishment of perfect religious equality in a country 2,000 miles from England. He is putting Christians upon a par with the Mahomedans in Turkey, and helping by his measures and advice to confiscate Church property, and to bring about a state of things which would be very revolutionary and horrible if broached in this country. I do not ask him to do so much here. I do not ask him 983 to confiscate Church property at all; I do not ask him to put us upon a level with those who belong to the Church of England; but this I do ask him, in deference to his own opinions, to make a stand in favour of some 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 of persons in England and Wales to whom this Bill is a Bill of exclusion, to insist that it should come before the House in a shape that is just towards the whole population, and stand upon the decision of the House upon it. Such a measure, if brought before the House of Commons, would pass by a considerable majority. It would be for the noble Lord to consider, therefore, what he would do if the Bill was rejected in another place; but with respect to us, the House of Commons, representing the people of England, having no special or personal interest, as the majority of us have not, in this great exclusion, it is not right in the noble Lord to propose to us, and, now he has proposed it, it is not right in us to support a measure, which shall continue for ten or twenty years longer an exclusion which I believe is injurious to the Universities, injurious to the Established Church, and insulting in the highest degree to one-half the population in England and Wales. You do not exclude us when you send your tax-gatherers round, or when you ask for the performance of the duties of citizenship; you do not exclude us from the statistical tables of your population, of your industry, of your wealth, or of your renown. You take all your population in and say, "This is a great, an united people, which are called the British people;" and you declare in your speeches and perorations that you are proud to rule over such a nation. But, when you come to the question of education in the institutions which you call national Universities, then you, the House of Commons, and you, the Liberal Conservative, or the Conservative and Liberal Administration—you who occupy the offices from which you ignominiously ejected your predecessors—you, who say there are no men to come after you—you ask us to accept a Bill of this pusillanimous and tinkering character, insulting, as I have already described it, to one-half the population of the country.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, the hon. Member for Manchester, who had just resumed his seat, had put the question before the House upon a false issue. He seemed to consider that the reference of this measure to a Select Committee would have the effect of admitting the Dissenters 984 to the Universities; were such to be the effect, he (Mr. V. Smith) would readily and heartily support the proposition, for he had always advocated the right of Dissenters to be admitted to the Universities; but the proposed reference to a Select Committee would effect no such object. The only result of such a reference would be to throw the Bill itself over for the present Session, and thus materially to damage the cause of education, without at all aiding the just views of the Dissenters with respect to their own particular claims. In the year 1834, he (Mr. V. Smith) voted in favour of Mr. G. W. Wood's Bill for admitting Dissenters, and it was carried, but rejected by the Lords. He had not changed his opinions since, and never should, because he believed that the Universities would never be complete until they were opened to all sects. But he would not, for this reason, vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for North Lancashire (Mr. Heywood); for what could the Dissenters possibly gain by being referred to a Committee up-stairs? It was in the House that their cause must be fought; it was in the House that liberal opinions would prevail; and through the House that Dissenters must secure admission to the Universities. Nothing could be gained by an inquiry before a Committee. For these reasons he should vote against the proposition of the hon. Member. It was highly desirable, no doubt, that the measure itself should be amended—that it should introduce the principle of more lay professorships at our Universities, so as not to leave the education of youth there so entirely in the hands of the clergy, who, however estimable in their personal characters, and however classically learned, were notoriously unfitted, from their own ignorance of the world and of business, for training youth to encounter the struggles of the world in its business paths. Another defect was the enormous expenses which young men belonging to the University were allowed to incur. This was a fruitful source of evil and immorality, which he hoped would be provided against. The next omission was the greatest of all, namely, that it was not proposed to open the Universities to all sects. They were still to be confined to members of the Church of England, and to those who subscribed the Thirty-nine Articles. Although he lamented these defects, he was not prepared to concur with the hon. 985 Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) in his recommendation that they should reject by a side-wind that which they were not prepared openly and manfully to overthrow. He, therefore, asked the House, and particularly the Dissenting body, not to resort to such a subterfuge. To send it to a Select Committee would confer no advantage upon them, whilst it would expose them to the obloquy of wishing to defeat a measure that conferred advantages upon the education of the Church of England, without diminishing any which they possessed, from the selfish principle that they did not approve of it because they were not included in it.
