HL Deb 22 May 1832 vol 12 cc1209-18
The Bishop of Durham

moved the Second Reading of the Durham University Bill. He had been induced to postpone it from last week to this, that further time might be allowed to circulate it, and that all their Lordships might become acquainted with its objects. As he presumed that was now the case, it would be unnecessary for him to go into any lengthened details in explanation of those objects. This Bill was to empower the Dean and Chapter of Durham to appropriate a portion of their revenues, by the sale of certain leasehold property, to the endowment of a University at Durham. It was calculated that the proceeds of this property, including the expenses attending it, would amount to not less than 100,000l. This it was intended to vest in trust, as a permanent fund for the proposed institution, under the regulation and control of the Dean and Chapter. Such of their Lordships as were conversant with the northern counties of England, must be aware that some such institution had long been exceedingly desirable, in order to afford to the youth of the north an opportunity of obtaining an academical education at less cost and trouble than was now experienced; and this became daily more and more important from the increasing demand for education in all classes of the community throughout the kingdom. The Chapter had therefore, for some time past, had this design in contemplation, and had now determined upon carrying it into effect, should they be enabled so to do by obtaining the consent of Parliament to this Bill. No undertaking could better become persons placed in their station, and it entirely accorded with the spirit of their own statutes, which included among the objects of their attention, the encouragement of education, and the advancement of learning. To these objects the Chapter had not, indeed, hitherto been inattentive, as was specially shown by their entire support of the grammar school, and by their exhibitions for university students. But it had been reserved for the present members of the Chapter to bring forward this larger and more munificent design for the public benefit. He would also observe, that the situation and circumstances of Durham afforded many local and other advantages not to be found elsewhere for the establishment of such a university. The situation itself was peculiarly suitable, from its connexion with the other northern counties, while its ample church establishment, as well as excellent libraries, and other buildings capable of being applied to the purposes of an academical institution, afforded peculiar facilities for carrying the object into immediate effect. With respect to the plan of the intended university, a printed paper had been extensively circulated, containing a sufficient general outline to explain its character and intent. The government was to be vested in the Dean and Chapter, the Bishop being visitor. A chief officer, with the title of Warden, would be charged with the general discipline. Professors were to be appointed of divinity, ancient literature, and mathematics, with readers in law, medicine, history, and such other branches of literature or science as might be found requisite, with the usual offices of tutors and such other appointments as belonged to academical bodies. It was also intended that, besides foundation students, to be partly maintained by the college, and ordinary students admitted at their own cost to the privileges of the university, students of other descriptions might be admitted, under certain regulations, to attend public lectures of every kind, without being actual members of the university, or subject to its discipline. This would afford opportunity of much valuable instruction to many who could not otherwise obtain it. Further details still remained under the consideration of the Chapter, and ought to be left to its decision. To the principle of such a Bill he hardly conceived it possible that any serious objections could be entertained, nor that any difficulties in its several enactments (which were merely technical provisions to give it legal validity) were likely to arise which might not easily be obviated in the Committee. He was fully persuaded their Lordships would feel disposed to favour so noble a design, and give due credit to the highly respectable body from which it proceeded; which, in thus offering a valuable boon to the public, was making a great sacrifice, without any possible views of self-interest, and which would conduct it in a manner best calculated to insure its general success, and to answer all reasonable expectations. He moved the second reading of the Bill.

