HC Deb 24 June 1863 vol 171 cc1385-97

Order for Second Reading read.


said, that looking at the period of the Session, and the state of public business, he had thought it right to consider whether, even if he was supported by a majority, he had any prospect of carrying this Bill into the other House in sufficient time for it to receive a proper consideration. He had arrived at the unwilling conclusion that there was no likelihood that he could do so; and therefore he thought it best to ask the House to permit him to discharge the Order, with the intention of re-introducing this measure at an earlier period next Session. He did not wish to enter into a debate upon bygone matters, but he might perhaps be allowed to say that the purpose of this Bill, and the motives of its promoters in and out of the House, had been entirely misunderstood, and, in consequence, greatly misrepresented. The object of the Bill had been stated by high authorities, and seemed to be understood by the Universities, to be to compel the Colleges to open the fellowships to Nonconformists Its object was nothing of the kind. The Bill simply proposed to remove a restriction which was imposed upon the Colleges two hundred years ago for an entirely different object, and which had entirely failed He should have thought that the Universities and the Colleges would have been glad to obtain the full freedom of action which was so essential to the health of educational institutions as well as of other corporations. The measure was not brought forward in a spirit of hostility to the Universities or to the Church. The gentlemen who requested him to move in the matter were second to none in their attachment to the Church, and were most eminent members of the great educational body at Cambridge Their motive, object, and purpose was to improve the University and the Colleges. They thought, and, in his opinion, rightly thought, that the removal of the restriction in question, by setting free the action of the Colleges, would tend to improve the educational system. That was one of the matters which, if he had gone on with this measure, would have had to be discussed; but certainly those who had taken an active part in preparing hostilities, and had signed Petitions against it, had not lightly comprehended its purport, scope, or effect. He should like them, in the cooler moments of the recess, to consider whether any fairer, more moderate, or mote reasonable proposition could be made than that the Colleges should be left to their free action. At Cambridge, if this restriction imposed by an Act of Parliament was removed, they would have perfect freedom of legislation. There was some doubt whether such power existed at Oxford, but he believed that the 39th section of the Oxford University Act gave it to the Colleges. Therefore, it was idle for those bodies to contend that this restriction was essential to the welfare of their institutions, because they could by their own action protect themselves from intrusion precisely as they were now protected. One word as to the Petitions presented by his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir W. Heathcote). If that University, in its corporate capacity, had ever been forward in promoting the advancement of the cause of education and general improvement, he should have said that a Petition under its seal was entitled to great weight in that House, but the reverse was the case. He should be at a loss to discover any measure which had been proposed during the last two centuries for the improvement of education and the advancement of the real interests of religion which had not been opposed by the University of Oxford, and therefore he attributed no weight to its Petition against this Bill. He might remind his hon. Friend of a couplet with which he was no doubt familiar— The King to Oxford sent a troop of horse, For Tories own no argument but force. That was said the best part of a century ago, but he was not sure that the same spirit did not animate many of the authorities of Oxford at this moment. He hoped that discussion and mature consideration would induce them to think that there was no ground for the opposition with which his proposal had, on this occasion, been threatened. The Petitions from Cambridge, which his right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) had been kind enough to allow him to see, were all founded upon an error as to a matter of fact. They stated that the removal of restrictions as to fellowships was proposed when the Cambridge Act was under discussion by that House, and that it was refused. Having had charge of that Bill and been present at all the discussions, he could state that nothing like his present proposal was then submitted to the House. What was then proposed was to open the Colleges compulsorily, and force them to open the fellowships, whether they wished it or not, to those who were unwilling to take any test. That was the very reverse of his proposal, and therefore these Petitions, founded entirely on a false assumption, were of no authority at all. He trusted that this question would come before the House at an earlier period next Session, and he was confident, that whatever prejudice might now have been raised against his proposal, it was so reasonable, so much for the interest of the Colleges and Universities, so much for the advantage of religion and education, and of the Church of England, the interests of which were bound up with the progress of education and religion, that he was sure that it must sooner or later be adopted. The right hon. Gentleman then moved that the Order for the second reading be discharged.


