LORD MONTEAGLE moved—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, for Copies of Letters addressed by the First Lord of the Treasury to the Universities of Oxford and of Cambridge on the Subject of the Issue of a Commission of Inquiry, and Copies of any Resolutions or Communications entered into or made on behalf of those Universities in relation to the same Subject.
§ He did not believe that any inconvenience could arise from the production of these papers; but in making his Motion, which he trusted would not be resisted, he felt hound at the same time to state the grounds on which he wished to bring these papers under their Lordships' consideration. He should be very sorry indeed if he should raise even an inference that he imagined Her Majesty's Government, in advising this Commission, were actuated by any adverse feeling against the Universities. On the contrary, he was willing to admit that in issuing this Commission they were only desirous to promote the interest of the venerable institutions into which it was proposed to inquire. But while he gave the Government credit thus far, he begged to express a doubt whether this measure, taken at this time, and under present circumstances, was really calculated to promote the object which they had at heart. This inquiry originated purely and exclusively with the Government itself, without any communication with any University authority, or with any one connected with 1147 the Universities. Indeed, from one of the documents now moved for—he meant a letter from the Illustrious Prince who was Chancellor of the University of Cambridge—it appeared that His Royal Highness was entirely unaware of the intention of issuing this Commission until the declaration was made in the other House of Parliament. He was not present when the noble and gallant Duke who sat near him made some observations upon it; but it appeared that the Chancellor of the University of Oxford also was equally unapprised of the intentions of Government. Indeed, he knew no one who, before Lord John Russell's declaration, entertained the slightest suspicion that such a course as that announced in the House of Commons was about to be taken. It might be assumed that such a course should be taken; but at the same time great difficulties were thrown in the way of success, by leaving those most interested in the subject entirely in the dark, until incidentally it was declared in Parliament not only that such a measure was contemplated, but that such a decision had been taken. The question of University reform, as affecting the admission of Dissenters, had been brought before Parliament, in 1834, by the late Earl Grey, then First Minister, one of the very highest authorities upon that and every other subject. He himself (Lord Monteagle) had also brought it, in the same year, before the Commons. But the question were a very different aspect now from that which it then bore. The condition of the two Universities was totally different at present from what it then was. During the interval that had elapsed since then, there had arisen in both Universities an active and an efficient spirit of University reform. He should deceive their Lordships if he ventured to say that that spirit was represented by a numerical majority of the members of the senate in either University; but both at Oxford and at Cambridge those who had applied themselves to the important task of University reform carried with them so great a weight in point of character and University station, and literary distinction, that they had been able to obtain, through the force of opinion, more than he individually could have anticipated. In the University of Cambridge the measures of reform that had been in progress had been very considerable. He should only allude to a few; but it was but justice to that University to state that which it had already done, and 1148 that which was in progress; because he found, to his astonishment, that, on the part of many who had discussed this question, they seemed to have either shut their eyes, or not to have taken the trouble to inquire into what had been already done, or into what was now in progress. So desirous were they of having everything done by interference from without, that they undervalued or ignored that which had been effected by the Universities themselves. The complaints formerly urged had been, that in the University of Cambridge the course of study was too confined to mathematical pursuits; that they had set aside the more general objects which were brought under consideration by the lectures of the professors; and had confined themselves to the peculiar study for which the University of Cambridge granted its highest senate-house honours—mathematics. He admitted that for a considerable period of time, the highest honours of the University were to be gained almost exclusively by high mathematical attainments. But had they confined themselves to that? He thought that it was about the year 1822 that they introduced a corresponding system of honours as connected with classical eminence. That change was, to a certain extent, undervalued, or at least it was not viewed with a just degree of favour; but honours gained from classical attainments were now sought for with as much ambition as were in the old time honours connected with the mathematical science. Nor was it to be said that mere distinction was thus gained; an honourable position in the University could now be gained by the classical tripos; the system had now taken root, and was from day to day advancing. Many improvements had arisen since the date of the appointment of his late Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester as Chancellor of the University. The first prize he established was one for English composition. But it was in 1848, the University of Cambridge opened an entirely new field of University distinction; by the establishment of two new tripos. History, political economy, moral philosophy, botany, all the various pursuits of science, were all now involved, and would henceforth become matter of University distinction. But it