HC Deb 06 March 1856 vol 140 cc2015-33

said, he rose pursuant to notice to move an Address to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold Her assent from certain regulations recently sanctioned by the Oxford Commissioners, for the amendment of the Statutes of Exeter, Lincoln, and Corpus Christi Colleges. He fully acknowledged the zeal and ability displayed by the Commissioners and the colleges in the work of remodelling those statutes, but he felt that there was a serious ground of complaint against the new regulations from their want of a wise spirit of comprehensiveness and liberality. Any one who compared the projected alterations sent in to the Government by the college authorities two or three years ago with the code of statutes lately sanctioned by the Commissioners could not fail to detect serious and important discrepancies between the two. For example, many of the fellows of Corpus Christi College were desirous of removing the existing restriction requiring the fellows to take holy orders, that due encouragement might be given to those branches of study which could be advantageously cultivated by laymen. Ample proof of this fact would be found in the correspondence and other papers relating to this subject which had been laid before Parliament. There was no doubt that the fellows of the same college were also favourable to a change which should render a layman as eligible as a clergyman for the office of its President. The Parliamentary Commissioners, however, had thought proper to disregard this liberal disposition on the part of the college, and insisted on limiting the field of selection for the post of President to members of the clerical profession. No doubt that principle of exclusiveness was in strict harmony with the intentions of Bishop Fox, the original founder of the college; and the Royal Commissioners of 1850, in describing that eminent ecclesiastic, had stated, that Bishop Fox, foreseeing the great revolution which was soon to pass over the face of European society, had striven, by anticipation, to preserve inviolate from the impending changes of the Reformation the ancient character of his own institution by fencing it about with a bulwark of minute prohibitory regulations. But the question for that House to consider was, whether, instead of servilely adhering any longer to the narrow and obsolete prejudices of a man who had wished to arrest the progress of Protestantism, it ought not to adapt the college which he founded to the requirements and the enlightened spirit of modern civilisation? Yet in many of the revised statutes the Commissioners discouraged the wise desire of the age to widen the avenues to collegiate preferment, and they entirely ignored the vast advance which had been made in modern education, and more particularly in the living languages, in modern literature, and in the physical sciences. The University, no doubt, professed to hold out a certain amount of encouragement to those new studies; but when it came to the granting of a portion of the existing fellowships to promote their cultivation, there was immediately manifested an obstinate backwardness in the colleges to vote a single farthing. The Legislature ought, therefore, to interpose and insist that a certain number of fellowships should be set apart for this urgent and indispensable object. The elective body in some of the colleges was so small that they could not be safely intrusted with the power of electing new fellows. A bias was apt to be shown towards a particular section of the Church; and excellent men were occasionally passed over and inferior candidates preferred, chiefly on account of the undue predilections of the electors in that respect. The colleges ought to be above all suspicion of such unfairness. In order to enforce strict orthodoxy, the statutes contained many declarations against heresy. In the case of Exeter College, for instance, there was a direct power given to the Bishop of Exeter and the majority of the fellows to expel and deprive of his emoluments any fellow who should, either by word or in writing, contradict the Christian faith as held by the Church of England. Now that intolerant spirit might have very admirably accorded with the ideas of the dark ages, but was diametrically opposed to the latitude in theological discussion generally countenanced in the nineteenth century. It was well known that there had lately sprung up at Oxford a small body of men, of whom Professor Jowett, of Balliol College, was an eminent example, who had liberal theological views, and were styled in that University, "the theologians of the cloister;" and, looking to the present state of the University, it was startling to find reappearing in the revised statutes those antiquated restrictions as to holy orders, celibacy, &c., which had prevailed in such luxurious abundance before the Reformation. By the Oxford University Act of 1854, the test was removed from the commencement and the termination of an undergraduate's career. The scholarships were small endowments of £40 or £50 a year, which were especially intended for undergraduates, who were generally very glad to obtain them. But the new statutes contained a test for scholarships, declaring that no person should be eligible "except members of the Church of England, or of some Church in connection with the Church of England." He believed the latter words referred to the Scottish Episcopalian Church, but it might be contended that the Roman Catholic Church ought also to be included, since a priest who joined the Church of England from the Church of Rome did not need to be again ordained, and the baptism as well as the ordination of the Romish Church was accepted by the Church of England. Both Houses of Parliament had decided that the compulsory religious subscription test for undergraduates should be taken away, and he therefore thought it inconsistent with the intention of Parliament that a test should be demanded for those small endowments in the middle of an undergraduate's career. By the same statutes a similar test was also imposed upon the fellows, which, in his opinion, interfered with the Act of Uniformity. He contended that fellowships ought strictly to be given for merit. The visitor of Exeter College was a bishop, but, considering the delicate state of ecclesiastical matters he thought it better when the statutes should be again revised, that the visitor should be a layman, and that the President of the Council would be a suitable person to act as visitor. He was disappointed that these statutes had not come before the House in a more liberal form, and he would conclude by moving the Address of which he had given notice.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to withhold Her Majesty's approbation from the regulations and ordinances recently sanctioned by the Oxford Commissioners and laid before Parliament, for the amendment of the Statutes of Exeter, Lincoln, and Corpus Christi Colleges, in the University of Oxford, such regulations and ordinances being in many points inconsistent with the spirit of the Oxford University Act of 1854.