said, he did not rise to question the discretion which his right hon. Friend had exercised in withdrawing this Bill, but only to reply to some observations which he had made with respect to the University of Oxford. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted a well-known epigram. He would remind his right hon. Friend that there was another version of the epigram which he had quoted, in which the learning of that University formed the prominent feature, and in which it was suggested that that learning which led them to certain conclusions required to be overborne by the force directed against them by the Whig Government of the day. The Petitions which he had presented from the University of Oxford were somewhat remarkable. One was a Petition from Convocation under its seal, and was adopted by a large majority of the persons present. But that Petition did not stand alone. Inasmuch as Convocation contained only persons on the spot, not exceeding 300 in number, it was determined to ascertain the opinions of the non-resident members, and nearly 2,000 of them signed a document approving the Petition. In addition, the younger men, who were not members of Convocation, that particular stratum in which his right hon. Friend would look for liberality, had expressed the same fear of his Bill. What his right hon. Friend had said, in fact, increased instead of diminished the authority of those Petitions. The right hon. Gentleman had recommended the House to disregard the Petitions because they were contrary to the general current of opinion. If this had been a direct aggression upon the Universities, it might have been right to disregard their Petitions; but as his right hon. Friend said that he only sought to give a certain discretion to the Universities, and to confer upon them powers and advantages which they did not now enjoy, surely they might be trusted when they said that they did not want any additional powers. If the members of the University, who were alleged to be fettered by restrictions and trammels, considered those restrictions and trammels safeguards which they had no desire should be removed, surely the House would be very cautious in removing safeguards which those most concerned thought to be necessary. He wholly denied that the members of the University were under any mistake as to the character of his hon. Friend's Bill—he believed its character was fully understood and appreciated. It was understood that its object was to take away the legislative sanction from the existing state of things, and place the Universities in a position in which they would find it more difficult to resist another day.


thought that it would not be right that he should allow this Order to be discharged without saying a word or two in explanation of the Petitions which he had presented from the University of Cambridge. He believed that no more remarkable Petitions were ever presented to that House. The Universities did not in the least degree misapprehend the object of his right hon. Friend's Bill. When at Cambridge the argument was employed that it was a permissive Bill only: the answer was. "The fallacy of that is too transparent, to deceive us." That showed that they understood the nature of the Bill. A permissive Bill could only be brought forward with the intention of creating agitation, on the ground that there was some grievance which ought to be remedied; and in his opinion it was worse than boldly asking the House to say to the Colleges, "You shall do so and so, because we think it desirable." The two Universities had petitioned under their corporate seals against a measure which would disturb their quiet, and interfere with the nature of the education given in them. It must be remembered that there was considerable debate in Convocation at Cambridge, and in the Senate House at Cambridge, whether or not these Petitions should be presented. At Oxford the Petition was carried by 182 votes against 51, and at Cambridge by 120 to 25 votes. From Oxford a Petition had been presented against the Bill, signed by more than 1,000 undergraduates and bachelors; and he himself had presented a Petition from all the Heads of Houses at Cambridge but two from almost all the resident tutors, from several bachelors of arts, and from a large body of undergraduates to the same effect He hoped that his right hon. Friend, having withdrawn this Bill, would seriously consider whether it was his duty to disturb the quiet and repose of Universities upon a matter on which they felt strongly and in a way which was not required according to his right hon. Friend's own views—because, under the University Acts, even those who did not belong to the Church of England had the fullest opportunity of receiving the benefit of a University education. There was nothing so injurious to great seats of education like Oxford and Cambridge as to leave them in a state of agitation and uncertainty which prevented them from carrying on education in the manner most advantageous to the country. He entreated his right hon. Friend, between this and next Session, to consider whether he would feel it his duty to reintroduce the Bill, either in its present or its amended shape, next Session. Unless there was some overwhelming necessity, he hoped his right hon. Friend would not do so, and he was convinced, upon reflection, he would perceive that no such necessity existed.


