HC Deb 22 May 1874 vol 219 cc702-24

, in rising to call attention to the selection of Oxford as a military centre; and to move—"That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the expediency of the selection of Oxford as a Military Centre," said: I know there are many reasons to-night against a long debate, so I will narrow my argument to the one issue of the desirability of now appointing a Committee to consider the question of the military centre at Oxford. In doing that, I must very closely refer to my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War. But I can assure him that, in all I may say, I shall bear in mind those manly and straightforward characteristics which place him in the first rank among our statesmen, and those personal qualities which endear him so much to those who have the privilege of enjoying his friendship. I am satisfied that I shall say nothing which will not find a response in his heart, whether the obligations and restrictions of official etiquette may or may not enable him to confess as much to the House. I shall travel very rapidly over the question of Oxford as a military centre, up to the 23rd of May last year; for curiously I am making this Motion on the eve of that day 12 months when a similar Motion was made in the late Parliament. The House knows that Oxford was selected as a military centre, and that on the first announcement of the project, a feeling of well-founded alarm was raised both inside and outside the University, lest the presence of such persons as usually gather round a military centre, might be prejudicial to the necessary discipline of such an institution. That feeling found expression in a very influential memorial, which I hold in my hand, signed by 24 Professors and 89 tutors of Oxford, on the 28th of October, 1872. But here let me briefly explain why I have taken up the question. Although the two great national Universities have no formal and legal union, yet they are so united by similar objects and similar constitutions, that neither can be insensible to the welfare of the other. It would have been difficult for one right hon. Member for the University of Oxford to have led in a debate against his Colleague, and on the other hand the importance of maintaining the academic discipline of both our Universities intact was a sufficient justification for my taking up the matter. On the 28th of October, 1872, this address of the 24 Professors and 89 tutors appeared; and when I state that the first two names on the list are those of Dr. Pusey and Dr. Jowett, I need say no more to show that all Oxford, without reference to party feeling, united in protesting against the measure. As to the quality of the memorial, I need only quote these words—equally true and forcible—of my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for War, in the debate of the 23rd of May last— The memorial represented practically the whole of the teaching power of the University."—[3 Hansard, ccxvi. 370.] This paper was issued in the Recess, and its publication produced considerable sensation; still there were no signs of yielding on the part of the then Secretary of State for War (Lord Card-well). Accordingly, on an early day in the following Session of Parliament, my right hon. Friend the present War Minister, zealous as always for his University, asked a Question, and extorted from the Government their consent to the publication of a Report of Prince Edward of Saxe Weimar on the question of the Oxford centre. As to that Report, I need only say that Prince Edward reported against the Oxford site, on purely military grounds, some of which connected with questions of soil, water supply, and so on, might be curable. But he also reported against it on a ground, which could not be got rid of—that, so far from being central, it was on the verge of the district—Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire—which this military centre was intended to supply. But the City of Oxford lies on the confines of Berkshire, and a less central position could hardly be discovered by the ingenuity of man. I do not go into the other objections, for these have, I believe, been met by the site which has been selected at Bullingdon, two or three miles from Oxford. No doubt that site meets some of the difficulties; but it does not meet the difficulty raised on the part of the University. For, again to quote my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, I find him stating in this House that— It seemed to him idle to say that the fact of the station being two miles from town made a great difference. The moment the men were off duty they would direct their steps towards the large town of Oxford."—[3 Hansard, ccxvi. 369.] Therefore, I am supported in my view of the question by the right hon. Gentleman. I will not enter into the question of University discipline, as probably affected by the presence of this military centre. I am merely making out a primâ facie case for inquiry by a Select Committee, and the final conclusion must be based on the evidence which will be laid before it. On the 23rd of May last, the then hon. Member for Nottingham. (Mr. Auberon Herbert) moved for his Committee, and the right hon. Gentleman the junior Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Mowbray) seconded him. He was followed by the then Secretary of State for War (Mr. Cardwell) a great part of whose speech was devoted to cutting up the memorial of the Professors and tutors; but the acknowledgment was extorted from him that this military centre was to be composed of not less than 110 individuals. Mr. Cardwell was followed by my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for War, who made a speech as logical as it was fervid and telling against the scheme. He laid great stress on the words "near Oxford," and one of the first points he scored was that the dullness of the Bullingdon station would render a town like Oxford doubly attractive to the soldiers. He continued— The way in which the soldiers behaved when in strict discipline …. was entirely irrelevant to the conduct of the recruits who were to be brought into this depot."—[3 Hansard, ccxvi. 369.] He also went on to say, that which, if true on May 23rd, 1873, must be equally true on May 22nd, 1874— That it interfered most materially with the discipline of the University."—[Ibid.] Then, traversing the case that might be raised with regard to the expense, the right hon. Gentleman, in a burst of noble indignation, said—"Did they not know how many pounds it would require to make the Chancellor of the Exchequer put his veto on such a proposal? The memorial," said he, "represents practically the whole of the teaching power of the University." Next he proceeded to deal with a question as to which I have no doubt my hon. and and learned Friend opposite the Member for the City of Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), will favour us with some very telling comments based on very constitutional precedents drawn from the days of 1688. My right hon. Friend went on to speak of the supposed interests of the town in the promotion of trade, as that word is understood by a class of shopkeepers not unknown to University towns— With respect to the town there were, he would not say sordid, but money considerations, to be taken into account."—[3 Hansard, ccxvi. 370.] The hesitation here implied as to the right use of epithets was short, for in his peroration, which immediately followed, my right hon. Friend— Asked the House to set the interest of the nation against the supposed interest of the locality, to set the moral feeling of the University against the sordid feeling of the town, and to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Nottingham."—[Ibid, 371.] I call upon him now to give a like support to my analogous Motion. My hon. and learned Friend opposite (Sir William Harcourt), who then and now represented the City of Oxford, followed with an able speech from his brief, which I may—with his assent, I hope—describe as a combination of "Rule Britannia," turned into prose, with some variations on the "British Grenadiers." He was followed by four hon. Members, whose names I am sorry to say I can give—Sir Harry Verney, Mr. Barnett, Sir Henry Storks, who, true to military discipline, spoke with brevity, and Mr. Hughes. The last named speaker, traversing the arguments of the Member for the City of Oxford, said as to the justice of the comparison between University discipline and that of an army, that although both were good in their place, one was quite distinct from the other, and that no man knew that better than the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford. The right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the county of Oxford (Mr. Henley) also spoke; and the most memorable passage in his speech was that in which he said— It would be a great national misfortune if the discipline of the University were interfered with. The proposal, therefore, was a matter of speculation; and the Government were taking the responsibility on themselves if evil consequences should result."—[3 Hansard, ccxvi. 