said, he should reluctantly vote for the proposition of the hon. Member for North Lancashire, because he could not undervalue the zeal with which the Government had grappled with this question. But the more he considered the Bill, the more was he convinced that the House was not in a position, at present, to appreciate the probable result of its effects upon the University of Oxford. A Select Committee was far more capable of considering this question. It had been said that a Select Committee was unnecessary, because they already had the Report of the Commissioners before them. He admitted the value of that Report; but he must observe, that the Bill was a direct departure from the Commissioners' recommendations. On every one of the three points stated by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. V. Smith), the Government had departed from the recommendations of the Royal Commissioners. The Report proposed some enactment with regard to the expenses in the University; the Bill did not contain a single line to that effect. The Report proposed, in the interests of the Church of England, to abolish the subscription test; the Bill said nothing upon that subject. The Report proposed to create a large professorial staff; but the Bill contained no provision to that effect. In point of fact, the Bill was founded, not upon the Report of the Royal Commissioners, but upon the Report of the Tutors' Association, and it fairly reflected its inspiration. It was worthy of remark that the body of Oxford tutors, taken in the main, were entirely averse to two points which found favour with the Liberal party in that House. The first was, the encouragement to be given to the modern sciences in comparison with the classics and theology; and the second was, 986 that on which the main interest of the present debate had turned—the admission of Dissenters, and the identification of the Church of England with the University of Oxford, which the Liberal party were determined ultimately to break down. No wonder, therefore, that these Gentlemen should be gratified by the proposal of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had asked what they were to get by going before a Select Committee? He would reply, that a Select Committee was more capable of examining the effects of the intricate clauses of this measure than a Committee of the whole House, and it would introduce provisions satisfactory to the Liberal party. For these reasons he should vote for the proposition of the hon. Member for North Lancashire.
§ MR. W. J. FOX
said, be merely rose to protest against the division on the Amendment being regarded as a division on the question of the right of the entire people of this country to the advantages which might be afforded by the University. He went as far as any one of the hon. Members who had spoken in asserting that those institutions, which were now devoted to the support of a spiritual monopoly, belonged to the entire nation. They were originally meant for the national benefit; and if at one time the nation held but one faith and had but one mode of worship, when it came to have many forms of faith and many modes of worship, Parliament was bound to apply the revenues of the University for the benefit of the people. Various motives appeared to combine those who supported the Amendment. Some hon. Members intended by means of it to throw out the Bill, others to shelve the Bill, others to postpone it indefinitely; some supported it because the Bill was too liberal, others because it was not liberal enough. It did not seem to him a straightforward course to support the Amendment on the question of the admission of Dissenters. Whatever alterations might be desired, there would be ample time for discussing them in Committee. As to the question of the admission of Dissenters, a formal notice had been given, and when it was introduced there would, he trusted, be a fair and honourable conflict. He thought that if these great endowments, which might do so much for the mind of this country, were thrown open at once to persons of all religious creeds, it would be greatly for the advantage of the Univer- 987 sity as a University, and of the Church as a Church. He hoped to see subscription on entrance entirely abolished. He did not regard the question simply as a dissenting question; it affected the moral influence of the whole course of instruction—and if there were not a Dissenter in the country, the subscription ought not to be maintained. If he saw any probability that good would arise from the labours of a Select Committee, he should cheerfully vote for the Amendment; but as he thought nothing but procrastination and confusion was likely to arise from it, he should vote for the original Motion.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I beg to say a few words of explanation with regard to some remarks which I understand have fallen from the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) during my absence from the House. I understood the hon. Member to have stated that I had declared myself opposed to the admission of Dissenters, and likewise that I had recommended Gentlemen to vote against the Motion because the Bill was likely to promote the admission of Dissenters. Sir, I did riot declare myself opposed to the admission of Dissenters, nor, on the other hand, did I recommend Gentlemen to vote for the Bill because it would be likely to lead to the admission of Dissenters. On the contrary, I said, in as plain words as I could use, that I wished to reserve myself entirely as to all declarations of opinion upon that subject till we were in Committee; and I am exceedingly sorry that those words did not find their way to the ears of the hon. Member for Manchester.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 172; Noes 90: Majority 82.