was said even by those who admitted these facts, that nothing was done to improve the colleges. Now, he prayed their Lordships' attention to what had been done in this respect. Take, for example, his 1149 own college, the Royal foundation of Trinity. The whole of the statutes of Trinity had been reformed; they had been consolidated; they had been amended, but without the exigency of any commission whatever. That revision was commenced by the college in 1837, and the new statutes were completed and confirmed by the Crown in 1844. They had been amended in the natural way at the recommendation of the Crown; and with the consent of the Crown the statutes were revised, and adapted to the present times. The rival college, St. John's, had done the same. New statutes had been framed, and confirmed by the Crown in 1849. But it was said there were local restrictions subsisting with respect to the election to fellowships, and that those injudicious restrictions, for so they were in many instances, had not been removed. He contended that where they had the power of removing those restrictions, in several cases they had done so. The whole of the statutes of Pembroke College had been revised, and confirmed by the Crown in 1844, and the restrictions of fellowships to counties removed, as had also the statutes of Jesus' College. The University, for the last seven years, had been intent on the revision of its own statutes; and that revision was very nearly brought to a close, and there was every reason to suppose that within the present year it would be complete; and this had been done without any external pressure. Even in relation to medical degrees, enlarged studies had been superadded to the former courses, examinations in medicine and botany, and a course of chemistry. He had only glanced at a few parts of the reform that had been effected, and all the professors themselves were anxious to render their courses as efficacious as possible. There had also been various prizes founded by the colleges themselves. It was far from his wish, in stating these facts, to claim any peculiar merit for the excellent and learned persons who had been engaged in this work; they required no eulogium from him; but what he wished to impress on the minds of their Lordships was, that these improvements had been undertaken voluntarily by authorities within the Universities, and that they were in progress at the time when the Commission Was proposed to be issued. He thought this Commission had been undertaken without an adequate or just appreciation of that which was now in progress, or without any thought at all of the 1150 difficulties which stood in the way of these improvements being carried out; difficulties whch such a Commission could hardly fail to increase. The parties engaged in effecting these improvements included the most able and intelligent men within the Universities; but, at the same time, it could not be denied but that they constituted a numerical minority, and therefore the effect of any interference would be materially to increase the difficulty, and add to the task which these reformers had undertaken. The Government were thus about to forfeit, or at least to risk, an advantage that was certain, for one that was more than doubtful. He was far from intending to say that the whole subject of University reform could be effected without the interposition of Parliament; but how different would such interference appear when forced on the Universities, compared with Parliamentary interference asked for by the Universities themselves, as the means of overcoming obstacles that they might hereafter find to stand in the way of their improvements. He therefore thought that an external and forcible interference with improvements now in progress—interference with those measures which were now nearly accomplished—was a very great mistake, and might inflict serious injury. He was sure that, in his own University (Cambridge), they had nothing in the world to conceal. In one respect, indeed, it would be productive of a great advantage; he meant in dispelling the absurd belief of the wealth of that University. So far from such being the fact, they had not money enough to build an enclosure for the botanical garden; and they had scarcely money enough to provide stationery to lay on the table of the senate-house. It was supposed that they were greatly indebted to the public purse, and that such assistance laid the grounds for an inquiry. The very contrary was the fact. They contributed to the public much more than they received. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, he believed, extracted from the University of Cambridge 3,000l. or 4,000l. a year in the shape of stamp duty on degrees, and only conferred about 800l. a year towards the payment of certain professors. He thought there had not been stated adequate, or indeed any, grounds to justify the issuing of a Commission at present. He did not call upon Government to reverse their determination, by deciding that oh no occasion should a Royal Commission issue. But he 1151 entreated them to hesitate and consider whether this was the proper time, and to wait and see whether, when the necessity arose, an application for a Commission might not come from the Universities themselves. He gave the utmost credit to Government for their sincere desire to advance the cause of University improvement; but he was perfectly persuaded that the issuing of a Commission at the present moment, so far from aiding in this object, might, on the contrary, interfere with the improvements already in progress or in contemplation. He hoped there would he no objection to laying this correspondence on the table; and he should also wish that the form of the intended Commission, and the names of the Commissioners, should be laid on the table before a final step was taken. It was thus alone that any responsibility could be practically enforced. If the House were kept in the dark till these inquiries were commenced, it would be in vain to expect any effective interference on the part of this or of the other House of Parliament.