375.] That is perfectly true, and the responsibility is independent of party considerations. Whoever may be in power the speculation will be uncertain, while the responsibility assumed by the Government must remain certain. Then came the division, in which Mr. Cardwell succeeded in taking 134 hon. Members with him into the lobby; while Mr. Herbert was followed by 90; and out of these I see, on referring to the division list, that with Mr. Herbert there voted the President of the Board of Trade, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, the Judge Advocate General—who is so high an authority on questions of military discipline—the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the First Lord of the Treasury, the Lord Advocate of Scotland, the Secretary of State for War, and the Postmaster General. I am sure that I could not have gone wrong when I voted in so goodly a company. This, Sir, I may say, is my case. The Secretary of State for War must have had good reasons for what he said and did then. He made a speech, from which I have read to the House some of the most salient passages, and I believe the House will feel with me that that was far too good and strong a speech to be undone by any other which the right hon. Gentleman may make now, however able that may be. But I am sure that he cannot and does not wish to un-speak that speech. He may now consider that he was then in error; but upon that head I refuse to listen to mere rumour. I do not know what his present views are on the matter, and I refuse to know what they are, except from his own mouth, and in an authoritative form; but this I know, that regarding the question as he did at that time; having led into the lobby with him, as he then did—for we cannot but suppose that his speech had an influence as great even as that of Mr. Auberon Herbert!—so many of his most distinguished Colleagues and Friends, he must now be earnest and eager in his desire for an impartial Inquiry. If the establishment of the military centre at Oxford is to go on under the control of the present Government, of which so many distinguished Members voted against the proposal at that time, then I say that they have contracted an additional obligation to commit the case to the inquiries of an impartial tribunal, and such an impartial tribunal can only be found in a Select Committee of this House. He owes that to his Colleagues, and equally to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the City of Oxford. For if the world sees this project of a military centre at Oxford going on, and going on under the direction of the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the University of Oxford, and under the paternal and dignified patronage of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the City of Oxford, then the world will have the right to inquire how it comes about that the lion and the lamb are thus lying down together. Now, with reference to the main question, my feelings, I must confess, remain unchanged. I do not defend those feelings in my own words. I have quoted the language of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War in their vindication. I believe that a military centre and a University are two incongruous things, but both good and necessary things; still, not things that can be well married together in one and the same town. I believed that, when I voted with Mr. Auberon Herbert last year, and I believe it now. But that is not the only issue on which I put the question. I contend, and I believe the House will agree with me, that my right hon. Friend having thrown down the gage to fortune, and having rightfully and strongly committed himself last year against this military centre; if now he sees reasons why, being in another position, and after the many things which have happened since then, it is his duty to carry out what he then protested against, it is only wise and just for his own untarnished character, which can only come out brighter after every inquiry, that this Committee should be appointed. I am satisfied that he has done nothing which has not been dictated by the highest sense of duty. If, however, there is an outward discrepancy between the course which was then taken by my right hon. Friend and that which he now takes, that discrepancy ought to be cleared up. No speech which he may make to day can be a better or stronger speech than the one he made last year. It may be as good, but it will not be a better, and I trust that he will not attempt to unspeak that speech. A Select Committee of this House is the impartial tribunal to which such a question as this ought to be referred. In its appointment my right hon. Friend could have the share to which he is entitled. Independent Members of the House would also have their share; and it is the only Court of honour to which the subject can be properly referred. I invite him, then, in a spirit of no hostility to the Government of which he is a Member, in no hostility to the university, and equally in no hostility to the efficiency of the military service, which must be looked to at Oxford as well as in other counties, to accept my Motion, allow a Committee to be named for the purpose of taking evidence, and to permit that evidence to go forth to the world, which is necessary for the satisfactory solution of this somewhat troublesome question. In accordance with the terms of my Notice, I beg to move the appointment of a Select Committee upon the subject.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee he appointed to inquire into the expediency of the selection of Oxford as a Military Centre,"—(Mr. Beresford Hope,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, that the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope) in bringing forward the Motion had relied mainly upon a speech he (Mr. Hardy) had made very ineffectually last year, and the hon. Member seemed to think that nothing had occurred since then to place him in a different position, except that he now held office, which he did not hold when he made that speech. The hon. Member appeared to have forgotten the very important changes which had occurred affecting this question since then. When he first acceded to office he was immediately addressed by the delegates from the University, who desired to obtain a re-consideration of the question; and he had informed them that it was not because he was the Representative of the University, that he could over-rule the proceedings of his Predecessor in this matter—especially when a Vote of Parliament had been taken on the subject—before anything had been done to carry into execution the determination to establish this brigade depot, and when, therefore, there was nothing to prevent the re-consideration of the subject. At that time they had a fair field all over the country before them, and they might have selected either Woodstock, Aylesbury, or High Wycombe as the site for the establishment of the military centre for the district, for no step had been taken to fix the locality. But what had since happened? After the Vote was taken in Parliament, the late Secretary for War felt himself at liberty to proceed in the matter. Twenty acres of land were bought for £2,400 in September last, and an agreement was entered into with the corporation of the city for the supply of water to the new depôt, under an arrangement by which the War Department was to pay half the expenses of the necessary works, and to take a certain supply of water daily. Forms of tenders for the works of the depot had been sent out, and of the 12 tenders received, the lowest, for £52,000, was accepted, and at the present time the contractor was in possession of the land, had begun to lay the foundations, had entered into contracts with sub-contractors for the performance of certain of the works and with the owners of quarries for the supply of stone necessary. The whole circumstances of the case, therefore, had entirely changed since he had made the speech relied on by the hon. Member for Cambridge university; for they had the land taken, the water supply arranged, the drainage provided for, the tender for buildings accepted, and the contractor, who had entered into engagements, actually in possession of the ground. In fact, matters had gone so far, that, personally, he could not stop them—nor the House, unless it were prepared to pay a sum to re-imburse the contractor; and he felt that it would be hopeless to ask that House to consent to the appointment of the Committee which the hon. Member asked for. At the same time, he must still say that he thought the wishes of the University had not been sufficiently consulted in the matter. He thought—and he said it in the presence of the hon. Member opposite—that the University should have been allowed some voice in the question. As being the national University in the town of Oxford, it ought to have been consulted, and great weight should have been attached to its wishes. He was aware, from communications he had received from men of all parties connected with the University, that they held the very strongest feeling on this subject, and that they most earnestly desired to get rid of this depot. At the same time he—acting under a sense of great responsibility, and seeing that the place had been fixed, that the works had been commenced, and that a staff officer was in command, for whose accommodation a house had been taken until the completion of the buildings—felt that he could not now with propriety ask the House to assent to the appointment of the Committee, as he was prepared to have done last year. He trusted, therefore, that the House, under the circumstances, would see no inconsistency between his speech of last year and his present determination to withhold his assent from the Motion of the hon. Member. He, however, must say he had stated the facts, and he must leave them to judge.


