§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. COLERIDGE
Mr. Speaker—Sir, I rise to invite the House to assent to the second reading of the Bill now before us. And in so doing I regret that I should be obliged to trouble the House with a single observation. For this is really no more than a consolidation of two Bills with which the House is already familiar—one which has hitherto been associated with the name of the right hon. Gentleman the; Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie); the other which has been introduced in former years by the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Dodson), by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for London (Mr. Goschen), by my hon. Friend the Member for Elgin (Mr. Grant Duff), and by myself. These Bills have been so repeatedly before us—they have been in principle, and in more than principle, so often affirmed by large and even 210 overwhelming majorities—that, as nothing new is to be said upon them, and as I cannot suppose the House to be very desirous of hearing cases argued over and over again on which it has already decided, I should, for my own part, have been content to take the sense of the House upon the measure, without, I confess, much doubt or fear as to what that sense would be. But the matter has been taken up with. so much heat and zeal outside the walls of this House; the Bill has been encountered by an agitation and by proceedings so unusual and almost unprecedented; misrepresentations as to its scope and end, unintentional, I am sure, from the characters of those who have made them, but so extreme, and, to me, so utterly incomprehensible—have been so freely indulged in; that it is fit that we who have charge of the Bill should explain, shortly and clearly, what our Bill does propose, and equally shortly and clearly, I hope, what it does not propose, to bring about. Perhaps I may be allowed to say one word as to my own personal position in this matter. It is true that I have always, till now, intentionally kept the question of a free University and the question of free Colleges entirely distinct. It did not appear to me that the one at all necessarily involved the other. And, as a matter of reasoning, I think so still. It is perfectly possible to have a purely secular University with very strictly denominational Colleges forming part of or affiliated to it. The flourishing existence of the University of London is a proof, if one were needed, of this possibility. Nor will I deny but that, if we had to begin afresh, and could do exactly as we liked, this would be not perhaps the best, but a very good idea on which to work. But we have not to begin afresh, and we cannot do exactly as we like; and it is not what is abstractedly the best, but what is, under all the circumstances, reasonably possible that a man of sense aims at in practical politics. I have never taken any part in opposition to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock; and I am now convinced that it may be safely incorporated and usefully passed in the shape now before the House. Much has been said, and justly said—and said by men for whose opinions I have the greatest respect—about the inconvenience of dealing with cognate questions in separate measures. We yield to these objections. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock has 211 allowed his Bill to be incorporated with mine; and the whole question of religious tests, in both the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, will henceforth be dealt with in one single and simple measure. In one sense, no doubt, this is an advance. But it must be remembered that the House of Lords last year declined, by a large majority, even to read a second time a Bill sent up to them by an overwhelming majority of this House; and it was therefore useless to invite them again to a second contumelious rejection of the self-same measure. In this House, too, we are getting on: we cannot allow to hon. Gentlemen opposite an absolute monopoly of political education. We all advance—some of us slowly, with hesitation, with difficulty; some by bounds so rapid that the amazed spectators can scarcely follow the motions of the performers. I hardly think, however, that we shall have much argument of this sort from the other side of the House. If, indeed, my noble Friend the Marquess of Salisbury were still amongst us he might, if it suited the nobility and generosity of his nature, use such an argument without exciting a smile of scornful derision on the faces of his opponents. But he has passed away, I believe, with the general regret of the Assembly of which he was an honour and an ornament—I am sure to my own great and unfeigned sorrow. For if I may venture to plagiarize with due acknowledgement from Mr. Canning, I would say that I would gladly give his cause the advantage of his abilities, so we might have the great advantage and delight of his presence—Tuque tuis armis, nos te, poteremur, Achille.What, then, is it which this Bill does really propose to effect? It will be obvious to any one who reads it that it deals on quite different principles with the Universities and with the Colleges within them. As to the Universities, it enacts, and so to say it compels, freedom. It provides that the full privileges of University membership shall be open to every subject of the Queen without the imposition of any religious test; but the schools of Arts and Law, of Mathematics and History, of Physical Science, of Medicine, and of Music, shall for the future stand apart from the school of Divinity, and, as far as the Universities are concerned, shall not be affected by or connected with it. As to the Colleges, the Bill does not enact or compel at all, but it allows freedom of election, or rather—for this is too large a description of it—it removes restrictions on 212 freedom of election, so far as those restrictions have been imposed by the direct authority of Parliament. And I believe, for the first time, it proposes to remove them all. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), I believe, had dealt only with the restrictions imposed by the Acts of Uniformity. It had been objected that the Bill in its old shape was incomplete and cowardly. The hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford said, and said truly, that it left still excluded those very persons—I mean the Roman Catholics—whom, on any principle of justice and respect for founders' wills, should have been the first to be included. The fact undoubtedly was so; whether it was an objection it is for the House to say; but if it was it is so no longer. All, then, that we ask to be done with the Colleges is that the State should remove restrictions on their freedom of action which the State itself imposed. All things else regarding them will remain as they are now. Their statutes, old and new, will remain unaltered; the religious convictions of their members, old and young, will remain unaffected; their feelings, their associations, will continue entirely unchanged; above all, the personal influence of religious men, whether within the Colleges or without, that influence which is the true source of religious teaching—the wide-reaching power of religious life and religious example—these will remain untouched. No Act of Parliament gave this influence, no Act of Parliament can lessen it, or take it away. Is this, then, just? If not, it should not be done; and it is fit, therefore, to inquire whether it be just or no. Now, as to the Universities, it seems to follow that it is just, from the now generally received proposition, that they are national institutions, to which the nation has granted great privileges, in which it has great interest, and which it is fair that the nation should have access to without reference to the form of religion which the individuals comprising it may chance to profess. No one indeed very seriously disputes this part of the measure; and many Members opposite have abstained from voting or engaging in any active opposition to it. But it is said that it its not just to the Colleges. What is it, then, that we propose? Literally nothing more than to repeal the Act of Uniformity of Charles II. and two or three other much more recent Acts, specially directed against the Roman 213 Catholics. We propose to withdraw from one form of religion a special protection given in comparatively modern times, and given mainly for a political object; and to leave it to the operation of the general law, and to its own enormous inherent power and influence. Sir, I have heard it said before—and I have heard it with an indignation I find it hard to master—that this measure is an attempt to lay hold of the property of others, and that the object of those who advocate it is to share in money which does not belong to them, and to which they have no right. Once I heard it coupled with a sneer against them, because they had not themselves contributed to raise the institutions to the benefit of which they sought to be admitted. But how much have any of us contributed? Why, not a penny. The founders, nine-tenths of them were Roman Catholics—["No, no."]—Well, I will not argue the proportion; but a large proportion of them were so—and unless we adopt the silly clerical argument that all the founders could have certainly agreed with Bishop Bale and Archbishop Cranmer rather than with Sir Thomas More and Cardinal Pole and Bishop Fisher, we are all of us—except for the title which Acts of Parliament have given the Church of England—equally unentitled to the benefit of Roman Catholic foundations. No man of common sense and common honesty of mind will deny that Chichcle and Fox and Adam de Brune would just as much and just as little have desired to see Mr. Miall or Mr. Baptist Noel partakers of their bounties, as Professor Jowett or Archbishop Thomson or Mr. James Anthony Froude. The truth is that all this sort of argument is unworthy; it is a mere appeal to prejudice and to base and coarse prejudice too, and is destitute of any foundation in history or in fact. I do not know that a desire to be a Fellow of the magnificent and beautiful Colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, is in itself a discreditable desire; nor an inclination to repine at exclusion from them, because a man cannot sign the Thirty-nine Articles nor agree in all things with the Church of England, is a very unreasonable inclination. But I put it on a higher ground, a ground of argument which we at least believe in, and we at least can appreciate—that it is not just for the State to interfere as a State between conflicting creeds; that the Church, strong in its position, its learning, its wealth, and its numbers, should justly be 214 left to fight its battles in the Colleges, and that Parliament therefore should let right be done. But though it may be just, the wisdom and the prudence of doing it may be still matter for consideration. And here we are brought face to face with the agitation of which I spoke, and with that most strange and wild address to the Archbishop of Canterbury, which many of us I suppose have read with surprise, and, speaking for myself, I must say with very neat regret. I will read to the House some of the passages of that composition, which I think will justify the epithets I have applied to it. The remonstrants say—We approach your Grace as the chief guardian in Parliament of the religious interests of this realm.They evidently do not think much of the House of Commons. They go on—At the present moment there is a Bill before the House of Commons which, if it should become law, would completely destroy the existing connection of the University and the Colleges with the Church.Once more—For as the tutors are selected from among the fellows of Colleges, we are convinced that the admission to Fellowships of persons not necessarily Christians will imperil the continuance of religious education in Oxford and tend to the establishment of a purely secular system. In thus appealing to your Grace, we plead the cause of the Christian parents of our English youth throughout the land, whatever be their religious profession. We are confident they will feel with us that if the proposed changes are effected, not only will unity of faith and worship be inevitably destroyed in the University and the Colleges, but, with the overthrow of a definite creed and of a common form of prayer, the very basis of a Christian education will disappear from amongst us. While the intellect, at a most critical period of life and in an age of great and increasing excitement, will be highly stimulated, the conscience will be injured by the exhibition, in the very home of education, either of a bitter conflict on first principles or of a lax and careless indifferentism. We cannot too strongly represent to your Grace that this is no common contest, no party question. It is not even a question between the Church and Dissent. The battle is for Christian Faith and Christian morals. It is for our very life. On behalf of our Church and our country, on behalf of the souls of the youth of this hitherto Christian nation, we solemnly, as in the presence of Almighty