The Earl of Radnor
rose to move the second reading of the Bill for admitting Dissenters into the Universities; in doing which, although the principle of the measure had been so frequently discussed, he should feel it necessary to trouble their Lordships with a few remarks upon the subject. It was a matter of regret to him, that he had been requested to undertake the task of forwarding that Bill in their Lordships' House; not that he entertained any doubt in his own mind as to the necessity or justice of the measure, but because, in the state of opinion in that House upon the subject, he felt a want of ability to recommend the subject to their Lordships in the manner it deserved. He hoped, however, that their Lordships would bear with him while he occupied their time in shortly stating, what were the objects of the Bill. The object of the Bill was truly expressed in its title—it was a Bill to relieve the Dissenters from certain restrictions which prevented them from resorting to the Universities of England, and proceeding to degrees therein. As he understood, this Bill was introduced in consequence of a number of petitions of considerable importance that had been addressed to both Houses of Parliament, praying that such a Bill as this might pass, and that all the measures which were now adopted for the exclusion of Dissenters 816 from taking degrees at the Universities, might be abolished. Their Lordships were aware that the two Universities stood on different grounds in this respect, and that the regulations for the admission of Dissenters were not the same in both. In one of them—namely, Cambridge—a young man might be admitted without subscribing the Thirty-nine Articles, and without taking any step which was to show whether or not he was a Dissenter. At Oxford, there was a different regulation, and there, a youth must, before admission, declare what were, or were not, his religious opinions. In Cambridge, a man might, up to a certain extent, partake of the benefits of the education to be obtained there, without a profession of faith; but in Oxford he could not have that advantage. The matter with respect to the two Universities, must therefore be argued upon different principles. He should first endeavour to dispose of the case with regard to Cambridge. He understood that it frequently happened there, that persons who were known to be Dissenters had entered and studied at the University, and had taken some of the honours, and were allowed to proceed till they came to the taking of degrees, when, as the Illustrious Duke had told them, such persons were prevented from proceeding further. The petition which the Illustrious Duke had just presented, had spoken of the inconveniences that would follow the admission of Dissenters to the University; and as he understood the practice to be what he had stated, he had asked the Illustrious Duke whether, in fact, known Dissenters were not admitted at the University, although they were prevented from taking degrees there?
The Earl of Radnor
That showed, that no inconvenience arose from their admission. Many of these young men, though they did not do any formal act to show that they were Dissenters, were yet known to be so, and no inconvenience followed their admission to the University; and many of these persons qualified themselves to receive the honours of the University, and did receive those honours up to a certain extent, without being called on to subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles. These young men had been good members of society; they had pursued their studies with advantage to themselves; they had 817 conformed to the rules of the University, they had distinguished themselves by their industry and good conduct, and yet they had not been allowed to take degrees at the University, because they did not subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England. He thought that this was a great hardship upon these young men. They had done everything they could, by studious conduct, and by conformity to the rules of the University, to merit the reward which it was in the power of the University to bestow; and he thought it a great hardship on them, that merely for a difference in religious belief, they should be refused those degrees which were a proof of skill, and knowledge, and which would consequently confer many advantages on them in the business of life. He could not understand what injury the University could receive from admitting to take degrees, persons who had thus qualified themselves to receive those honours, by their studious habits and their known good conduct. With respect to the University of Cambridge, it appeared to him, therefore, a matter of hardship to those Dissenters to whom the University refused degrees, from no other motive than their declining to subscribe certain Articles of Faith, from a conscientious scrupulousness, which ought rather to be respected than punished. With respect to the University of Oxford, the matter must be looked at in a different point of view. In that University a young man could not matriculate till he had subscribed the Thirty-nine Articles. The fact, that such was the rule at Oxford, had been urged the other day, as an argument against admitting any persons to the Universities, without their first subscribing these Articles. But, in fact, in Oxford itself, this restriction applied only to persons beyond a certain age; within that age a person might matriculate at Oxford without making the subscription. Very few, perhaps in these days no one, did matriculate at that early age which would exempt them from making the subscription; but persons might do so. But, as no inconvenience followed the matriculation of Dissenters at Cambridge, it was clear that none could follow it at Oxford; and at all events the experience of the one case would justify the experiment in the other, and would warrant the belief that no evil would arise at the University of Oxford, from following the 818 example of Cambridge. It was only an act of justice to allow those whose fortune and situation in life enabled them to send their sons to that university to receive their education there if they wished it. To do this would only be to follow out the necessary consequences of the measures which had lately been passed for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts. When the Legislature repealed those Laws which prevented men who were not members of the Church from attaining the highest honours of the state, it was a natural consequence of that repeal, that the Legislature should no longer prevent those men from obtaining that education, those habits, and those manners, which would fit them for such stations. To fit them for those stations, a liberal education was indispensable, and therefore it seemed to him that when they opened high office to persons of this description, they were bound to enable those persons to qualify themselves properly for such office. The Dissenters, not less than the members of the Establishment, were anxious to attain eminence in the learned professions; and it appeared to him most unjust to interpose any bar to their progress. In some of those professions, a University education was decidedly required. In the profession of the law it was of great advantage to any man that he should have been educated at the University. In the medical profession it was indispensable; for no person could act as a physician within the limits of the metropolis, and within a certain distance from it, without having obtained a degree at the University. But it was said, that the College of Physicians and the Inns of Court might alter their regulations; and so they might; but he had inquired the reason why they did not, and he begged their Lordships to remark the answer. He was assured, that those learned bodies had established the regulations in question in order to have a security that the individuals who applied for admission to the bar or into the College of Physicians were worthy of the admission; and what better security could they have than the testimony of those who had superintended the education of the aspirants? He, therefore, thought it a great hardship on Dissenters, that on account of their religious opinions they should be excluded from those degrees which were the passports to the bar and to the medical profession, 819 The Dissenters wished not to pull down the Universities, but to be admitted to the Universities to receive the benefit of the education which the Universities could give, and he did not think it a matter of policy in the Legislature to check that wish, if it could be granted without disadvantage to the Universities. He did not imagine that this Bill would be so strongly opposed, though he was aware that those who were prepared to oppose it, conscientiously believed that it could not be granted without danger of great inconvenience to the Universities. It was on that point that the great stand was made; on that ground it was, that, as a matter of supposed precaution, the subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles was required. It had been debated on a former occasion whether it was fit and proper that the subscription to these articles should be required from quite young men; and it was then stated, that the subscription meant nothing at all but that the subscribers belonged to the Church of England. But those articles, so subscribed, contained very many things of which the subscribers most probably knew nothing, and he could not help feeling, as strongly as possible, that nothing could be more improper, nothing could be more disgraceful, than to require the subscription of those articles by very young men. It was alleged on a former occasion, that according to the statutes of the University of Oxford, nothing more was meant at the time of subscription than a general declaration that the subscriber was a member of the Established Church. Such was the statement of the right reverend Prelate. It did, however, appear to him, that the statutes of the University proved exactly the contrary position. To show this, it was only necessary to look at the statutes which regulated the University. It would be there found, that persons above the age of sixteen must subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles, and take the oaths of supremacy and allegiance; that those under the age of sixteen, and above twelve, should be matriculated on subscribing the articles, without the oaths; and in the next line they found, that those under the age of twelve might be matriculated without subscribing at all. It appeared, then, that the University itself had fixed a certain age, and the inference was, that a certain degree of knowledge was expected on the part of those who 820 subscribed the Thirty-nine Articles. Above the age of sixteen, the Thirty-nine Articles were to be subscribed and the oaths were to be taken; under the age of sixteen, and above twelve, the articles were to be subscribed without the oaths; and below the age of twelve no subscription was required. This was what he had alluded to on a former evening, when the right reverend Prelate stated, that nobody could be matriculated without subscribing the Thirty-nine Articles. The statutes expressly said, that under the age of twelve, individuals should be admitted without signing the Thirty-nine Articles; but that when they had reached a certain age, they were bound to subscribe them, and to make the required declaration, or else to undergo the penalty in that case provided. In his opinion, that showed distinctly, that the University expected some knowledge of those Articles on the part of those who signed them. If it were otherwise, why fix on the age of twelve? Without that were the object, he could not understand it. How far it was likely that a young man turned of sixteen, or a boy above twelve, could be expected to understand the Thirty-nine Articles, he would leave others to consider. It had been stated, over and over again, that the young men who signed the Thirty-nine Articles, who did not, perhaps, understand anything contained in them, only made a declaration, that they were members of the Established Church. He denied that this was the fact. The articles clearly pledged them to many important points; and he would ask of their Lordships whether it was fair and just, that lads of sixteen or seventeen should be called upon to pledge themselves to the Thirty-nine Articles? There was no young man of that age that could understand those Articles; he did not when he entered college; yet all were required to put their names to them; and, as he thought, they were considered by the statutes as understanding them, though the thing was next to impossible. It had, however, been said, and repeatedly said, in that House, that the articles were afterwards explained to them. This really meant nothing; for whether they ultimately approved of them or not, they had in the first instance assented to them, and it was almost impossible for them to recede. He did object most strenuously to this system. He thought nothing could 821 be more disgraceful to the University itself, or to those who gave this tardy explanation, than the calling first for a subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles, and afterwards, when that point was achieved, explaining those Articles. He confessed that he could not say which was the greater hardship to the individual, or the more disgraceful proceeding on the part of the University, the calling on a young man to subscribe his name to the Thirty-nine Articles, under the impression that it did not signify what the form meant, and at a future time explaining those Articles, to which, whatever he might think of them, his interest then rendered it necessary that he should adhere. The young man acted on compulsion. He could not help himself. His father or his guardian took him to the University to be matriculated, he signed his name to the Thirty-nine Articles, and though he might be informed by the Vice-Chancellor or by some other person, at a future day what was the nature of that which he had signed, but of which at the time of signing he knew nothing, that made no difference, and he must assert, that he could not see which of the two—the making a boy sign before he knew the meaning of the Articles, or requiring him afterwards to sign, under a penalty—was the most disgraceful part of the transaction. The young man was induced to sign in the first instance; and perhaps long after that step was taken, when he could not recede, he was informed of the nature of what he had signed. The members of the University of Oxford appeared to labour under a great apprehension, that if this subscribing to the Thirty-nine Articles, at the time of matriculation were not enforced, admission would be given to atheists and sceptics, and that all sorts of polemic discussions would be carried on amongst them. The remonstrance of the University of Oxford pointed out the mischief which it was supposed would arise from the disputes to which the admission of Dissenters would give birth. The declaration also, which was signed by many persons, strongly deprecated this measure, which it was asserted would lead to the most disastrous consequences, would unsettle the minds of the young members of the University, would tend to reduce religion to an empty name, or subvert it entirely, and place infidelity in its stead. ["Hear, hear."] The noble Duke 822 cheered that sentiment. But such had not been the effects at Cambridge, where no subscription was called for on matriculation; such was not the case in Dublin. Why, then, should such an effect be produced in Oxford? The noble Duke, the Chancellor of Oxford, had, on a former occasion, used the word "atheist," and expressed his opinion that a measure of this kind would be the means of admitting atheists, and sceptics, and schismatics, into the University. Now, he demanded, would the subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles prevent atheists (though he believed that there was no such fool in existence), or sceptics, or schismatics, from entering the University? If an individual wished to come for the purpose of disputation, or to attain an ascendancy over the minds of other young men, would he be deterred from taking that course on account of subscribing the Thirty-nine Articles? Not at all. He could subscribe to those Articles, and set the statutes of the University at defiance. An atheist would say, "I do not care a fig about the Thirty-nine Articles. I don't believe in a God. I don't believe in a future state. I wish to uproot the sentiments of these young men, and to convert them to my own, and I will not be deterred by any forms." Certainly such a man would not; but the honest, the sincere man, no matter what his Christian belief, would be deterred by them. Now, he knew that the danger which it was said was likely to arise by passing this Bill was actually incurred at Oxford, and in the most unpleasant manner. He could state, that the children of Dissenters were admitted there at present. They came in as Conformists and not as Dissenters. They acted on a principle of insincerity, and surely that was more to be deprecated than the admission of young men of Dissenting communions who fairly came forward and stated what they were, without deceit or reservation? What, then, became of all this cant about the controversy that would arise among the young men, the growth of scepticism, and the consequent decay of religion. The subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles was a most disgraceful practice, and he regretted that he himself, when matriculated, had ever signed them, without knowing what it was he signed. The members of the University knew that it did not prevent the danger of dissent, and he did not know that the several hundreds 823 of gentlemen belonging to the University, who lately signed a declaration in favour of a subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles, believed in them themselves, since they forced young men to subscribe to what they knew they could not understand, and what they were told they could not understand. There must be some other reason than what they assigned in this declaration, some other hidden purpose. The subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles was, in fact, a lie, a positive lie, and he was sure the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Wellington) was of too gallant a spirit not to acknowledge, that if a person had told him a lie on one subject, he would suspect his veracity on another. When a man ventured on a falsehood for one reason, he would venture on a second for another. Now, he did in his conscience believe that these 1,700 or 1,800 gentlemen had signed that declaration for some other reason than that which they set forth. They justified the oath and the subscription by stating, that it was only intended as a declaration of belief in the doctrines of the Church of England; but he should like to know what would be said in a Court of Justice of a man who signed his name to a document or bond, and then said, "I did not know what I was subscribing." A short time back the noble Baron (Baron Kenyon) had said, that he took care to qualify himself for matriculation by an earnest study of the Thirty-nine Articles, and that he was as well able to answer any question in connexion with them as he was now. This was what a conscientious man would do, and the most respectable author of a little pamphlet published some time ago, Mr. Behrens, had mentioned, that prior to his matriculation he also qualified self with care to understand the meaning of the Thirty-nine Articles. But it was not necessary to argue these points; he would put it to the common sense of mankind to decide whether, without understanding the effect of what he signed, a man should be called on to put his signature to anything? A right reverend Prelate, who had been himself many years the head of a House, stated, that he was cognizant of many cases in which the explanation given was to be taken in animo exponentis—that as the Vice Chancellor explained the oath, so the individual was to take it. Could there be a more extraordinary absurdity, than that of the person 824 who was the imponens saying to the other, "You must understand the oath as I understand it, and that is my explanation?" It was by the authority of the University that the oath or declaration was imposed; and that it was the animus, and the intention of the University, that the party should take it in good faith was shown by the regulation, which only required it to be taken by those who were above the age of twelve years—they alone being supposed to understand its nature. In justice to the Dissenters, and in behalf of the University itself—in behalf of that nursery of the Church of England, the Legislature ought to deliver it from this disgrace. They had been told, indeed, that it was utterly impossible this could be done, because the members of the University of Oxford were bound by oath to enforce subscription. He supposed that the Statute which ordained this was not like one of the laws of the Medes and Persians, but that it might be altered—it might be revised by the authority which enacted it. Every young man who was admitted at Oxford at the age of sixteen, was, on his matriculation, obliged to subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles, and take the oaths of supremacy and obedience to the Statutes, and yet the young man newly admitted would not be there