said, that it was agreeable to see the Cam coming to the rescue of the Isis; but, at the same time, he earnestly hoped, on practical grounds, that the House would not accede to the Motion of the hon. Member for Cambridge University for a Select Committee. He did so first upon the grounds stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War—that the land had been purchased, and that the contractor was actually at work. But there were further objections to the hon. Member's proposal. When they considered that the opinion expressed by Lord Cardwell last year was almost as a matter of necessity now endorsed by his successor, he would ask the hon. Member (Mr. Hope), whether he was sanguine enough to suppose he could show so good a case to the Committee as would induce them to take the very decided step of recommending the House to reverse the decision at which two Secretaries for War had arrived, and so to bring about the delay and inconvenience which must necessarily be the outcome of the Motion if it were successful? Coming to the main question, and putting aside all question of sentiment, it was admitted by all who had considered this subject that Oxford possessed peculiar advantages, which justified it being selected as the site for the military centre of the district. It was in the centre of a populous agricultural district, from which many of their best recruits had and might again be drawn—the pick of a thriving and contented country population—men who had not yet succumbed to the new fashion of which the House had heard the other day, in a speech of the hon. Member for Morpeth, of refusing to shoulder arms until they had voted for a Member of Parliament. Oxford was also the centre of a perfect network of railways, although not on the main line; but whose fault was that? Pew places combined greater advantages, and that probably furnished the reasons which induced Lord Cardwell to select Oxford as the site of the military centre; and the only physical objection—that of the want of water—the right hon. Gentleman had just informed the House had been obviated by the public spirit of the citizens of the city, who had undertaken to pay half the expense of the necessary works for supplying the depot with water, the Corporation having agreed to do this in perfect reliance upon the good faith of Parliament. The other and only real objection to the proposal was the fear of the effect which barrack propinquity might have on the discipline of the University. He was quite willing to admit that when this question was first mooted there was a very strong feeling on the subject; but it had now subsided to a great extent, and if the hon. Member for Cambridge University had not brought forward that Motion, very little would have been heard of the matter in Oxford. It must be recollected that there was a very great difference between making Oxford a garrison town and making it one of the great military centres which were going to be placed throughout the length and breadth of the land. It was absurd to suppose that the presence of 110 soldiers—the number the hon. Member stated they would be—would interfere with the discipline of the University. But supposing that the hon. Member were to succeed in preserving Oxford from the presence of those soldiers, would not the hon. and learned Member for Limerick immediately feel it to be his duty to ask that Dublin, as a University town, should also be protected in like manner; and he would ask why an English and an Irish University should be placed on a different footing in this respect? The result would be that the House would find itself landed in one of those charming Irish conversaziones to which it had listened on several occasions that Session, not perhaps with pleasure, but with patience. Should the hon. Member press the Motion to a division, he should claim against it the votes of hon. Members below the gangway on the other side of the House. But it was not only barrack propinquity—it was railway propinquity also that the University authorities objected to. Not long ago the Great Western Railway Company was prevented from running their main line to the town, and they were compelled to make a detour by Swindon in order to get to the West of England, to the great and irreparable loss of the City of Oxford. On another occasion the Company proposed to build a few railway carriages in the neighbourhood of Oxford, when again the University authorities took fright, and, as had been rather cleverly shown in a caricature then published, the Jupiter of the University had arisen in his aesthetic might, and had hurled poor Vulcan out of the Oxford paradise. It was now proposed by the hon. Member to treat Mars in the same way, though he presented himself in the more humble garb of a military depôt. If hon. Members referred to the pages of Hansard, they would find that that time last year, during a debate on the same subject, an apprehension was very generally expressed that an officers' mess would be likely to exercise a corrupting influence on the undergraduate mind. Well, he would not stop to inquire whether the undergraduates of Oxford or Cambridge had much, to learn; but this he would say—that neither they nor the hon. Member would find anything in an officers' mess which they need fear to copy in their College halls; and he maintained that, whatever might be the relations between the officers and the members of the University, it would be rather to the advantage than to the detriment of the latter. The hon. Member spoke of ill effects as likely to be produced by carrying out the project; but perhaps the hon. Gentleman felt that the effects for evil were not likely to be very serious, and in that he quite agreed with him. More than that, he was sanguine enough to look forward to the time when in that august and mellowed sphere—the University—the advantages of the military depot would be recognized; for, distinguished as Oxford society undoubtedly was, it would be none the less so for the introduction of an element a trifle more sparkling than those still, deep waters which were occasionally apt to be somewhat overpowering to ordinary mortals. For his part, he could not help thinking that they ought to be careful how they did anything, or recommended anything to be done, which would tend to render the relations between the city and the University less friendly than he rejoiced to know they now were. Time was when such was not the case, and he did not know anything more likely to unsettle the existing friendly spirit than that what one Secretary of State, who was Member for the City of Oxford, had from a sense of duty done, his successor in office, who chanced to be also Member for the University, should undo; thereby taking away an advantage which the citizens of Oxford had learnt to prize—in obedience to an University superstition which was fast passing away, even if it had not already entirely disappeared.