said, he greatly regretted the withdrawal of a Bill which was approved of by Nonconformists. He wished to correct an error in the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford. It was not to suppress learning that George I., on his accession to the throne, sent dragoons to Oxford, as the hon. Baronet supposed, but they were sent to put down sedition, which raged at the University. In those days the University was treasonably hostile to the King, and favoured the Pretender, whilst Nonconformists were unanimously loyal; and to revenge themselves on the Dissenters for their well-known fidelity to the Monarch, High Churchmen, and their mobs, demolished their chapels at Manchester, Oxford, Birmingham, and other places. Government ordered possession of the city of Oxford to be taken by the military, and the commanding officer, Major General Pepper, declared he would instantly shoot any of the students who should appear out of the bounds of their own Colleges. It was the well-known character of the Dissenters that their loyalty was undoubted; whilst, on the other hand, the University had to be kept in order by military power. This historical fact, and the bad theology of the professors, had, to the present day, made many to consider the University to be the very seat of heresy and sedition. So far from feeling any hesitation in disturbing the repose of Oxford, as the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Cambridge desired, he would have satisfaction in supporting the Bill when it came again before the House. The intellect of the people was opposed, at the present time, to those tests, which separated man from man; and good men of every denomination wished to place all classes of Her Majesty's loyal subjects on terms of equality for the common welfare and satisfaction of the country.


said, he begged to tender to the right hon. Gentleman his thanks for proposing the discharge of this Order. He (Mr. Newdegate) was educated at the University of Oxford, which the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hadfield) declared to be a hot-bed of heresy and sedition. He had been a Member of the House for twenty years, and he hoped that the House had not observed in his conduct any heretical or seditious tendencies indicating the effect of the education which he received at the University. He fully participated in the feelings of the University, and joined in their Petition that the House would not deprive them of those legal directions and restrictions which they believed to be essential to the faithful discharge of the high duty which they had to perform in preparing men for the ministry of the Church of England. He was quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bouverie) would allow him to take this opportunity of presenting to him a phase of opinion and feeling which he had overlooked. The right hon. Gentleman quoted an epigram which showed that a certain Sovereign had been tempted to use force in respect to Oxford University. If the right hon. Gentleman referred to the melancholy history of James II., he would find that he attempted to use force against Oxford, and in what direction? Precisely in the direction of this Bill. It was the determination of that unhappy Sovereign to force upon the governing bodies of the colleges in that University certain Roman Catholic priests of whom he approved; and this proposal was based upon the Declaration which he had issued, expressive of his determination to absolve all his subjects from the restrictions, the repeal of some of which the right hon. Gentleman was attempting by the introduction of this Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman recalled to his mind the historical events of that period, he would remember that even the Quakers addressed the King on this subject in most flattering terms—they even went so far as to leave their hats in the anteroom, that they might address him bare headed. But the people of England, so far from participating in the desire of the King to have these legal protections removed from the Church and from the Universities, effectually ejected that Sovereign from the throne. Oxford participated in that sedition against James II.; but there was no pretence for saying that the University was not most loyal to the present Royal Family, since it was this very resistance to the Declaration of James II., and this very refusal to do away with the existing restrictions on admissions to high offices in the University and the Church, that placed their loyalty to the present dynasty beyond doubt. There was another portion of the subject upon which he wished to say a few words. The opinions and feelings which seemed to actuate the right hon. Gentleman in introducing this Bill had been enunciated in the letter of Professor Stanley to the Bishop of London, in which it was affirmed that the present restrictions operated as a bar to candidature for admission to the ministry of the Church on the part of some of the most eminent young men of the present day. He had asked the opinion of men of the highest eminence, whose names he was not at liberty to mention, but who had watched during long lives the various phases of opinion which had become predominant in the Church of England, whether they believed that this view was correct? and they denied that it was so. One in particular says, "I remember the period when the prevailing opinions of the Church of England were condemned as too secular; yet there was no failure of candidates for the ministry. I can remember," he said, "when what are called Evangelical opinions were predominant; but there was then no failure' in the supply of candidates for ordination. I can remember the period when many favoured the Tractarian movement: at that time there was almost a rush of young men to join the ministry." But now, when it was proposed to remove the standards by which these young men, after admission to the ministry, were to be guided, and with reference to which they were to conduct themselves in their sacred calling, after being admitted by their ordination to the high functions of the ministry—these standards resting' entirely upon the authority of Holy Scripture, which formed the firm basis of the whole system of the Church of England—they, for the first time, found a failure in the candidature for the admission to holy orders. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether this reluctance was not natural in young men who wished to do their duty, and who therefore wished to have their duty clearly defined; who desired, by accepting a standard and rules of conduct authoritatively prescribed, to have before them a specific guide for the due and faithful performance of their duties in accordance with the promises made in their ordination vows. He believed that this reluctance to enter the service of the Church might be justly attributed to the undue prevalence of speculative notions in high quarters, which shook the very foundations of our Establishment and of our religion. Young men feared that they might be deprived of the legal guidance and protection hitherto afforded to the clergy, and it was that which had hindered many young men from coming forward to discharge the duty of the ministry. Let the right hon. Gentleman consider this. All young men were not actuated by a presumptuous spirit of self-reliance. Those who were not, desired that the authority of the Church on doctrinal subjects might continue expressed as it was at present, and might thus give weight to their ministry, if that ministry was faithfully performed in accordance with the teaching and discipline of the Church. This movement would deprive them of that sanction and authority; and it was the conviction of men as competent to form an opinion upon this question as any man could be, that it was the fear of being launched on the duties of the priesthood without the countenance and protection afforded by the present regulations, which they called restrictions, that hindered young men from presenting themselves in adequate numbers for the ministry. He was sure that the right hon. Gentleman would believe him, when he said that, he made these observations in the spirit that they were called here to consult upon matters of deep interest to the country, and because it was possible that this particular phase of opinion might have escaped him; for men were all somewhat too apt to judge in accordance with the opinions of those with whom they naturally came into immediate contact, and often did not attach the importance which they ought to the feelings and opinions of others. He again thanked the right hon. Gentle man for withdrawing this Bill, They were in a period of considerable danger, for there were now in this country those who were known to be the deadly opponents of the Church of England—men who adopted all phases, would shrink from the use of no means and no obstacle which stood in the way of effecting a revolution in that great Establishment which, the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) would forgive him for reminding him, had been for centuries the chief guardian of religious freedom throughout the world. Against them the Church of England defended her doctrines and her Establishment, and she did this by law. He would beg the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield also to remember that the leading denominationalists among the Protestant Dissenters had their standard of doctrine, and that any minister who did not regard these standards was visited by the penalty of dismissal from the ministry—a penalty which was rarely enforced against a clergyman of the Church of England in the present state of the Ecclesiastical Courts. There were, indeed, some few classes of Protestant Dissenters who had not a distinct definition of their doctrinal faith, and among these few were the Independents; but the discipline which they exercised over their ministers was all the more severe. If the right hon. Gentleman inquired of the different Protestant Dissenting denominations in this country, be would find that they almost all had standards of belief and a very arbitrary system of ecclesiastical discipline. It had been almost universally acknowledged by the Protestant Churches of the world that their discipline must enforce the standards of their faith, and that the tender of the standards of faith which they made to the world must be distinct, for a clear understanding of the tender is essential to freedom of choice; whether that freedom of choice is exercised by acceptance or by rejection.


