HC Deb 26 July 1858 vol 151 cc2128-37

Order for Consideration read.


said, that it was an unpleasant thing to be obliged to trouble the House again upon a subject which they had already so amply discussed, and which, being connected with a Scotch matter, was not likely to command any strong interest; though possibly, as the question now raised involved a general principle, it might prove an exception. But if the task were irksome to the House, how much more so must it be to himself? Being under impression that, so far as the Government were concerned, no alteration would be made in the Bill in the House of Lords, he had gone down to Scotland with his mind perfectly at rest on the subject, when, to his surprise, he found not only that alterations had been made in this clause, the Government having opposed in this House, they were equally entitled to oppose in the House of Lords, but that Clauses and Amendments—which had been accepted by their own Lord Advocate, and agreed to unanimously by this House, bad been rejected by the House of Lords upon the Motion of the noble Duke who had conducted the Bill through that House on the part of the Government. Now, with regard to these Clauses and Amendments—not the particular clause before the House—he thought that the Government having accepted them, and hon. Members having gone to Scotland relying on the good faith of the Government, it was not a proceeding that was calculated to ensure the confidence which was essential to carrying out the business of the House for the Government afterwards to consent to their omission. Reverting, however, to Clause 3, that clause, as it left this House, was as follows:— The Principals in the Universities of Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh, appointed in time to come, shall not, as such, be or be deemed Professors of Divinity; nor shall it be a valid objection to any person appointed to the office of, Principal in any of the said Universities that he is a layman; and no such office of Principal therein shall fall under or be included in the terms 'Chair of Theology' as used in an Act passed in the sixteenth and seventeenth years of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria (chapter eighty-nine), intituled 'An Act to regulate Admission to the Lay Chairs in the Universities of Scotland.' The effect of this clause was that the Principals of the three Universities of Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh, should not be required to sign a religions test, as holding the creed and profession of the Church of Scotland, and as Members of that Church; and what he now proposed was, that the House should disagree to the Lords' Amendments to that clause, and restore it to its original position in the Bill. In England the Universities were so essentially ecclesiastical, that English Members were apt to be carried away with the idea that the Scottish Universities were of the same character; but the Commissioners who were appointed under a Conservative Government, in 1826, who were men of very high standing, the most of them being Judges, noblemen, and persons held in great estimation, and whose tendencies and feelings were certainly not opposed to the Established Church, stated that the Scottish Universities were not then of an ecclesiastical character, or, in the ordinary sense and acceptation of the term, ecclesiastical corporations. It was true that the Scotch Universities were entitled to send a member to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which at first sight might appear to be the exercise of a function which was of an ecclesiastical character, but when he stated that that was a privilege enjoyed by the Town Council of any Royal Burgh in Scotland which had nothing ecclesiastical in its constitution, the House would at once see that that did not support the theory of the Scottish Universities being ecclesiastical institutions. The Commissioners also stated that the Universities of Scotland were not more connected with the Church of Scotland than any other profession; that they were intended for the general education of the people, and, in truth, possessed scarcely any ecclesiastical feature, except that they had a certain number of professors for the purpose of teaching theology in the same manner that the other sciences were taught. That being the character of the Universities in the year 1853, an Act was passed which relieved all the Professors of Divinity from taking the religious test which bound them to be members of the Church of Scotland, with the exception of the Principals of St. Leonard's, St. Andrew's, and Marischal Colleges, Aberdeen, but he presumed that it was never intended to bind the House for all time to come to maintain these Principalships as Chairs of Theology, provided circumstances rendered it right and proper to place them in a different position. He would now show the House why they should not be considered as Chairs of Theology. None of the Principals of the Scotish Universities had taught theology for two centuries, save in one single instance, in which it had been taught up to within a century and a half. They were nominal heads of Colleges. To be the Principal of Edinburgh, for instance, he was not required to be a clergyman; he was not a Professor of Theology at all. He held in his hand a Report of the College Committee of the Town Council of Edinburgh in 1847, when no question of test had arisen with regard to their powers in appointing laymen to the Principalship of the College of Edinburgh. The history of it was this, that in 1585 a gentleman was appointed as Principal of the College to teach philosophy, but not to teach theology, the appointment to which chair was an extra one; but in 1587, after giving a course of philosophy for two years, the Town Council gave him the additional appointment of lecturer on theology and an increase of salary. That continued until the year 1620, when they appointed a Professor of Theology and a Principal, who was Professor of Divinity, and this had been the practice ever since, the Principal having no charge in matters of theology and the Professor of Theology being the teacher of divinity. This was proved by the fact that in 1702 the Crown appointed an additional Professor of Theology, who, if the Principal were Primarius Professor of Divinity, would have been a third Professor of Theology. Again, at Aberdeen there were two Colleges,—that of Marischal College and King's College. In King's College, originally, the Principal was appointed to teach theology, but he had never done so until lately, when the present Principal was made Professor of Divinity. By this Bill King's College and Marischal College were to be united, and there would be only one Principal. The result would be that the Principal of the united College would be included in the term "Chair of Theology," as used in the Act of 1853, although by that Act, Marischal College and St. Leonards alone were included, and the Principals of all other Colleges, embracing King's College, were excluded. Then with regard to the Principal of the University of Glasgow, he (Mr. Dunlop) admitted that he was originally a Professor of Theology; but the Commissioners stated in their Report that, from the begining of the eighteenth century until now, he had not taught theology; but was merely the nominal head of the College, and not a Professor of Divinity at all. He submitted that the office of Principal ought to be open to men of eminence in any faculty, whether it were divinity, philosophy, medicine, or art. It was a high honour and dignity, and the more eminent the man the better was he entitled to the seat. When distinguished foreigners came into the country, they naturally communicated with the heads of colleges; and when they did so, they ought to find them the most eminent men the country can produce. Whilst, then, he would not exclude Professors of Theology from the office of Principal, he would throw it open and not keep it exclusively for Professors connected with the Church of Scotland. In conclusion he should therefore move that the Amendment of the Lords be disagreed to.