God, implore your Grace, and our Christian brethren everywhere, to strive with us to maintain in our University and our Colleges the principle of Christian education which has been handed down to us through so many Christian centuries, and which, if once destroyed, it will be impossible to restore.I think it will be admitted that I have road the strongest parts of the address; I have, at least, intended to do so, and I must say 215 that these are surely altogether exaggerated expressions, and utterly weak and unworthy fears. The Church and religion are always perishing out of the land. Ten times, at least, in my own not very long life-time, the clergy and clerically-minded men have foretold the speedy downfall of both; but, thank God, they do not fall down; they grow and spread; they derive strength from measures which are said to threaten their extinction, like the much quoted tree in Horace, which, as he says—Per damna per cœdes ab ipsoDucit opes animumque ferro.Now, what was the Archbishop's answer? I approach an. Archbishop, I hope, with proper dispositions. There is the conventional respect for the rank and office, which I try to feel; and there is the real respect for the man, which I feel without effort. But I suppose an Archbishop's logic is no better than that of other men, and that his reasons may be examined by the merely human understanding. He told the remonstrants that, as he had been ten years ago a party to a settlement by which these endowments were secured to the Church of England, he would oppose to the uttermost of his power any measure by which that settlement was threatened with disturbance. But I should like to have asked his Grace who was the other party to that settlement? How were any but members of the Church of England represented on that occasion? It is true that, ten years ago, a Commission of members of the Church of England reformed certain scandals and abuses in the Oxford system, which were too bad for longer toleration; that they reformed establishments, at that time confined to members of the Church of England, for the benefit and in the interest of the Church of England; but how that affects this question, or how it shows, or has any tendency to show, that persons belonging to other religious communions may not now justly share in the advantages of these establishments, I am entirely unable to perceive, and his Grace did not think it fit or needful to explain. The truth, however, is, this whole remonstrance is based on a false assumption as to religious teaching in the sense in which those words were used. I do not want to weary the House by going over again what I said last year; yet I must respectfully but emphatically assert that it does not, and never did, exist in University or Colleges in the sense in which these petitioners talk of it. I asserted 216 then, and I assert now, that the real religious teaching which men of my time got at Oxford—and I mention Oxford and my time, because what is true of Oxford and my time is true mutatis mutandis of all time and of both Universities—that which awakened conscience, aroused feeling, and influenced life and practice—was derived from the writings and teaching and example of two illustrious men, equally discouraged and proscribed by University authorities, one in Oxford and one out of it—Dr. Arnold and Dr. Newman. All direct religious teaching worthy of the name I maintain to be personal; indirect religious teaching and influence may come from public services, from the administration of sacraments, from religious buildings, and in a hundred other ways. These indirect influences are utterly untouched by the measure before the House. The direct religious teaching, so far as it is real, so far as it depends on personal authority, will remain exactly as it is. Does any sane man believe that the influence of Mr. Jowett, or of Mr. Liddon, will be in the slightest degree affected by the repealing of the Act of Uniformity of the time of Charles II.? Of course not. No one will be hardy enough to venture any such assertion. Is there any danger, then, to doctrine and to faith? First of all, in a national Church you must needs have great variety of doctrine. Some time ago, within my own knowledge, one Bishop refused ordination to a candidate who answered a doctrinal question in the words of another Bishop, telling his questioner that he had done so. And at present you would find, upon most important points of doctrine, the authorities of Oxford and Salisbury on one side, and of London and Carlisle on the other—hopelessly irreconcilable. There is, as we know, controversy raging in the University; there is, as we know, the very widest difference already in religious teaching; and to talk as if there was one clear, definite code of belief taught alike, and taught with authority, to all the students, is—forgive me—to talk nonsense, find to talk unfair and misleading nonsense too. I am sometimes told by good men, with honest horror, that in the Universities at the dresent moment there is a large amount of almost professed infidelity, and that every religious belief—even the most elementary—is considered there as an open question. I hope, I believe, there is ex- 217 aggeration in the statement; but if it be true, and so far as it is true, it proves incontestably that your system of religious protection is an utter failure; that it keeps out, perhaps, good and honest and devout Christians, but does not quench doubts, nor extinguish disputes, nor banish infidelity. And, for my own part, I would far rather have fierce but honest and open conflict about religion than a system which, if the statements of its own advocates are to be believed, stifles inquiry without producing conviction, and has an inevitable tendency to create that self-deceit which, to use the memorable words of the illustrious Butler—Undermines the whole principle of good, darkens the light which is to direct our steps, and corrupts the conscience, which is the guide of life.But this is a practical question, and not one of theory at all; and it is only from a practical point of view that Parliament can regard it. Is this measure safe? Will it really tend, in any appreciable degree, to produce those mischiefs which we have heard so much of? I have pointed out, as well as I can, the exact limits of its operations; and I may appeal to the common sense of the House as the best answer to what seem to me unreal and visionary fears. And when I see distinguished men declaiming in the papers and on platforms about Comtist professors and infidel Fellows and lecturers, I answer—first, that