HC Deb 18 July 1856 vol 143 cc1042-5

Order of the Day for considering the Lords' Amendments to this Bill, read


said, he proposed to move that the House should agree to the whole of the Amendments. The first four Amendments had reference to various provisions in the Bill respecting the constitution of the electoral body of the University, the powers of the Commissioners, and the right of voting in the University. Those Amendments were comparatively unimportant, and the only important Amendment was one in the 44th clause, which really consisted in the restoration of the words of the clause as it stood when the Bill was originally introduced by him into that House. The clause originally proposed to give to persons who were not Members of the Church of England, and who had hitherto been excluded from taking degrees, the right of taking degrees and all consequent privileges, with the exception of votes in the Senate of the University. The hon. Member for North Lancashire (Mr. Hey wood) proposed an Amendment, which was adopted, and which conferred upon persons who were not members of the Church of England, not merely the right of taking degrees, but of voting in the Senate, and so enjoying a share in the government of the University. The other House by a very large majority, exceeding two to one, had struck out that Amendment, or rather had restored the clause to the form in which it originally stood. He did not think there was any reasonable probability that the House of Lords would agree to any modification of the clause, and he would therefore propose that the House should agree to the Lords' Amendment, which, he believed, was the most that could be got. He must say, looking to the feeling which had often been exhibited on this subject in the other House, that he thought the Lords had made great concessions of opinion in agreeing to the clause as it at present stood, and he hoped that House would be disposed to meet them in the same spirit. On those grounds he should, therefore, move, that the House do agree to the Lords' Amendments.


said, he had an Amendment to propose, the object of which was to meet certain objections made against the clause as it stood originally. His Amendment was to give Dissenters, and other persons not members of the Church of England, the same powers as were possessed by members of the Church of England; and the main point was with regard to the public interests of the body, to open the Senate to them all. While his object was to give to Dissenters the right of admission to the Senate, he was quite willing that when the subject of theology was brought forward, only those persons should take a part in the proceedings who declared themselves members of the Church of England. He regretted the course which the Lords had taken on the Bill, as the ameliorations he asked for were in entire accordance with our national policy. The unsuccessful working of the Oxford University Act afforded one very strong reason why they should not in the present instance agree to the Lords' Amendments. It was supposed, when that Bill was passed, that the University would adopt a more modern and liberal system than before; but, so far from that, bigotry and intolerance had swelled at Oxford to a degree far higher than they had ever done in the days of the old oligarchy. The same ecclesiastical spirit reigned in Cambridge, and they might consequently expect the same results. The constituent body in Cambridge did not exceed 200 gentlemen, of whom 150 were clergymen of the Church of England, and even of the fifty remaining probably one-half intended to take holy-orders, so that not more than twenty of the number could be regarded as laymen. With such a constituent body they could have no difficulty in guessing what would be the system of government in the University. He therefore contended that it was humiliating to Dissenters to allow them to take degrees without sharing in the rights and privileges which those degrees ought to impart. No harm could accrue either to the Church or the State by the admission of Dissenters to the Senate, especially when he provided that they should take no part in theological examinations. Dissenters would be allowed to take the degree of B.A. or M.A., but with regard to any power, or emolument, or office, they would all be closed against them. He (Mr. Hey-wood), by his Amendment, wished to make the Bill one of religious liberty; whereas, as it stood, it was only one of toleration. There was, however, a much larger question for consideration, namely, the system of education pursued in the University, and he believed the introduction, of new blood would be a great improvement. He would conclude by moving the Amendment upon the Lords' Amendments, of which he had given notice—namely, after the words "entitle him to," to leave out "be or to become a member of the Senate," and insert, "take any part in those proceedings of the Senate which direct the course of study, and determine the books prescribed for the examinations in Church of England theology."


said, there was one practice in the University of Cambridge which he thought they might imitate with advantage on the present occasion, as well as on many others—namely, not to deliberate, but merely to vote. The hon. Member for North Lancashire did not now propose to give Dissenters votes for all purposes; but, being pressed with the difficulty of allowing them to take a share in directing the theological studies of the University, he wished to make them piebald members of the Senate, having votes for one purpose but none for another. Now, of the three proposals which had been made, that was decidedly the worst; and, believing that three-quarters of a loaf was better than no bread, he hoped the House would agree to the Lords' Amendments.


said, he thought the proposal of the hon. Member for North Lancashire was a fair compromise, and not open to very serious objection.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the said Amendment."

The House divided:—Ayes 92; Noes 71: Majority 21.

Question put, "That the House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The House divided:—Ayes 90; Noes 73: Majority 17.

Subsequent Amendments agreed to.