Sir, I do not rise to support the Motion of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, nor with an intention of entering into a discussion on the question which he has raised, but for the purpose of moving an Amendment to his Resolution. I may say, Sir, that my object is the converse of that of the hon. Gentleman. Sir, the hon. Gentleman has complained of the manner in which those three statutes to which your attention has been called are drawn. My object is to complain of the omission from those statutes of a matter which I think ought to be included in them. Sir, the omission of which it is my intention to complain involves a question of principle which applies to all those statutes, and will, I apprehend, apply to all statutes relating to other colleges as they successively come before us; and whatever difference may exist in this House with reference to that principle, I think there will be a very general concurrence of opinion, that at all events that principle is of so much importance ns to justify me in availing myself of this opportunity of calling the attention of Parliament to it, and of inviting them to provide that some step may be taken in future regulating statutes with reference to this principle. The omission which I allude to, Sir, as occur- ing in the statutes on the table is, that no reference whatever is made to that ground of preference in the election to scholarships and professorships which hitherto prevailed in all, or certainly in nearly all, the colleges of Oxford—that ground being that the candidates should be so situated in point of pecuniary circumstances as to stand in need of the income derived from the foundation. This principle has been laid down in the ancient statutes of those colleges in different forms; but the principle pervades, I believe all, or nearly all, the statutes relating to the different colleges—that one element of choice in deciding those elections shall be that reference shall be had to the pecuniary position of the parties to be elected. I shall now, Sir, call attention to the manner in which this question is treated by the Act passed two years ago for the reform of this University. I know that some hon. Gentlemen may entertain a doubt as to whether, after the passing of that Act, considering the power which that Act placed first in the hands of the authorities of the colleges, and then in the hands of the Commissioners, it is now competent for this House to express any opinion on the subject; but I think that it the House will allow me to call attention to the words of that Act, all doubts on the question now raised will be at once removed. I would beg, Sir, to call attention to the preamble of the 28th clause of that Act; one which confers on the Commissioners and on the authorities of the colleges power to alter the ancient statutes. The words are— And whereas it is expedient, for the interests of religion and learning, to enable colleges to alter and amend their statutes with respect to eligibility to headships, fellowships, and other college emoluments, and the tenure thereof, and to insure the same being conferred according to personal merits and fitness, and for that purpose to modify or abolish any preference, and to make ordinances for promoting the main designs of the founders and donors. Now, I am quite free to admit that the word "merit" may be taken to refer to intellectual merit, or scholastic attainment, or to moral excellence; but, Sir, I think the House will agree with me, that the word "fitness" is susceptible of a much larger construction. The word "fitness" may be held to embrace fitness in all respects—fitness as well in regard to pecuniary position as to moral or intellectual fitness, and I think it impossible to deny that as respects the main designs of the founders, poverty was one of the elements to be considered in the choice. This is a question, Sir, not only affecting the three colleges the statutes of which are now on the table, but also affecting the whole of the colleges of Oxford. I am sorry, Sir, to say that I believe there is no doubt, that whatever may be the merits of the question, the Commissioners have shown themselves unfavourable to the views which I have taken. The Commissioners in the new statutes have decided that this deficiency of personal means, which is alluded to so strongly in the ancient statutes, is not to be considered as an element, of choice, and have directed that the preference shall be given to those candidates in whom shall be found the highest moral and intellectual qualification. I will only trouble the House with reference to the case of Exeter College, as the strongest of the three with reference to which statutes are now upon the table. I must request the House to listen to merely a few words; first, with regard to the old statutes of Exeter College on the election of a fellow; and then with reference to the statutes which have now been promulgated. The ancient statute stood thus in Latin—"Illos nominabunt quos. crediderint ad proficiendum aptiores, in moribus honestiores, et in facultatibus pauperiores, vel saltem illos in quos istæ tres conditiones magis convenient." Now, the plain adoption of that statute, if translated into English, would be—"They shall nominate those whom they believe to be most likely to make proficiency, of best character, and most needy, or, at least, those who on the whole satisfy these three conditions most." Those conditions referred to the qualification of candidates; but they were followed by the oath taken by a probationer fellow, which was—"I swear that I have no certain annual income exceeding ten marks of English money." Then came the oath which was taken by the fellow on his final admission —"I will nominate those whom I believe to be most likely to make proficiency, of best character, and most needy, or at least those who on the whole satisfy these three conditions most." But what is the qualification under the new statute?