said, he regretted that a full and ample discussion of the Bill had not taken place, for he was sure it would have served the cause the right hon. Gentlemen had at heart, and assisted that large and strong party which really did exist at both Universities notwithstanding what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge. That right hon. Gentleman seemed to have forgotten that a Petition had been presented, not from the University of Cambridge, but from seventy-four Fellows and Tutors of that University in favour of the Bill before the House. He thought it could scarcely be said, in the face of that Petition, that the right hon. Gentleman who was proposing this Bill was disturbing the repose of the University. The fact was that that repose had been disturbed; and it was not by avoiding the discussion of the subject in the House that that, repose could be artificially maintained. For his part he was ready to assert that it would be unfortunate if repose were the chief characteristic of our Universities. He should have thought that in the Universities they should rather look for continued intellectual activity—that in places where men were to be trained who were not to be merely learned men, but men who had to cope with the world, and even in the case of the clergy, men who were to be strong enough to defend the Church should she be assailed, there should be, not repose, but activity. He believed there was a strong feeling at the Universities in favour of this Bill. He had spoken of the Petition of the seventy-four Fellows and Tutors of Cambridge in its favour. He believed that in the first Colleges there was an actual majority of Fellows and Tutors in its favour—and he was sure the House would see, and the country would see, that there was not the objection to this Bill which might be supposed from the observations of the right hon. Member for the University. With regard to Oxford, they had not got so far as Cambridge; but he believed that in Oxford also there was a strong feeling in favour of this Bill, and he saw in the papers that morning that a Petition was preparing to be presented in its favour. He knew that the Petition was so strongly signed as to show that the spirit which had animated Cambridge also animated Oxford. He regretted that they had not had a full discussion on the measure, but he was sure the House would not think, that because it was delayed for a year, it was therefore dropped. If the right hon. Gentleman behind him (Mr. Bouverie) were to drop it, it would be necessary, from the feeling expressed by influential persons at the Universities, that the Bill should be brought on again by some one else. It was very natural that a large portion of such Conservative bodies as the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge should be against the Bill; but he trusted that when they saw that the subject was pursued in a proper spirit, in no spirit of hostility to the Church, they would withdraw their opposition. He would not have approached the subject if he had thought it detrimental to the Church of England; but he believed that the Church was strong enough to grapple with difficulties such as these, that it would be more able to fight for the faith, if it fought with a free hand, than if its arms were tied. He believed that the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge had recognised the signs of the times, and saw that it would be well to fight with the arms of the day. He believed that the Church of England was in more danger from those who were so faint-hearted that they trembled before every attack, than from those who faced the danger.