many professorships, and all the lectureships, are at this moment open to them—all, that is to which no subscription to the Articles is attached as a condition—and next, that as every single Fellow is bound by statute and by oath to elect the man whom he believes after examination to be most fit to be elected a Fellow of the College as a place of religion and learning, you must have a majority of the Fellows scoundrels, or else men who have become infidels since their own election, before this measure could even aid in the election of any but a man at least honestly believed by the electors to be a moral and religious person. Sir, so far as this is matter of authority, it is decided surely by the petitions. The House heard the remarkable petitions which I presented just before I rose to address them. A large body of the most eminent men of Oxford, non-resident, petition in favour of the measure. A majority—or, if I am exaggerating, at any rate, a large minority—of the working staff of the University and Colleges petition in the same way. A majority of the Fellows of 218 Trinity College, Cambridge, of the Fellows of Peterhouse, and the whole of Christ's College, as a body, are to be found on our side. I am not much grieved by the petitions under the respective seals of the Universities which have been presented against it. Of the Cambridge petition, as I am not a Cambridge man, I say nothing, except that it, of course, does not represent those eminent men who have petitioned in favour of the measure. Of the Oxford petition, I say this—that amongst the dissentients is a vast majority of the men of eminence engaged in the real work of the University. The men who teach, the men who give tone and character to the place, the men of whom we think when we speak of the intellect, the life, the power of the University, all stand aloof, and either petition for the measure or are absolutely neutral. And no one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who now represents the University of Oxford, the difference between the weight and numbers of the University; the cruel candour of a thorough analysis of the poll-book at the last election must have satisfied even him that, though he represents a majority of the members of Convocation, he represents only a miserable minority of the class-men, the prize-men, the Fellows, the scholars, the professors of that great and famous University. Sir, one word as to the Bishop of London's plan. I desire to speak of it with that great respect which, on every ground, I feel for that right rev. Prelate; but I will only say that it comes too late; that it is a compromise which we have passed by in this House; and that, for the objects we have in view, although it may turn out that this measure will not wholly effect them, it is perfectly plain that nothing less than this measure in its integrity would have the smallest chance of success. Sir, I have carefully abstained from noticing the personal attacks and the utterly groundless and unprovoked slanders to which those who support this Bill have been exposed for many months. In defence of any existing institution, especially if it can be more or less remotely connected with Christianity, it seems, as far as I can judge, to the defenders to be perfectly right, and, of course, quite justifiable, to forget the elementary precepts of the Christian religion which they are professing to defend, and to make imputation of motive and misrepresentation of object do the duty of reasoning 219 and argument. I pass by the rhetorical garland of abuse which the distinguished Prelate who presides over the See of Oxford offered the other day to the acceptance of an audience largely composed of undergraduates with great favour and applause, because he does not sit in this House, and I differ from him in thinking it fair to make imputations on men in their absence and when they can make no reply. But the hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckingham is in his place, and as he called this Bill, a little while ago at a public meeting, a distinct and avowed attack on Christianity itself, I ask him to stand up here and tell us whether, when he said that, he had even read the Bill, and, if he had, on what sentence, or word, or syllable in it he founds a charge so groundless and so offensive? On these subjects, however, I say no more; and I almost regret I have said so much. Such courses are never ultimately successful, because they are unfair and do not deserve success. They may pain and wound a particular man; I will not deny to the hon. Gentleman the satisfaction, if he desires it, of knowing that such expressions have pained and wounded me, but they cannot prevent the success of what is just; they will not alter by one hair's breadth the course which, as matter of conviction, it is my duty to take. Sir, the vast endowments of the Universities and the Colleges can no longer remain the peculium of one particular religious body. They were in effect, by the change then made in the terms of holding, given to that religious body for the wisest purposes and with the best intentions some 300 years ago. In the state of things which then existed, and which continued for many years, they were useful and beneficial in no common measure. But that state of things has past away, and with complete toleration and complete social and political equality it is just and fair that there should also be a complete and absolute educational equality. That these great institutions will continue to work, as they have worked hitherto, for the advance of true religion and of real morality, I have as little doubt as I have of my own existence. How they will work I do not pretend to foretel; I leave the future where Homer left it, and where all wise men must leave it, on the knees of the Gods. But I know that there are a thousand ways in which good may be done or religion may be maintained; and 220 do not believe—you must excuse me for saying it is childish vanity, and folly to believe—that a few English statutes are the one set of provisions in the world on which Christian truth reposes, and that when they are altered or repealed they involve in their repeal or alteration the destruction of Christian truth. There is much more wisdom, much more real religion, much more Christian faith in the noble words of Mr. Tennyson's King Arthur, with which, and with the thought contained in which, I will end what I have to say—The old order changeth, yielding place to new,And God fulfils Himself in many ways,Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Coleridge).