seconded the Motion.


said, the hon. Member for Greenock complained of having been put to the inconvenience of coming up from Scotland to oppose the Amendments made in the Bill by the House of Lords. Other hon. Members likewise, besides the hon. Member for Greenock, had been put to that inconvenience; but they had come up to support the Amendments of the House of Lords. The House, he was sure, would like to know what was the opinion of the high authorities who had already inquired into this matter, and the Commissioners who were appointed in the year 1826, who had inquired into the whole subject, and upon whose recommendation this Bill was founded, so far from thinking that the Principals of Colleges should not be attached to the Church of Scotland, strongly advised that they should be attached to that Church, and stated that it would be an evil if they were not. Previous to the year 1853, the Professors in the Universities of Scotland had been obliged to take the test of the Church of Scotland; but in that year an Act was passed setting free all the Chairs, except the Theological Chairs, from the necessity of taking that test. But the Principalship of the Universities bad been always held to be a Theological Chair, and the matter had been so decided after having been debated in the Law Courts of Scotland. He was sorry that the hon. Member should raise this question now; for, in the Bill as it now stood, there was not a single question of a theological nature mooted; and the hon. Member for Greenock, who was himself one of the Commissioners under the Bill, would be able, if he could get his brother Commissioners to agree with him, to lay down the rules as to the way in which these very gentlemen should teach the different branches of divinity. It was true the hon. Gentleman had brought the matter before the House when the Bill was under discussion, and had carried his clause by a majority of 58; but there was no opportunity afforded for debating it. The rights hen, Gentleman (the Lord Advocate) whose loss to this House they all so much regretted, spoke in reply; but it was not expected that there would be any debate, and hon. Members for Scotland were not prepared to speak. No opportunity was afforded for bringing forward any opposition to this. clause till the Bill reached the House of Lords, and then the clause was struck out. He thought it would be most unadvisable that the House should lay down any absolute rule upon this matter without having, full information on the subject. It would be much better to leave in the hands of the Commissioners, of whom the hon. Member for Greenock was one, to settle what should be the duties of the Principals, rather than to lay down any absolute law upon the subject. If the House should determine to replace the clause, it would be considered by the Church of Scotland, by whom the Principalship was looked upon as a theological office, as a blow aimed at her. It was agreed on all hands that the Bill was a most important one, and it would be a thousand pities if it were lost by a difference with the Lords on a subject with which the Bill in its original state, did not profess to deal. He hoped, therefore, that the House would agree to the Amendment of the Lords.