— The fellowships shall be open to general competition, and no preference shall be given in respect of place of birth or education. All persons, not being disqualified by the possession of property as hereinafter mentioned, who are members of the Church of England, or of some Church in communion with it, and who shall have passed all the examinations required by the University for the degree of Bachelor of Arts, or shall have been admitted ad eundem gradum of this University, or have become in any way members of Convocation, and who shall produce satisfactory testimonials of their moral character, shall be eligible. Preference shall be given to those candidates in whom shall be found the highest moral and intellectual qualifications, such intellectual qualifications having been tested by an examination in such subjects as the college from time to time shall determine. Those new Exeter statutes not only ignore the former qualifications, but require every future fellow by the oath he takes to disregard those qualifications altogether, and attend to others. True, under the head "disqualifications," the new statutes do go on to propose a pecuniary limit to the property of a fellow—namely, that after the election the fellow shall not continue to hold the fellowship, if he shall possess more than a given annual amount of property. But what is the amount of annual property which disqualifies a man from retaining a fellowship? Why, Sir, no less than £500 a year. Now, Sir, let me put to those who have any connection with this question this case. Here are, under this new statute, two competing candidates coming before the fellows of the College, one of whom possesses something near £500 a year, while the other is in a position that would make a fellowship a matter of the last importance to him in a pecuniary point. Those two candidates may he nearly balanced in mental power and scholastic attainments; but the fellows will be bound by oath, if there be the slightest superiority on the part of the rich man, to give him the preference, to elect him to the fellowship to the exclusion of the poor man, the difference between the two candidates in regard to their attainments being as small as possible, but the difference in their worldly means being very wide and very material. I certainly think, Sir, that those who have framed that oath have not attended to the intention of the founder, who laid down in his preamble the deficiency of pecuniary means as being one of the elements of choice. I am quite aware, Sir, of the reason given for the non-retention of those clauses in ancient statutes on the ground of the difficulty of construction; but, Sir, whatever difference of opinion may exist on this subject, I hope the House will not refuse its assent to this proposition—that this is a matter of principle, and of very great interest to those concerned, and one in respect of which it is fair and right to call on Parliament to pronounce an opinion. I do trust, Sir, that the House will think it fair and right that they should be called on to decide on this matter, no matter what may be the decision at which they shall arrive. Let the House remember that this is a matter directly affecting the interests of the middle classes. In a pamphlet written by a gentleman in Oxford, an illustration is given of the hardship which may be done to a poor man, who may not have had the advantage of preliminary education in a public school, and who in college is limited to the instruction to be derived from lectures and his own private study, but who has to compete with a student who has had all the advantages of superior instruction previous to entering college; and who while there is prepared for his examination by a private tutor. Let the question be considered, and it bore on college tuition, who were the most likely to take the post of tutor—those who were in easy circumstances, or those who were not so? Let the House take care how they adopt a course that might prejudice this important question of tuition. One of the objects of requiring high attainments in a college fellow is to obtain good college tuition. Now, the rich man may be as competent, but he is far loss likely to devote himself to college tuition than the man who is in less prosperous circumstances. I think it most unwise and impolitic to draw a rule by statute, the tendency of which is to confer benefit on the wealthy to the injury of the poorer classes. I desire on this occasion to raise the question only in order to place on record my opinions upon it, pressing it upon the Government, and through them upon the Commissioners. I shall with that view merely move a formal Amendment; but, if necessary, I shall, on a future occasion take a more decisive course.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the words "approbation from," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words— so much of the regulations and ordinances recently sanctioned by the Oxford Commissioners, and laid before Parliament, for the amendment of the Statutes of Exeter, Lincoln, and Corpus Christi Colleges, in the University of Oxford, as relates to the qualification of Candidates for Fellowships and Scholarships,"—instead thereof.

