HC Deb 06 June 1866 vol 183 cc2008-19

(Mr. Bouverie, Mr. Dudley Fortescue.)

Order for Third Reading read.


rose to present a Petition signed by 179 residents in the University of Cambridge—namely, the Chancellor and twelve Heads of Colleges, ten professors, seventeen tutors, thirty-seven assistant-tutors, twenty-two deans and other officials, seventy-four members of the Senate, and six B. A. resident fellows, which set forth that a very short time had elapsed since very important questions relating to the endowments, discipline, studies, government, and religious condition of the University were examined into and carefully considered by certain eminent persons acting under a Royal Commission, and who were themselves familiarly conversant with all matters connected with the constitution of the University and with the government and general working of the several colleges; that the opinion of these gentlemen was— That many of the endowments of the Colleges and the University were connected with the Church by links which it would be an injnstice to sever, and that its whole school of theology was identified with the Church and incapable of a separate existence. That an Act was passed in the 19th and 20th years of the present reign to allow persons not members of the Church of England to avail themselves of the University education to be admitted to all the scholarships, prizes, and exhibitions, and to proceed to degrees; that it was specially provided by that Act that those degrees should not entitle them to become members of college or qualify them for holding any offices in the University which had heretofore been held by members of the United Church of England and Ireland; and that the Bill before the House was calculated to unsettle what had been done in the University and Colleges in accordance with this recent legislation; and the petitioners, therefore, prayed that the House would not allow the Bill to be passed.

MR. BOUVERIE moved that this Bill be read a third time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time,"—(Mr. E. P. Bouverie.)


, in rising to move the rejection of the Bill, said, that he was sorry that the third reading had come on at so late a period of the sitting,) as it might prevent them from fully discussing the question. He was anxious for the sake of both sides of the House that they should come to a decision upon the question, for as the Bill involved a great principle it was desirable that the House should pronounce its opinion upon it. The present Bill differed materially from the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Coleridge), which related to University tests. In the first speech he made the hon. Member for Exeter stated that the two measures stood upon quite distinct grounds, and that no one who should vote for his Bill would by so doing be prevented voting against the Bill of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock. The Bill of the right hon. Gentleman introduced a principle that was absolutely novel, affecting as it did the teaching of the Colleges, which were a kind of domestic foundation, by placing the governing power in the hands of persons of different religions, or of no religion at all. It had been stated, both by the Mover of the Bill and his supporters, especially the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), that the Bill would not interfere with the statutes or ordinances of the Colleges, or put them under any coercion, but he should be able to show that it could not be passed without necessarily leading to such a coercion being applied to them. It was contended that inasmuch as most of the Colleges were founded before the Reformation, they had been dealt with by Act of Parliament, and handed over from one creed to another, and that Parliament could deal with them again if necessary. Now this argument went beyond the Bill, for if it were just so to deal with endowments given before the Reformation, and now attached to the Church of England for purposes of religious education, they must be prepared to go farther, and to extend the principle to foundations attached to clerical fellowships, and even to the temporalities of the Church itself. He would venture to say it was the same Church of England, holding the same creeds as the Church before the Reformation; but that point had been before urged in the House, and it was enough for his purpose to state his view without further argument. He considered that the pro-Reformation endowments justly belonged to the Church of England. But with respect to the post- Reformation endowments, on what ground would they put their hands on them? They at least had been given on the sanction of Acts of Parliament, up to the present time recognizing these as Church of England Colleges, and so affording a guarantee that funds given to them would be protected as bestowed for Church purposes. Yet it was proposed to deal with them as with pre-Reformation endowments. This proposal was admittedly wrong as applied to other communities; but a strange reason was given for its justice when applied to the Church. In a very important inquiry before a Committee of the other House, a question was put to a gentleman opposed to all connection of Church and State, and desirous to seize Church property for other purposes. How would he distinguish between Nonconformist and Church of England endowments? He said, Oh, the Church of England was national; therefore the endowments were given to the nation, and the nation had a right to deal with them as it thought