said, that he felt as acutely as possible the loss suffered by persons not belonging to the Church of England by being debarred from participating to the fullest extent in the education afforded by Oxford and Cambridge. There it was that the character of their public men was formed. But even for the sake of obtaining those advantages he would not be a party to breaking up the fundamental principle on which Oxford and Cambridge were formed, which was that religious should accompany secular instruction. But was it not possible to extend the benefits of the Universities without any infringement of this fundamental principle, by affording facilities to the different bodies not in connection with the Church of England to establish halls or colleges in the Universities? Although he did not concur with the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, he thought the hon. Member for Warwickshire had misrepresented him. The difference between the proceedings of James II. and the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman was this—the Monarch sought to interfere with the Universities in an unconstitutional way, and by violating the law; whereas the right hon. Gentleman sought to effect his object in a strictly constitutional manner, by the action of Parliament.


said, that the object of James was to do without Parliamentary authority what it was now proposed to do with Parliamentary authority. The real cause which deterred young men from entering the Church of England was that recent discussions had called attention to the inconsistencies they would be compelled to subscribe on entering the ministry. There was more unity in any body of Dissenters than in the Church of England. There was scarcely an "ism" that had not its counterpart in the Church. They all cared only to go their own road without being interfered with.


said, that many curious remarks had been made in the course of this debate, but none was more curious than the assertion of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, that Dissenters were always unanimous, remembering the litigation which took place not long ago about Lady Hewley's bequest. It did not seem as if every man only cared to go his own road, when the Court of Chancery was invoked to settle it for them. He rose to express his thanks to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell) for the testimony he had given to the value of religious education, and to assure him that the suggestion he had made was one deserving consideration. It was, however, a subject of much difficulty, and wholly foreign to the present Bill. If the measure were re-introduced next year, its opponents must only be prepared to resist it as well as they could. But he entered his protest against the supposition that all the "ability," as it was called, was in favour of the Bill. Their vauntings reminded him very much of the old fable about certain substances floating down a stream, which cried out and gave them selves a particular name. Minorities, it was well known, always comprised the larger amount of good sense; they had done so since the beginning of the world, and would to the end: but still, for all that, majorities were majorities, and in this country we had got a way of adopting the view of the majority, and not of the minority.


said, the case of Lady Hewley was one in which the authority of the Court was invoked, not to settle questions of ecclesiastical discipline, but to decide upon the destination of particular property. He had always thought it a system repellant to honest minds that those who were to act as teachers of religion and morality should be obliged to commence by putting a gloss, by which they could not deceive themselves, on the obvious meaning of formularies of the Church, slurring over the most material points.

Order discharged.

Bill withdrawn.