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


said, that as these were the first statutes made under the powers conferred by the Oxford Uni- versity Act it was of great importance, on the one hand, that the Crown should not be advised to confirm them without due deliberation, and that, on the other, the House should not unadvisedly interpose its authority to restrain the Crown from giving them its sanction. He did not understand that the right hon. Baronet desired to do more than to elicit the opinion of the Government and express his own on the point to which he had adverted. He thought that the hon. Member for North Lancashire, in some of his objections, had overlooked the limited power of the colleges and Commissioners in respect to framing new statutes. The power was conferred by the 28th section of the Act, which empowered the colleges to alter and amend their statutes with respect to eligibility to headships, fellowships, and other emoluments, to ensure the same being conferred according to personal merits and fitness, and for that purpose to modify or abolish any preferences, and make ordinances for promoting the main designs of the founders or donors. The colleges were enabled to make statutes within a limited period with this object. Three of the colleges—Exeter, Corpus, and Lincoln—had exercised these powers within the proper time. The Act provided that the new statutes should be submitted to the Commissioners to be confirmed or rejected or sent for revision; and the Commissioners had confirmed the statutes in question. Statutes so read were to be submitted to Her Majesty in Council and gazetted within a limited time after they were passed, and then laid before Parliament. Power was given to parties interested to petition Her Majesty in Council against any statutes, and the petition was to be referred to the Queen in Council. There had been a petition presented against certain of the Exeter College statutes, which had been referred to the Privy Council to consider, and it was impossible, until that petition had been heard that the Queen could confirm these statutes. Assuming that there was no valid objection upon the petition, then, unless there was an Address from one of the two Houses of Parliament within forty days praying the Crown to withhold its assent, it would be lawful for the Crown to give its assent to the statutes. The House was now asked to present an Address to the Crown to withhold its assent from all these statutes. The Act of Parliament expressly provided that, as part of them only might be objectionable, they might be confirmed in part; and assuming all the objections urged by the hon. Member to be valid, was it reasonable to call on the House to address the Crown to withhold its assent from the whole of these statutes? The right hon. Baronet opposite had taken a different course, and had indicated one point upon which he thought a valid objection might be urged to the Exeter College statutes, and which ought to prevent the Crown from assenting to those parts of the statutes to which he objected. The course which the Government had taken was this. The statutes were referred by the Government to the law officers of the Crown for their opinion, whether, assuming no petition to have been presented against them, there was anything in the statutes which should prevent the Crown being advised to give its assent to them. In the consideration of this question by the Attorney and Solicitor General, grave doubts had suggested themselves as to certain portions of the statutes, and the points in which these doubts arose required careful consideration. The old statutes necessarily had to be compared with the new, to see what were the alterations which had been made, and what their effect might be; because without such a comparison it might be difficult to ascertain distinctly whether, for instance, the qualifications required for fellows were any new restrictions, or were not rather relaxations of old restrictions. These points it would be hardly competent for the House to decide in this discussion, nor could the Government decide them without more careful and complete consideration than they had yet been able to give to them. The Government had, therefore, thought it would be right to advise the Crown to refer the statutes to the Privy Council, that they might be considered by persons competent to form a correct decision—assisted, according to usage in such cases, by the law officers of the Crown, as assessors. The Privy Council would be able to ascertain from the colleges and the Commissioners the grounds upon which the alterations had been made, and to determine whether they ought to be confirmed. It would also be possible to consider any substantial objections urged from any quarter. By this means a full investigation would be secured in the most satisfactory manner. Under those circumstances he would abstain from going into the topics alluded to by the hon. Gentleman, the validity of whose objections to the new statutes depended in great measure on their comparison with the old ones. The Commissioners had not made these statutes, but only confirmed them, and it was a very different thing, to confirm statutes which the colleges had the power of making, and to make them originally. There had been some statutes made by the Commissioners in the case of other colleges, which were short and simple, directed to the object prescribed by Act of Parliament—the removal of preferences, and ensuring of the personal fitness and merits of the candidates. He did not apprehend that any questions had arisen upon these, but if there should be any, they would also be equally considered.