§ The EARL of CARLISLE
said, that on the part of the Government there was no objection to the production of the papers moved for; but begged to assure the noble Lord and the House that both Lord John Russell and the other Members of the Government, in any steps they contemplated on this subject, were actuated by most respectful and even reverential feelings towards those eminent institutions. For his own part he must say, that he would have to sacrifice altogether his private feelings on the question before he could be party to any commission not influenced by such considerations. He could assure his noble Friend that the Members of Her Majesty's Government were not in the least more disposed than himself to ignore or undervalue (to use the very terms of his noble Friend) the many useful improvements and steps in the direction of progress which had been adopted, and which were in the course of adoption in both Universities. And, indeed, it was hoped that the intended commission might not he without its use, not only in recognising and calling public attention to them, but in co-operating with and encouraging the Universities in their praiseworthy endeavours. It was notorious—his noble Friend had admitted it—that many of those improvements were not effected without considerable resistance. He (the Earl of Carlisle) entertained the hope that the proposed inquiry 1152 would give strength and encouragement to the friends of rational improvement in those learned institutions. The proposed commission had no doubt been subjected to a great deal of censure. Apprehensions had been expressed that any proceedings on the part of Her Majesty's Government on this question might have a dangerous effect; but he must say that he should draw quite a contrary inference. The more ignorance and misconception prevailed on any subject, the more useful it appeared to him to let in upon it the full light of day, and to let it he shown in what respects the institution which was the subject of attack was unjustly impeached, and in what respects it called for and admitted well-considered improvements. It must, he thought, he obvious that the charters, and instruments, and statutes which were framed in the days of the Plantagenets and the Tudors, although modified in the days of Archbishop Laud, must be found not to meet in all respects the requirements of the present day. The alteration or diversion of these statutes and charters from their original intentions was in some respects absolutely necessary, in consequence of the change of manners, pursuits, and even of the religion of the country. He admitted, however, that such alteration or diversion must always he a matter of extreme deliberation and caution. At the same time their Lordships must remember that nothing of that kind would take place without the intervention of the Legislature; and it seemed to him that one of the most useful points to which the labours of the commission could be directed would be to consider, in conjunction with the resident members of the University, who, from their habitual experience, must be most thoroughly acquainted with the subject, what was most required, and in what respects application might be made to the Legislature for further alterations and modifications of the existing laws. It might be said—and it had been said, he knew—that any suggestions for such modifications or alterations might be confided entirely to those learned bodies themselves; that the public might safely leave it to them to suggest what was necessary to be revised or introduced. But it was certainly obvious that those who had desired the issue of the contemplated commission, would not be satisfied to leave the question in their hands. Whatever might be thought of the proceedings of the Government on this question, he most unequivocally disclaimed 1153 on their part any feeling of hostility or disrespect towards the Universities. If any want of due regard had been shown either to the resident members or to the illustrious persons who were the guardians of the Universities, he was sure that no one could more deeply regret it than his noble Friend at the head of the Government. The two individuals who filled the post of Chancellor of either University held that rank in the estimation of all men which would make it impossible that any wilful disrespect should be intended. Their Lordships would remember that under the Government of Sir Robert Peel a commission was issued to inquire into the resources of cathedral and other ecclesiastical establishments; and he would undertake to assert that the very names of the most reverend persons who served upon that commission afforded of themselves a proof and guarantee that no disrespect was intended towards the bodies who were the subject of that inquiry. And so with respect to the present commission: whoever might be the persons who should be appointed to serve upon it, he felt sure, and he could take upon himself to state to their Lordships, that the Government would take care that they should be men who, besides their general character, would be actuated by the most tender attachment and respect towards the Universities, and who would be fitted, by their more extended relations with the world out of doors, to cooperate beneficially with the most enlightened friends of education within the Universities.