Lord Durham

did not intend to oppose the Motion, but connected as he and his family were, and had been, with the county of Durham, he considered it his duty to inquire into all the particulars concerning the proposed institution; the more so, as it must necessarily affect, more or less, all the northern counties of England. He therefore must request from the right reverend Prelate, some further explanations on points, some of which the right reverend Prelate had not himself touched upon. It was his intention to propose some alterations in this Bill, of which he would take this opportunity to inform the right reverend Prelate. He had understood the right reverend Prelate to say, that the whole power of selling these lands was to remain with the Dean and Chapter; the lands were not to be put up for sale by public auction, but were to be sold by private contract, to whomever the Dean and Chapter might think fit. They might, therefore, if they pleased, sell all these lands to one person, which to him appeared highly objectionable. Some provision ought also to be made to give the present possessors the right of pre-emption, if the lands should be resold within twenty years. It was also proposed, that the produce of these sales was to be laid out in the purchase of land, the rents of which were to be applied to the support of the university. This he also thought objectionable, for Greenwich Hospital held large estates in the county of Durham, and, whatever might be the good order in which these estates were kept, and however well they were managed, the public did not derive the same advantage from them as from equal lands held by private individuals. Thus it would be also with the lands now to be disposed of, for the very circumstance of their being the property, and under the management of a public body, would at once lead to the greatest possible extravagance. The property ought therefore to be invested, so as to save the expense of management, by which means a larger sum would be available for the objects of the institution. The Dean and Chapter were to have the power of deciding upon the different branches of education which were to be carried on, and what forms and regulations were to be observed. This was a point of the utmost importance, for a majority of those persons likely to avail themselves of this opportunity of educating their sons, were Dissenters, and he would therefore ask the right reverend Prelate, whether any regulation was to be adopted for the purpose of preventing the admission of Dissenters into the institution? If that were intended, the proposed establishment would be of no benefit to the north of England. There were at present in that part of the country, a large number of persons who wished to give their sons a college education, but who could not afford to send them to Oxford or Cambridge, and who had, from the circumstance that the two Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh were situated in large and populous towns, where the students were exposed to great temptations and irregularities, and where they were placed under no control, a decided objection to sending their children to those places. The right reverend Prelate had stated, that the sacrifice which the Dean and Chapter were about to make was very large, yet, if his information were correct, the advantage previously derived from the property in question was very small indeed. The reserved rents of the scheduled property amounted, he understood, only to 175l. a-year while a fine was levied every seven years: what those fines had realized was not known, for the Dean and Chapter had not informed the public, but they had been calculated by those who had taken much pains to investigate this subject at a gross amount of 7,000l.: the lives of the Dean and Chapter (not considering translations) being not worth more than ten years' purchase, he could not think the sacrifice very great. He regretted to take up their Lordships' time upon this subject, but it was one extremely interesting to the northern counties of England. If this institution was to be conducted on a broad and liberal principle, and to be open to all classes, without their being subjected to religious tests on entering it; if it was intended to afford them the advantages of a liberal education, the institution would be most beneficial, not only to the county of Durham, but to the northern counties at large. If, however, on the other hand, it was to be conducted on narrow principles—if all persons were to be excluded except members of the Church of England, he was convinced that but a very limited number of persons would present themselves for the purpose of receiving education in that institution. In point of fact, it would resolve itself into a mere manufactory for the lower members of the Church, for the creation of curates (a very useful branch of the Church, he would admit); but in founding an institution of this description, it ought to be done on a broad and liberal basis, and its advantages ought to be extended to that class of persons to whom he had referred. He had thought it his duty to state thus much to the right reverend Prelate, trusting that he should hear from the right reverend Prelate, that Dissenters were not to be deprived of the advantages of education in the university.

The Bishop of Durham

said, the noble Baron could hardly expect him to go into the several particulars he had adverted to, respecting the revenues of the Chapter, their several rents, their fines, and other matters with which it could not be supposed that he (the Bishop of Durham) was well acquainted. Not being a member of the Chapter, he knew no more of these details than any of their Lordships. He should confine himself, therefore, to such points only as it might be fitting for him to notice; and if he should not state them accurately, those members of the Chapter then present would be able to set him right. The noble Baron had objected to one clause of the Bill, which seemed to leave the Chapter at liberty, should they think fit, to make over the whole property set forth in the schedule for enfranchisement, to some one great proprietor, to the detriment of the numerous lessees by whom it was now held. He had not been aware that such might be the operation of the clause; but he could assure their Lordships that no such intention had ever entered into the thoughts of the Chapter; so far from it, the lessees in South Shields had already actually petitioned the Chapter for the enfranchisement of their respective portions, and were very desirous of availing themselves of the opportunity afforded them; nor was there any reason to suppose that the Chapter had the remotest wish to act towards them injuriously in any degree. With respect to another objection stated by the noble Baron, that the Bill required the money raised by this measure to be laid out in the purchase of land, and might thus extend the landed property of the Chapter in the county of Durham, he must observe, that this mode of investment had not been optional on the part of the Dean and Chapter, who would certainly not object to its being vested in the public funds, as producing larger interest, and attended with less charge and cost. But they were advised that it was contrary to a standing rule of their Lordships to invest it in any other way than in the purchase of land; and, unless that rule were dispensed with, they had no choice left to them. Should it, however, be necessary to invest it in land, he was sure the Chapter would readily pledge themselves not to make any purchases of land in the county of Durham, beyond such as might be wanted as a site for any buildings to be erected for the college; while, on the other hand, they were diminishing their property of this description to a large amount, by this very measure. He would now advert to an objection of a different kind, strongly urged by the noble Baron, and which it was more immediately within his province to notice. The noble Baron apprehended that the proposed institution would be too exclusive in its character, not liberal enough in extending its advantages to persons who did not belong to the Established Church, and therefore likely to be of but little general utility. He had already noticed one express provision in the printed statement of the plan, which allowed persons to be admitted to public lectures in science, or literature, of whatever description, without being subject, as students, to the discipline of the university. By this regulation, many might avail themselves of very considerable advantages from the institution, subject to no previous inquiry or restriction as to their religious persuasion. With respect also to those students who were to be actually members of the university, it was intended to adopt the regulation of the University of Cambridge, which did not require tests or subscriptions at the admission of members, nor until they took degrees, or other academical privileges. Such persons, however, would necessarily become subject to the discipline of the University; and, consequently, as a part of that discipline, would be required to attend the daily service of the church. This conformity to the Church of England appeared no more than what ought to be expected, in an institution founded and supported by such a body as the Dean and Chapter. Such a rule ought not to be dispensed with, nor ought the privilege of conferring degrees, if hereafter committed to the University by charter, to be thrown open indiscriminately to non-conformists of every description, in common with members of the Established Church. Neither the Chapter nor he himself would ever concede this; and, indeed, he would rather withdraw from the concern, and decline being constituted visitor of the institution, or in any way implicated in its direction, if such a principle were adopted. If they were now coming before Parliament for a grant of public money, or if the institution were set on foot by persons of various descriptions, and various religious tenets, contributing severally and jointly to its foundation and support, then there might be some reason for thus indiscriminately extending all its privileges. But here, where so distinguished an ecclesiastical body was the sole founder of the design, and was to have the entire responsibility and direction, it was wholly inconsistent with the station of the members of the Chapter in the Church, and with the principles they were bound to uphold, that any greater latitude in these respects should be required or expected from them, than that which they had already declared it to be their intention to admit. The lesser points of objection might be more conveniently considered in Committee.