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had spoken of those who differed from him on this question in language which he did not expect to hear from him and which seldom fell from his lips. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Coleridge) was entirely mistaken in his view of the objections entertained to the Bill. Nobody had ever thought of objecting to the fullest educational freedom with regard to the Universities, and indeed the freedom of which his hon. and learned Friend spoke so highly was already secured to everyone throughout the length and breadth of the land. The hon. and learned Gentleman had very properly divided his subject into two parts, the one relating to the Universities and the other to the Colleges. Though the hon. Gentleman now maintained that there was no distinction between the Universities and the Colleges, he spoke differently some time ago. With regard to the Universities, his hon. and learned Friend said he believed the Bill would establish a system of complete freedom, while, with regard to the Colleges, he stated that he only proposed to do justice to them by removing the restraints by which their action was at present fettered. Let them see how the matter stood. In both Universities the utmost freedom of admission was given to Dissenters, and by the University Acts powers were given or intended to be given to them to receive the benefits of a University education by the opening of private halls or hostels. The only distinction between Oxford and Cambridge—a distinction which he admitted 221 should be removed—was that while at the former a person could not advance beyond the Bachelor's degree without a religious test or declaration, at the latter he could advance to the Master's degree; and that while at Oxford a private hall could only be opened by a member of Convocation, at Cambridge a hostel could be opened by any graduate. If this distinction were removed, to which the right hon. Baronet (Sir William Heathcote) raised no objection, at both Oxford and Cambridge the fullest advantages of a University education, with the prizes, honours, exhibitions, and everything which could stimulate a student, and with the Master's degree as a certificate of ability and learning, would be open to the members of every religious denomination. He could not see that any other legislation was required. The hon. and learned Gentleman argued that both Universities required more educational freedom. But this was not a question of educational freedom at all; but whether, when those who did not conform to the teachings of the Church had been given all possible educational freedom, you were to admit to the governing body and teaching power those who did not subscribe to the doctrines of the Church, and who could not, therefore, fulfil the trusts for which these Colleges were founded. The question stated in this way was totally different from that put before the House by the hon. and learned Gentleman, who had, he thought, in this part of his argument thrown the House off the true scent. To what did the eloquence of the hon. and learned Gentleman point when he i said the Universities still require additional freedom. He (Mr. Walpole) maintained that there was nothing that could be given to these persons which they did not already possess, unless they were to be admitted to the governing body. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of the religious education of the University, as if those who opposed his Bill were contending that there might not be persons like Dr. Arnold and Dr. Newman, who, living in the University, might teach things contrary to the doctrine and practice of the Church. That was not the contention at all. There were two principles upon which they were nearly all agreed. In the first place everyone admitted that education; without religion was really of very little worth. Most persons were also agreed that education could not be carried on with religion unless there was some definite and established mode of teaching that religion. 222 The question was whether, when they found such a mode of teaching religion established, they would take it away and say that any person in a College might set up a mode of teaching religion different from that of the Established Church, and with which the great majority did not agree. The general education prescribed by the University was founded upon a definite mode of religious teaching, and the effect of both was to form the habits and regulate the character of the young men at the University. He doubted whether these beneficial results would be secured to young men if a different mode of teaching religion in the University were adopted. He would now consider the question as it affected the Colleges as distinct from the Universities. The latter were more or less connected with the State. They became incorporated bodies by Act of Parliament in the time of Queen Elizabeth, "for the promotion of godly learning." Since the reign of James I. they had returned representatives to that House. They had been, moreover, down to a recent period, supported by certain grants from Parliament. But the case was very different as regarded the Colleges. They were not incorporated by any Act of Parliament, but were governed by charters from the Crown. They had never received any contributions from the public funds. They were voluntary institutions, founded by voluntary benefactions, and supported by these benefactions turned into endowments. They were thus as much entitled to protection and security, according to the trusts of their foundation, as any Dissenting College, whether at Homerton, Hoxton, or Stonyhurst. Upon what principle would Parliament now disturb them in the possession of their privileges? If it were proposed that the House should take from those Dissenting institutions the rights that they now claimed and enjoyed—if it were proposed to interfere with their definite mode of religious teaching—there would be an outcry from one-end of the country to the other, ten times as great as the reasonable demonstration made by members of the Universities for defending their statutes and privileges. The Legislature, in dealing with the endowed schools, hail laid down the two principles that ought to decide this question. One claim set up and allowed by the Legislature was that the children of parents of every religion should not have their religion interfered with if they went to these schools; and, secondly, that if child- 223 ren of various religions went to the school the provisions of the trust should not on that account be altered. Parliament said that the children of parents of every sect should be enabled to go to these endowed schools, but that it would not interfere with the governing body of these schools. A more complete analogy could not be found than that which existed between the