§ The EARL of POWIS
looked upon the proposed Commission as an indication of the Government's intention, not merely to improve the course of studies in the Universities, but, in compliance with the cry which had been so often raised in the other House of Parliament, to admit those to their privileges whom the present constitution and statutes excluded. "University Reform" had come to be synonymous with the "admission of Dissenters into the Universities." Considering the manner in which the Government had consented to the issue of a commission, he thought it was not at all extraordinary that the commission should be looked upon with considerable jealousy by both Universities. If the commission had been announced by the First Minister of the Crown as a substantive measure, it might then have come to the Universities with professions of amity; but such professions now came too 1154 late. If the commissioners should deal with the Universities in the manner anticipated by those who were favourable to the commission, they would be guilty of a direct infraction of the laws of property; they would destroy property granted to the Universities, not by the public, but by the piety and munificence of individuals in past ages, who had sacrificed their fortunes that they might be enabled to found scholarships and professorships for the encouragement of learning for all future ages. The First Minister in the Commission had pointed to the destruction of all fellowships and scholarships appropriated by their founders to certain districts or schools. Was this to encourage persons hereafter to leave property to the Universities? The Universities were exempted from the statutes of mortmain, to encourage those grants and bequests which this interference with property would stop. The noble Earl who had just pronounced a declaration of goodwill to the Universities on the part of the Government, had alluded as a precedent to the Ecclesiastical Commission issued by Sir Robert Peel. He thought the noble Earl could not have chosen a precedent more calculated to strike terror and to create hostility in the breasts of the friends of the Universities. What was the result of that commission? It destroyed two bishoprics of the country, as far as episcopal property was concerned; and a Bill was now in the other House of Parliament, the object of which was to divert episcopal revenues to parochial purposes. It did not attempt to reform or make more efficient the cathedrals. It simply proceeded to seize upon their revenues, in order to augment small livings, while it did not do anything to remove those legal obstructions and absurd provisions of the Act of Geo. II. which prevent donations of land and bequests to those livings. The members of the Universities would be justified in being extremely cautious as to the evidence which they should give under the intended commission, which it was believed was not sanctioned by the constitution of the country. The statement of the noble Earl would have the effect of warning both Universities that their property was not likely to be dealt with in a more tender manner than were the episcopal and cathedral properties by the Ecclesiastical Commission issued during the Government of Sir Robert Peel.
perfectly agreed 1155 with his noble Friend who spoke last but one, that nothing could be more untrue than the supposition that the issuing of this commission arose from any want of respect, or from any unkindly feeling towards the Universities. Nevertheless, he, for one, must say that he thought the issuing of that commission was a very great error—a very grievous mistake. Having already, in the letter which he had addressed to his noble and gallant Friend who sat near him (the Duke of Wellington), and which, no doubt, most of their Lordships had read—having stated in that letter his arguments against the issuing of the commission, he would not now trouble their Lordships with a repetition of them. That letter he felt bound to write in consequence of his own position at the head of one of the colleges of this country, namely, the University College of London, which possessed very considerable endowments. In writing it, he acted entirely on his own responsibility; he wrote it without having had any communication with the other authorities in that college; he had purposely avoided making them responsible. He was also prompted to write that letter in consequence of the part which he took in inquiries of this description in 1833, and, indeed, ever since 1816. Their Lordships would recollect that from the commission of inquiry into the public schools, and other educational establishments of the country, the Universities were carefully exempted. The Government with which he was connected excepted the Universities expressly for the reason given by his noble Friend opposite, namely, that they knew improvements were going on in those institutions, and they felt that it would be unwise to interrupt them. Still, such an inquiry would have been far more appropriate than that which would take place under the proposed commission; because the inquiry in the time of Lord Melbourne, and to which he (Lord Brougham) was a party, was a compulsory proceeding. It was said by the noble Earl that this was to be a voluntary proceeding. So much the worse, because they would have one-sided information—they would have those persons who were discontented with all that was done, and everything that was not done, coming forward to give their information. It might be very correct information; but what would become of those parties who were to be assailed by such informants? They would have no means of defence; they 1156 would not have the power of sommoning one single person to give testimony in their defence before the Commissioners. It was exactly as if himself or the noble Lord opposite were indicted for any offence, and the Crown had the power of summoning witnesses to prove the case against them, whilst they had no power of summoning evidence to prove an alibi, or to prove that other persons had committed the offence alleged against them. That was precisely