§ MR. HENLEY
then rose to move that the Committee on the Bill should be postponed for a week. He was, he confessed, somewhat taken by surprise by the announcement that it was intended to take the Committee at such an early day. Through the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman opposite he himself had last week received a copy of the amended Bill; but he understood that it was only that morning that the Bill had come into the hands of hon. Gentlemen generally. He found that there were at least fifty alterations in the new Bill. [The SOLICITOR GENERAL dissented.] The hon. and learned 988 Gentleman shook his head at that statement; but still he would maintain that, taking the verbal and important alterations together, they would be found to amount to no less than he had just stated. Indeed, he believed there were not two clauses in the Bill, the wording of which had not been changed. He found also that four clauses were added, and one struck out, so that there were so many material alterations in the Bill, that it was quite unfair to ask the House to go into Committee without an opportunity being afforded of considering it in its altered shape. He was quite sure that the Government would gain time ultimately by consenting to postponement; and as he understood the Railway Bill was to come off on Monday, he hoped they would consent to his very reasonable proposal, and delay the Committee until Friday next.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the right hon. Gentleman did not seem to be perfectly accurate in his observations. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to have counted the amendments which had been made, but he must be aware that the great bulk of them were amendments of expression and arrangement only, and that not one of them in any way touched a vital principle of the Bill. He was entirely at a loss to explain why the Bill was not circulated among the Members until this morning; he could only say that, as far as the Government was concerned, they did not allow themselves to enter on the vacation until the Bill had passed through the press, and it was not until Wednesday that they were enabled to send copies of the amended Bill to such Members as had taken a more than ordinary interest in the question of University reform. Of course, it was for the House to decide whether they should at once go on with the Bill or not; for himself, however, he could not agree to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, and for this reason—that more than one moiety of the Bill, that was to say, very nearly thirty out of fifty clauses, and which occupied all the first portion of it, were clauses relating to the constitution of the University, and one or two other matters in regard to which the Amendments were merely of a verbal character. The first moiety being thus substantially in the same form in which it was printed near some six weeks ago, and the progress of the Committee not being likely to be very rapid, the House, he hoped, would feel 989 disposed to employ its time by entering on the discussion of the clauses which had been already sufficiently before the country; but if they came to any other matter, for the proper discussion of which further consideration was necessary, such portion of the Bill could be postponed. He was afraid that to press the Motion would be a great loss of time, and would serve no useful purpose whatever.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he must express his surprise that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer should hesitate for a moment in acceding to the reasonable request of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Henley). When the Bill was first brought in he had expressed his view of the impossibility of proceeding with it that day on grounds different from those stated by the right hon. Gentleman. A very great number of important changes had been made in it—the omission of some clauses, and the insertion of others. That, however, did not constitute his main reason for supporting the Motion of his right hon. Friend. Those on his (Sir J. Pakington's) side of the House had consented to the second reading of the Bill, on condition that the details should be fully discussed in Committee; but the Bill had been committed only the night before the recess, and now it was fixed for Committee on the day of re-assembling. What power, he would ask, had Gentlemen dispersed all over the country of explanation or consultation on the course to be pursued with respect to it? The Bill had no doubt been sent to a limited number of Gentlemen, of whom he was one, a few days ago; but it was only that morning it was placed in the hands of the Members generally, and on that day's paper he found three pages of Amendments to be moved by his hon. Friend the Member for the University (Sir W. Heath-cote) none of which he had time to consider. There were also other Amendments, some of which were not printed. Under these circumstances he thought it would be impossible to ask the House to proceed with the Bill, and he hoped the noble Lord would consent to its postponement.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he could not see why the Bill should not be proceeded with. The same objection that had been made to taking it on the re-assembling of the House would apply to any other Bill. It amounted to this, that the House was not to be called upon to do any 990 business of importance immediately after the holidays. He was quite ready not to go into the new clauses that night; but he could not relinquish the opportunity of proposing that the Bill should go into Committee for the purpose of reporting progress, and going on with it the next day.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he was not one of those who had been favoured with a copy of the Bill, though he had done all in his power to obtain one. He had come up to London on Saturday, and he had sent on Monday for the purpose of getting a copy, but he had failed; and it was only that morning he had received one with a whole sheet of amendments. If the House was to have an opportunity of considering these Amendments the noble Lord should give them time. To persist in putting the Bill into Committee was virtually to preclude independent Members from discussing its provisions, by preventing them from having an opportunity of understanding its character, and the nature of the Amendments proposed in it.