asked if he rightly understood that the Privy Council would consider the point he had presented?


said, certainly; and he thought it was a point which well deserved consideration. The Privy Council would, indeed, consider any objection which was primâ facie worthy of attention, or with respect to which any reasonable doubt could be raised. And there would be ample opportunity afforded to the colleges and the Commissioners to lay before the Privy Council the grounds upon which they defended these statutes.


said, that after the statement of the right hon. Baronet he should not enter into the argument further than to say that he was glad that it would be raised properly before a tribunal competent to deal with it and able to hear all parties concerned. He must say, however, that he thought that no grounds whatever had been made for the Motion. The objections taken by the hon. Mover went to the whole principle of the Act of 1854, and had been discussed and decided upon when it passed—being disposed of by referring the matters to the colleges themselves in the first place (assisted by the Commissioners), and then to the Commissioners. And if the House were prepared to overthrow collegiate statutes upon such grounds as those urged by the hon. Member for Lancashire—namely, the peculiar ideas he entertained of University reform—they must be prepared to enter into debates upon every statute passed by every one of the twenty-four colleges of Oxford. The hon. Member had raised no question fit for consideration by the Crown, except that of legality, which had been referred to the Privy Council by the Go- vernment. The hon. Member complained of the phrase, "Churches in communion with the Church of England," as being calculated to admit Roman Catholics. Whatever might be the obscurity or difficulty of that phrase, it clearly was not open to this construction, because it was well known that the Roman Catholics did not allow that we were in communion with them. The intention, no doubt, was to admit members of the Protestant Episcopal Churches of Scotland, and the Colonies and of the United States of America. These matters which, by the Act of 1854, had been left to the discretion of the colleges and the Commissioners; and the power reserved to the Houses of Parliament of addressing the Crown against any statutes ought to be reserved for rare and extreme cases—where the reforms were merely illusory or where important principles were disregarded. Most certainly no case of that kind had been made out by the hon. Member. But the question raised by his right hon. Friend (Sir J. Pakington) as to the laying down of a principle by which all reference to poverty should be systematically and universally excluded from elections, appeared to him to be one of great importance. No doubt the change of the fellows from being merely eleemosynary recipients of education, to being the educating body of the University, made it impossible to insist upon poverty as an absolute condition; but it did not follow that the circumstances of the candidate might not form an element in consideration. The rule of the old statutes of Exeter College which prescribed a threefold view, moral, intellectual, and economical, of the candidates, in respect of their conduct, acquirements, and circumstances, was not inapplicable to the present position of the colleges, and it was, in his opinion, unwise to prohibit it altogether, even in the case of fellows. In the case of the younger members of the University, it would hardly admit of a doubt that there ought to be a consideration of poverty, and that, if some or all scholarships were retained as mere prizes, exhibitions ought to be multiplied, with a distinct view to the maintenance of poor men. But even in the case of fellowships, the example of Oriel College, which had been distinguished longer than any other for its habit of electing by competition the most eminent men, but in which the consideration of poverty had always had some weight, was enough to show that its exclusion was not necessary to the attainment of complete success. On this part of the case, then, and with a view to future proceedings, rather than to any disallowance of the statutes already on the table of the House, he thought it well that there should be a reconsideration by the Commissioners of their resistance to the claims of poverty; hut as to the complaint made by the hon. Member for North Lancashire, he did not think that there was any case for address to the Crown, or for discussion in that House.