six hours without seeing that some of those Statutes were repeatedly being broken and violated. After his matriculation, he received a copy of the Statutes, which directed some most absurd observances. For instance, they were required to wear no coat but what was of a black or dingy colour, and not to cultivate flowing locks. They were forbidden to wear boots, and were enjoined to wear bands, both in public and private. Now, it was notorious that boots were almost universally worn, and bands were not worn at all. Again, it was required that every under graduate should cap a bachelor when he met him, the Bachelor the Master of Arts, and the Master of Arts the Doctor; and when a junior addressed a senior, he was to do it with his cap off, and with his head bowed in a meek and lowly manner. He admitted, that these things were very ridiculous, but on that account young men should not be sworn to observe them. What, he asked, became of this system of morality and virtue? There was another point to which he wished to call their Lordships' attention. By the statutes of 825 the different colleges, the scholars and fellows on the respective foundations of those societies were not allowed to take possession of these endowments if they possessed property of a certain value in lands of inheritance. But no arrangements were made in the founder's will for the possession of funded property, which did not exist, and was not even thought of. Bishop Fleetwood, the author of the Chronicon Preciosum, who wrote a very useful book in reference to the fall of value in money, and who also stood high in reputation as a casuist, gave it, as his opinion, as far back as the reign of Queen Anne, that a man might safely in conscience swear that he did not possess landed property to the amount which the founder had pointed out, although he did nominally possess it, in consequence of the relative depreciation of the money standard; and he thought that, so far, it was but just that the expressed will of the founder might be disregarded; but he believed, that in practice, it was altogether neglected, and he could safely say, that in one college it certainly was. The case of an individual possessing funded property, however, was wholly unprovided for, and he knew an instance of a relative of his own, a fellow of a college, vacating his fellowship on succeeding to a landed estate, selling that estate, of course receiving the money, and being re-elected to the vacant fellowship. Dr. Johnson's opinion had been quoted against the admission of Dissenters to the University, because according to him the Universities were schools for the Church of England, and it would be unwise to furnish its enemies with arms from its own arsenal, because the subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles was nothing more than a declaration that the parties so subscribing would be members of the Church of England. This was a regular trap, and he could oppose the advice of as great a moralist, as Dr. Paley, who, in his chapter on promises, cautioned men not to give pledges which they might afterwards be unable to perform. How, then, was it possible that a young man could promise that he would adhere to that religion of the doctrines of which he was, avowedly, ignorant at the time he made the promise? Nothing could be more disgraceful, than the practice of calling upon boys to promise that they would continue to belong to the Church of England, avowing, at 826 the same time, that they were unable to understand her doctrines. The right reverend Prelate took a leading part in the discussion of this question, on a late occasion, and had since published his speech. The right reverend Prelate observed that, as a matter of law, with respect to these Universities, the leading principle was, that where a corporation had received chartered rights, the law of England would repel every attempt to break in upon that corporation, unless it could be shown that the exercise of those rights had an injurious or demoralising tendency. He could not, however, conceive anything more immoral or more disgraceful than calling upon young men to subscribe certain articles of faith, binding them by oath to those Articles, and then telling them that they had not pledged themselves by that subscription to those Articles, as understanding them, but had only promised to endeavour to understand them hereafter. The right reverend Prelate, in the same speech, admitted that thirty or forty years ago these Corporations grossly and shamefully neglected their duty, and betrayed their trust. Under such circumstances, might their Lordships not have called for the rescinding of the Charter; but what was it that by this Bill these Corporations were required to do? Only that which they ought to have done in pursuance of the spirit of their Charters. The right reverend Prelate had alluded to the Statute passed thirty-five years ago, to correct that gross and shameful neglect of duty, of which the Universities were guilty. It had the effect, he had admitted, of correcting those abuses, and it was enjoined upon the tutors to instruct the students in the Thirty-nine Articles. There were several statements contained in the published speech of the right reverend Prelate, not correctly borne out in fact. The right reverend Prelate was wrong in stating, that no person was matriculated without signing the Thirty-nine Articles. The right reverend Prelate had also argued, that the statutes of Oxford required from those who were about to take degrees, besides the subscription, a declaration that the Thirty-nine Articles were according to the word of God; and the right reverend Prelate, therefore, inferred that subscription only did not amount to a declaration that the parties understood them. He could not understand how a 827 declaration, by word of mouth, could be considered of more efficiency than a subscription, which was a perpetual record against the party subscribing. The statute said, that every person above twelve years of age, on being matriculated, should subscribe the Articles of Faith, having first read them over or having heard them read over; and with regard to the declaration, the party was required to read the Articles, and then to sign them, and also the three Articles of the thirty-sixth Canon, which three Articles they were also to subscribe. The right reverend Prelate further said, that the gentlemen engaged in tuition at Oxford were so opposed to this measure, that they had declared they would sacrifice everything, they would submit to wander pennyless, homeless, and outcasts in the world, rather than forego instructing young men in the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England. With all respect to those gentlemen, he could not believe that they would have such a preference. From the conduct of the great champion of the Church on this subject, he could not think that these gentlemen, notwithstanding their declaration, would be so very scrupulous, were the Bill to become a law. Noble Lords might remember that, on a former occasion, he brought this very point forward, when the right reverend Prelate defied him to make good his words. A discussion arose some time ago about the words the "spirit of the age," and he had stated on that occasion, that the right reverend Prelate had yielded up his opinions to the spirit of the age, by condescending to accept a bishopric at the hands of the noble Duke opposite, the right reverend Prelate having written a pamphlet, in which he had declared, that such an act would be the basest thing that any person could be capable of. In a letter which the right reverend Prelate addressed to Mr. Canning, in the year 1826—
The Bishop of Exeter
interposed and said, that he had not the slightest wish to shrink from any examination into any thing he had ever said or written. But he would put it to their Lordships whether the business of the House could tolerate the irregular proceeding of the noble Earl, whose drift he certainly was unable to discover?
The Earl of Radnor
said, that he had not the slightest objection to leave that topic. He had already stated the objects 828 of this Bill—viz., that it sought to accomplish the admission of Dissenters from the Church of England to civil degrees in the English Universities, without subscribing the Thirty-nine Articles. If those Universities were mere schools of theology, then he was ready to admit, that the question would stand in a very different position; but such not being the case, he was at a loss to conceive what inconvenience could arise from the concession which was sought, and still less could he imagine why the University of Oxford should even now stand upon a different ground from that of Cambridge. He had understood that a declaration had been signed by many of the clergy, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, that it was necessary means should be taken to make the study of theology efficient at the Universities. In the pamphlet lately published by an eminent Professor of one of the Universities, Professor Pusey, it was stated, that no more theology was necessarily taught at the University than was contained in the Thirty-nine Articles. It was, therefore, quite clear that the Universities were not mere theological schools, still less could they with any propriety be said, consistently with their original foundation, to be schools for teaching theology, exclusively of the Church of England. When the Universities some thirty or forty years ago chose of their own mere will to alter the Statutes which had long before passed for their rule and government, it would have been, he thought, much to their credit to have relaxed those regulations which amounted to an exclusion of the whole Dissenting portion of their fellow-countrymen. He had then brought before their Lordships all the considerations which he thought should induce them to pass the Bill; and he would conclude by moving, that it be read a second time.
The Duke of Gloucester
said, that on presenting several petitions with reference to the subject now under consideration a short time ago, he had trespassed upon the time of their Lordships at considerable length; he should, therefore, not trouble their Lordships on the present occasion in stating the grounds upon which he should give his vote against a Bill which he thought to be not only uncalled for, but most cruel, most unjust, and most mischievous. The noble Earl who had moved the second reading of this 829 Bill had laid great stress upon the argument he had suggested, that there was no dependence to be placed upon the presumed security of the oaths required to be taken by the members of the Universities. If there was to be no security or reliance to be placed on oaths, on what, he would ask, was the Legislature or the country to have dependence? He had been a warm supporter of the Bill for the repeal of the Test Acts, and of the measure for the emancipation of the Roman Catholic subjects of this realm; but why were those measures necessary, if some security were not afforded by the sanction of an oath? He was obliged to the noble Earl (Earl Radnor) for the quotation which he made from Dr. Johnson, for it appeared to him (the Duke of Gloucester) that the quotation set the whole question at rest, inasmuch as it told the Legislature that the Universities were for the education of ministers of the Church of England, and that it ought to oppose the second reading of such a Bill as that which the noble Earl had recommended to their Lordships. The noble Earl had stated, that he was himself a member of the University of Oxford, and had doubtless paid greater attention to the discipline of that University than to that of Cambridge. All that the noble Earl had advanced with reference to the first University, he (the Duke of Gloucester) was quite sure his noble friend near him (the Duke of Wellington) was prepared to answer. He (the Duke of Gloucester) did not stand up there to defend the University of Oxford, but to declare, as he had already done, this measure to be most unjust, most cruel, and most uncalled for. If there had been any complaint made to the Legislature against the manner in which these institutions were regulated and governed, then probably the Legislature might be justified in interfering. Such, however, was not the case; but on the contrary, the Table of their Lordships' House groaned beneath the weight of petitions presented from all parts of the nation, praying their Lordships to support the present system of education, and expressing the highest approbation of that system, and entreating, imploring their Lordships not to consent to such a change as would admit Dissenters to degrees. He might be permitted to say, though he had the honour to be at the head of one of the Univer- 830 sities, that at no period did they stand higher in respect to sending forth to the world brilliant specimens of educated talent than at the present. It appeared to him, that those who had brought forward and supported this measure were unacquainted with the real nature of the foundation of these Universities. They had been founded by pious and benevolent persons, for the education of members of the Established Church, and of those who were designed to become ministers of that Church. Their Lordships should remember, that although King Henry 8th was the founder of a college in the University of Cambridge, it had also been endowed by other royal and noble benefactors, and Parliament had never given any assistance in furtherance of the benevolent and excellent views of the founders. Parliament had never founded a college; and how, therefore, Parliament could claim the right of interfering with the colleges appeared to him most extraordinary. There was no doubt, however, that when these colleges were founded, the Roman Catholic Church was the established religion of this realm; but when it gave place to the Protestant Church, and when that Church became the established religion of this country, it had been adopted as such by the Colleges and Universities, which then became part and parcel of the establishment. He had heard it stated, with astonishment, that a degree was merely a certificate of good behaviour, for he was satisfied a more egregious mistake never was made. A degree of master of arts once attained gave to its possessor power and authority in the discipline of the Universities, and more than this, the disposal of much Church patronage. He could not also avoid adverting to an observation which had more than once been repeated by the noble Earl opposite—namely, that at Cambridge Dissenters were already admitted. He begged, in reply, to state, that they were not known as Dissenters in the University of Cambridge; nay more, that it was a mistake to say that at Cambridge any arrangement had been made in order to admit Dissenters to the privileges and benefits of that University. It was a regulation at Cambridge (made, in his judgment, most wisely,) that no young man on admission should be called upon to subscribe the Thirty-nine articles, or to take any oath except the oath of alle- 831 giance, and a declaration that he would be obedient to the laws, orders, and regulations of the University. Hence it was, that Dissenters had crept in, though the University itself did not know or recognize them as such. So long as they conformed to the prescribed course of education and discipline, the heads of the University had no reason to believe them to be other than members of the Established Church. But it ought to be observed, when power and authority were about to be placed in their hands, as must be the result of conferring upon them University degrees, then it was, that the University insisted upon knowing whether or not the parties claiming that distinction were members of the Church of England, because that power and authority was only intrusted to members of the Church of England. If it were otherwise, from the moment that regulation was relaxed might be dated the separation of Church and State, and the overthrow of the Throne and the Constitution. He had already stated that the great bulk of the nation were members of the Church of England; but he must add, that he had presented upwards of 100 petitions to that House, and upwards of sixty Addresses to the Sovereign, praying protection to the Church as by law established, and against such concessions as those which this Bill would confer upon the Dissenters. He appealed to their Lordships whether they ought not to attend to the wishes, the prayers—nay, the entreaties, made to them by the great bulk of the nation in this respect? On a former occasion, he had stated his opinion upon the alleged difficulties accruing from the disabilities affecting the Dissenters, in reference to the medical profession, and their being called to the Bar. Since that period, he had had an opportunity of communicating with the noble and learned Lord, and after different consultations, had ascertained that it was possible the difficulty might be overcome with respect to the Bar. His noble and learned friend at the head of the Court of Exchequer, whose absence he regretted, had also informed him, that there would be no difficulty in entertaining some regulation, by which Dissenters might be admitted to the Bar, within the same period at which a degree might be obtained, on producing a certificate that he had undergone the requisite examinations. He was not without hope that he could appeal to the noble and 832 learned Lord on the Woolsack, that some regulation of this kind might be brought about. With regard to gentlemen, students of the University, with a view to the practice of medicine, and who were Dissenters from the Established Church, he should only state, that the College of Physicians had recently presented a petition or memorial to the King in Council, praying to be allowed to confer degrees in medicine. He had undertaken, on the part of the University of Cambridge, to consent to this prayer. Hence both the parts of which the Dissenters complained could be fully remedied without this Bill. He asked their Lordships whether they would support the established institutions of the country by the rejection of this Bill; or by concurring in the Motion of the noble Earl who moved the second reading, they would concede a measure, which, in his judgment, would lead to the separation of Church and State, and consequently to the overthrow of the monarchy? Under all these circumstances, he should move as an Amendment to the motion of the noble Earl, that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, it was his wish, on the present occasion, to confine himself to the discussion of the subject matter of the Bill now under their Lordships' consideration, and to lay aside all those parts of the argument of the noble Earl who had moved the second reading of the Bill, which had relation to the measure of Roman Catholic emancipation,—a measure which had in no degree any connexion with the Bill before their Lordships. The two institutions which it was the object of the present Bill to regulate, were chartered corporations—chartered not only by prescription, but by gift of Kings of England, and even by Act of Parliament. Not only were the Universities themselves incorporated, but several of the colleges were equally so; and yet the object of this Bill was to invade the rights and privileges given by those charters. Under those charters, not only the Universities as a body, but the several colleges, had a right to regulate their own affairs; and he was not aware that any complaint had been presented to either branch of the Legislature, as to the mode in which their affairs were regulated or conducted; and yet, in the absence of any complaint, the object of this Bill was to 833 force those chartered bodies to make an alteration. The noble Viscount at the head of his Majesty's Government had, the other night, assured their Lordships that it was his intention to maintain the institutions of this country, and he therefore would call on the noble Viscount this night to vote for the Amendment of the illustrious Duke near him; for never was there such an invasion of the established institutions of the country as that proposed by this Bill, even though its provisions were confined to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. He had already stated that these were chartered institutions, and that for nearly 300 years their charters had existed and been carried into effect; and yet, on no case stated (except that it would be desirable to alter the regulations, because a certain number of persons suffered from them), the whole should be repealed, in order that those individuals might enter within the pale of these institutions; that was the real question their Lordships had to decide this night. The noble Earl who had moved the second reading of this Bill, had stated very fairly, that there was a great difference between the regulations of Oxford and Cambridge. It was true that there was a difference in the regulations applicable to these two institutions; but the difference was more apparent than real; there was little difference in fact. In the University of Cambridge, persons might matriculate without subscribing to the Thirty-nine Articles, or without (he believed) taking the Oath of Supremacy.—[The Duke of Gloucester: 'No, no!']