fit; whilst those of the Nonconformist were given to individual bodies, and could not be claimed by the nation. Was the Church of England to be placed in a position different from all other denominations—that if persons conferred these benefits on Colleges they should be alienated from the purposes they were intended for, and devoted to purposes for which the donors would never have given them? It was an injustice that had not been attempted on any other denomination but the Church of England; and it was in the present instance as inexpedient as it was unjust. Mixed religious teachers could not properly or effectively carry on the only education that could be called real—namely, religious education, And as a general rule all in the education of their children sought for instructors of their own creed. They found this natural desire responded to in the Colleges and schools of various denominations, which had teachers of but one religion in them. Look at the Colleges affiliated to the London University, as King's College, Stonyhurst, Oscott, for examples, and yet the right hon. Gentleman opposite asked them to introduce a new principle, and make the governing body of the Colleges one composed of persons of different religions, and on what grounds is the proposal made? Hard cases are put forward, which if listened to will cause bad laws. The case which the right hon. Gentleman had brought forward was that of persons on the verge of the Church of England, differing very little in doctrine or forms from it, but who did not admit they were members of the Church of England. He was led to ask himself whether these almost Churchmen were not put forward as a screen for those on whose behalf the hon. Member for East Surrey had formerly spoken, the freethinkers nominally within the Church, but withheld from assailing her doctrines by the pledges which they have given; or such as those for whom Mr. Goldwin Smith and other writers were advocates, with a somewhat expansive and intangible creed which he could not understand. On a former occasion he had pointed out that Roman Catholics were not admissible under this Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman in his speech two years ago confined his remarks to Protestant Nonconformists. [Mr. BOUVERIE: I do not admit that.] The right hon. Gentleman should look back to his speech, and to the comments then made by the right hon. Member for the county of Limerick (Mr. Monsell) on the subject. But he would not dwell further, as the time was short, upon that point, except to state that under the measure of the right hon. Gentleman Roman Catholics would not be admissible to the Colleges, but that further legislation would be required. If, as he contended, the endowments of these Colleges were for the advancement of the religion of the Church of England; if these Colleges were never intended for such persons as the right hon. Gentleman proposed to legislate for, the grievance that they were excluded fell to the ground. The right hon. Gentleman said his only wish was to leave the Colleges to deal with their statutes as they pleased—to remove a bar, but to put no pressure upon them. But a grievance was put forward that the Colleges did not admit certain persons, who had greatly distinguished themselves, but who did not agree with the Church of England, to the benefit of fellowships. Well, suppose the Colleges refused to do this, when the barrier which this Bill proposed to do away with was removed, was any one silly enough to believe that the grievance would be allowed to slumber; that it would not be said they had passed a measure, permissive indeed, but containing a principle? He knew the history of permissive Bills. They invariably led to coercive Bills. The principle having once been admitted, would not this become a coercive measure? Suppose one or two of the Colleges admitted into their teaching bodies members of other denominations than the Church of England, would there not be pressure put upon the others, and appeals made to the House to coerce those Colleges? It was said that these gentlemen were not admitted to the privileges of the Universities. That was not the case, for they were admitted to all the honours of the University, and what they asked was honour, emolument, teaching and governing power within the Colleges. They were not content with the honours of the University; they sought to get the emoluments of the Colleges. He said they were not intended for them, and it was proposed to apply the sums given for the foundation of the Colleges and the promotion of the religion of the Church of England to a purpose entirely opposite. For if the right hon. Gentleman made out his case of grievance for persons almost Churchmen, it was fair, on the other hand, for his opponents to assume that men of strong religious or irreligious views adverse to the Church would claim admission on account of their attainments, and cause strife and dissension within the Colleges. In reply to the argument that the course now proposed would lead to dissensions in the Colleges, it was said that there were dissensions now. Truly that was so, and differences of opinion would arise, but they subsided as they arose, and at least they were within the limits of the creed which all received, and which bound to harmony on the greatest points those who united in a common worship. There was an essentially Church life and feeling maintained within a College. This Bill tended to destroy these, and the object sought was a bad one, for he did not believe that there