said, he trusted that his hon. Friend the Member for North Lancashire (Mr. Heywood) would accede to the course proposed by the Home Secretary; for one of the main objects of the course adopted two Sessions ago of placing the details of legislation on these statutes under the control of the Commissioners, was to render it unnecessary for the House to go, as it were, into Committee upon the several statutes. He would not enter in detail into the numerous points which had been raised; but the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich had introduced a question on which he was entitled to some explanation, and he would, therefore, state the views of the colleges and the Commissioners in framing the statutes as they now stood. The third section of the Exeter statute set forth that fellowships should be open to general competition, and that no preference should be given in respect to birth or education. It proceeded to state that preference should be given to those candidates in whom should be found the highest moral and intellectual qualifications, such intellectual qualifications having been tested by an examination on such subjects as the college should from time to time determine. That, as it appeared to him, pointed to the fairest manner in which a limited number of candidates could have their comparative claims determined in an election to a fellowship. But the right hon. Baronet complained of the omission of the qualification of poverty or indigence. Now, supposing in any election a college were to attempt to introduce the question of poverty, in what way could that element be taken into consideration in an examination? Suppose there were two candidates—one of remarkable moral and intellectual qualifications, and with an income of £400 a year, the other vastly inferior to him in moral and intellectual qualifications, but with an income of £200. How were the examiners to make a compound ratio of moral and intellectual qualifications with income? At the time that it was the policy of the colleges to encourage pauperes Indigentes scholars, it was natural that they should give a preference to persons of limited income; but when candidates were submitted to the test of an examination conducted in the manner in which University examinations were now conducted, it seem ed extremely difficult, to say the least, to form a compound ratio of pecuniary means with moral and intellectual qualifications. Having omitted poverty as a qualification, the only course which the colleges could adopt was that set forth in the Exeter Statutes, which stated, under the head of "disqualifications," that, if any fellow should become possessed of a permanent income of £500 a year, or of an ecclesiastical benefice yielding an annual income of £200, then he should, ipso facto, vacate his fellowship. That was a certain test as to which there could be no doubt, provided that persons made a correct statement of their incomes. Questions might be raised as to the amount which ought to infer disqualification; but, surely, that was a point which the House could not now discuss. It might be said that the limit of £500 a year was too high; but the House should consider what was the value of the fellowships which they called upon the fellow to forfeit. Some of the fellowships were worth £500 a year, and a man ought not to be called upon to give it up for a less income. It seemed to him that the college had acted wisely in getting rid of the vague qualification of poverty and indigence, and that they adopted the best course by taking a pecuniary limit which should disqualify a person from retaining a fellowship.