—It seemed he was wrong in that. Well then, they might matriculate without subscribing the Thirty-nine Articles. In the University of Oxford they must subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles, and take the Oath of Supremacy at the moment of matriculation, if they were more than a certain age. Now the noble Earl said, why not put the University of Oxford on the same footing as the University of Cambridge? Why, that was not the meaning of the Bill before their Lordships. The Bill did not say that. What the Bill said was this—persons should enter the University without subscribing any article as a test, or taking any oath on matriculation; and, moreover, that they should take their degree without taking such oath. That was the meaning of the Bill, and that involved a great question. When 834 persons took their degrees, as the Royal Duke had told them, they became members of the corporation—members of the senate, and they took on themselves a share of the government of the corporation. This was just the point which it was determined at the University of Cambridge, that persons should not arrive at who were not members of the Established Church. When they came to the question of law, he would ask was there no difference between admitting Dissenters by sufferance—between allowing them to come in, and, as the Royal Duke said, not knowing them as Dissenters (there being, as the noble Earl had stated, no inconvenience resulting from their admission,)—was there no difference between that sort of admission and their admission under an Act of Parliament? Would the noble Earl pretend to tell them that it was the same thing to let Dissenters in under the right given to them by the Bill, as it was to admit them by sufferance, not knowing, as the Royal Duke had put it, that they were there? There was all the difference in the world, and more particularly as regarded this very question. It was on this very ground he would say and contend, that the two Universities stood nearly in the same position. When Dissenters came to be admitted into the corporations by a right derived from this Bill, why, the rules and regulations of the Universities—the rules of all the Colleges in respect to discipline—most particularly those rules and regulations which required instruction in the doctrines, discipline, and rites of the Church of England—every one of these must be departed from when they gave Dissenters the right, under the clauses of this Act of Parliament, to be admitted to the Universities. He had argued the question hitherto in regard to the University of Cambridge. He now came to speak of Oxford, which stood on somewhat different grounds; but he had no more scruple in defending the University of Oxford on this ground, than he had in defending the University of Cambridge. In the University of Oxford the rule was, that when persons matriculated they should subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles, and take the Oath of Supremacy. Now, the noble Earl had gone into a long argument on the statute, to prove that the intention was, that the young man was bound by the declaration he made, at the moment of making it, to make oath that 835 he had a thorough understanding of it in all its parts. He contended, however, that it had been explained by several right reverend Prelates, and by one right reverend Prelate in particular (the Bishop of Exeter), that such was not the intention with which the declaration was subscribed; but the noble Earl himself, in the course of his discussion of this question, quoted the opinion of Dr. Johnson, who stated that the declaration was not made in the sense for which the noble Earl contended. The submitting of this test on matriculation at Oxford was founded on a statute of nearly 300 years' standing, and it had been a regulation at Oxford during the whole of that time. He never heard that any inconvenience resulted from it, or that any complaints were made against it. On the contrary, he always heard in this House, in the other House, and, in short, throughout the country, that the system of education at the University of Oxford, from that time to this, had given the utmost satisfaction. He had heard no complaints whatever, either respecting this mode of matriculation, or any other matter connected with the system of instruction. The explanation given by the right reverend Prelate, indeed the very reason of the case, showed what the declaration must be intended as—that it must be intended as evidence, that the person who made it was of parents who belonged to the Church of England, and not that the gentleman who signed the declaration must believe everything contained in the Thirty-nine Articles. But the noble Earl argued, that there was nothing in this regulation of the statute which could prevent the admission of schismatics or atheists into the Universities. He entirely agreed with the noble Earl. He admitted that schismatics and other individuals of that description, could not be prevented by this or by any other regulation from obtaining admission to the Universities. He contended, that this regulation would prevent the admission of persons into the Universities whose object would be to introduce their schisms and divisions. On this ground it was, that the University of Oxford stood on the same foundation as the University of Cambridge. The object of both was, not to prevent one such individual from entering—it was not in their power to do so; but to prevent large numbers of such persons from coming in, who, if they entered by right, would 836 object to allow the studies of the Universities to be continued—who would endeavour to establish their schisms and dissent—who would make efforts to effect that separation which it was their duty to prevent. He thought he had now shown the grounds on which the University of Oxford stood, and the grounds on which the University of Cambridge stood, and that they both stood in principle on nearly the same grounds; namely, that the introduction of persons into these Universities who were not of the religion of the Church of England was not desirable, on account of the peculiar nature of the studies that were pursued. They stood on the same grounds with respect to degrees. By taking a degree a man became a member of the corporation, and as a member he was entitled to a share in the government of the University. There was another most strange charge which had been made by the noble Earl; indeed, he was surprised to hear the noble Earl make such a statement. The noble Earl preferred this strange charge, that the young gentlemen who went to Oxford (the charge was peculiar to Oxford, for the same thing was not done at Cambridge) that the young gentlemen who went to Oxford were sworn to the observation of statutes which they knew were continually broken, and which they must know they would not and could not keep. He had not the statutes of the University of Oxford in his hand at that moment, but he was assured by some of his noble friends near him, that the oath taken by the young gentlemen at Oxford was either to obey the statutes or to submit to the punishment inflicted for not doing so. That was the amount, the real amount, of the charge of perjury which had been preferred by the noble Earl against the University of Oxford. The noble Earl, by way of sustaining this charge of perjury, had compared those oaths to the oaths of qualification taken by Members of the House of Commons. He would tell the noble Earl that the oaths taken at Oxford were not at all similar to the oaths of qualification in the House of Commons. They did not stand at all upon the same ground. The oath taken by the young gentlemen at Oxford was, as he had already said, "either" to obey the statutes, "or" to suffer the penalties prescribed for their violation. But the oath of qualification in the House of Commons was quite a different thing. He was 837 informed by some noble Lords who had experience in the House of Commons, that Members sometimes took the oaths of qualification who did not possess the property to entitle them to do so. He must say, that he never had heard a more unfortunate charge than that to which he had just referred, and which had been made by the noble Earl against the University of Oxford. In order to do justice to the question, it was necessary for him to go a little further, to sift the matter to the bottom. The admission of the Dissenters to degrees in the Universities would be completely destructive of the whole system of collegiate discipline and education, of that system of collegiate discipline which was founded upon the donations, the foundations, and the charters of the colleges, and of that religious system which considered it necessary that the persons who received their education at the Universities should be members of the Church of England, and persons who attended upon its rites. There was this difference between the University of Dublin, which had been quoted, and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, that in Dublin there was little or no residence on the part of the young gentlemen who received their education there. They lived in the town, with few exceptions, and there was not therefore the same necessity in the Dublin University for those rules and regulations respecting education, and the attendance on religious duties, which existed in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The system of education at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge was founded exclusively upon the religion of the Church of England. It was not only that young gentlemen were educated there in literature and science, but they were taught their duty towards God and man, by learning the religion of the Church of England, by being taught what Christianity was, by learning their duty towards their Maker and their fellow men. Would any man tell him that those studies would not be interrupted by the admission of the Dissenters into those institutions? It was quite impossible that the whole course of religious education should not be disturbed. It might be said, that the introduction of the Dissenters into the Universities would not prevent this system of education from going on; but how would it be possible to enforce it? If a number of those dissent- 838 ing gentlemen should be admitted into the Universities, who would have a right, under this Act of Parliament, not to attend to those collegiate rules and regulations, how would it be possible to enforce their observation upon those young gentlemen, members of the Church of England, who might happen to be in the same colleges at the same time? He wished to know whether the consequence of taking such a step would not be to produce dissent and schism throughout the Universities, and finally to perpetuate differences, distinctions, and disunions in them. Such was the opinion of those who were best able to form an opinion on the subject: such was the opinion of those who had written upon the subject from long experience. They were told by such authorities, that such would be the consequences of this proposed introduction of the Dissenters into the Universities. They were told also, that in institutions which had been founded for the purpose of educating ministers for the several Dissenting persuasions, it had been found impossible to adhere to any particular tenets, and that it was at last perceived to be necessary to give up an object which experience showed to be impracticable. He had heard a good deal of the union between Church and State. He could not forget having heard the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack on a former evening, declare his firm determination to maintain the union between Church and State. Now, it was worth while to consider a little what the nature of that union was. He had heard the noble and learned Lord define the meaning of that union on a former occasion. He had heard also many other noble Lords express themselves in favour of the union of Church and State, and their determination to maintain it under all circumstances. Now, he really felt that those noble Lords did not look very nicely to the meaning of the words. He would confess, that it appeared to him that in speaking of the union of Church and State, many of those noble Lords seemed to look upon it as a sort of political connexion—that was to say, they looked to the patronage which the Crown enjoyed in the Church—to the power which his Majesty had of presenting certain persons to certain ecclesiastical dignities and preferments, and of conferring benefices and livings upon others. But, in his opinion, they ought to regard 839 the union of the Church and the State as of a much higher order. He considered that there was a spiritual union between the Sovereign and the Church. His Majesty was declared by Act of Parliament to be the supreme head of the Church on earth. By the same Act of Parliament his Majesty was authorised to visit all those colleges, schools, and other similar institutions of Royal foundation, and he was required to prevent in them those very schisms, dissensions, and disorders, which were likely to occur if this Act of Parliament should be passed. He would therefore say, that his Majesty was bound as the head of the Church, and by the authority which he possessed as the head of the Church, he would say, that as such he was bound by the Act of Parliament which gave him that authority to prevent schism, dissensions, and disorders, in those Universities—he was bound to see that in those Universities the true doctrines of the Gospel, the doctrines of the Church of England, were maintained and taught, and nothing else. He would assert, that was the real meaning of the union of Church and State, and not a political union of Church patronage, or of anything else that might be connected with the kingly authority. Besides, it should be recollected, that the King had sworn to maintain the laws of God and the true religion of the Gospel. He knew that a convenient doctrine had been held in that House respecting the King's oath, and that it had been said, that an Act of Parliament might free his Majesty from it. He did not wish to argue that question now. He did not feel desirous on this occasion to enter into the question as to how far his Majesty should be considered bound by that oath, nor did he wish to impose his opinion concerning the question upon his Sovereign; but this he would say, that that oath had been imposed by Act of Parliament upon two Sovereigns in the course of the last twelve years. That oath contained the explicit declaration of a principle, and that principle was this—that the King of this country should maintain the laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel. That that was the principle which was contained in this oath, it would be impossible for any man to deny. Now, that being the case, it was quite impossible that they could assent to pass this Act of Parliament. They could not approach their Sovereign with this 840 Bill and desire his assent to it, knowing, as they did, that it went to overturn every principle contained in his oath. He had now gone through all the points to which he thought it necessary to call their Lordships' attention. He had shown that those were regularly chartered institutions; that they were founded for certain objects and upon certain principles; that their object was to educate persons for the Church of England and in the principles of the Church of England; that if any abuses existed in them, it might be safely left to themselves to detect and to correct them; that the leading principle of those institutions was the maintenance of the religion of the country, and the instruction of the country in the doctrines of the Church of England; that danger would follow from introducing Dissenters into those institutions; and finally, he had shown that, considering the nature of the oath which had been taken by the Sovereign, it would be impossible for them to present such a Bill as this to his Majesty for his assent. Upon all those grounds he must vote against the measure.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that considering the magnitude and importance of the subject involved in this measure, he was anxious, before their Lordships proceeded to a division, to address a few observations to them upon the question. He should, in the first instance, give an answer to a question put to him by the noble Duke who had just spoken. The noble Duke had asked him whether it would not be inconsistent with a declaration which he had made on a former occasion to give his vote for this Bill? He would beg leave to say, that he did not consider that it would be at all inconsistent with any opinion which he had expressed, or with any declaration which he had made on a former occasion relative to preserving the institutions of the country, to give his vote for the second reading of this Bill. He would vote for the second reading of this Bill—not that he could entirely approve of it—not that he thought that it would effect the purposes it had in view in the best manner—not that he did not think that great difficulties surrounded the subject—difficulties which had been enumerated in the course of this debate—and, finally, not that he did not think that the whole object of this Bill might not be better effected by a good understanding, and a compromise between both 841 parties in this matter, rather than that it should be forced by the violence of an Act of Parliament upon the Universities. He repeated that, in his opinion, the thing would be much better done by a compromise and a good understanding than in the manner it was proposed to do it by this Bill. At the same time, however, if they looked at the importance of the subject, he thought that the measure was one that deserved their Lordships' most careful consideration. He entirely agreed with the noble Baron opposite, that if this matter could be brought about in an amicable way, without animosity on either side, by a voluntary concession on the part of the Universities, and in fact by a sort of compromise on both sides, it would be much the better way, than that it should be effected by legislative interference. But then, as he said before, he looked upon the subject as one of such great magnitude and importance, and he was so anxious that it should receive the fullest consideration at their Lordships' hands, that it was his determination to vote for the second reading of this Bill. The noble Duke, in the course of the speech which he had just addressed to the House, had referred to a variety of matters, and, amongst others, the noble Duke had adverted to the union between Church and State, and had made some observations in regard to it to which he did not intend, on this occasion, to offer any answer. If he should be asked, whether he meant in his definition of the union of Church and State, that there should be no established religion in this country, he would say, that to such an opinion he would give his most decided opposition. He was quite of opinion, that it was impossible to preserve religion in the country without maintaining an established religion in connexion with the State. The religion of the country could not be upheld by leaving it to the voluntary support of its members—it must be upheld by the State. To justify a contrary opinion, and to defend so great a change as that opinion would introduce into this country, it would not do to refer to examples, such as the existence of Christianity in the Roman empire, before it was constituted the established religion, and to the existence of religion in a country so distant, and so differently circumstanced from this, as the United States of America. He would, therefore, again repeat, that he entirely 842 differed from those who maintained that there should not be an established religion in the country, and that religion connected with and supported by the State. He belonged to the Church of England from feeling and conviction. He would not say, that he had examined all her doctrines—he could not say, whether he had examined the foundation of all her rites and ceremonies—he would not say, that he should be able to discuss those one thousand questions which, according to the statement of his noble and learned friend on a former evening, Bishop Law stated, arose out of the Thirty-nine Articles. He belonged to the Church of England, because he deemed her spirit pure, and her principles tolerant. He belonged to the Church of England, because it was the mode of faith handed down to him by his forefathers, and because it was the mode of faith which he found established in the country. It was upon such grounds that he was a member of the Church of England; and he would maintain, that it was absolutely necessary to sustain the religion of the country on the basis on which it stood at present, in order to preserve it, and to prevent, on the part of the majority of its members, a general neglect of religious observances. While he said this for himself, and on the part of the Church of England, he must at the same time say, on the part of that great and large body of men, the Dissenters of England, that their dissent from her doctrines had been almost coeval and contemporaneous with the establishment of the Church of England herself—that they dissented from her, because they did not think she went far enough in the work of reformation—that they did not exhibit their opposition at the time against a Church that was then in power and prosperity—that their dissent grew up at a period when the Roman Catholic religion was dominant in this country, and that it was, therefore, a dissent founded upon conscientious feelings and principles. Considering the