hoped the House would not refuse to listen to a few words on this subject from the University point of view. Notwithstanding what had just been advanced, he could not but regard the proposal to form a military depôt at Oxford as a serious matter for the University of Oxford. It amounted to this—the turning of an ancient University into something resembling a modern garrison town—the mingling of learned Professors and thoughtful students with roystering soldiers and licentious camp followers, tending to the demoralizing its ancient institutions. He might be told that he was exaggerating the case, but he regarded the scheme as being at once novel and dangerous. It was all very well to talk about its being a mere military depôt, with a few stores, some 50 soldiers, and a powder magazine with a solitary sentinel walking round it—that would not be objected to; but a military depot meant considerably more than that, for the exigencies of the service might turn Oxford into a great military centre. It meant, should occasion require, that some 3,000 or 4,000 men might be located there every year; and, in fact, he saw not the slightest reason why Oxford should not take the place of Aldershot. It should be borne in mind also that it would be a recruiting district. But it was said the city was in favour of the project; was the city, then, to be allowed to over-ride the University—the city which was favourable to any attempt to embarrass the University and to curtail its powers? That ought not to be, for the University of Oxford had made the City of Oxford. The City depended for its very existence upon the University, and while it could forget, it could not forgive, that fact. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War came to this—that the reputation and the future of the University were to be sold for a sum of £52,000. But then the Universities of London, and Dublin, and Edinburgh were similarly circumstanced. So they were; but would anyone for a moment contend that the position of those Universities was analogous to that of the University of Oxford? Dublin was full of soldiers, from the notorious disaffection and insubordination of the Irish people; London was full of soldiers because it was the metropolis of the United Kingdom; and Edinburgh because it was the capital of Scotland. But the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were founded before standing armies were known or garrison towns existed. He would perhaps be told that the objections of the University were frivolous and sentimental. He denied that they were. The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge had before now sacrificed themselves to advance the cause of constitutional freedom. They continued to send out men whose genius and talent had advanced the fame of England, and they surely had a right to claim that their objections should be listened to, and not treated by the Legislature in a sorry manner, as being frivolous and sentimental. No one had spoken more powerfully in favour of sentiment—even if the objections could be regarded as sentimental—than the Prime Minister; and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War could sympathize with a young Member who ventured to differ from him in expressing the sentiments of the University which he represented. He had endeavoured to express the opinions of the ablest and most experienced leaders, and of most of the thinking men of the University. They, on a former occasion, had boldly said that if they could prevent it, they would not have Oxford turned into a manufacturing town. When it was proposed to carry the main line of railway through the town, they protested against being over-run with railway roughs and navvies, and now they entertained decided objection to its being converted in to a military station, crowded with its disorderly soldiers. What they wanted was that their quiet cloisters should be loft undisturbed, and that Oxford should remain as it was, a University town, the greatest University city in the world.