The Marquis of Londonderry

expressed his deep sense of gratitude towards the right reverend Prelate and the Dean and Chapter, for the conduct they had pursued as regarded the founding of this university, and which was hailed by the whole county with the greatest possible satisfaction. He was not then prepared to meet the objections of the noble Baron, who had gone through the details with so much ability, or to say that there might not be some foundation for his statement: but he relied with confidence on the right reverend Prelate, that, in selecting persons to conduct the affairs of this university, the choice would fall on those who were well calculated for such a task. From his own knowledge of those persons who proposed to found this university, he was convinced that it would be conducted on those principles of religious and moral education, which they had ever felt themselves called upon to support; and he looked forward with the greatest satisfaction to the establishment proving of great benefit, not only to the county of Durham, but to all the northern counties of the kingdom.

Earl Grey

had not been present when this matter had come under discussion, and, therefore, he could not refer to what passed upon the subject previous to his entering the House; but he did not apprehend there was any objection to the passing of this Bill. It had long been considered desirable, that an university should be founded in the county of Durham, and he had always thought, that means might best be found for carrying that object into effect by the Dean and Chapter. Taking this view of the subject, he should give his cordial support to this measure. When the subject had been brought under his notice, he had suggested two things, the adoption of which he considered might prove more advantageous to the proposed plan, and make the institution of the greatest benefit to the north of England. He understood, that his noble relative had put a question to the right reverend Prelate, as to whether the arrangements contemplated the admission of persons of all religious denominations to the benefits of this institution; and he understood his answer to be in the affirmative, that no exclusion of such persons was contemplated. As to any minor arrangements, if any objection existed, he was sure those objections would be met by that spirit of candour which had ever characterised the reverend body who promoted this Bill. Whatever imperfections there might be in it, it would, he fully expected, prove the foundation of an institution eventually of the greatest possible advantage to the Church of England. He should only state, in addition, that his Majesty gave his consent to this Bill.

Lord Durham

said, the statement he had made was founded on the authority of persons of talent, who had given the subject their serious consideration; but, at the same time, he did not mean to say, that that statement was unanswerable. With regard to the observation of the noble Marquis, that this Bill was contemplated with general satisfaction in the county of Durham, he knew many highly respectable persons who did not entertain that opinion. He bad not objected to the second reading, but had asked for explanations, that he might be enabled to understand the proposed arrangements. He should go into Committee with a view of rendering the Bill as perfect as possible, and not for the purpose of offering any vexatious opposition.

The Bishop of St. David's

said, the noble Baron who had just resumed his seat, had stated, that the proposed measure for establishing a university at Durham was not so universally popular in the county of Durham, as the noble Marquis (Londonderry) supposed. On what grounds this statement was made he was not aware. The prospectus of the projected institution appeared in the county papers as soon as the design of establishing it was announced. A copy of it was also sent to every indi- vidual of any consideration in the county of Durham, and in the adjoining counties of Northumberland and York; and no pains were spared to circulate it as widely as possible. Nothing could be stronger or more unqualified than the terms in which every one expressed his approbation of the design; and though he had taken considerable pains to inquire into the sentiments generally entertained respecting the projected institution, yet not the slightest hint had ever reached the Chapter or himself, that dissatisfaction was felt in any quarter. As to the observation of the noble Baron, that the advantage to be derived from this institution would be of very limited extent, if it were meant to be conducted on the narrow principle of excluding all persons not professing the religion of the Church of England, he had great pleasure in being able to confirm what had been stated by the noble Earl (Grey), that arrangements had been made to enable persons of all denominations to benefit by the instruction that would be afforded at the university, and no religious test would be imposed, at the time of admission, on those who might become members of the university, but only on those on whom a degree might be afterwards conferred. The noble Baron had stated, that the majority of the inhabitants of the county of Durham were Dissenters, and this he could not allow to pass uncontradicted. It was difficult to speak with accuracy on such a subject, especially in a county of which the population was so large, and of a character so peculiarly fitted by the circumstances in which they were placed to be under the influence of the dissenting interest. But he could not allow that that interest prevailed in the county of Durham to such an extent as to warrant the assertion, that Dissenters formed the majority of the inhabitants.

Bill read a second time.

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