weight which dissent had in the country, and considering the extent to which it prevailed, many attempts had been, from time to time, made at a religious comprehension of the Dissenters in the body of the Church. Such attempts, it was well known, had been made by some of the greatest prelates that had adorned the Church of England. All such attempts had hitherto failed. He trusted that it was reserved for the present 843 day to see such an attempt in some degree succeed, and, at all events, they had a right to make it by a general civil comprehension of the Dissenters, and by admitting them to the benefits to be derived from the public institutions of the country. He would not go into the foundation of the Universities. He apprehended that they were originally founded for the support of literature and science. He apprehended that such was the original object of all those learned institutions of the country which, from the concurrence of accidents and the force of chances, had been founded, and had grown up, one after the other, until they had, in fact, come to be considered national seminaries. He would reserve to them complete the right to preserve the religion of the country. He would, however, at the same time, for the sake of general peace and union, and for the sake of bringing together those who had been excluded so long from the benefits of those institutions—he would sanction the admission of the Dissenters into the Universities. He would sanction that which some of the most distinguished members of those institutions had said could be safely effected. He would try whether they might not open the gates of the Universities to the great body of those who unfortunately dissented from the Church of England. He would not wish, however, rashly to meddle with honest prejudices and well-founded feelings. The noble Duke had said, that tests were no security against impiety and schism, and that a man might take them who dissented from them, if he chose to stifle all feelings of right and wrong. He would say, that tests were no security against any man. It was impossible to look at the history of religion in any state, or at any period, and not to see that tests afforded the weakest aid and the most frail security to any faith. Did tests preserve the heathen religion against the vital spirit and heaven-descended energy of Christianity? Yet they were aware, that every act of the life of a heathen was in itself a test. He could not sit down,—he could not eat his meals,—he could not retire to rest, he could not go through the simplest duty—he could not perform the ceremony of marriage, without addressing some heathen deity or other. These observances were forced upon the Christians by the most cruel punishments, and yet such means failed to preserve the dominant faith. In 844 fact, it was well known, that one of the most violent persecutions of the Christians attempted under the Roman emperors was followed by the establishment of Christianity as the dominant religion of the empire. Had tests been any security to the Roman Catholic religion against the pure light and energy of the Protestant faith? Tests, a variety of tests, were adopted to put down the Protestant religion in its infancy; but it was soon found, that they were vain and fragile against the light and strength of the new doctrines. In fact, they were utterly futile for such a purpose, even in the Universities themselves. Without looking very deeply into the subject, he found that about fourteen years after the establishment of King's College, Cambridge, a decree was sent down there by King Henry 6th, admonishing the scholars—that was to say, in the language of the present day, the fellows of that college—against the damnable and pernicious errors (so it styled them) of John Wickliffe and Richard Peacock, and denouncing the pains of expulsion from college and of perjury against those who should show any favour to these heretical doctrines. Yet, in two years after this, this very King's College became what, at that time, was called the most heretical, but what, at the present day they would call the most Protestant, college in Cambridge, and it was only about sixty years after this that those very doctrines thus fiercely denounced were by the law established in this country. So much for the security and aid afforded by tests. Let the Church of England rest upon the living vigour, upon the pure truth, upon the scriptural consistency of her doctrines, above all, let her depend upon her mild laws, upon her tolerant character. Her maintenance rested upon her intrinsic merits and her native strength. It was by those characteristics that she had been preserved,—it was by those characteristics that she would be preserved,—and not by means of tests and subscriptions. On the whole he should, as he said before, vote for the second reading of this Bill. He was ready to admit, that the subject was surrounded with great difficulties. He was ready to admit, with the noble Baron opposite, that great difficulties stood in the way of effecting an object the accomplishment of which all must admit to be so desirable. With respect to the objection of the noble duke, that controversial dis- 845 cussions and dissensions would necessarily follow the introduction of the Dissenters into the Universities, he (Lord Melbourne) could not help thinking, that but little was to be apprehended from such an anticipation of what might never turn out to be a fact. It was not to be supposed, that young men would have no other end in going to College than to enter into controversial disputes and discussions, and it was rather monstrous to assume, that the Dissenters should be excluded from the benefits of the Universities on the plea that their admission there would set all the students wrangling about points of theology. Did their exclusion prevent theological controversies in the Universities at present? As far as he could recollect, he had never heard of dissent until he went to the University. It could not be otherwise, seeing that the whole of the studies at the Universities were founded on theological questions. But surely it was absurd to suppose, that the introduction of a few Dissenters from the Church of England into the Universities would produce those scenes of general confusion and disorder which the noble Duke seemed to apprehend. At the same time, whatever might happen, and even should an evil of the kind arise from the admission of Dissenters to the Universities, he did not think that such an evil could be at all put in competition with the advantages to be derived from taking such a step in the way of conciliation with the feelings of animosity thus allayed, and peace established between, at present, rival and contending parties. It was with those feelings not at all blind to the difficulties of the subject, but sensible from its great importance that it was deserving of the further consideration of their lordships, that he should certainly give his vote for the second reading of this Bill.
The Earl of Carnarvon
was glad to find that the noble Viscount who had just spoken did not entertain an unmingled approbation of this Bill. He was delighted at the admiration which he heard that noble Viscount express of the Church of England, and his determination to stand by that Church. In the present period of general uncertainty and doubt, when nobody well knew what were the intentions of Ministers with respect to the Church, it was consoling to find the noble Viscount come forward with such a declaration of his sentiments, and he was sure 846 that it would diffuse joy through the heart of every man in the country who felt devoted to the Church of England. He cordially concurred in many of the sentiments that had been expressed by the noble Viscount. Indeed, it appeared to him (the Earl of Carnarvon) that the only thing to be desired in some parts of the speech just delivered by the noble Viscount was, that he should be sitting on that (the Opposition) side of the House. With regard to tests, while he would not insist upon them as a good security for religion, he thought that they were a good security for the purity of education. The noble Lord said, that the Church of England might rely upon the native strength and truth of her doctrines, and that she might defy all the efforts of her enemies to overturn her. But the noble Lord did not seem to recollect, that to teach the truth, it must be well understood in the teaching. Concurring, as he did, in much that had fallen from the noble Viscount, he must say, that it was not his good fortune to concur with the noble Earl who had opened this debate. The noble Duke had so well drawn the distinction between the admission of Dissenters to the University of Cambridge, as it existed by sufferance, and their admission by right, as proposed by this Bill, that he would make no observations upon the argument of the noble Earl with reference to this point, or go over ground which had been already so successfully maintained. He would only say, in addition to what fell from the noble Duke on this point, that, as a natural consequence of this state of sufferance, the number of Dissenters at the University of Cambridge was at present inconceivably small; but when their admission was no longer discretionary, the result of a kind and tolerant feeling on the part of the authorities, but a matter of positive and statutable right, their numbers would enormously increase, and their conduct would, he feared, be materially changed; they would then constitute a powerful minority in the heart of the Universities, acting with all the zeal, and in all the spirit of party; they would then hold up this Bill as the Charter of their rights; they would agitate the hitherto untroubled Colleges with their polemical discussions, and would perhaps make open war upon that religious discipline, and on those religious opinions, which, while they were admitted on sufferance, and having a great 847 inferiority of numbers, they did not venture to assail. The noble Earl who opened the debate defied the opponents of the Bill to show that any practical inconvenience had resulted from the permission given to Dissenters to graduate in the University of Dublin. Very probably not. But when the measure which permitted Dissenters to graduate in the University of Dublin was introduced into Parliament, it received the sanction of the two Members for the University, and of the Provost of the University, then a Member of the Lower House; and in and out of the University, two not very important individuals constituted the whole master of opposition that could be raised to their claims. From what cause arose this all but perfect unanimity of feeling? From the knowledge, that residence was not enforced at Dublin, and that non-residents were known to receive their religious education, where it would probably be most honestly and anxiously administered—under the paternal roof, or at least under the roof of the guardian pro tempore; and still more, from the knowledge, that degrees at Dublin; did not, as in England, confer a power of government. This unanimity then arose from an intimate conviction derived from the circumstances to which he had just alluded—circumstances peculiar to the Constitution of the University of Dublin—that the admission of Dissenters into that Establishment could produce no effect injurious, either to the Protestant Church of Ireland, or to the education of the youth brought up at the University. Did any such unanimity of feeling with respect to the admission of Dissenters into the English Universities prevail? Yes; but in the adverse sense. Look at the University declarations, crowded with the signatures of the best and wisest men in the land, and drawn up with all the fervency of truth; look at the unequivocal testimony borne to the general feeling by the united voices of their four Representatives; all deprecating the measure as a mortal blow to the interest of the Universities, and to the religion of the country. Even at the University of Dublin, to which the noble Earl had so triumphantly alluded, where the prospect was so comparatively fair, even there had peace and harmony been the result? He answered no. The Dissenters of Dublin, restless and dissatisfied, disdained their easy triumph; they 848 spurned the barren honours of the degree which they so lately coveted; they were striving to obtain admission to the offices of scholar, fellow, and provost: anxious to share in all the privileges and emoluments of the University, and thinking nought was won, till nought remained to win. To compel the Universities to admit Dissenters within their walls as a matter of right, was unjust; and if tried, would be found to the last degree inexpedient and unwise. He concurred in opinion with those noble Lords who thought that, by pursuing such a policy, no solid advantage could be gained, and therefore they ought not to enter upon a course from which it was impossible to recede, and on which they could not advance with honour. If the object contemplated by the noble Earl were obtained—if the reluctant Universities were compelled to admit Dissenters, still, without a stretch of Parliamentary tyranny, such as he could not believe would ever emanate from Parliament, we could not compel the respective colleges to receive them as inmates. The noble Earl had referred to a document, signed by the heads of colleges, and other persons high in office at the University, declaring their firm determination to wander over the world, deprived of every worldly possession, homeless and houseless, rather than submit to an act which would outrage their consciences. Was not that matter for grave and solemn consideration. If the admission of Dissenters into the bosom of the Universities were not really attained by the step which the noble Earl required the House to take—if the Colleges should refuse to give practical efficacy to the concessions which the University might be compelled to make—if the law should remain a dead letter, their Lordships would have to confirm it by fresh legislation, and on a harsher principle—if the Colleges should refuse to comply—and he was tempted to say, that he hoped to God they would not comply—if they should oppose a passive, but legal and effective resistance to the law, then would legislation be unavailing; unless their Lordships were prepared to overcome by direct persecution a resistance founded on a sense of duty higher than even that which commanded obedience to the law. The reasoning of the noble Earl had not removed his greatest objection to this measure—the difficulty of rendering the admission 849 of Dissenters to the Universities compatible with adhering to the present course of religious instruction. From them as from the fountain head, England drew its religious knowledge; and if this Bill were passed, how could that religious knowledge be supplied. If dissent were considered a sufficient ground of exemption from the religious discipline of the University, where was the standard to be fixed? Was not such a regulation offering a premium to dissent? The thoughtless youth would often make some slight or even fancied deviation from the doctrines of the Church a plea for exemption from the labour of acquiring religious knowledge, and the restraint of attendance on religious rites. If this Bill passed, religion could be no longer the ground-work of University education, and in the great repositories of the national learning, the highest and most invaluable species of knowledge would remain untaught; and the Word of God, expressed in the pure doctrine of the Church, would be learnt as it might and gathered as it could. The noble Earl took a different course from that adopted by other supporters of the Bill; the noble Earl stated, that Dissenters would be required to submit to the religious discipline of the Universities. He was then prepared to sanction a practice considered tyrannous even in the days when toleration was unknown, and unless the courteous examiner, in deference to their feelings, abstained from every controverted topic, he would force the dissenting student to hear, and, perhaps, express opinions hateful to his heart. Such a system would, to an incalculable extent, aggravate the existing dissatisfaction of the Dissenters; it would convert their present disabilities into a grievance of the deepest die. The noble Earl sneered at the idea, that the admission of Dissenters would lead to religious disputation. Admit Dissenters, yet banish religious disputation!—how was that compatible with a sincere and effective course of religious instruction? By what strange compromise of opinion could the same tutor instruct on points of faith the Churchman, the Calvinist, and the Unitarian? It would be better to tell the country frankly, that the growing freedom of opinion had superseded the necessity of specific religious instruction; but it would not become that House to sanction the fallacy, if the leading doctrines of the Church were coldly and timidly maintained, and 850 every substantial difference of opinion between the Church and her sectarian brethren waved or compromised, that under such a heartless system an effective course of religious education could be maintained in either University. The noble Lords, who supported the Bill, and other distinguished individuals who patronized the London University, would not have sanctioned the omission of any system of religious instruction, if they had not felt that any such system was incompatible with the general nature of the institution, and the indiscriminate admission of persons of various forms of faith. The subject of religious education was taken into their deep and conscientious consideration; and rather than forego some system of religious instruction, it was proposed that Biblical criticism should devolve on a dissenting teacher, showing that the difficulty must have been great, which could have suggested such a desperate expedient; but the Gordian knot was solved by a shorter process; this notion was abandoned, and the idea of establishing any religious instruction was given up. How, indeed, could it be established with the faintest chance of success, when Christianity could not be inculcated on the youthful mind in deference to the opinions of the Jew, nor Paley's Theology be allowed to outrage the pious scruples of the Atheist? As no system of religious instruction, however modified, or under any limitations, could be established in the London University, he could not comprehend how the present system of religious instruction, according to the tenets of the Church of England, could be maintained at the two Universities, when all sects should have the right of indiscriminate admission to them. The Universities, it was said, were reluctant to admit Dissenters within their walls, and were also selfishly determined, that they should not obtain a Charter for their own University, which might be enabled to confer degrees. Such a charge would be heavy indeed, if capable of proof; but what was the case? There were many employments—the Masterships of Grammar Schools for instance—which could be filled only by Masters of Arts. The University of Oxford had then contended, that the Dissenters should not perpetrate a fraud upon the world, that they should not assume the colours of the University, under the powerful sanction of her name, and obtain 851 a control over the education of youth, and pervert it from the living faith of the Church. Let the Dissenters confer degrees of their own at their own institutions, and the Universities would not object. If their purpose were fair and honourable, why strive to assume forms adopted by the Universities, and closely and intimately connected with a Church whose tenets they disliked, and whose destruction they avowedly sought? It was not fair, it was not just, to impute a want of charity to the Universities, because they would not allow their enemies to sail under their colours, confounding their enemies with their friends. The noble Earl proceeded to refer to the evils arising in foreign Universities from the want of religious education, and the want of religious tests. Turbulence, infidelity, disrespect of religion and government, and every species of disorder resulted from such causes. In confirmation of this assertion, he might mention the murder of Kotzebue by Sandt, and the disrespect of our Lord's miracles, which were treated as old women's tales by the students of Continental Universities. The unhappy state of the German youth, their fury, infidelity, and ill-regulated dispositions in matters political and religious, were to be ascribed to the absence of that religious instruction which produced so salutary an influence in the English Universities. The same thing might be said of the youth of France. At the University of Paris, no tests were required, and in France, the youth had seized the first moment of political Revolution to rush forward and tear down every emblem of what they termed the Christian superstition. Let noble Lords judge of the character and effects of institutions for education in this country and on the Continent, not according to speculative opinions, but by actual results. Compare the misguided young men of France with the glorious youth of our Universities, who wise beyond their years, and uncorrupted by the dazzling sophistries of the day, even when upheld by the strong arm of power, testified, on a recent occasion, with all the vehement sincerity of their own happy time of life, their devoted