said, the House of Commons could not but welcome a new Member who had exhibited such ability as the noble Lord had just displayed. At the same time, the noble Lord must allow him (Sir William Harcourt) to express his regret that, bearing so great a name as he did, he should have spoken of roystering soldiers, and employed language such as he had used with reference to the British Army, with which that name was so inseparably associated. He was sorry, too, that the noble Lord, who had become a Member of that House by a majority all of whom did not belong to the Tipper classes, should have spoken of "railway roughs," and of the determination of the University authorities to exclude from Oxford all classes except those in whom they were personally interested. Passing, however, from that, and turning to the question before the House, he could not but think, to use a celebrated phrase, that the irony of the situation was complete. Since that comedy of opposing this military centre at Oxford was performed on that very day last year, there had been a very important change in the dramatic cast of the performance. His hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge appeared before them draped in the mantle left to him by Mr. Auberon Herbert, whose sentiments he had adopted, at least in this matter, for he (Sir William Harcourt) could not say he had adopted that gentleman's style. But that was not the only change which had come about. He could not help thinking, as he saw the change in the performers, that, to use a phrase which the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had made classical, "a great deal had happened since that time." They had heard the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the University of Oxford answering his hon. Friend the junior Member for the University of Cambridge. But there was one other change which he could not but look upon with some interest. His hon. Friend had been also answered—and ably answered—by an hon. Member whom the House might welcome for his ability—the Conservative Member for the City of Oxford. Then, again, his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge had criticized by anticipation the speech of the Secretary for War. The suggestion that the Secretary of State was going to act, not as the Minister charged with the Imperial interests of the Army, but rather as the Member for the University, was a suggestion he would repudiate as much as his predecessor did the suggestion that he had sacrificed the interests of the Army and of the University to those of the City of Oxford. It was satisfactory to know that the Secretary of State had come to the same conclusion as his Predecessor. On retiring from office Lord Cardwell left the matter open, so as not to preclude his Successor from stopping the contract which was signed under the present Government.