was any efficacy or advantage in having instructors of varied religions, either in schools or Colleges, and especially in such peculiarly English institutions as the Colleges, which, as he had said, were of a quasi-domestic character, and where the relations of tutor and pupil were of a confidential character. It was a wrong principle. What the parties complaining really wanted to do was this. Those persons who were so anxious for mixed religious teaching founded nothing for themselves; therefore it was, when not prepared to put their hands in their pockets and give handsomely of their substance for their vague and unintelligible system of mixed religions, which must become secular education, they were ready to take what was given for other purposes by founders and donors, whose main object was education founded upon religion, and that one fixed and definite. The right hon. Gentleman said the fellowships were "simply prizes for intellectual and scientific attainments." They were not only this; they were given for persons who were to have the charge of the education, and who were therefore the guardians of the religious instruction of the members of the Colleges. He said at this moment a distrust had arisen in the minds of men disposed to make these endowments, lest their gifts should be applied to purposes opposite to those for which they intended them. He did not oppose the Bill simply because he represented the University of Oxford. He opposed it long before he held that position. He did not believe in mixed religious education that was superintended by men of different religious opinions, and he had never known an instance in which it had succeeded. The very success of the Colleges on their present system was against the change proposed; and believing, as he did, that they were founded and endowed upon right principles which had obtained such success, and that the Church would always furnish, as she had done, abundance of men of scientific and intellectual attainments for the purposes of instruction within them, he begged to move that the Bill be read a third time that day six months.


said, it had been a common observation during the discussions on this Bill that its opponents were not the most enlightened of men. In seconding the Amendment he had, however, the satisfaction of feeling that he was representing the feelings of the University of Cambridge, who had sent up a petition which had been or would shortly be presented to the House against the Bill, a petition that was adorned by the names of men the most eminent in mathematical science. A petition signed by such men as Professors Cayley, Challis, Stokes, and Adams was worthy of the consideration of the House. He doubted not that the right hon. Gentleman would meet this petition in the same way as on a former debate—namely, by saying that "if the University had ever done anything for the advancement of the cause and the improvement of education the petition would be entitled to some consideration, but that the reverse was the case." Although it might not be described as a dishonest Bill, yet it evidently concealed some of its objects. With reference to the tests imposed by the Act of Uniformity, none could fail to observe the uncertainty of the position occupied by those who objected to them. Sometimes they asserted that the tests were weak; sometimes they objected to them on the ground of their strength. He contended that the test now complained of was of the mildest character. They were sometimes told that there was so little of religious teaching in the Colleges that it was of no value; at other times that religious teaching was too severe and stringent. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman who brought forward the Bill would have spoken scornfully of the religious education in the Colleges. During the last twenty years he (Mr. Powell) had had the advantage of association with Cambridge, and had not failed to observe great improvement in the moral and intellectual and religious culture of the graduates of the University. Religious education was now given partly by lectures, partly by examination, partly by Divine service in the College chapels. It had been suggested by a gentleman who was once a Member of that House that a simple form of prayer might be adopted in the College chapels, similar to that which was used in and gave a solemnity to the proceedings of that House. But few, he thought, would venture to approve of such an arrangement. The whole system of the Colleges was based upon the idea of "unity of creed." But once introduce "diversity of creed" and none could say what results might follow. Another objection would arise from the distraction from the usual studies of the place which must ensue. It was because he felt convinced that the introduction of these varied elements must distract the minds of the teachers of Oxford and Cambridge from their duties that ho was anxious to shut out those elements. Supposing the hon. Member for Birmingham had acquired a position in one of the Universities, would any one venture to say that the teaching of that University would be conducted without acrimony and distraction from practical work? It had been stated that if this Bill passed there would still remain many harriers against the Nonconformists, and that the Church of England men might shelter themselves under them. But could any one believe that such barriers could be allowed long to remain? No. Agitations would spring up for the very purpose of destroying them. For all these reasons he asked the House not to pass this Bill. He felt certain that it would be fraught with great inconvenience and disaster; that, instead of advancing religion and sound learning, religion would fail under its influence, and the Colleges now so full would be comparatively deserted, and lose a large share of the public confidence it was now their privilege to enjoy.