attachment to the place and system of their education, to the institutions of their country, and especially to the Church of their faith; by their zeal for those institutions, to my noble friend, the chosen champion of them, Some of their Lord- 852 ships, might, perhaps, despise these youthful opinions; but others, who looked deeply into causes, would feel that their ardent expression of attachment towards the ancient institutions of the country, and their indignant reprobation of anti-Church and anti-University policy, was but the reflexion of a stronger light, the echo of a deeper and more general voice. The outpouring of their own high-spirited and generous enthusiasm, was but the feelings of their friends and families finding utterance through them; their voice was the voice of the country; and spoke the opinions entertained by the respectability and property, by the virtue and education of the higher ranks of society, and of the middling classes diffused throughout the kingdom. Their Lordships had been advised to comply with the spirit of the age. He cordially concurred in that advice; and when he saw the rising generation unanimous in their opinion, when he found the Masters of Arts, men advanced in life, men coming from no particular district, of no particular party, profession or age, who might fairly be considered to represent the matured education of the country, when he found these men assembled, on a recent occasion, to the number of almost 2,000, and concurring, with scarcely a dissentient voice, in one common view of justice and of policy, and that view, the view adopted by the noble Lords around him, he found that they were strictly following the recommendation of noble Lords opposite, that they were walking with the age, and were in harmony with the spirit of the time. The day was past when noble Lords opposite could induce the world to believe, that the public virtue and intelligence of England wished to subvert the settled institutions of the country. Before he sat down, he must again implore their Lordships to judge of institutions by their results. Abroad, where no tests were imposed, religion was either obscured by extravagant delusions, or had utterly fallen into decay; in England, where tests were imperative, religion flourished, undisturbed by fanatic zeal on the one hand, and unclouded by chilling doubt on the other. Here, and here alone, no excess degraded the purity of the national faith. Generally speaking, a more pious, a more exemplary, and a more devoted race of men, to their great trust, than the Established clergy, had never existed in any age or State, from the 853 highest Prelate down to the humblest Curate. The gentry, too, were animated by similar feelings. To what could he attribute this fortunate state of things, but to the system adopted at our Universities, to which the members of the Church, both lay and clerical, were indebted for their religious instruction. Believing, conscientiously, that the admission of Dissenters into our Universities would endanger this valuable system of religious instruction, he should be a traitor to his opinion if he did not oppose this Bill. He was acquainted with many Dissenters, for whom he felt a high regard, and whose good opinion he greatly valued, and he would most gladly concur in any measure granting them real or imaginary relief, if that could be effected without an abandonment of principle; but supposing the evils complained of to be ten times greater, he never could consent to a measure the necessary consequence of which must be a sacrifice of the established religion. Their Lordships might perhaps be told, that the rejection of this Bill would involve their Lordships in a collision with the Commons; but he was happy to see that it could create no difference between the House and his Majesty's Ministers. He was entitled to say this, after what had fallen from the noble Viscount at the head of the Government. For the rest, he should regret the rejection by their Lordships of any measure passed by a large majority of the Commons; but if their Lordships thought it important, that there should be any religious instruction for our youth, and believed that the present measure tended to destroy that salutary system, then had they no choice but to reject the Bill. The question was no longer between noble Lords on the opposite benches, and noble Lords on this side of the House; the question was between their God and them; and the highest, and holiest motives, imperiously called upon their Lordships to reject the Bill. If, from any motives of mere expediency, they should consent to the passing of this Bill, they would war upon their interests, their duty, their honour, and their honest opinion. Then, and not till then, the authority of that House would fall into contempt. He did not believe that the House would lose the confidence of the country till it was deserved: indissolubly connected with the Monarchy, and deeply rooted in the public estimation it would, not fall, 854Till self-abasement pave the wayFor ruthless chains, and villain sway.But when their Lordships had abandoned the institutions of the country, the people of England would abandon them; for what could the people need of hereditary defenders, when all which was truly worthy of defence, had been given up?
The Archbishop of Canterbury
said, that the object of the Bill was to remove certain disabilities which prevented a particular class of his Majesty's subjects from graduating at the Universities of England, and taking degrees therein. It was necessary to call their Lordships' attention to the fact, because, from the language of the noble Earl who opened this debate, it would appear as if this were merely a question, whether certain oaths and subscriptions imposed by the Universities should be removed, for the relief of its members, which had been wrongly or wickedly imposed upon them; instead of being, as it was a question, whether those oaths and subscriptions should be removed, for the purpose of admitting Dissenters into the Universities. He expected to hear from the noble Earl some arguments in favour of the measure before the House; but instead of urging any reasons for its adoption, the noble Earl thought proper to launch into a lengthened invective against the University of Oxford, for having imposed the tests, and accused the members of that University of not believing those declarations to which they affixed their names. The meaning and import of subscription in the Universities had been discussed over and over again in that House, and he would not enter into that question then. He heard with great satisfaction the speeches which followed that of the noble Earl, particularly that of the noble Viscount (Viscount Melbourne) in which the noble Viscount expressed his attachment to the Church in which he was born, and said he voted for the second reading in a spirit of conciliation. Their Lordships would, he thought, admit, that such a Bill as this ought not, in a spirit of conciliation, to be forced on the Universities. After having been discussed with calmness and temper, the noble Viscount said, that it was possible some satisfactory compromise might be come to. He should have been better pleased if the noble Viscount had expressed uncompromising hostility to the Bill. He was also much pleased with 855 what had been said in favour of the Universities, and he could but congratulate the Church and the Universities on the eloquent defenders they possessed, and had acquired, particularly the noble Earl who spoke last, and who had then spoken in that House for the first time. Much of what he had to say upon this subject had been anticipated by other noble Lords, and it was not his intention to go over that ground again. The noble Earl who opened this debate said, the Universities were not originally intended as places of religious education in the doctrines of the Church of England. [The Earl of Radnor: I said they were not intended for theological seminaries.] He would admit, that the education in them was not, strictly speaking, a theological one, but most certainly one great object of these institutions was, to encourage a sound religious education, and they had always been connected with the Established Church of the country, whatever that might have been. Religious education and useful knowledge were the objects contemplated in these institutions, and their works spoke for them; for with all the colleges there were churches connected, in which provision was made for performing the service of the Church of England. This was apparent also from the language employed in the Act of Uniformity. The canon required that in the Universities attention should be paid to Divine Service, and to the use of the sacraments, as directed in the book of Common Prayer; and those regulations applied as much to their Universities as to their Churches. In a word, the Universities had been at all times in connection with the Church. It was equally so before the Reformation, before the Romish religion was shaken off, as it was now. From the foundation of the Universities up to the present time, no Dissenters were admitted, except during a short interval of time, which he need not mention, but which he trusted would never be followed as a precedent. The Dissenters were never, with this exception, admitted to degrees; nor would they claim admission now, if they had not some ulterior object in view. He would call their Lordships' attention to the system of religious instruction pursued in the Universities, and then submit to them whether that system was such as Dissenters should be anxious to be admitted to the benefits 856 of it. In the first place, young men at Oxford, not boys under twelve, as had been said, were required to take the oath of supremacy, and to subscribe the articles of religion. In the second place, the tutors were required to instruct them in the evidences of the Christian religion, and to do all in their power to bring them to conformity with the discipline of the Church. In the third place, an examination took place, and it was upon this examination, that the obtaining of a degree depended. It was required that they should be examined in the principles of religion, and a defect in this branch of knowledge could not be compensated by any other acquirement. If the candidates did not give satisfaction on this head, they could have no testimonials, and of course no degrees. The candidate for degrees must be prepared to subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles and the three articles of the thirty-sixth canon. When he first heard of this Bill now under their Lordships' consideration, he questioned a gentleman who had been long a tutor in one of the Colleges of Oxford as to the course of religious instruction adopted in his College. That gentleman informed him that his course was this, and it was substantially the same in all the colleges:—Every candidate for admission was examined in the Scripture History and in the doctrines of the Church of England. He was required to attend a lecture in the Greek Testament every week, and thus to go through the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. Then followed a course of instruction in the Thirty-nine Articles according to Burnett. The historical books of the Old Testament were read through so as to complete the perusal in two years. Every under-graduate went through this course. Besides this, there was a catechetical lecture on Sundays, with instruction in the doctrines and discipline of the Church of England. He did not mean to say this course contained all that was desirable in the religious branch of a liberal education; but it formed an excellent substratum for the knowledge to be afterwards acquired by a member of the Church of England. Another point to which he wished to direct their Lordships' attention was the observance of the discipline of the Church of England in the Universities, so far as related to the attendance of the students at Divine worship. It appeared, that care was taken 857 to explain to every youth, at the commencement of his residence, that he was required to attend the daily and Sunday service of the chapel, as corresponding with the domestic service of a family, and the service of his parish church. He was informed that he would be expected to attend Divine worship at least twice on Sunday, and once on every other day of the week; at the same time, he was encouraged and advised, with a view to his best interests and happiness, to attend more frequently on the week-day, if his health and engagements permitted; and, where the spirit, letter, and authority of the rules had been observed, the sacrament was administered. He was earnestly entreated, both on that and on all occasions, openly to state any scruple that might occur to him; and he was assured that, in so doing, he would always meet the most respectful indulgence. The system of requiring the attendance at chapel of those who are in statu pupillarii, was most beneficial; and he could bear testimony to the order and propriety with which the service proceeded. He was conscious that he must have tired their Lordships by entering into a detailed enumeration of this kind, but, after all that had been stated upon these various points in different quarters, it was his anxious wish that their Lordships should know what the system was. He could not forbear saying one word further with regard to the attendance at chapel. Upon this topic he had read reports of language which he very much regretted should have been used, and which he was sure could only have been prompted by a very imperfect knowledge of the effect of this regulation. As far as he could himself understand the objections to it, there was not one of them which might not with equal propriety be employed and which would not tell equally well against any attendance at prayers, whether in private families or in public places. Their Lordships had heard what the system of these institutions was, and it was for them to examine how it would be affected by the measure they were called on to adopt. The Universities required in the first place the signature of the Articles of the Church. Then the student was instructed in the discipline of the Church, and then he was submitted to an examination to ascertain that he had so gone through his studies as that, with a good understanding of them, 858 and with a clear conscience, he was ready to conform to those Articles. Now this Bill repealed the first and last, but left in full force the intermediate regulation. The student, under its provisions, would still be compelled to receive instruction in the Thirty-nine Articles in the ordinary routine of the system, and he would be required to pass through the examination of them before he could be admitted to a degree. He would ask, then, would the Dissenter consent to go through such a course of education in order to be admitted to degrees? Why, no, it was impossible to suppose that he would. Would be not say it was a mockery and an insult to tell him that his sun might be admitted to the University, and might be allowed to take a degree, upon the supposition that he would do such a violence to his conscience as to accept the privilege upon such terms as these? Would he not pray rather to be relieved from such an enactment, if it were to pass, which only opened to him the doors of the University upon terms which must be degrading to himself if he complied with them? No strict Dissenter could avail himself of such a law. He knew but little as to the example of the practice of Cambridge which had been so much referred to. He apprehended, however, that not many Dissenters availed themselves of it, though he was informed that there was no means of knowing what was the number who had been admitted into what were called the liberal Colleges; they might be few or many; but the parents who sent them there could not be very anxious that they should remain Dissenters. This too was a state of things which could not be continued after the passing of such a measure as the present. If Dissenters were admitted by an Act of Parliament, it was impossible but that there must be such an alteration of the Statutes of the Universities as would make them more palatable to the parties admitted; there must of necessity follow great alterations, and alterations which he thought would be greatly for the worse. At present young men went to the Universities to learn and not to dispute. When once youth of different persuasions were admitted, he feared that the consequence would be that they would be turned into an arena for theological controversy. That would be one of the first results, and the effect of that upon young men would, in all prob- 859 ability, be in the end to encourage the growth of indifference or repugnance to all religious subjects. There was also another consideration which he thought entitled to claim the full attention of their Lordships, and that was the manner in which the change would operate upon another party, the conscientious member of the Church. At present, when a parent sent his son to the University, he did so in the security that he would receive instruction according to the religious principles of the Church of England, in which he himself had lived, and which he desired to see his son profess. When he entered his son at Oxford or Cambridge now, the member of the Church of England was satisfied that he would return into the bosom of his family a member of the Church of England. If they passed this measure, would the same security exist? Would they not have in its place the dread of proselytism, or of something worse? Was it to be supposed, then, that such a change could be anything but injurious to the Universities? This would be the effect with regard to the lay members of the Church, but upon the clergy he apprehended that the alterations would be still more injurious. At present he thought it was unnecessary for him to call upon their Lordships to admit, that the Universities formed in practice an admirable seminary for the clergy. They all knew how the system answered these important ends as it now prevailed. But after this alteration was there any one who could expect the same results? With this relaxation in the discipline of the Universities the degrees they granted would no longer be a proper certificate of qualification for orders; or if they were, such a clergy would no longer bear the same character in the eyes of the country as they did now. Viewing the question in this light, he must lift up his voice in concurrence with those members of the University who had so unanimously spoken their sentiments upon the subject. Not only the great body of the resident members, but that still more numerous body who were dispersed through the country, had most unanimously concurred in expressing the same strong and clear opinions upon the question. To this remarkable concurrence of opinion from so extensive a body of men, so respectable for their intelligence and learning, and for that due regulation of temper which in combination with a genuine piety formed 860 the character of a true Christian ministry, he thought their Lordships would agree with him that the greatest weight would be due, even if those Gentlemen had assigned no reasons for the opinions which they had so adopted. But they had formally put forth their reasons in a document which he held in his hand, in which all the persons connected with tuition at Oxford had declared the grounds upon which they refused to abandon the laws and regulations of the University. (The most reverend Prelate here read the grounds assigned in the Oxford declaration). Now he must say, that, when such sentiments as these were so deliberately and strongly put forward by those who were best able to judge of the question, he would never be one to give his consent to a measure which he believed calculated to poison the pure fountains of knowledge at the purest sources from which they were now fed? And what was the time, too, at which these demands were made? When open declarations of a determination to subvert the Established Church were absolutely forced upon them on all sides; when those who sought admission to the Universities declared that it was a solemn duty to accomplish the subversion of the Established Church, upon a conscientious conviction that all Church Establishments were not merely inexpedient, but utterly unlawful and unchristian. He thought, then, that no one could doubt that it would be unsafe in the highest degree to place the power of controlling or influencing the Universities in the hands of persons professing such sentiments as had appeared in the declarations of the Dissenters, and had been sanctioned by persons of the highest authority amongst them. He knew that all Dissenters did not adopt these violent sentiments, and that many had signed petitions in favour of the Church which were so much in accordance with his views, that he had been in trusted to present them to their Lordships. But there were persons among them who had publicly avowed those sentiments, and persons of high authority, and their declarations had never been disclaimed by the others—excepting by one highly-respectable body of Dissenters, the Wesleyans. Under such circumstances, when the Church was so threatened, and when those best able to judge of the discipline of the Universities made such strong declarations in its favour, he thought that 861 their Lordships would agree with him that this Bill ought not to pass.