said, he had no Minute to that effect; all he know-was, that he found the matter was in progress when he came into office, and he declined to interfere with the vote of the House, and he acted on the principle that nothing more could be clone until there had been another vote of the House.


But was not the contract signed by the present Government?


That is quite true.


said, that verified what the hon. Member for Stirlingshire (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) had informed him—that the contract was specially reserved, and was signed under the present Government, and therefore he was entitled to assume that both right hon. Gentlemen had arrived at the same conclusion. One of the great advantages of a change of Government was that the new Government, whatever language it might have held in Opposition, generally confirmed the policy of its predecessors. It was not always done in the same language; but substantially it had been done recently in respect of the Navy, and that was an instance connected with the Army. What was it the hon. Member for Cambridge University was afraid of? Was it the association of graduates and undergraduates with the officers of the British Army? As he was accused of chanting "Rule Britannia" and the "British Grenadiers," he could only hope that the United Service Club took the same view of his public performances. Had the hon. Member ever dined at a military mess? [Mr. BERESFORD HOPE: Never.] He had no idea he was going to make so good a guess; but, as once-a-year he dined with his hon. Friend in hall at Trinity College, he would next year bring his hon. Friend into contact with some military officers, so that he might see they could behave themselves. They had nothing to lose in comparison with the best University society. Universities were open only half the year, and was it to be imagined students did not meet with military men at home and dine at military messes with their relatives? Whence came that terror of the military character? Sydney Smith said, apropos of the alarm of a Yorkshire mother at an heiress being carried off by a marching regiment, every mother ought to have a stuffed figure of a red coat, to accustom young ladies to the sight of it; and he would advise the introduction into schools of the stuffed figure of a soldier, to satisfy students that soldiers were not such formidable persons as they were held to be. Was it feared that the non-commissioned officers would lower the moral tone of the scouts of Oxford? Was it feared that the private soldiers of the rank and file would lead those venerable vestals—the bedmakers—astray? Why, they had so far resisted superior attractions. If the argument was good for anything, it would justify the isolation of this military centre like a convict establishment on the top of Dartmoor, far removed from the pestilential influences of horses, of men, and of women. Here was a University, with 2,500 students, in the midst of a population of 40,000, and it was to be corrupted and destroyed by the introduction of 110 soldiers, with the occasional addition of the Militia. The military virus must be singular, indeed, if 110 soldiers could do more harm to the University than 40,000 people. Were these apprehensions well-founded? Eton, Dublin, Winchester, Edinburgh, and Westminster had soldiers located near them, but did not suffer in consequence. They had been told by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), that the Irish people were notoriously disaffected, and that Dublin was full of soldiers in consequence. That was not very prudent language to hold, especially in that House, and it might as well be said that the people of Edinburgh and other garrison towns were disaffected because they contained soldiers, and that the students in them were contaminated by the contact. That was not the first time that Oxford had been unnecessarily alarmed, for some 300 years ago she was terrified at the proposal to teach Greek within her walls; but she had survived that. What was the Committee to do? It was said that the character of the Secretary for War would come out of the inquiry untarnished. Well, it did not require rehabilitation. When the Battle of Dorking came, and hordes of barbarians threatened the Bodleian, it might be satisfactory to have 110 soldiers there. Really it was very difficult to treat the matter seriously, although if the Motion was carried, it would be a very serious matter. What would be thought in Prussia of a country which desired to have a scientific Army, holding that military men were not fit for the society of an University-town? If they wished the profession of arms to be respected, that profession must be treated as respectable; they must not have language coming from the Conservative benches such as they had heard that evening, when the British soldier was described as roystering and dissolute. He had never disparaged the profession of arms, and he was glad to think that the Army was gradually becoming more scientific than it had been. It was not the best way to get the best men into the Army to appoint a Committee to inquire whether soldiers were fit society. To put them in social quarantine, or treat them as Jewish lepers, who cried, "Unclean! Unclean!" lest anybody should approach them, as proposed to be done by the Motion, was not the way to advance recruiting, and would strikingly contrast with the manner in which Her Majesty always recognized their services. It was not denied that Oxford was the proper site on military grounds, and he asked the House, which yesterday rejected a Motion which appeared to cast an unmerited slur on a distinguished officer, to support both the Ministers of War in the course they had taken in the matter, and dispose in the same spirit of a Motion which, whatever its intention, would inflict an unjust stigma on a great profession.