thought the course adopted was an unsatisfactory mode of dealing with the matter, so far as justice was concerned; though he readily admitted it was an easy way of getting rid of a thing which it was desired to be rid of. He should have been rather disposed to have left the subject in the position recommended by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to lay down a proposition which, if carried out, might certainly work a great change in the si- of those persons who were not so well off in the world as their neighbours, and shut a vast number of them out from participating in the advantages of these institutions; which, he contended, was not exactly fair, nor in accordance with the wishes of the founders. It was the business of the Commissioners to find means to adapt the system of examination to the old rules. He thought it would have been more satisfactory if it had been made a point that the matters upon which a stress was laid down by the founders should have just weight in the decision. The manner in which the Commissioners proposed to dispossess parties of that which in justice ought never to have been given to them, was not a bit more satisfactory. £500 was the very highest value of a fellowship, and the Commissioners, in adopting that as the income which should disqualify, had placed the scale too high. The course proposed by the Government he thought a very fair one, as the parties would have an opportunity of being heard. He trusted, therefore, that there would be no division.


thought it a great advantage to be able to adopt the suggestion of the Secretary of State for the Home Department to leave the decision of this matter to the Privy Council; but the House had nevertheless somewhat departed from what would have been the best course in discussing the matter of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich, and it ought not to go forth to the colleges, even by implication, that the House did not approve of the labours of the Commissioners, who had been occupied in carrying out an Act of Parliament which had been passed only two years ago. It was, no doubt, open to any hon. Member to contend that the authorities of the colleges had not adhered to the spirit and intentions of the founders; but, at any rate, they had clearly followed out the spirit and intention of the Act of Parliament. The Commissioners, he thought, had dealt in the best manner with the statutes of Exeter College in the distribution of the endowments; for, in the case of the lower order of emoluments, they had followed the intention of the statutes, which was to afford assistance to members of the college, while, as regarded the governing powers, they had almost followed the words of the Act, in declaring that they should be awarded on the ground of the highest moral and intellectual qua- lifications. He deprecated any question in that House of the first proceedings under the Act, and thought that the matter should be left to the decision of the Privy Council.


said, that admitting that the Government had taken the best course in referring this question to the Committee of Privy Council, still he thought it would be highly proper that the Committee should be in possession of the opinion of the House on those points to which their attention was to be more particularly directed. By throwing open the fellowships of Oxford, a body of teachers would, no doubt, be provided zealous in the cause of education, and chosen from the whole area of England, for their fitness only. But while readily acknowledging that they owed a great debt of gratitude to the colleges and Commissioners, who had produced these statutes, for the many improvements they had made at Oxford, he thought some parties had great reason to complain—he meant the Dissenters and the lay members of the Church of England—especially the Members of the Church. These statutes were likely to be the model on which the statutes of the other colleges would probably be formed. By them no Dissenter could be admitted to a fellowship in cither of the three colleges referred to; and in the case of one of them—namely, Exeter—he would not be admitted to a scholarship. He would have desired such an agreement as that of common worship. In the case of Exeter, the Dissenters had great reason to complain that the test of Church membership was to be applied as regarded fellowships and scholarships. The laymen of the Church of England, he thought, had still more reason to complain, because the Commissioners had recommended that there should be a large portion of the lay element in the government of those institutions; but by these statutes they would still retain their ecclesiastical character. It was necessary that the head of the college should be a priest of the Church of England, and the fellows were bound to resign unless they took orders within a certain period. The fellows were formerly on a different footing to what they were at present. They were then the instructed, instead of the instructors; so that it seemed that the scholars at present were in the position formerly occupied by the fellows.


said, he did not think that the observations of the hon. Member should be allowed to pass unnoticed. The hon. Gentleman seemed to forget that the questions he had raised had been already settled by the House. It would be in the recollection of the House that when the Act for the reform of the University of Oxford removed the test of an oath in respect to matriculation and the taking of a degree, the House purposely refrained from at all interfering with the course which each of the colleges might pursue in its own management. The hon. Gentleman seemed to forget even the directions which Parliament had given to those bodies for the framing of their own statutes. Formerly the fellows of Exeter were required to take degrees in divinity. Did not that imply the test of Church membership? And now that ten of the fellowships were turned into scholarships, a portion of that qualification still attached to them. In conclusion, he must say that he cordially approved of the course which the Government had taken upon the matter. It was extremely important that Parliament should exercise the right which it had retained to itself to question any statutes which might appear to be made in evasion of the recent Act of the Legislature; but it would be very inexpedient that they should interfere with those statutes except in such cases as he had referred to.


inferred that the Privy Council would sit as judges in this matter, and they would, therefore, take no cognisance whatever of what passed in the course of that debate.