The Lord Chancellor
rose to address their Lordships, for the purpose of stating his opinion upon this Bill, which had excited, not only within doors, but out of doors, an extraordinary, but not disproportionate, degree of interest; and his principal object in rising then, was, to endeavour to recal their Lordships to the real question before them, because he observed, that one after another of those noble Lords who had addressed the House, had begun by complaining of the noble Lord who had opened the discussion, for having digressed into matters which had nothing at all to do with the subject. He believed, that his noble friend had not thus digressed; but, at all events, those noble Lords had themselves, without any exception, saving only that of the noble Duke (the Chancellor of the University of Oxford), and the illustrious Duke (the Chancellor of Cambridge)—they only were the exceptions to the rule; the other noble Lords had fallen into the very error which they had, unjustly in his opinion, imputed to his noble friend; for they had every one of them been discussing a question which was not before the House. The most reverend Prelate had more particularly fallen into this error. His arguments were certainly most logical, and his conclusions ably drawn; besides which he had given a great deal of information to their Lordships as to the course of study at Oxford; but who throughout argued an abstract proposition or thesis which no one would attempt to dispute upon an occasion like the present. The question before their Lordships was, whether the Dissenters should not be allowed to matriculate in one University as well as in the other, and to take degrees in both, whereas the most reverend Prelate had displayed a great deal of ingenuity in raising another question in its room, which was altogether an independent question, namely, whether it was expedient to discontinue the connection between the course of education at the Universities, and the religion of the country. There could be no two questions more distinct; and any noble Lord voting for the second reading of the Bill might very consistently to-morrow object to a measure to alter the discipline of either University. He would remind their Lordships of what it was that the Bill 862 really did ask, and which he was afraid it was not calculated very efficaciously or certainly to procure, and also what a real practical grievance was, which it was intended to remove. The noble Duke (the Chancellor of the University of Oxford) had argued this matter as coolly as if everything were going on as well as possible, as if there was no grievance, as if everything was perfectly satisfactory, as if there were no complaints, nor any occasion for complaint. The noble Duke, giving this assumption all the weight possible, had again and again asked, why not let flatters alone when they were so satisfactory? Like the noble Duke, he was a practical man, and would not enter into speculations or abstract questions upon hypothetical cases, because it was a practical question that was to be discussed, the measure being a presumed practical remedy for that which was felt to be a practical grievance. If that ground could be removed from beneath his feet, he should have none to stand upon in support of this Bill; and he would even go the length of moving, that the second reading be postponed, or else he would move the previous question as the most approved technical mode by which their Lordships got rid of an improper subject, and avoided voting upon an abstract proposition. Was it no grievance, that because a man happened to differ in opinion from the members of the Established Church upon religious principles, which he as conscientiously believed, as the members of the Established Church believed theirs, (but in as much as the latter professed a doctrine which entailed upon them no disabilities, while the Dissenter had not only no interest in professing his opinions, but as on the contrary, it was directly against his interest, his sincerity ought to be at least as unquestioned as theirs);—was it, he asked, no grievance, that a man thus sincerely believing an opinion different from that of Churchmen, was, on account of that sincerity—for if he were a hypocrite, he need not be excluded—shut out from the enjoyment of some of the greatest temporal blessings, namely, those which a good education could bestow? Even if all the obstacles to taking degrees were removed, the Dissenters must still of necessity be subjected to some disqualification, and would be worse off than members of the Established Church. It was 863 against the conscience of the Dissenter to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles; and unless he were a hypocrite he must openly profess his creed; and for that reason was he to be excluded from some of the most valuable fruits of a University education, and from some of his rights as a citizen? Was it nothing, that a man could not send his child, nor go himself, if young enough, to those illustrious, ancient, and greatly renowned seminaries, for the purposes of a medical education, because of his creed? Was it nothing, that he must go to other countries into a species of banishment, and at an enormous expense, instead of gaining admission to that which noble Lords themselves had declared to be the best seminary—and in saying so they stamped as real, and well founded, the grievance the Dissenters strongly complained of. They had declared those Universities to be better than any other that had ever been established, or that was likely to be established; and were the Dissenters then to be excluded from these excellent means of education, because of a conscientious difference in religious opinions? Was it no grievance, that a man could not study for the professions which might be most useful and lucrative to him in after-life at those Universities; that he could not be admitted, or, if admitted, he would be stopped at the outset? At Oxford, he was not admitted at all, and even at Cambridge, he would be stopped short, just at the period when he would be likely to reap advantage from the institution. Was it no grievance, that a man seeking a medical education should be compelled to go to Paris, or Pavia, or Edinburgh, at a very enormous expense? He would remind their Lordships, that the rule which said, "Because you are not a member of our Church, you shall not practise as a physician, or you must go abroad to learn," was a rule, or law, or custom, that strongly savoured of persecution. The object of the present Bill was, that the Dissenters might no longer be refused matriculation at Oxford, or degrees at either University, unless they subscribed the Thirty-nine Articles, provided they were, in all other respects, properly qualified. It was a great fallacy to say, that it was a sort of force to compel the Universities to give degrees to the Dissenters. It would only place them on the same footing as members of the Church of England; but the Colleges 864 would have the power still to give degrees to the one, or withhold it from the other, as they might think fit. All that the Bill did, was, to save the Universities from the consequences of making subscription necessary, antecedent to obtaining degrees, so as to enable the Universities to give degrees to those who would otherwise be precluded from obtaining them. He agreed with his noble friend at the head of the Government, that the Bill had defects, for if the Universities could not see the matter in the light that he did if they could not see their fetters, and would, not shake them off, necessarily the Bill could not meet with a cordial reception amongst those learned bodies, and the Dissenter would not receive the same benefit as if the matter had originated with the Universities themselves, or as if a middle course had been struck out. But, as he had already said, as they could not compel the Colleges to elect any particular person, or to grant to any particular individual a degree, it would be quite possible that the Dissenters would still find themselves rejected from matriculation at one University, and from degrees at both. Though he believed this to be quite possible, yet he could not go the length of the noble Earl near him (the Earl of Carnarvon), many of whose sentiments astonished him when he recollected the part he had taken upon the Catholic Question. The noble Earl had said, that if this Bill should unhappily receive the character of law, it would be treated as compulsory on the consciences of the members of the Universities, and would not be obeyed. He thought better of those Colleges than did the noble Earl, or than did those who cheered the noble Earl when he uttered the opinion. What he apprehended was, simulated obedience, an outward show of obedience; and as "A man convinced against his will," was proverbially said to be "of the same opinion still," he was afraid that the Colleges might not admit Dissenters at one place, and not give them degrees at either, as the matter would still remain, notwithstanding the present Bill, entirely at their own option, for that only provided that they should not require the subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles as the test of exclusion. The doubt which he entertained with respect to the present measure was, not that it was not politic—not that it was not wise, or prudent, or Statesmanlike— 865 but that it would not be efficacious—for that which was done, if he might so say, against the grain, was not very likely to be of much practical benefit in its operation. He could not but regret, that certain noble Lords had not had opportunities, or if they had, that they had not availed themselves of them, to form a correct judgment of the Bill before the House. It must be apparent to the House, that the most material point, with respect to the subject of the present discussion, was, the granting of degrees; and he had no hesitation in saying, that if the Universities would wave the demand for subscription before matriculation, and would grant degrees—especially medical degrees—without requiring the subscription, a great bulk of the grievance complained of would be removed. He made a distinction between the case of medical men and lawyers, because, although he must not forget that a lawyer with the degree of Master of Arts might be called to the Bar within three years after his admission to one of the Inns of Court, instead of five years, yet that, as their Lordships were aware, was not law, it was not a matter of right, but was a mere private regulation of the Inns of Court—a regulation that could be altered on the morrow without the slightest difficulty. The Inns of Court might make a regulation to the effect, that a certificate of four years' residence at a University would be sufficient to save two years' attendance at the Inns, in the student's progress to the Bar, or it might entitle the student to the same privilege as if he were a Master of Arts. This would put the profession of the law—so far as Dissenters and Churchmen were concerned—on a footing with other professions; and, as he had before observed, if the Universities were then opened to members of the medical profession obtaining degrees, it would be the removal of a great bulk of the grievance complained of. Another matter which had been thrown out for consideration was, whether or not persons not belonging to the Established Church should have any part in the government of the Universities—should be admitted to fellowships, scholarships, and other situations of trust, emolument, and authority, in the Universities? He was a decided advocate for the claims of the Dissenters; but he could not help saying, that when the power of obtaining degrees was given to them, they had 866 received all they had a right to ask. They had no right to complain of being excluded from fellowships and other such situations. These were founded for members of the Established Church, and those who were not members of the Established Church had no more right to claim that they did participate in the pecuniary advantages which belonged to that Church, than a member of that Church had to share in the endowments founded at Highbury or any other dissenting College. The individuals who bestowed the funds from which fellowships were kept up had a right to prescribe any restriction they chose upon the disposal of them, and the Dissenters had no more ground to complain of their exclusion from these emoluments than they had to admission into any private charity. But a noble friend of his had presented a petition from a body of Dissenters which complained, not only of non-admission to the Universities, but also to the national schools. These, however, were but trifling errors on the question; from any great errors in their view of the subject the great body of the Dissenters was entirely free, and he did not think that on this trifling matter there was anything like ground for an argument against their claims. He should wish to trouble their Lordships with a few words upon subscription generally. He confessed he could not think his noble friend had been justly taken to task for his observations on subscription, when the very point they met to discuss was, whether or not subscription was necessary to qualify for matriculation, or for the taking of degrees. The noble Duke had spoken of the union between Church and State, and had doubted whether that connexion could be preserved if this Bill should pass into a law. Now, it so happened that this question of the alliance between Church and State stood on very extraordinary ground. It had not been introduced by Churchmen, but by Dissenters. It appeared to him, that when they prayed for the establishment of a voluntary Church, as it was called, in place of the existing establishment, they employed a very vague, indefinite, and fantastical form of expression. He knew what they meant by it, but if he had not known it before, he should not have been much better for the explanation given by the noble Duke. The noble Duke's explanation was, that the meaning of the words 867 "union in Church and State," was a typification of the connexion between the King, as the Spiritual head of the Church, and the Church. This explanation might do for England, it might do for Ireland, but this was not the meaning of Constitution in Church and State. It would not apply to Great Britain, for every Presbyterian held it as an article of faith, that the King had no authority over the Scottish Kirk. This was not the meaning attached to it by the author who first spoke of the alliance between Church and State, Bishop Warburton, for he obviously contended that the religion of the State should be the religion of the majority. He put it to the vote; he counted noses. So in Scotland, according to Bishop Warburton, Constitution in Church and State, meant a Presbyterian Church with a Protestant King; in England, an Episcopal Church, with a King, defender of the faith: and in Ireland, he was afraid (for the proportions of believers in the two religions was as seven to one), that it would have been a very different Church indeed from what that Church now happily united to the Church of England was. This would have been the principle of Warburton—a man who was undoubtedly a great ornament to the literature of the age in which he lived. For his own part he was, and ever would be, an enemy to any measure, the tendency of which was to shake the institution of the Protestant Church; but, in times like the present, knowing, as he did, the great numbers of the Dissenters—aware, too, of their high respectability—their great talent—their growing wealth and increasing power—he was decidedly of opinion, that not only to prevent an injury to the Established Church, but to render its foundations more impregnable to assault, it would be wise and politic to adopt some measure (and he knew of no measure better calculated to effect the object than the Bill under consideration) for the purpose of removing all those disqualifications, known as "religious disabilities." The subject of subscription had been discussed at considerable length, and he thought the noble Duke (the Chancellor of the University of Oxford) had not discussed it successfully. The noble Duke had said, that the subscription of a boy between the ages of twelve and sixteen to the Thirty-nine Articles only implied that he belonged to a Church of England family, and that he promised 868 when he arrived at mature age to study the meaning of the Articles which he subscribed. Now, the noble Duke had clogged this definition with an adjunct which the authors of it never thought of—namely, that he professed to be of a Church of England family. Why, surely the noble Duke would not tell him that it was of any consequence to his University whether a person belonged to a Church of England family, or a Dissenting family, provided he subscribed the Thirty-nine Articles; and if this was the ground on which the noble Duke rested his argument, would it not be better to make him subscribe to a paper of three lines, which both he and every one else could understand, declaring that he would, as soon as he was of mature age, read the Thirty-nine Articles, and if he was able to believe in them conscientiously, that he would belong; to the Church of England? "Instead of which," said the Lord Chancellor, "you begin with them first, you swallow first, and digest afterwards." Between the horns of that dilemma he would place the noble Duke. It was remarkable that the University itself made an exception in favour of those admitted to the University who had not obtained the age of twelve years; the student, from twelve to sixteen, must take the oath, but in the words of the statute "quod si duodecim annos non excesserit, in matriculam duntaxat referatur." The boy was not competent at twelve to form a judgment on the merits of the Thirty-nine Articles, but if he was between twelve and sixteen, he was of such mature age that he was quite able to judge for himself of the points of faith which they embraced. Evidently, therefore, something must be meant beyond the mere promise to understand them when he arrived at mature age. In that distinction consisted the very crux of the argument which he was pressing upon their Lordships' attention. But no matter what might be the opinion of their Lordships upon the nature of the subscription-oath, he (the Lord Chancellor) could not help thinking that which the House had to deal with at present was not the nature, but the consequences of that subscription. He would ask, did this subscription bring no odium upon those ceremonies to which it was intended they should add some degree of reverence? But, in fact, it was impossible to pursue the subject without meeting at every turn 869 some new and glaring inconsistency, without catching, at every vista that appeared, a new view of that temple of Folly, built up by the impotent fury of those who made religious opinion a disqualification from political power, and extolled Test Acts as the security of the Church and State. He could not help expressing his astonishment that a noble Earl should signalize his accession to that House by an elaborate eulogy upon all sorts of Test Acts. The noble Earl to whom he alluded had spoken of Test Acts as a great blessing, without which religion would waste away. The noble Earl had indulged himself with an elaborate panegyric on the wisdom of Oxford, and had visited the German Universities with unsparing anathemas, because they had no religious tests. Now, in the first place, these tests had no worth as barriers against the admission of Atheists. The test was only a test to the conscientious man; he was excluded, while the knave, whose conscience was seared as it were with a hot iron, would swallow any tests that could be imposed, either by the Statutes of the realm, or those imitative statutes which the Universities framed. By offering a test to such a man there was no appeal to his conscience. The appeal was made to his sordid passions, to his self-interest, to his pocket, to his vanity, to his love of pelf, and he would be ready to subscribe, as some such man had declared he would subscribe, to Sixty-nine instead of Thirty-nine Articles. But the honest, conscientious, and truly pious man, because he disdained to tamper with an oath, would be shut out altogether from the advantages which the infidel would obtain. The German professors, against whom the noble Earl had directed his reproof, would as readily as the most conscientious clergyman take any tests which the University could impose. By the way, he did not like the manner in which foreign countries had been spoken of. There might be many men who would deny that we were the most powerful nation in the world; there might be many men who would deny that we were the wisest nation; there might be many men who would deny that as a nation we possessed the greatest share of ingenuity; but no one could deny that of all people in the world we were the most easily pleased with ourselves. No doubt it was very agreeable to revel in the praise which had 870 been made for one's own consumption, and to devour the luscious sweet at the very instant of its formation. But, to say nothing of the Germans, our own country could furnish many instances of students, fellows, and tutors, whom no test ever scared. No one who ever read David Hume—that celebrated metaphysician, but not over-religious man—not one who was righteous over much—could but allow that the same mode of thinking which led him, as well as Dr. Middleton, to argue as he had done, would induce him to take any religious tests that might be required. He could not understand the consistency of those who gave the Dissenter admission to both branches of the Legislature, which must control the Universities, and yet refused him admission to those very Universities. All offices were open to them, the great Seal itself was open to them, and a noble and learned Lord who was a predecessor of his was actually a Presbyterian. He had already stated, that he should be much better pleased if by a mutual understanding between the Universities and the Dissenters, the grievance of which the latter complained might be removed, and if the Bill should be thrown out, for he would not say he had any expectation of its being carried, he could then only more earnestly entreat the heads of Colleges—he could only entreat the noble Lords who opposed the Bill to use all their influence to induce the Universities to admit the Dissenters by an amicable arrangement before the next Session of Parliament. The noble Duke had said, let the Dissenters go to their own institutions, let them have an University of their own, and not interfere with the Universities of the Church of England. That was a fair proposition; but when the Dissenters did attempt to get a Charter for an University of their own, the same learned bodies were found to meet them in front, and to object to their obtaining the power of conferring degrees similar to those conferred by either Oxford or Cambridge. Those learned bodies would neither give the Dissenters degrees nor allow them to obtain them elsewhere. Their doctrine was, that if a man is a Dissenter he shall obtain a degree nowhere. He would do those Universities, however, the justice to say, that he thought they would soon see that one of the positions they had taken up was altogether untenable, and he hoped he should soon see some equitable adjust- 871 ment between them and the Dissenters, or see them withdrawing their opposition to granting a Charter to the London University. The noble Earl behind him (the Earl of Carnarvon) had been pleased to speak of that body, and had hinted that Jews and Roman Catholics and even Atheists were pretty numerous there. [The Earl of Carnarvon had not used the word Atheist]. He was sure, that some noble Lord had used that word, but whoever might have used it, he was sure it was undeserved. Now, not only were the names of the Council and of the Professors a sufficient reply to this imputation, but he was bound to say, that there existed in that University a very strong marked religious feeling, both amongst the professors and amongst the students. Upon the whole, he confessed, that whatever might be the fate of this Bill, he was not sorry that the worthy individuals who framed the measure should have passed it through the other House of Parliament, and brought it to receive that discussion in their Lordships' House, which a subject so plain, both in the nature and amount of the grievance, but not so plain as to the remedy to be afforded, fully deserved. He was quite sure, that nothing but discussion was wanted to set the merits of the case in a clear light, and that by discussion the cause of the Dissenters, if not this or the next Session of Parliament, must ultimately triumph. A measure so sound in principle, and so expedient in policy, must receive the sanction of every branch of the Legislature.