said, the Principals of Colleges were not Professors of Theology, or of any other science. They were the superintendents and heads of their respective colleges, and English Members would surely think it very absurd if it were made imperative that a clergyman of the Church of Scotland should superintend the teaching not only of divinity, but of Greek and Latin, of chemistry and mathematics, and even of midwifery. The fact was, it was never contended that the Principal should superintend any of these classes. The only reason why the Church of Scotland was so grasping in the matter was the mere selfish one of keeping the good places to themselves, to prevent them going to Dissenters, or even across the Border, where the patrons sometimes went to get persons who were not members of the Church of Scotland to fill important Chairs. He trusted that the English Members, whom the Scotch Members had assisted in resisting church rates—the Irish Members, whom the Scotch had assisted to remove many grievances, would now repay their obligations, and show that they were determined to put down this last act of intolerance.


said, he was anxious to say a few words on this question, as the terms of the Act of 1853 had been referred to, and because in the necessary absence of the Lord Advocate at that time, it was his duty, as a Member of the Government, to move the second reading of that Bill. That Bill rejected the religious test as applicable to all the chairs in the Scottish Universities except the theological chairs and the office of Principal; and, unquestionably, it was the understanding at that time that they agreed to the Bill in the light of a compromise. In proof of this, he would refer to what he said on moving the second reading of the Bill. The Bill was opposed by the late Sir Robert Inglis; but it happened that no Scotch Member opposed it, and he said he would promptly state to the House why it was not opposed by the Scotch Members. The truth was, that the measure was a compromise; and while it was opposed by the hon. Baronet, who held extreme opinions on one side, the measure was not very acceptable on the other to those hon. Gentlemen who desired the separation of Church and State. The present measure was a compromise between moderate men on both sides; and in proof that it was so, he might refer to the interpretation clause, which provided that the chairs, of which the Professors were still to take the test, would be the Chair of Divinity, Church History, Biblical Criticism, and Hebrew, and the office of Principal, with the exception of those that might at the time be held by laymen. Such was his explanation of the measure which passed in 1853. It therefore appeared to him that this clause would be a departure from what was generally admitted to be a compromise in 1853. He was still more confirmed in this when he remembered that in Committee on that measure his hon. Friend then attempted to force his views upon the House, and to open up the office of Principal to persons who were not members of the Church of Scotland, but he failed to succeed then. He was therefore disposed to resist the Motion of his hon. Friend, and to abide by the compromise agreed to in 1853.


said, before going to a division, he wished to say a few words. He agreed with what had fallen from the noble Lord that in 1853 an alteration in the law took place with regard to the tests to be taken in the Scotch Universities. Before that the test was imposed upon all Principals and Professors without exception; but by the Bill of that year a new test was adopted and generally approved throughout Scotland, and was sanctioned by Parliament. The exceptions made were as to the Principals and Theological Professors; and if hon. Members would turn to the 5th clause they would find that the Theological Professorships were clearly defined to be the Chairs of Divinity, Church History, Biblical Criticism, and Hebrew, and the office of Principal; so that the Act of Parliament which settled the mode in which the tests were to be administered recognised the fact, which had always existed, that the Principals of the Universities were holders of Theological Chairs. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Dunlop) had made one observation which, with all deference to his superior knowledge, he thought was inaccurate. The hon. Gentleman said that the Principals were never practically teachers of divinity. Now, he had been told—and told on high authority—that the Principals of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen were at that moment teaching, and had long taught, classes in divinity. That he had been told; and he begged the House to notice that the effect of the Amendment would be this—that the Principals of Universities virtute officii would teach divinity no longer; and to that extent there would be a diminution in the teaching of divinity in the Universities of Scotland. For himself, he must frankly say that he did not see any great objection to a layman being Principal of a University. But when he found that a settlement of the whole question had been made by Parliament so late as 1853, he thought it was unadvisable to disturb that settlement now, and for that reason he was prepared to advocate—though he did no attach much importance to it—the continuance of the office of Principal as a theological office.