§ MR. WIGRAM
said, he thought there was a fair case to ask postponement at the hands of the Government. It was understood that the Government intended to alter the Bill, and he could state that several Members had postponed Amendments until they had seen those alterations. It was, therefore, impossible for them to go on; and a postponement even until next day would be an advantage.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he thought the argument of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Wigram) irresistible. It was impossible for hon. Members to make themselves acquainted with this Bill in a few minutes; he believed there was yet a further amended Bill in the Vote Office.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, there was a fallacy in the remark of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), that the argument of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) would always require the first day of their meeting after the recess to be a dies non. What he and his Friend complained of was, not that they should be asked to go into Committee on the first day after the holidays, but that the Bill should have been committed pro formâ on the last day before the holidays. If that step had been taken at such a time as would have afforded them an opportunity of fully considering the amendments which were proposed to be introduced they would not have objected 991 now to the proposal to go into Committee on the first day after the recess, and what they said was that they should not have been placed in the position of not having had an opportunity either of considering the Amendments of the Government or of framing and announcing their own. There was another important consideration which he hoped the noble Lord would bear in mind. By giving them the time asked for for considering the Bill as amended, the noble Lord would lose only one day in conducting the business of the House, because the whole of Monday evening would no doubt be occupied by the Railway Bill. The House would thus gain a week to deliberate on the Amendments to be brought forward, and the Government would only lose a day by giving that advantage to the House. There were four pages of Amendments on the paper before them, and the right hon. Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole) had a variety of other Amendments, which, if carried, would change the whole character and scope of the measure, and which would probably occupy two pages more in the paper to-morrow. The House he was sure would not wish to go into Committee, with an indigestion of Amendments, and he thought the noble Lord would agree, that, especially in Bills of this importance, the public business should be conducted in a manner generally satisfactory to hon. Members.
§ Main Question put,
§ The House divided:—Ayes 160; Noes 101; Majority 59.
§ House in Committee.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, it was very desirable that the Amendments on a Bill so important in its details as this should be put upon the Votes, that Members might know what the character of those Amendments were. No Gentleman could tell the effect of the Bill unless he carefully watched not only the clause, but the intended alterations to be proposed. He had lost no time in sketching out the Amendments which he thought should be proposed, but he had had no opportunity of consulting his Friends upon them. He ventured to ask the noble Lord and the Government, since the advantage of progress had been obtained, to consent to postpone the consideration of the Bill for a few days, that all the alterations might be put upon the paper.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he really could not understand why the right hon. Gentleman could not have consulted his 992 Friends on the various Amendments, not a few days ago, but a few weeks ago, because the Bill, in all its essential propositions, had been six or seven weeks in the hands of Members. He could not consent to postpone it beyond to-morrow evening, and he did not think, if they then went into Committee on the Amendments, they would be going at all too fast. With regard to the loss of time to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had referred, he could assure him it was a matter of very great importance, because other business was fixed for other days which Government intended to bring on. He reckoned, therefore the loss of time from a further postponement at not less than ten days or a fortnight, and he knew that hon. Members would not fail to tell the Government at the end of the Session that they had lost time by postponements—that it was not a valid measure because they had postponed it. He had no doubt he should hear that, just in the same way as he had heard it on similar occasions.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, the noble Lord had certainly, though unintentionally, not given a correct version of the facts. The Bill was read a second time this day three weeks, and it was not usual to frame Amendments before a second reading had shown what the reception of a measure would be. They had lost no time in preparing Amendments, and at that moment he had not seen the Amendments drawn up by the right hon. Member for Midhurst. He hoped the noble Lord would not take a large party by surprise, but consent to a postponement, which fairness required.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he thought in the end they would lose a great deal of time in not having all the Amendments before them, because it was important they should know not only the Amendments proposed by the Government, but what Amendments were to be proposed on the other side. He had prepared some Amendments himself, but during the vacation his Friends were dispersed, and he had been unable until to-day to consult them. Anxious as he was not to delay this measure, he thought the proposal to delay it for one day only was a reasonable proposal.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, he must repeat that he had lost no time in preparing his Amendments, but from the absence of his Friends, he had been unable to submit those Amendments to their consideration.
§ MR. DISRAELI
We should like to have a longer period, but what is so graciously offered is accepted in the same spirit.
§ Committee report progress, to sit again on Monday next.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter after Eleven o'Clock.