The Bishop of Exeter
did not expect that anything would be said that would require an answer from him; and most of what had been said was entitled to his warm and sincere thanks, inasmuch as it showed, that this Bill could not for an instant be entertained. The noble Earl who opened the discussion did not address himself at all to the Bill. He made some attacks upon the Universities, and upon him (the Bishop of Exeter); but he acquitted the noble Earl of anything like an intention of being uncandid or uncourteous. The noble Duke, the Chancellor of the University of Oxford, had defended that learned body so as to make all other defence unnecessary. The noble Duke had defended it from the heavy charge of perjury, and of subornation of perjury; and every individual belonging to it from the charge of being perjured. He need 872 not remind their Lordships of what the noble Earl said of this charge of perjury, and of the proof which he thought would confirm it; nor need he remind their Lordships of the answer which had been given to that charge by the noble Duke; but he would say, that the answer was not quite complete. When first he heard the noble Duke give that answer, he thought it completely exonerated every individual from the charge of perjury; but a moment's reflection satisfied him, that the noble Duke had (with him a strange and rare thing) failed, as far as one individual was concerned—the noble Earl who brought the charge. The noble Earl said, that he had been at the University of Oxford, and had taken the Oath to obey the statutes of that University, and that the statutes enjoined a great number of foolish things; that persons were therefore in the constant habit of breaking that oath. The noble Duke showed, that all persons who knew what the oath was which they took, broke no oath at all; but that they swore to do what the statutes enjoined them, or else to suffer the punishment imposed. All who knew the statutes were acquainted with that alternative; but the noble Earl who had sworn to obey the statutes was not aware of that provision, which was properly introduced, namely, that if they submitted to the penalty for a breach of the statutes, there was no perjury incurred. The noble Earl was unknowingly less guilty than he supposed himself; but as the noble Earl, without knowing that qualifying clause, constantly went on violating these statutes, it was not very easy to acquit him altogether of paltering with his oath.
He had listened with much attention to the noble and learned Lord, with the hope of hearing what were the reasons which had rendered this Bill necessary—a Bill which, it was obvious, if it passed at all, must press upon those distinguished bodies to which it related with great severity. After the closest attention to the speech of the noble and learned Lord, he was in very nearly the same state of mind as at first, except that he had derived the satisfaction of knowing, that even the powerful mind of that noble and learned Lord could not devise anything like a decent excuse for violating the privileges of those chartered institutions. The noble and learned Lord said, he was not a specu- 873 lative, but a practical man, like the noble Duke. He was glad that the noble and learned Lord resembled the noble Duke in any quality; for he could assure the noble and learned Lord, that the more he resembled the noble Duke, the more it would entitle him to honour, gratitude, and veneration. Now that the noble and learned Lord had begun to take the noble Duke as his example, he would, it was to be hoped, continue to imitate the noble Duke's high qualities—not those warlike qualities which could not be an object of imitation, but those statesman-like qualities, and, above all, that open, direct, straight-forward conduct by which the noble Duke had rendered as great service to his country in the Cabinet, and in the Senate, as in the field. The noble and learned Lord, as a practical man, looked to this measure for the redress of a grievance which was actually felt, because persons, as the noble and learned Lord said, for conscience-sake were excluded from some of the most valuable privileges, which, as men and as parents, they could enjoy. They could not send their sons to obtain the best possible education, because they were excluded, said the noble and learned Lord, from those illustrious seats of learning—from those eminent seminaries, which alone, in this country, could give that perfect education which a good father would seek for his son. Why were these persons excluded? Because they were Dissenters, and being Dissenters, it was impossible for them to be partakers of the education which was given at the Universities. The education given there was an education in Christianity according to the doctrines of the Church of England; as Dissenters, therefore, they could not be educated in them. The Colleges were Corporations for the purpose of giving an education according to the doctrines of the Church. The real grievance then was, not exclusion, but their own dissent: they were not excluded, but being Dissenters, they excluded themselves.
Of the Bill itself, he must say, that it seemed to him to be almost felo de se. It said, that education should be given to all the subjects of the realm. But what was education? A scheme of instruction in the exact sciences, or even in the range of classical literature? No; the business of education was to make men good Christians and 874 good citizens. Now, this could only be done by imbuing the mind with the principles and precepts of true religion. Education, therefore, to be worthy of the name, must be founded upon religious instruction. Religion was the pervading principle of sound education; and instruction in religion could be given only in some precise and definite form. He must remind their Lordships, that, in ascribing this importance to religion as the pervading principle of sound education, he was not speaking his own sentiments merely, though the language was his. He would read to their Lordships the language of the highest intellect England ever produced—the language of Milton,—who said, that "the end of learning was to repair the ruin entailed upon mankind by their first parents, teaching them to love and imitate God." In a well-known passage, he said, "I call, therefore, a complete and generous education, that which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully, and magnanimously, all the offices, both public and private, of peace and war." ["Hear, hear!"] That the noble sentiments of Milton, expressed in his own language, should call forth so unanimous a mark of their Lordships' approbation, even when falling from his lips, surprised him not. Milton said, religion was necessary as the foundation of that good and complete education which was to fit a man to perform justly and well all the offices of life, both public and private. The cheers of their Lordships convinced him, that their Lordships concurred in the just sentiments of the illustrious writer. He repeated, that religion must be the foundation of sound education, and that religion could not be taught except in some definite form. Here, too, he had very high authority—the authority of one of the ablest Englishmen now alive; he had the authority of the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack. Their Lordships were aware that the noble and learned Lord interested himself very warmly in the establishment of the London University, and that he strove long and laboriously to devise some general plan by which that University should be enabled to give instruction in religion; but, as the noble and learned Lord had told the world before, and as his just feeling and accurate understanding had induced him, this night, again to repeat, he found himself compelled to relinquish his design, because of the difficulty of giving fit and wholesome religious 875 instruction to a member of one religious denomination, which could also be given, without offence, to the conscience of the members of another religion. That being so with regard to the University of London, it was a little hard that the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge should be put in such a position, as that, upon the very same principle, religious instruction should be abolished in them. Should this Bill become a law—should every class of his Majesty's subjects be admitted into the Universities—this case would inevitably arise: persons of different religious opinions would assemble in the Universities; justice, and a due regard to the consciences of each, would demand that there should be no religious instruction at all; because it was impossible that any system of religious instruction could be devised which would not, in a greater or a less degree, interfere with the conscientious scruples of some. He conceived this Bill then to be felo de se, because, though in the preamble, it declared it to be highly expedient (which he admitted to be a truism) that the benefit of academical education should be open to all classes of his Majesty's subjects, yet he contended, that by subsequent provisions, it excluded the possibility of academical education being afforded at the Universities, because it would remove the ground upon which all sound education must necessarily depend—instruction in religion. That reason alone was sufficient to warrant their Lordships in rejecting the Bill; and he was not aware of any just or reasonable ground upon which the Dissenter could claim admission to the Universities.
The noble and learned Lord had indeed said, that professional men, being Dissenters, suffered great hardships in consequence of the present state of things at the Universities, that persons educating for the medical profession, if they be Dissenters, could not take a degree at Oxford or Cambridge, but must go abroad to some foreign University, or else to the Universities of Edinburgh or Glasgow; and this, the noble Lord said, was often a matter of serious inconvenience, on account of the great expense entailed upon the parties, and that therefore the opening of the English Universities to medical students of all denominations of religious faith, would be a great advantage. Did those Universities afford a cheap medical education? Did persons constantly 876 resort to them to acquire such an education? Did persons who were educating for the medical profession, and whose circumstances compelled them to consider economy,—did they, being members of the Established Church, uniformly repair to Oxford or Cambridge? Quite the contrary. Persons compelled, by economical considerations, to get their medical education as cheaply as possible, carefully avoided Oxford or Cambridge, because the expense of education was greater in those Universities than in any other seat of learning in Europe. He wished the expense of acquiring a medical education in our Universities was lessened, and that the Universities could enable every person, however moderate his circumstances, to enjoy the advantages of that instruction they were capable of giving in the science of medicine. Again, the time required at Oxford and Cambridge previous to taking a degree in medicine was much longer than at other Universities. At Edinburgh, a student might obtain a medical degree in three years, but not at Oxford or Cambridge; and it was a constant practice for members of the Church of England, as well as Dissenters, to avail themselves of these advantages, and acquire their doctor's degree at the Edinburgh and other Scotch Universities, in a shorter time, and at a less expense, than their object could be accomplished in England. The alleged grievance, then, in respect to medical degree, as affecting Dissenters, had absolutely no foundation. With respect to the profession of the law, that had been admitted by the noble and learned Lord to rest, not with the Universities, but the benchers of the Inns of Court.
The noble and learned Lord had alluded to the topic already so much adverted to—the topic of subscription. He would not occupy much of their Lordships' time on that point. He concurred with the noble and learned Lord in his definition of the object and meaning of subscription. The noble and learned Lord asked, what was the meaning of subscription? and answered—Why, that the party subscribing had an opinion, or an inclination of opinion, in favour of the doctrines contained in the Thirty-nine Articles of the Established Church. He agreed in that definition of the meaning of subscription; and should freely agree in it, even without the saving 877 clause with which the noble and learned Lord had accompanied it. He went even further, and said, that subscription should not be called for except at such an age as that the party subscribing might be supposed to entertain a deliberate confidence in the authority of the Church to which he belonged. But suppose, upon appearing to matriculate, it were simply required that a young man should say—"I am a member of the Church of England;" would anybody think that tyrannical? And yet that, in effect, would be the same, as what he does in subscribing the Thirty-nine Articles. For if he were asked, "What do you mean by being a member of the Church of England?" He would answer, probably, that "it is the right and true Church?" "Right in what?—in its views of religious truth?" "Yes." That was the answer which every young man would give:—in other words, he must say, that he believed in the authority of the Church in which he was bred up. He must say, that he believed the notion which that Church entertained of Christianity to be correct;—in other words, that he believed in its Articles of religion. He admitted, as the noble and learned Lord had said, (not, to be sure, that there were 100 abstruse metaphysical questions, but) that there were some propositions of a deep metaphysical nature comprehended in the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England—propositions which undoubtedly youths (not as the noble and learned Lord had stated, of ten or twelve years of age, for such rarely went to the Universities, but) of sixteen and upwards could not, without a great deal of instruction, be made to comprehend. But the greater number of the Articles consisted of the fundamental truths of Christianity, expressed in plain terms, and capable of being comprehended by every one capable of reading them. In some of them metaphysical and obscure doctrines were alluded to; but they were in general nothing more than articles of practical religion which every man who was a true Christian ought to adopt if he understood Christianity. ["Question."] He could not but regret, that there were any of their Lordships to whom such a discussion was wearisome; nor would he willingly trespass inconveniently on their attention; but there remained one or two topics to which he was bound to refer. It had been said, that subscription to the Thirty- 878 nine Articles, or to any special Creed, ought not to be required, and that there should be some general and comprehensive mode of teaching religion. Had those who made that assertion ever taken the trouble to consider what such a comprehensive mode of teaching religion would amount to? Universal comprehension would be universal exclusion. A system which would include all persons must necessarily exclude all principles; for, seeking to exclude all material points of difference, it must exclude the distinguishing principles, both of the Church, and of every description of Christians—nay, of Christianity itself. Such would be, strictly, positively, and literally, the result of a system of universal comprehension as regarded instruction in religion. For, why should one man's scruples be attended to, and not the scruples of another? The reason which made it necessary to exclude one doctrine because your nearest neighbour objected to it, made it necessary to exclude another, because that displeased a neighbour a little further off; and thus, in endeavouring to comprehend all, you would necessarily exclude all.