said, he wished to say a few words on this question, which he found under discussion when he entered the House a few minutes before. He was bound to say that they were living in an age of progress. In 1846, when he was Secretary of State under Sir Robert Peel, it became his duty to resist a Motion for the repeal of these tests altogether, as regarded the Universities of Scotland. He did so to the best of his ability, urging those arguments which appeared to him the most forcible against the repeal. He had to struggle against the arguments urged on the other side by Lord Macaulay and the late Mr. Rutherford; and he was bound to state that he did not think the arguments he urged were the most cogent, though he carried his point by a small majority. In 1853, the compromise to which allusion had so often been made, was proposed when he was in the Earl of Aberdeen's Government, and the tests taken in the Scotch Universities were repealed with the full concurrence of the Government, excepting only those tests which were applicable to the divinity Professorships and the Principals. But he must frankly own he did not see on what grounds those tests could any longer be applied to Principals, or why laymen should not be Principals of the Universities of Scotland. He would not carry the discussion further. He felt bound to say that the Bill as it was sent up from the Commons to the Lords was right and defensible; he thought the alteration made in the Bill was imprudent and indefensible. He thought that Clause 3 should be restored, and he would therefore give his vote to disagree with the Lords' Amendments.


said, the right hon. Gentleman said this was an age of progress. He would use another word which perhaps meant the same thing—it was a time of change. One of the greatest changes that had ever taken place in Scotland was the change that had there occurred with respect to ecclesiastical organization. A few years ago the large majority of its population were members of the Established Church. Now the Established Church of Scotland did not number more than one-third of the population. He maintained that the institutions of the country ought to change so as to be adapted to the change in the opinions of the inhabitants. He was prepared to support the application of that principle to the national Universities. No man need tell him at this time of day that they were bound to choose the Principals of those Universities from among the clergymen of the Church of Scotland, which was supported only by a third of the population. Such a proposition was absolutely absurd. It would shut out from presiding as Principals of the Universities many of the greatest names in Scotland, and the men most worthy of the office. He would therefore oppose to the uttermost this change in the Bill which had been made by the Lords.


observed, he had one word to say in explanation. The right hon. Secretary for the Home Department had stated, in contradiction to a remark of his, that the Principals of the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, taught divinity classes. That was perfectly true, but it was because they held the office of Professors of Theology separate and distinct from that of Principal, and what he said was that the office of Principal did not bind them to teach theology.


said, he did not like and could not admit this doctrine of compromise which had been laid down, founded upon transactions which took place several years ago. This Bill was brought forward on the principle of remodelling the whole system of the Universities of Scotland, and whatever might have been agreed to in former years, that agreement must share the fate of all the other arrangements, and they must consider every point of the system as equally open to discussion. Now the question had been well debated while the Bill was before the House. The Bill passed, and that clause which had been struck out by the Lords was affirmed by a majority of the House. He thought therefore the House ought to abide by the clause, and if the Lords found that this House was firm in asserting the principle contained in this clause, he had no doubt that they would not resist the opinion of this House.

Motion agreed to.

Lords' Amendment disagreed to.


said, there was another Amendment the Lords had made on a clause which was adopted in this House with the full consent of the Government. He did not know whether the Government meant now to stand by the alteration the Lords had made. It was a question which referred to the election of Lord Rector of the Universities. It was resolved that the Rector should be elected by the matriculated students. It was then proposed that the Professors should be joined with the students in the election, but it was objected that it was not desirable that the Professors should be joint electors—and often, perhaps, placed in opposition—with their students. The Government agreed that the Professors should not be joined with the students in the election, but the Professors had been re-inserted in the Lords. It was not a matter of great importance, one way or other, and he would not divide upon the question; but he hoped the Government themselves would disagree with the Amendment, as he thought it was very undesirable that the Professors should be made co-electors with the young students.

Lords' Amendment disagreed to.

On Lords' Amendment, striking out Clause 26,


said, he wished to say one word as to this clause. When it was first brought forward in this House, it was not opposed by the Lord Advocate, and as he did not think it right to oppose the clause on its first introduction to the House, he should think it was an act of bad taste if he were to act contrary to the opinion of his learned Friend.


said, he knew how difficult it was to object, but he was sure the House was not aware of what it was doing. The Crown had raised a question as to its right to dispose of certain property, to which Glasgow College also asserted its claim. The matter had been mooted more than 100 years ago, it was raised again in 1807, and it was before the Courts at the present moment; and now the House was asked to decide in favour of the Crown a question which was actually at this moment a matter of litigation. He knew, however, it was in vain to divide upon the question, but he protested against the wrong that was done.

Amendment disagreed to.

Committee appointed,To draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to the Amendments to which this House hath disagreed:"—Mr. DUNLOP, Viscount PALMERSTON, Sir JAMES GRAHAM, Mr. ROEBUCK, Mr. BLACK, Mr. CRAUFURD, and Sir EDWARD COLEBROOKE. To withdraw immediately; three to be the quorum.