HC Deb 07 June 1864 vol 175 cc1383-5

Resolution considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)


rose to move that this House will resolve itself into a Committee to consider certain portions of the Act of Uniformity. As he understood that his Resolution was not likely to meet with opposition in the present stage, he would not detain the House by many remarks. He wished to remind the House of the origin of this Bill. It had not originated in any hostility to the Universities, or the Church as connected with the Universities, but with a certain number of gentlemen practically interested in the education of the University of Cambridge, who finding defects in the existing system, proposed what they considered a simple and unobjectionable remedy. The proposal was simply this—that whereas all Fellows of Colleges were required at present by the Act of Uniformity to make a declaration of their conformity to the Liturgy of the Church of England, that requirement should be repealed, and it should be left to the Colleges themselves to make such provision in that respect as might to them seem best in the interest of the Colleges and the University. The requirements of the Act of Uniformity were but of comparatively little importance until about ten years ago, when the University Acts were passed, because at Cambridge no degree could be taken without a declaration that the person taking it belonged to the Church of England, while at Oxford no one could be admitted as a student unless he signed the Thirty-nine Articles. Having taken this test, it was comparatively immaterial to take a simpler and milder one. But by the University Acts of 1854 and 1856 degrees might be taken in Oxford and Cambridge without any religious tests whatever, and the consequence was that persons entered the Colleges and received education there who were unable to take this test required by the Act of Uniformity. It was true that with respect to most Colleges — three or four at Cambridge and one at Oxford excepted — the alteration he proposed would make no difference in the existing state of things, because, with the exceptions he had just mentioned, one of the conditions of fellowship was that the Fellow should be a member of the Church of England; but the reason why he asked the House to consent to the Bill was, because it was a proposal really to give freedom to the Colleges and to avoid Parliamentary interference. The existence of that clause in the Act of Uniformity was an interference with the freedom of those great educational establishments. It was unjustifiable in its origin, as well as in its retention. He did not ask the House to interfere with the free action of the Colleges in this matter, or to force them to choose Fellows to whom they objected on religious or other grounds. All that he asked was that the Colleges might be left to do their best for their respective bodies, and for the interests of the Church and Universities, without interference on the part of Parliament. He did not think that such a request could be justly designated, as it had been on a previous occasion, as an attack on the Church and the Universities. He would fix such a period for the second reading of the Bill as would give those who were opposed to the measure a full opportunity of stating their opinions. The right hon. Gentleman moved that the House resolve into a Committee to consider certain portions of the Act of Uniformity.


thought that, as a similar Bill was brought in last Session, it would only be consistent with courtesy and with usual practice to offer no opposition now to the introduction of the measure; but

the objections to such a Bill which had been expressed by many hon. Members, and by himself among the number, were not in any degree lessened, and he thought; what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman that evening would tend, if anything, to increase them. It must be apparent that the Bill would not give religions liberty to the Colleges, but would introduce religious discord.

Resolved, That the Chairman be directed to move the House, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to repeal so much of the Act of Uniformity as relates to Fellows and Tutors in any College, Hall, or House of Learning.

Resolution reported.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. EDWARD PLEYDELL BOUVERIE and Mr. POLLARD-URQUHART.

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