HC Deb 16 July 1867 vol 188 cc1655-8

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [18th June], "That the Bill be now read the third time."

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.


said, he rose for the purpose of moving that the Bill be read a third time that day three months. Since the second reading the Bill had been considerably altered. Not only had its provisions been extended to Cambridge; but the fact that the Amendments proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford had been rejected in Committee left no other course open than to make the Motion he proposed. The present arrangements could not be regarded as inflicting any hardships upon Churchmen, because if they could not subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles, or objected to any portion of the Prayer-book, it would be better for them to leave the Church than remain in her communion under false colours. Therefore, he considered the question only so far as it related to Dissenters. When the Bill was first brought in by the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Dodson) that hon. Gentleman advocated it as a measure of very limited scope, professing his readiness to consider in Committee the omission even of that important part of it which conferred the Parliamentary vote on Dissenters; but, the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Coleridge) had boldly stated that the principle of his measure was to separate the University from the Colleges, to throw the University open to the nation, and to get rid of the connection between the University, considered apart from the Colleges and the Church of England. It was distinctly avowed that what was wished was to abolish the connection between the University and the Church, and to make the University what was called a national University. The question was not one of education, for Dissenters had the same privilege in that respect as any other Englishmen. It was who was to have the control of those who were receiving their education at the Universities. If every one in England could be educated at the Universities, he did not see how a national character could be given to their government, as they were not maintained by the taxation of the country, and could not, therefore, be under the immediate control of Parliament. Therefore there was no ground for saying that they ought to be national in the sense of being governed by the nation. The Universities were composed almost entirely of Colleges, which were almost universally private foundations. It was only at the Reformation, and since then by the Act of Parliament which followed the Report of the Commissioners, that they were considered in any way as national properly. But whatever the religious teaching of the Colleges had been, the religious teaching of the Universities had been the same. If they abolished these tests they made the University, as a body, declare an indifference to any particular system of religious teaching — destroyed, in fact, the only conditions on which religious teaching could be carried on. The result of this might be that a small minority of Nonconformists might become members of Convocation, and might contend that every other system of religious teaching had as fair a right to be tried in the University as the religious teaching of the Church of England. In America, where dissension had been introduced through somewhat similar means, religious teaching of any kind had in the end been given up altogether. The answer which some hon. Members might perhaps make was that Convocation was not the governing body of the University. But the ecclesiastical patronage was in the hands of Convocation, and Convocation, moreover, had the power of altering the studies of the Universities and appointing the examiners. If Nonconformists became numerous in the Universities they would imperil the Church of England character of the governing body of the University. If they were still to continue very few, it was hardly worth while, for the sake of a few, to make a change which appeared dangerous to so many. The vast majority of the undergraduates would always be members of the Church of England; surely it was worth while to consider the danger to these undergraduates of being led to under-estimate the value of any particular form of religion, and even the alarm that might be produced in many English families, if Church of England teaching were interfered with at the Universities. One important point was the way in which such an alteration would affect the character and standing of the clergy of the Church of England. It was expedient not to diminish the influence of the Church of England by any alteration of the present University system. Whatever hon. Members opposite said of the Church of England as an Establishment, they always testified to the usefulness of her clergy, and would do any thing to extend their usefulness. He believed that as a rule the governing bodies of the Nonconformist Colleges were members of the denomination to which the College belonged. ["No, no!"] If there was an instance to the contrary he was sorry to hear of it; for it was essential that the governing body of an institution which educated the ministers of any denomination should profess the religious principles that were taught there. The society in which he mixed at the Universities was not without its value to the clergyman, who was appreciated by the poor in proportion as be was recognized as a gentleman. None could detect more quickly than the poor whether a clergyman was a gentleman. Interference with the religious character of the governing bodies of the Universities would necessarily lessen their attraction for the clergy. Bishops and rectors complained that they could net find University men for curates. In 1865 only half the deacons ordained in the province of York were Oxford or Cambridge men. The passing of this Bill would make the evil complained of still greater, and would lead to the establishment of Colleges independent of the University as places of instruction for the clergy. It was most desirable that they should feel themselves part and parcel of the Church, on the same footing as the laity. But this separate instruction would lead them to think that, like the Roman Catholic clergy, they were a distinct and separate order. He had so far considered the Universities as places of education, and he did not wish to consider them anything else; he did not believe the country wished to see them like the German Universities turned into arenas of disputation upon every possible subject. Those engaged in teaching ought to devote themselves to it, and ought not to be distracted by speculative inquiries. Philosophical research and practical instruction would not harmonize. There was danger in young and unformed minds grasping at the latest discoveries before they had solved minor mysteries for themselves; and there could be no greater hindrance to the real philosopher than that his mind should be continually brought down from the highest regions of science to the common-place drudgery of instructing ordinary undergraduates. On the grounds that the Bill would tend to make the Universities places for philosophical inquiry rather than places of education, that their educational utility for both laity and clergy would be thereby diminished, that the measure would weaken the connection between the University and the Church, which time had made sacred, which had conferred great benefits on the Universities, and which had endeared them to the country, he opposed the Motion for the third rending.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.)


said, he wished to draw attention to a statement made by his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) that the petitions from Cambridge in reference to the Bill, if not "got up," had been greatly exaggerated in importance. His hon. Friend had since admitted his error to some extent. Though it was at the time when most of the graduates were away from Cambridge, yet it had been signed by the great majority of the resident members. It had been signed by thirteen out of seventeen heads of houses, by between forty and fifty tutors and assistant tutors, by between thirty and forty professors and other office bearers, and by between seventy and eighty resident members. He thought it right to put the House in possession of these facts to show that the hon. Member for Brighton was under an erroneous impression in the statements he had made. As to the objections to the present measure, after what had been so well said by his hon. Friend he would not take up the time of the House. Though, like him, he would say "No" to the third reading, in the present state of the House, he did not think it desirable to go to a division.

Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.