principle laid down by Parliament for the endowed schools and that which he maintained ought still to continue in these Colleges. With regard to the practical operation and consequences of the present Bill, he took issue with the hon. and learned Gentleman, and would state in a very few words why he stoutly and strenuously opposed his measure. There were four points of view in which the practical working and consequences of such a measure might be viewed—as regarded the Dissenters, the Colleges, the Church of England—with which the Universities were connected; and the general interests of the public. With regard to the Dissenters, could the hon. and learned Gentleman contend that they were at present debarred from any privileges which they had a right to expect, holding different opinions, as they did, from those on which these Colleges were endowed? Could he contend that the Dissenters did not now enjoy the fullest benefits and advantages of a University education within the walls of the several Colleges? Did he not know that at this moment there were at Cambridge Dissenters of almost every class, to whom every indulgence was extended, and whose religious convictions and practices were not interfered with? There were at Cambridge Jews, Roman Catholics, Dissenters, and even Parsees, and no practical grievance was complained of. But because they received all the advantages of a University education, and a share in the exhibitions, were they therefore to have a share in the government of these institutions? He would concur with the hon. and learned Gentleman in regarding it as a misfortune that accomplished and learned students could not receive these Fellowships, because they belonged to other religious communities, but he denied that this was a reason for disturbing the trusts on which these Fellowships were held. It was to be regretted that there was not some other mode of rewarding those who had during their University career attained to special literary or scientific distinction, but this was not a sufficient plea for disturbing the very 224 foundations of the Colleges. Then in regard to the Colleges themselves, did the hon. and learned Gentleman really believe that no injury would happen to the religious discipline and teaching of these collegiate bodies, if they admitted to a share in the governing body, not as a favour or as a privilege, but as a right, any persons of any and every religious opinion, and even persons of no religion at fill? In Cambridge there were seventeen Colleges, fifteen of which were called the smaller Colleges, because they were not so large as Trinity and St. John. The resident Fellows in these smaller Colleges did not average more than six or seven, and even in the two larger Colleges the seniority was composed of not more than six or seven Fellows. Now, if persons of any and every religion were to be admitted as Fellows they might arrive at a point at which the majority of the Fellows might not belong to the Church, and would the practical working of the system under such circumstances be beneficial? Would not the youthful mind of the country be materially injured if they gave to persons holding religious opinions not in conformity with the trusts of the College the right of advocating secular as distinct from religious principles, the right of upholding rationalistic theories, the right of maintaining the views of all the Dissenting bodies, and, above all the right of prosleytising, which would be freely used in order to bring these young men to Rome? Every one could foresee the controversies and contests which would arise, and it would be extremely difficult for the young men to judge between the scepticism on the one hand and the fanaticism on the other which would prevail. With regard to the Church of England they could not inflict a greater blow upon her than by passing the measure. One of the chief benefits of the connection between the Colleges and the Church of England was that the clergy and laity were so brought up and educated together that no discordance prevailed between them, and they were taught to entertain no narrow or intolerant views. The tendency of the system under which they received a common education was to enlarge the mind and liberalize the ideas of the clergy, and this was shown in all their dealings with mankind after they received Holy Orders. If, however, the House should pass a measure of this kind, such a state of things could exist no longer. As there would be an end to the present definite religious teaching the consequence 225 would be that it would be necessary to send the young men intended for the Church to a theological training College, and there would no longer be that union between the clergy and the laity which had been so beneficial to both. Lastly, he was greatly apprehensive of any change which would convert institutions established to give a sound and religious education into places where everything was or might be taught except religion. He did believe that such a change would shock the feelings and convictions of the country, and would lead many parents to withdraw their sons from the education which they now received at our Universities. While he agreed that it would be desirable to give certain distinctions to Nonconformists which they could not now enjoy, he contended that all the other practical consequences would be met unjust to the Colleges, destructive to the connection of the Church of England with the University, and most detrimental to that combination of religious with secular education which had approved itself to the feelings, wishes, and affections of those who sent their sons to the Universities. For these reasons he trusted that the House would maintain the system that had always prevailed in our two Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ 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. Walpole.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
MR. WINTER BOTHAM