The existing system of teaching religion at the Universities was, he repeated, strictly in accordance with the objects for which these great bodies were founded, and for which they received their charters. The noble and learned Lord had not attempted to invalidate the claim made by the noble Duke for these great chartered corporations; and if the noble and learned Lord had attempted it, he must have failed. The noble Duke had justly told their Lordships, that these bodies were chartered for the performance of certain duties, that they discharged well and truly their duties, and that Parliament, therefore, though it had the power, had no right to interfere, and drive them to a course of action different from that which they had hitherto pursued. The noble Earl who brought forward the measure in that House seemed to anticipate this argument, because he referred to some gross mismanagement at Oxford, about four-and-thirty years ago, and which the noble Earl said he (the Bishop of Exeter) was one of the first to reprobate. That was true; for he reprobated as strongly as any man an evil whilst it endured, and he admitted that, at the period referred to, there was much to condemn in the management of education at Oxford; but he 879 was not prepared, like the noble Earl, to punish the University when the evil was past. The noble Earl's argument was, that we were now at liberty to interfere with the University of Oxford, because, when he was a member of it, more than thirty years ago, the governors of that University had grossly and shamefully departed from their duty—the teaching of religion according to the Articles of the Church of England, in the way that their Charter and their Statutes demanded. Those days, however, were gone by. The Universities had reformed themselves, without "any pressure from without." From a sense of duty they had set the matter right; and he was sure the noble and learned Lord who presided over the highest Court of Equity in this country, would be the last man to say that the Legislature ought to regard the corruption which might have prevailed thirty years ago as sufficient reason to disturb a chartered institution now conducted by its own members in a most excellent and exemplary manner. The Dissenters complained, that they were not admitted to the benefits of these institutions, an interference with which could only be justified by their mal-administration. That was the grievance. The Dissenters were cut off from the best possible system of education, the education adopted by the Universities of the Church of England. In other words, these glorious institutions now discharged the duties and achieved the objects for which they were founded, in the best manner; and, because they did their duty admirably, their Lordships were required to interfere with them, and tell them that they should no longer be at liberty to pursue the course which they had hitherto pursued with the best effect.
It had been said, these were national institutions. He admitted that in one sense. They were national, because they were the two great seminaries for instruction in the national religion. They were also national institutions so far as they reflected the highest national glory on this country in foreign parts; for there was nothing for which England was more honoured abroad than for the surpassing renown of its Universities. But in no other point of view were they to be regarded as national institutions, for it could not be pretended even that they were supported by the nation. He had heard of an argument of this de- 880 scription which had been used in another place by a right hon. Gentleman whom he very much respected—he meant the right hon. Gentleman, the present Secretary for the Colonies. When that right hon. Gentleman held the inferior situation of Secretary to the Treasury, he brought forward a vote for paying the salaries of certain Professors in the Universities. That vote was strongly objected to; and what did their Lordships think was the defence which the right hon. Gentleman set up for his Motion? The right hon. Gentleman expressed a hope that the House would agree to the vote, adding, that if they did not, they would take away one of the strongest arguments in favour of carrying this Bill. While they voted any portion of the public money, however trifling, in aid of the Universities, they would, he said, be able to assert that those institutions were pro tanto supported by the State; and this was the only argument which he (the Bishop of Exeter) had ever heard in vindication of the measure. Such was the argument, and such the man by whom it was used; but he would ask whether it could be really true, that in this great, this free country, it could be thought that the mere show of liberality towards the Universities—the exercise of a liberality, he must say, in every way so paltry, so insignificant,—would justify the Legislature in breaking in upon those institutions, and not only violating the feelings of the persons connected with them, but depriving them of those rights and privileges to which, according to the laws of the land, they were as much entitled as any other Corporation in the country? It would, in his opinion, he despicable, and contrary to all good faith, to withhold those payments; for how did these grants first originate? It was not until the reigns of George 2nd, and George 3rd, that our Sovereigns, in modern times, began to extend their liberality to the Universities, and they endeavoured to promote science by endowing Professorships in the Universities, providing for the payment of the professors' salaries out of the hereditary revenues of the Crown. By a bargain which had recently been made, the hereditary revenues of the Crown were taken away; and thus it was that Parliament had been called upon to execute the wishes of former Sovereigns by voting money for the maintenance of the Professorships which they had instituted. Par- 881 liament was as much bound to continue those grants, as any other appropriation out of the hereditary revenues which Parliament had accepted. When, however, such grants were descanted upon, surely it should not be forgotten that by the tax on degrees several thousands were annually returned to the public purse; and if, instead of imposing that tax, the Universities were left entirely to themselves, and could devote the whole of their resources as they thought fit, not only would they be able to support themselves independently of the nation, but the Government would receive the thanks of the Universities, and of every person connected with them, for enabling them to apply all their own funds to the promotion of science.
It did not occur to him, that he had left any argument untouched, except that which went to show that this Bill was calculated only to promote peace. That argument had, however, been so ably confuted by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Carnarvon) and by his most reverend friend, that it would not be necessary for him to make many observations upon it. He would, however, ask their Lordships whether the language used by the persons who sought redress for the grievance they complained of—namely, their exclusion from the benefits of the Universities, accorded with the statement, that peace would be promoted by this measure? He had been at the pains of selecting some passages from the petitions which had been presented on the subject. In one presented by the Unitarians of Plymouth—and he begged their Lordships' attention to it, the petitioners complained of being "refused admittance into the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and to an equal eligibility to all their offices of dignity and emolument." He had no reason to believe otherwise of the petitioners than that they were highly respectable; but then it was evident, according to their own showing, that this Bill was not the measure for which they sought. Indeed they must look upon this Bill as a mere mockery, for what they wanted was "equal eligibility to all the offices of dignity and emolument," and not that which this Bill would give them. They desired to have, what this Bill expressly withheld,—a share of the endowments and of the government of the Universities, and to preside over the religious education 882 of the young men placed there for instruction. Nothing short of this would satisfy them; and therefore it was idle to talk about this Bill being calculated only to promote peace in or out of the Universities. It would do nothing of the kind. The Unitarians of Bridgwater prayed, "that the honours and privileges of the Universities might be thrown open to all of every sect and party;" and the prayer urged by the Dissenters of Nottingham was "for free admission to the advantages, offices, and powers of the Universities." It was, therefore, ridiculous to suppose that these persons would be satisfied with what was proposed to be conferred by this Bill—degrees, without power and without emolument. The only other petition to which he should allude was one from the Dissenters of Hull, and the sentiments which they expressed were peculiarly deserving their Lordships' attention. In this petition was the following statement:—"To withhold from them civil rights and literary honours on account of their religious opinions are injuries which no Government of a free and enlightened people would wisely attempt to perpetuate; that this injury is inflicted on them in closing against them the chartered Universities of the land: that your petitioners, therefore, entreat your right hon. House immediately to redress the grievances under which they have so long and so unjustly laboured, by granting them the abolition of the unjust monopoly of academical honours, and establishing on liberal and comprehensive principles the Universities of London and Durham. And your petitioners further pray your right hon. House entirely to abolish the unscriptural union between Church and State as soon as it can be safely effected, and with due regard to the existing interests of all parties concerned." It could not, he thought, be said, that this Bill would satisfy these parties; and whether the Universities were well or ill managed, one thing was clear, and that was, that they were endowed for sacred purposes, with which the Legislature had no right to interfere, whether they were poor indeed, or, whether they had been left in possession of ample wealth. In either case, the holders of the advantages derived from institutions founded for such purposes, were bound to resist the separation called for by these petitioners. In moving that petition, what did the reverend Mr. 883 Stratton say? He stated, that "there are twenty-two foundations in the Colleges at Oxford, which were in existence before the Reformation, and, therefore, we have as much right to them as Churchmen." Mr. Stratton was a person of great distinction in his sect. He was one of the deputies to the general meeting in London, and took a prominent part in the discussions and resolutions of that meeting. At Hull, he was distinguished and claimed to be distinguished for his moderation. And what was the tone of this moderate Gentleman? He went on to say—"There are those who have contented themselves in their petitions to Parliament with only asking for the redress of their grievances, and saying nothing of the dissolution of the union between Church and State." (This was one extreme, it seemed, to ask only for the redress of all that the petitioners deemed grievances: it was an extreme of moderation and weakness.) "There are others who have gone a little too rashly forward, and demanded the immediate dissolution of Church and State." (This was the extreme on the other side, the side of rashness. Now for the proper mean, the Juste Milieu, between these two extremes.) "What we desire is something between these two extremes. Our petition does not, indeed, pray, as some others have done, for the immediate dissolution of Church and State; but looks forward to the accomplishment of that great and glorious object." To the accomplishment of this object, their Lordships were now called upon to take one very important step; and he trusted that, in coming to a decision upon the question, they would not fail to remember that they were so called upon. These were the only petitions to which he would refer. But a memorial was addressed by the Independents and Baptists of Leeds to his Majesty's Government, and was courteously received by a right hon. Gentleman not now in England; because, as that right hon. Gentleman stated, the Government were under great obligations to the Dissenters of Leeds. In this memorial, they stated that they conceived the revenue and property of the Universities to have been transferred at the time of the Reformation, and that the benefits derivable therefrom ought to be equally accessible to all British youths; and they demanded, not merely admission into the Universities, but also a full share and par- 884 ticipation in all their endowments. Under such circumstances, and such being their expectations, this Bill, so far from satisfying these memorialists, would, in their judgment, operate most unjustly towards them.
In order to illustrate the consistency, as well as the real spirit of the proceedings of the Dissenters, he must allude to one important member of that body, Mr. Hatfield of Manchester—a gentleman who was remarkable as one of the promoters of an inquiry into the circumstances in which Lady Hewley's charity was placed, and who, by the part he took in the matter, fully recognised the principle of tests. What did Mr. Hatfield say? He thought that there ought to be tests. The trusts of Lady Hewley's charity were not strictly complied with, inasmuch as she was known to have certain religious opinions, which religious opinions he thought ought to have guided the trustees of that charity. But how could those religious opinions have been ascertained without some tests? Notwithstanding, however, that this gentleman entertained such an opinion, still, when speaking of the degradation as he described it, of the grievance which the Dissenters laboured under in having the Universities closed against them, he, as one of the most considerable members of the Dissenters, claimed for them a full share of all the honours and emoluments of the Universities, without subjecting them to any tests. Such was the gross inconsistency of these men. But these pretensions, on the part of the Dissenters were not new in the history of this country. There was a very remarkable precedent for them two centuries ago. In the year 1647, a Parliamentary Ordinance (No. 74 in Scobell) was passed, by which visitors were appointed for the better regulation of the University of Oxford. They were especially empowered and authorized "to examine into and consider of all such oaths, rules, and regulations, as were enjoined by such University, and of the respective Colleges and Halls of the said University, and to present their opinions concerning the same to the Lords and Commons, in order that such only should be required as might be agreeable to the intended reformation of the University." That was precisely what the Dissenters now sought. To such a reformation had they again turned their attention. The 885 Dissenters, however, had spoken out; they had expressed themselves too plainly to be misunderstood; and when he heard the advocates of the Dissenters in that House, or elsewhere, say, that the great body of Dissenters did not join in any such demands, and were sorry that they were made; he asked, what was the proof of their sorrow? If their sorrow were sincere, why had they not put a stop to such demands? Why had they not protested against them? He would say openly, then, that dupes their Lordships could not be, though they might make themselves accomplices. But it was impossible that their Lordships could ever be placed in either position, for to be duped would augur an absence of common sense, and to be an accomplice would infer a community of interest, end, and aim, which did not and could not exist between their Lordships and persons who assailed, not only the property and privileges of the Universities, but the principle of all property and of all privileges whatever. It was impossible, therefore, that their Lordships could be accomplices; and the only course that remained for them to pursue was to reject this measure, unless, indeed, they desired to become the mere instruments, the despised tools, the poor and truckling ministers of persons who were goaded on to these unreasonable demands by the hatred they entertained for the established religion of the country, and by envy of all that was dignified and illustrious. Would their Lordships, by their vote, betray to the Dissenters those sanctuaries of British honour? Would they be the corrupters—the poisoners—of these wells of religious knowledge and of virtue? No; it was impossible, and he ought to apologize to their Lordships for putting such inquiries. He regretted that he had done so, for he felt satisfied their Lordships could not contemplate joining with parties who had disgraced themselves before the country, by demanding an act of injustice, in destroying the most venerable institutions in the land.
The Earl of Radnor
, in reply, said, that if the education at the Universities was so good as the right reverend Prelate had represented it to be, that fact alone was an unanswerable argument in favour of the second reading of this Bill. The rev. Prelate had misunderstood or misrepresented him. He had not asserted, that persons signed the articles of faith without 886 understanding them. He had given his reasons for believing that such was the case. He thought, therefore, that it was hardly charitable in the right rev. Prelate to charge him with perjury in having, when a very young man, conformed to the usages prescribed by the heads of the College. He must say, notwithstanding all which the right rev. Prelate had said, that he continued to think it absurd to uphold forms that were not only never observed, but led to falsehood, and said that, upon every principle of justice, the Universities should be thrown open to the Dissenters.
§ The House divided on the original Motion—Contents (Present 38; Proxies 47) 85; Not-contents (Present 85; Proxies 102) 187: Majority 102.
§ Bill postponed for six months.888
|List of the CONTENTS present.|
|Westminster||Howard of Effingham|
|List of the NOT-CONTENTS.|
|Douglas of Douglas||Oxford|
|Macclesfield||St. John of Blesto|
|Stewart of Garlies||Wigan|
|Wodehouse||Stuart de Rothsay|
|Arden||Bath and Wells|
|Ross of Hawkhead||Bangor|
|Earl Grey||Earl of Mansfield|
|Earl of Meath||Marquess of Westmeath|
|Duke of Sutherland|
|Earl St. Vincent|
§ Against this decision Lord Holland entered the following protest.
§ "Because it seems to me unreasonable to confine the academical honours of a national University, or the degrees in arts and sciences (unconnected with divinity), to the members of any particular Church; and it appears yet more unwise and unjust to bar all such access to knowledge (not purely ecclesiastical or theological) as a national University is enabled to afford against those who cannot conscientiously assent to the numerous propositions contained in the Thirty-nine Articles. Excellence in the learned and liberal professions of law and medicine in no degree depends upon religious belief; and Providence not having annexed the avowal of any peculiar tenets in religious matters as the condition of attaining human knowledge, I can discover no motive of prudence or duty which should induce human authority to impose any.
§ "VASSAL HOLLAND."