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Gathorne Hardy.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, he should not have ventured to address the House a second time on this subject, did he not think that by doing so he might be able to remove a misapprehension. It had been stated during the debate that this Bill would give no relief to Roman Catholics. Now he was anxious to assure his Roman Catholic friends in the House and the country that they who first started this movement in Cambridge—and it was a movement first started in the University, and not outside of it—were not in the least degree aware of any other Act that would exclude Roman Catholics. It was their desire that the Colleges should have power to admit persons of any religion, whether Nonconformists or Roman Catholics, if they thought the student sufficiently distinguished, and if they thought he was a man who would do good to the College. There were some doubts as to the operation of an Act of Parliament and of the Act of Indemnity, but he gave his Roman Catholic friends this distinct pledge, that they who were in favour of this measure, if it passed and if they found that it did not give to Roman Catholics the same privileges that it gave to Nonconformist Dissenters, would at once introduce a measure that would confer the same privileges on Roman Catholics. But he had consulted eminent Roman Catholics on the subject, and he was told that this Act, if passed, would admit Roman Catholics, because the operation of the Act of Henry VIII. virtually became inoperative by the Act of Indemnity. There were one or two other points to which he wished to direct attention. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had alluded to a petition from resident Members of the University of Cambridge. Many of those who signed the petition were intimate friends of his, and he would be the last person to say one word in disparagement of its influence or of its importance. He was aware that it had been signed by some of the most eminent men in the University, but still this did not in the least degree affect the case that he wished to put. Strong as the petition was there was still a great majority in favour of this Bill in some of the Colleges, and all that they asked for was to try the experiment gradually and in the smallest Colleges. He had authority to state that there was one College that was ready immediately to try the experiment; that a Dissenter there had lately taken a distinguished degree, and they would have let him into fellowship immediately. That would have been making an experiment on a small scale. The hon. Member for the University of Oxford had laid great stress upon this principle. He said that the Colleges were private institutions, just like private schools. Now he denied that, and he maintained that Parliament had likewise virtually denied the principle, because it had given to Commissioners power to frame their statutes, and to a certain degree against their will. And in every other respect the Commissioners had allowed the Colleges to have the greatest variety in practice. In some of the Colleges there were married Fellows; in others all the Fellows must be clergymen, and in others all the Fellows must be laymen. All these differences of practice existed, and therefore he asked why did they not let one or two Colleges who wished to try this experiment do so, and see whether, as they believed, the best interests of the College would be promoted by occasionally electing a distinguished student to a Fellowship, who did not happen to be a member of the Church of England? The advocates of this measure based their case on two grounds. In the first place, they considered that what they asked for would promote the best interests of the University; and, in the second place, they advanced a wider and more important argument; they said it would promote the best interests of learning. What was more important to a great educational establishment than this, that they should have the opportunity of retaining among their body the most distinguished students, in order to promote education? Instances had been adduced in which the Colleges had been prevented from electing a student to a Fellowship because he was not a member of the Church of England. What harm could it do to religion if a student, though he did not belong to the Church of England, but being a brilliant mathematician, were elected to a Fellowship so that the College might put him on the educational staff? But this Act of Parliament virtually said they should not appoint a man who would best promote education in their Colleges. Then, again, he put it on another ground. He said that the present system made an inroad on a cherished principle, which was that the emoluments and distinctions of the College should be conferred on the most distinguished student, and it was a bitter mortification, and a great inroad on this principle which they so cherished, if they saw a distinguished student passed over, and a less distinguished student gaining the honour which this man had fairly won, and all simply because there was some slight difference in their religious creed. But he put the