said, that to suffer in silence had never been esteemed one of the virtues of the Protestant Dissenters; and he trusted that the House would listen to one of that body who had suffered keenly from the state of things which the present Bill was brought forward to remedy. The House should remember, in the first place, that Dissent was the creation of Parliament. The disabilities and exclusions under which Dissenters had laboured, more or less, for 200 years were all imposed as parts of one policy. The Preamble of the Act of Uniformity set forth that the persons at whom it was directed "wilfully and schismatically refused to come to their parish chinch." Was that the light in which Parliament was now to regard Protestant Dissenters? 226 If Parliament had changed its policy from that which dictated the Act of Uniformity—had abandoned penal legislation, and had allowed Dissenters a participation in civil rights—they asked that this change should be carried out in the Universities as well as elsewhere. They did not ask for separate halls, or for special provisions for their religious education. They hated sectarian distinctions. They only asked for perfect religious freedom and equality. They asked for nothing more and would take nothing less. They were told that Dissenters had at present free access to the Universities, and that it was only their exclusion from monetary advantages that they regretted. That matter, however, was past argument. If hon. Gentlemen had been fostering so long the spirit of religious ascendancy that they could not appreciate the sense of degradation which it inflicted upon those who were its objects, it would be quite impossible for him to impress it upon them. Culture and education might be bought too dear; and this happened when they were bought at the sacrifice of independence, self-respect, and equality. He believed that the framers of the Act of Uniformity never contemplated the present exclusion of the Dissenters from the Universities. It could never have been intended to deprive the great middle class—the bulk of whom were Dissenters—of the advantages of University education. But he was unwilling that the state of things which this Bill was intended to remove should be considered merely as a grievance on the part of the Dissenters. It was, on the contrary, an injury to the State. The effect had been that, for two centuries, the Dissenters had been left with an unlearned clergy. He knew Dissenting ministers well; they had zeal, and piety, and abilities far above the average, but they had not been, for the greater part, men of culture and learning. They had been, in fact, imperfectly educated. What had been the effect upon the classes with whom they came in eon-tact, and who, from their own deficient culture, had been more dependent upon their ministers than the laity of the Church of England? the effect had been most deleterious upon the middle classes. Those classes possessed great virtues and great energy; but their energies had been too much diverted and narrowed into the production of material wealth. They did not want more energy, but to have their energy better directed. They wanted 227 culture and refinement; not more life, but a higher life. And these they might have been encouraged to attain if their clergy had not been excluded from the highest education which the country possessed—namely, in its Universities. It appeared to him that the anti-social and disintegrating influences which were at work in modern society were terribly strong. What was the duty of those who wished to counteract these agencies? To maintain a common culture and a common faith. Every one knew the power of both in smoothing away religious and political distinctions. Men could not live together for twelve months without coming to like one another. Nothing had struck him more during the short period in which he had had the honour to be a, Member of that House than the wonderful tolerance with which hon. Members listened to opinions the most opposite from their own. Christians agreed upon more points then they differed; and the effect upon young men of different religious opinions of receiving their education in common would be, that they would like each other better, and be more tolerant of each other's opinions. It seemed to him that the episcopal and clerical opponents of the Bill know this, and did not desire it to pass for that very reason. It was said that it would be injurious to the Church; but the laity of England were not to be excluded from instruction in the Universities because young men were studying there for the Church. If the latter could not bear the free breath and healthy light of inquiry and opinion, let them have their theological Colleges, as had been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole); but let not great national institutions be turned into forcing-houses for the clergy. He thought, on the contrary, that no greater boon than this freedom of inquiry could be desired for them. Which was the more cruel—to make them sign the Thirty-nine Articles first and inquire afterwards, or to let them inquire first and sign afterwards? When the deputation on this question waited the other day on the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Gloucester spoke of the Church of England being founded on a rock, and of the storms that raged round it. But how had those storms originated? Not with the Dissenters, but with some of the clergy of the Church, Fears of too much freedom of inquiry, and even of infidelity, had been expressed. But where did the thing come from that was 228 so much feared? Not from Protestant Dissenters, but from tutors and Fellows, and even Bishops, who had swallowed all the University tests; and they would make the Dissenters scape-goats for their sins, and send them into the wilderness. Apprehensions of Romanism had likewise been expressed; but where had the Romanist movement in the Established Church its rise? Not among the Protestant Dissenters—he should like to ask how many Protestant Dissenters had become Romanists—not from the increased activity of the Romanists themselves, but at Oxford, among clergymen, Fellows, and tutors, who had swallowed all your tests? How could it be otherwise so long as they compelled men to sail under false colours? Men came in under false colours and changed them when they went out. If they allowed men to come in stating manfully what they believed, they need not fear that, on going out, they would depart from the opinions they had expressed. Let them cease to try the consciences of men; to lead them to tamper with their convictions and trifle with their consciences at a time when their convictions were honest and their consciences were clear. The argument used by Milton in his Plea for the Liberty of Unlicenced Printing, was applicable to this question—Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making. …. What some lament of, we rather should rejoice at, should rather praise this pious forwardness among men, to reassume the ill-deputed care of their religion into their own hands again. A little generous prudence, a little forbearance of one another, and some grain of charity might win all these diligencies to join and unite into one general and brotherly search after truth, could we but forego this prelatical tradition of crowding free consciences and Christian liberties into canons and precepts of men.It was in the interest of Christian truth, unity, and charity that he supported this Bill. It would not injure, but rather increase, the influence of real religion by liberating it from odious and unnatural restrictions; and then real religion, breathing more freely, would more effectively pursue its high and holy course, promoting truth, peace, and good-will among men.