the position in which the members of the Universities would be placed by this voluntary commission of inquiry. He recollected that, when the heads of different colleges and schools were examined before the Education Committee, he compelled those worthy persons to produce all the information in their power with respect to the colleges to which they belonged, and thus he compelled them to break their oaths, as they fancied. And why? Because it was found that they had misconstrued their oaths, they having overlooked the exception in them, nisi aliquâ necessitate co-gente vel utilitate suadente. But there were some oaths in which there was no such exception, and he did not like to interfere in such matters, even where he had full power as Chairman of the House of Commons Committee. He must say he was a little astonished to read a letter of the Illustrious Chancellor of the University of Cambridge on this subject, to which his noble Friend opposite had referred. He (Lord Brougham) deeply regretted that that Illustrious Prince had been placed in the false position of Chancellor of a University of this country, and for this short reason—that the Chancellor of a University ought to be a person wholly unconnected with the Crown—wholly independent of the Crown—because it might be his bounden duty, as Chancellor, to be in conflict with the Crown. His noble and illustrious Friend near him (the Duke of Wellington) was unconnected with the Crown, and might well perform the duties of Chancellor of the University of Oxford, as he did well perform them, He was not in the false position in which Prince Albert was with respect to the Crown and the Chancellorship of the University of Cambridge. Now, the very first result of that false position was, that the Illustrious Prince had written a letter on this subject, approving of the commission in strong terms, and that letter had made him unpopular in the University. He (Lord Brougham) 1157 would, if he had the honour of an interview with that Illustrious Prince, remind him that he had mistaken the law of this country a little when he said that a Royal Commission spoke the sense of Parliament. A very natural mistake was that for those who had lived in countries where the Legislature and the Prince were one and the same person. In that case, a Royal Commission did speak the sense of the Legislature. In Germany, no doubt, it did; but in this country it did not. The sense of Parliament was spoken by an Act of Parliament, and not at all by a Royal Commission. A Royal Commission in this country spoke the sense of the Crown, that was to say, of the Minister of the Crown, but it in no way spoke the sense of Parliament. It appeared that this commission did not arise from any want of respect or kindly feelings towards the Universities on the part of the Government, but from a desire on their part to satisfy the prejudices of certain parties. But could that be said to be a sufficient reason for the issue of this commission, and particularly when, as he knew of his own knowledge, the Universities were making rapid, wise, and most useful improvements? The question was, whether it was right or wrong that "certain people's prejudices" should be satisfied by the issue of this commission? Were they to deal with this question, as they were dealing with the Post Office, to satisfy the prejudices of certain individuals? There was a pressure, it was said, from without on this subject. The question was whether that pressure ought to be yielded to or resisted. He deemed it ought to be resisted.
§ The EARL of CARLISLE
would be sorry that an inference should be drawn from any words of his which he had not intended to convey. When he referred to the commission relating to chapters, it was not his intention to indicate that the same results were likely to follow from this com mission as followed from that. Their re venues were then transferred, be it right or wrong, to other persons and purposes. There were no others now to whom it was proposed to transfer the property of the Universities.
§ The EARL of CARLISLE
disclaimed any such intention. He only referred to the former commission for the purpose of showing that this proceeding was dictated by no want of respect.
§ The DUKE of WELLINGTON
was happy to hear the explanation of the noble Earl. He must confess he was perfectly satisfied with what was stated in the first instance, on the understanding that the intention was to make choice of the persons who should compose this proposed commission on the principle on which the persons were selected who composed the Ecclesiastical Commission.
observed, that if a commission was appointed, though it should consist of angels, this must inevitably follow—they must open their doors, and their ears, and their books of notes to receive the information and all the accusations that any discontented persons chose to lay before them; nor could they suppress this. It must be reported and printed, and laid before Parliament.
§ The DUKE of WELLINGTON
entirely agreed with his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) upon the abstract question of the appointment of a commission to inquire into the Universities at all. He (the Duke of Wellington) had stated his opinion upon that question, and he did not think it necessary to state it again. That upon which he intended to express his satisfaction was the explanation of the noble Earl respecting the choice of the members of the commission, The noble Lord at the head of the Government, who had declared his intention of advising the appointment of this commission, had stated in his letter addressed to the Illustrious Prince and to himself respectively, as the Chancellors of the Universities, the object to which the inquiries should be directed. He (the Duke of Wellington) certainly did not desire that those inquiries should be made; he did not think those inquiries were necessary. But, if they were to have a commission, he did desire that it should be composed in the manner referred to by the noble Earl.
§ On Question, agreed to.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.