question on a wider basis than this. He said it was a question in which the nation at large had a deep interest. He looked upon the Colleges as something more than private establishments. He maintained that their magnificent endowments and their history in some respects illustrated the growth of this nation. There, there was always the quiet retreat to which the student might retire. When the nation was convulsed, there on the banks of the Isis and the Cam, the student might produce those works which would tend to give lustre to the age. Ages had been rendered illustrious, not so much by the wealth that was accumulated, but what made an epoch illustrious was to look back and think that at that time there was the scholarship of an Erasmus, the poetry of a Milton, the philosophy of a Bacon, the discoveries of a Newton. And was it not equally important at the present time, in this age of material progress, when there was such striving for wealth, that there should be a retreat where superior intellect could peacefully and calmly pursue its investigations, and where the noble principle was recognized that it was not wealth that could confer distinction, but that the only way to honour was the culture of the intellect? He appealed to the great Liberal party to remove these restrictions, which were the remnants of that unfortunate policy the upholders of which seemed to think that religion would be promoted by the maintenance of restrictions which only tended to foster the rancour of sectarianism. Lately, we had heard a great deal from the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the burdens which had been handed down to us by our predecessors. These burdens had to be borne by us all. But we had inherited something more; we had inherited magnificent endow- ments and a great and illustrious history. If we had all to bear these burdens, let us, let the nation at large, enjoy those other gifts that had descended to us with the burdens. These were questions in which the humblest citizen of the land might take an interest, because it was the glory of the University that many a poor boy with no other possession than his intellectual gifts had gone to Oxford or to Cambridge, and had there obtained those pecuniary rewards which had enabled him to win great distinction. He therefore confidently asked the House by passing this Bill to allow the nation at huge to have a full opportunity of participating in these inestimable advantages.


said, this Bill was an illustration of what the right hon. Member for Calne called the doctrine of stepping-stones and instalments. One instance of such a stepping-stone had been just dealt with by the House, and he hoped the present one would share the same fate. When this question first arose, they were told that if the Universities would allow Dissenters to write B. A. and M. A. after their names that was all that would be asked for. When that concession was made, claims were immediately made both to the emoluments and the government of the Universities. He quite agreed with the Member for the University of Oxford that this Bill interfered with, and was injurious to, the rights of property in the country. The endowments of the Universities were of two kinds—the pre-Re-formation and the post-Reformation endowments. His hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford had argued the question with regard to the former in a way which made it unnecessary for him to touch upon them. But with regard to the latter, and speaking of the University of Cambridge, he could say that the post-Reformation endowments constituted a very large proportion of the whole, and if the State were to interfere with such property it would amount to neither more nor less than confiscation. Many of the Colleges at Cambridge had been founded since the Reformation, and one even in the last century, and to divert these endowments to different purposes from those to which they were intended would be monstrous. The hon. Member for Brighton had argued that the State had a right to interfere. No doubt the State had interfered in many cases, and had interfered most injuriously. Some centuries ago Queen's College was instituted for the benefit of Westmoreland and Cumberland, and with the sole view of educating clergy for those poverty stricken districts; but the State had most unjustly thrown the College open. The most rev. Prelate who now filled the archiepiscopal throne of York was educated at Queen's College, where he obtained first scholarship, then fellowship, and was afterwards elected to the headship of his college. His merits became known in that way, and, perhaps, only for that he might not now occupy the position which he so worthily filled. It had been said that the education given at Cambridge was not religious, and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bouverie), who said so adverted to his own experience. He said that he attended chapel regularly, that he was a most profound student of Paley's works, that he attended lectures on the Greek Testament, and so on. Well, he would ask the House, was not all that religious education? Nothing could be more pertinent than the observation made by the hon. Member for Oxford University, when he referred to Stonyhurst, Oscott, and other Colleges affiliated with the London University, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman opposite would be puzzled to say how the religious education of those establishments was different from that of the Colleges.

Debate adjourned till Wednesday, 11th July.