§ SIR WILLIAM HEATHCOTE
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had spoken with an ability and—though he could not himself agree with much that had fallen from him—on the whole, with a temper which showed that he would 229 evidently be an addition to the debating power of that House. Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman had confirmed him in the impression he previously entertained, that the Bill must inevitably tend, whether its authors intended it or not, towards making University education merely secular. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Coleridge) had committed something like an anachronism in describing this as a Bill for the admission of Dissenters to the Universities. The two questions involved in the Bill—the education and the governing power—were distinct. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter had paid that his measure would not have the effect of introducing scepticism or infidelity into the Universities, because infidelity existed there already. For himself, he certainly had no knowledge of its existence there now; but he would ask his lion, and learned Friend whether there was no difference between a man of sceptical principles being in possession of opportunities which it was a disgrace to him to retain, and who therefore was necessarily under the operation of motives that would induce him to be cautious, and the setting-up of such a person in a place of recognized authority? Then they came to the question—could they have the governing power of the Colleges composed of men of different, and, perhaps, contradictory beliefs? He apprehended that the qualifications contained in the Bill must of necessity come to nothing. For instance, there was the reservation of the divinity degrees and the divinity professorships. How could that reservation be maintained? It was entirely inconsistent with the whole principle of the Bill. If they set tip the national character of Universities as fatal to, or at least inconsistent with, their religious character, how could they maintain a staff for teaching and examining in the religious tenets of a Church which would be designated as a sect? That reservation would, therefore, last only a very short time. Then, again, how would they retain the religious worship of the College when the members of the College, the governing body, the Fellows, and teachers were of different forms of religion, and some of them, perhaps, of no form of religion at all? It would come to this at last, that they must secularize their education. For his own part, if it came to that, he would rather have seen—though the hon. Gentleman who had spoken last disclaimed the desire to see it—some of the Colleges, or a part of their funds, 230 diverted to establishments for the Dissenters, than that the present governing and teaching bodies should be entirely revolutionized. He did not think his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Coleridge) really paw the shore on which he would, after nil, be landed; he was doing the work of those who wished to bring about a very different state of things from what he desired; and a work which must end in so complete an elimination of religious education from the Universities that they must have separate institutions for teaching the clergy, and even go beyond that. There were, us usual, three courses now open to them. The Colleges might be maintained as they were now in possession of the Fellows belonging to the Established Church; or, if that was not to be conceded, they might either secularize them, as that Bill would do; or convert them into denominational institutions. If they took the last course it might be carried out either by giving half the Colleges to the different forms of Dissent, or—leaving the Colleges as they stood—by diverting half their funds for the benefit of other denominations. He should prefer the latter alternative if he had to choose between them.
§ MR. HUBBARD
said, he hoped he would be allowed to reply briefly to the remarks addressed to him personally by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter, (Mr. Coleridge). His hon. and learned Friend had taken exception to some observations made by him not there but elsewhere. Now he had never uttered a word on that subject cither there or elsewhere which he would shrink from acknowledging. His hon. and learned Friend, however, had not quite accurately quoted his words. What he had stated at a public meeting at Buckingham was that the measure of which his hon. and learned Friend was a sponsor was one of a series of measures that were directly aimed against the Christianity of the nation. To those words he entirely adhered, and he was prepared to justify them. The Preamble of the Bill declared that it was expedient that the benefits of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge should be rendered "freely accessible to the nation." Now, would his hon. and learned Friend say that those great institutions never were accessible to the nation. Were they not open in and intended for the nation at the time of their foundation? When did they tease to be accessible to the nation and appropriate to their original purpose? Would it be pie- 231 tended that the Church of England ceased to be the Church of England, or that institutions founded to impart sound learning and religion ceased to be appropriate to their purpose, because England, almost as one man, threw off the yoke of the Church of Rome? If, indeed, they had ceased to be "national," it was only to men who themselves were not of the nation—to men who did not hold those principles and those creeds which had at all times been bound up with the religious life and profession of the nation. Were they to revolutionize not only the Universities but the country itself in order to do away with the only question on which there was any repugnance on the part of the Dissenters to the University system? Were they, he asked, to revolutionize and degrade not only the constitution of the Universities, but the Constitution of the whole land, in order to take away that which presented the only point of repugnance between them and the nation? He protested against the abuse of the word "national" in respect to the Universities. These Institutions had come down to them with all their great functions and their character unchanged. The new Member (Mr. Winterbotham), who had spoken that day with much ability, had in one short phrase stated the whole battle between them, for he said, "We ask for religious equality, and we will be content with nothing less." There was nothing like coming to a clear explanation. There was no use going on year after year with mere side issues, which were only so many means of aggravating, and never led to a settlement of anything. The real question was—Was this to be a religious land or was it not? ["Oh!"] He expected a shout of disapprobation when he made that statement. Hon. Gentleman did not see that religion must be founded on a faith. They talked of their all uniting in teaching religion and morality; but the greatest and most absurd figment of the day was the notion that they could uphold religion and teach morality without a faith on which they were to be founded. If they elected into the teaching and governing bodies of the Universities men of entirely different and contrary creeds, there must ensue either constant conflicts that would be destructive of all religious teaching, or, as was more likely to happen, religion would be so subordinated to every other subject as to be practically swept out of the University curriculum. Religion would be tabooed 232 by common consent, and they would have no religion taught at all. It was impossible to found any argument on the contradictory state of feeling that now existed. This Bill would open the doors of the Universities to those who had not even an idea of a hereafter. His hon. and learned Friend had argued his cause with consummate ability; but he had pleaded as an advocate; in time he would doubtless reach the highest position in the profession which he adorned, and he (Mr. Hubbard) appealed from the argument of the present Advocate to the matured decision of the future Judge. He had never wished to say a word that would give the least pain to his hon. and learned Friend; but entertaining as he did the strongest objection to his proposal, he could not shrink from the duty of boldly saying what he felt and believed on this important subject.
§ MR. POWELL
said, he hoped that after a discussion of only two hours on such an important measure the debate would not be arrested. The object of the Bill was to un-denominationalize our system of education and to create a secular system. The petition against the Bill had been signed by 460 Heads and Fellows of Colleges, whereas that in its favour received the signatures of only 290,
§ And it being now a quarter to Six of the Clock—
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.