Apprehended the reference of the Government to the Committee would not be a reference under the Act of Parliament, and the functions of the Committee, therefore, were not strictly judicial functions. He wished to know if there was to be a certain number of members of the Privy Council on the Committee, as directed by the Act of Parliament.


said, that he could not say anything on the subject of inquiry into the statutes, as the Home Secretary was not in the House. He could not, however, concur with the hon. and learned Member, who said the Privy Council would have no knowledge of what were the opinions of that House.—["Order!"]


, in reply, said, he would most readily acquiesce in what appeared to be the generally expressed feeling of the House.


said, that he thought that indistinct and erroneous views were entertained as to what was the duty of the Government as regarded the subject under the consideration of the House. Parliament had spent nearly the whole of the legislative time of one Session in the consideration of the Oxford University Bill; and then, although it had dealt with many parts of the question, some points affecting the University had been left untouched, while the numerous questions affecting the colleges had not been dealt with; but at the same time enabling clauses were passed, framed in such a manner as to show that Parliament was willing to place confidence in the colleges themselves, for they invited these colleges to legislate for themselves, and to bring before the Commissioners any plan which they might adopt; and in case they did not do so in a satisfactory manner, they authorised the Commissioners to perform that function themselves. Those Commissioners were appointed by Parliament, and therefore the Legislature was to a certain extent responsible for them. It was clear, therefore, that the intent of Parliament was to leave the settlement of questions of detail to the colleges and the Commissioners, and that there should be no subsequent interference of Parliament unless there was a clear departure by them from the spirit of the Act. The function lodged in the Queen in Council was similar to that which Parliament had reserved to itself; but there was one duty which clearly lodged with the Council—namely, that of considering the legality of these statutes. A great deal of stress had been laid upon the Report of the Oxford University Commission, and, although he did not wish to detract from the labours of that Commission, still he felt bound to say that their Report should not be considered to be a certain guide to that House, because Parliament had already legislated in a manner in some respects contrary to the recommendations of the Commissioners. As regarded Exeter College, he believed that the authorities of that college had acted in perfect good faith, and he should be sorry if any one considered that they had acted in an illiberal spirit. It had been said that in that college new tests had been introduced as regarded undergraduate endowments. Now, what were the facts of the case? The authorities of the college found themselves invited to convert some of their fellowships into scholarships, and at the same time they were bound, as far as possible, to respect the intention of the founders. Now, it appeared that originally the "scholars" were students in theology, and when the emoluments of that position were transferred to undergraduates, it surely was no great hardship—due regard being had to the intention of the founder—to insist upon the test of belonging to the Church of England. With regard to the exhibitions, they were open to all persons without regard to religious persuasion. As to the question of indigence, he did not hesitate to say that the colleges would not have been acting in strict conformity with the intention of Parliament if they had laid down that indigence was a qualification necessary for obtaining a scholarship or fellowship. One thing to be considered was whether the scholares of old times corresponded rather with the scholars or with the fellows of the present day. In the old time students became fellows at a very early age, and then they arrived at the bachelor degree, and from that proceeded to the higher degrees. The fellows and rector then, were nothing more than a self-governing society; but they had now become the teaching and governing body of the colleges and of the University; and he believed, if the venerable founders could be resuscitated, that they would regard with horror the idea that those who were to teach and govern should be qualified, among other things, by indigence.

Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

The House adjourned at half after One o'clock.