said, that having been alluded to by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the City of Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), he wished to prevent misunderstanding, by explaining what had occurred. The preliminary negotiations had, of course, been entered into—the ground bought, and arrangements made for the supply of gas and water; but the contract for the building had not been signed or approved by the Treasury at the time his noble Friend (Lord Cardwoll) quitted office. His noble Friend intentionally left it open in order that his Successor might not find the door absolutely shut against him, if he thought it proper to change the action of the Department; but he quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, that after all that had passed, including the Vote of last Session, it would have been difficult to retreat.


The tenders had all been received.


But they had not been accepted.


desired to recall the House to the real issue before it, but must, in passing, allude to the able speeches of his hon. Friend the junior Member for Oxford (Mr. Hall) and his noble Friend the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), and congratulate them on the promise they had given of attaining great distinction in that House. For their education and training, the University of Oxford was entitled to claim credit. He was sorry the hon. and learned Member opposite (Sir William Harcourt) should have supposed that the noble Lord, the bearer of one of the most illustrious names in the British Army, could contemplate saying one word which would disparage either officer or soldier. The question before the House was, whether there was not cause for a re-consideration of the project, when a great national institution like the University of Oxford, training upwards of 4,000 of the flower of British youth, had, by a memorial from its Convocation, signed by all the Professors and others engaged in tuition and exhibiting a most extraordinary concurrence of opinion, deprecated the introduction of this non-academic element. He sympathized with the difficulty of his right hon. Colleague's position, and felt with him that he could not on his personal responsibility set aside his Predecessor's action; but now that the Secretary for War was no longer one of the Members for the City of Oxford, the University desired a re-consideration of the question by an impartial tribunal. No doubt, matters had progressed very far when the right hon. Gentleman came into office, but still the tenders had not been accepted, and it had been hoped that the matter would be referred to some impartial tribunal. Originally, Oxford was not selected on military grounds, and, in the Papers laid on the Table by Lord Cardwell in 1872, Aylesbury and Wycombe were suggested. When Prince Edward of Saxe Weimar was sent down to make an investigation, he reported on the various difficulties of making Oxford a military centre, and recommended a site a mile and a-half from Woodstock and six miles from Oxford as more eligible. There was fair ground, consequently, for inquiring whether the moral objections urged by the University outweighed the military reasons. The hon. and learned Member had spoken of the impossibility of the Secretary of State for War altering these arrangements, but he (Mr. Mowbray) could recollect how, 10 years ago, the Dover contracts were disallowed, and he might remind the House that a remarkable speech was made in "another place" on the 27th of June last, by a Nobleman who was now a Secretary of State and a Member of the present Cabinet, in which he said— He believed that act of selecting Oxford as a military centre would not be respected by another Secretary of War, should there by any chance be a change of Government, and he for one should not deem himself precluded from asking the new Government to reverse the act of its predecessors. The University was, he thought, perfectly right in keeping the question open, and if any further opportunity should be afforded hereafter for obtaining a reversal of the policy from some future Minister of War, he wished it to be understood that he should not feel himself precluded from availing himself of it, by reason of his not taking further action under the existing Government."—[3 Hansard, ccxvi. 1491.] The right hon. Gentleman who was now Secretary for War having adopted the decision of his Predecessor, his hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University had justly lost no time in calling on the House to appoint a Committee impartially to consider this important question. It was clear that both the War Office and the City of Oxford were leagued against the University in the matter; but he hoped his hon. Friend would press his Motion to a division, if only to take the sense of the House.


hoped the House would excuse him for interposing, as the Chief Magistrate of the City of Dublin; but he could not let the Debate close without entering his protest against the language which had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) relative to the City which he had the honour to represent. The noble Lord had uttered what he could not help regarding as an unfounded slander upon his constituents, when he said that a large Army was kept in Dublin, for the purpose of keeping down a disloyal and disaffected population.


said, he must express his great regret that the subject had been re-opened. He had not voted on this question when it was before the House last year, in deference to the opinion of many of his constituents; but he must protest against the manner in which the officers in the Army had been spoken of. One would really think, from what had been said during the debate, that a convict establishment, or a body of ticket-of-leave men were to be brought into the City of Oxford. He knew something of the officers of the Army, and also of the undergraduates of the University, and he could not help thinking that the more the undergraduates rubbed against British officers the more they would be improved.


begged to state he had not said one word against the officers of the Army. He spoke merely of the privates and camp followers.


said, he could also speak for the private soldiers. There was no body of men who had served their country more faithfully than the private soldiers of the British Army. As to subalterns, the morals of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were he believed on a par with those of the officers of the Army, and they were much more likely to suffer by contact with undergraduates than the undergraduates by contact with them.


said, as hitherto no one, except University Members, or those connected with the city, county, or University of Oxford, had yet spoken, he trusted he might be allowed to say a few words. He could not help thinking after the remarkable memorial addressed to the Secretary of State for War which had been laid before the House, containing the signatures of all the illustrious teachers of the University of Oxford, it was rather too much for the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford to say that it was difficult to treat this matter seriously. What did that memorial state? It said— We think that a University town has a national claim to be kept free from an unnecessary intrusion of a non-academic element, which those best qualified to judge believe to be injurious to its special work. We deprecate the too probable collision between military and academic discipline, and the introduction into a place where so large a number of young men are gathered together for education," not of the British Army, but "of that undesirable population which, experience shows, is almost invariably attached to Military Centres. He challenged hon. Members to say, by their votes, whether they did not think that was a matter which they ought seriously to consider, for he thought that modest representation should receive attention. What they were asked to do was to appoint a Committee of that House to consider the very grave question now before them. It was unfortunate that personal matters had been introduced, but the facts that the late Secretary for War sat for the City of Oxford and that the present Secretary for War was one of the Members for the University of Oxford were commented on out-of-doors, and bethought the least that could be done was to appoint a Committee on the subject. In doing so the House was not asked to say whether Oxford ought to be a Military centre, but only to appoint a Committee to ascertain in what condition matters now stood, and whether the Government had any option. His wish was to see the question dealt with in a broad and national spirit, and in a manner befitting the respect due to so illustrious a body as the University of Oxford.


, as a graduate of Dublin University, said, he wished to protest against the sneers at that University contained in the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock. The sneer was quite unmerited. The graduates at Dublin whenever they had the opportunity were able to beat the graduates of Oxford in intellectual exorcises, and they were most anxious to have an opportunity of trying their strength against Oxford in physical exercises as well. For some reason which was best understood by themselves, the graduates of Oxford had always declined the physical challenge; but both intellectually and physically, the graduates of Dublin were certain they could beat Oxford, and therefore the sneer against Dublin, not because it was a University, but because it was an Irish university, was quite unjustifiable. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) had said that the cases of Dublin and Oxford were analogous. They were not. Oxford owed everything to her University, and therefore the opinions of the University on the subject under discussion ought to receive more consideration in that House. Dublin, on the contrary was the capital of Ireland, and as a city, far and away beyond Oxford, which, however, would not be raised in the eyes of the nation by having 110 soldiers located within its boundaries.


said, he had heard no new fact or argument which had not been brought before the House last year, and why it should now be asked to re-open this question he could not understand. The House was now invited to go into Committee to see whether it could not find reasons to alter its former decision. If, however, the House once entered upon such a course of action, an infinitely greater evil than any inconvenience to the University would be incurred. If the House went on doing and undoing in that way, it would inflict a greater curse upon the country than could be compensated by any possible good that could result from the inquiry. He admitted the respect due to the University authorities who sent up the memorial. They were of opinion—and it was but an opinion—that some inconvenience would be felt with respect to the discipline of the University. He had himself expressed that opinion, but if the House entered upon this course of proceeding, it might be asked to re-establish the Irish Church. If it went on in this way, the coach of the Government would be very quickly upset. The matter was fairly brought before the last Parliament, and not only that House, but he believed the other House of Parliament, backed up the then Government in the decision they came to. For those reasons, he could not support the Motion.


said, he wished that the University of Dublin had not been placed in a great capital, and if the University of Oxford, founded before the city which had grown up around it, wished to be as free as possible from military influences, he sympathized with that feeling and should vote for the Motion.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 170; Noes 71: Majority 99.

Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

Original Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till Monday 1st June.