HL Deb 03 July 1863 vol 172 cc147-65

, rose to present a Petition of Heads of Colleges, Professors, present and former Fellows, and Tutors in the University of Oxford, for the Abolition of Subscription to Formularies of Faith as a Qualification for Academical Degrees, The noble Earl said: My Lords, I have to present to your Lordships a Petition of very great importance, and remarkable for the number and character of the learned persons by whom it is signed. It emanates from a large number of gentlemen of high standing, members of the University of Oxford. The number of signatures is 106, and those signatures represent persons who all are, or have been, Fellows or Tutors of colleges. We often hear, especially from politicians of a Conservative turn of mind, that though numbers preponderate on one side of a question, learning and intelligence are to be found on the other. That observation may very justly be applied to this Petition. Out of the 106 Fellows, Professors, and Tutors by whom it is signed, 65 obtained first classes in classics, and 15 in mathematics, making a total of 80 who have won that distinction. The 106 Petitioners I may add, include 17 Professors, of whom 13 are present Professors, and 71 present Fellows of colleges out of a total of 437. In making a comparison between the 366 Fellows who did not sign the Petition, and the 71 who did, I found that 56 or four-fifths of those who signed it obtained first-class honours, whereas only 75 or one-fifth of those who did not were equally distinguished. There are also other honours which have been obtained by many of those petitioners, such as University Scholarships and Chancellor's Prizes; but I will not go further into this enumeration. Your Lordships, from what I have said, will at once see that the Petition is one emanating from persons engaged in teaching in the University, and ranking among the most distinguished of those who occupy that position. I shall now proceed to state to the House what is the nature of the Petition, and what is the prayer with which it concludes. The Petition begins by disclaiming any wish to invite interference with the theological teaching in the University, or with its religious character. We may therefore take it for granted that the petitioners are—in conformity with that which I believe to be the sense of your Lordships and the country—unanimously of opinion that there should be religious teaching in our two great Universities, and that that teaching should be in accordance with the doctrines of the Church of England. They go on, however, to say that the subscriptions to which they refer have failed to secure uniformity of belief, or even to promote religious peace. But before I advert more particularly to this point, it is desirable, I think, that I should trace very shortly what has been the history of these declarations. Before the Reformation, of course, the teaching was directed by the Roman Catholic Church; but immediately afterwards, during the transitions which took place from the reign of Edward VI. to those of Queens Mary and Elizabeth, changes occurred in the headships of houses and the persons governing the Universities, and the religious teaching varied. The Reformers themselves, who belonged to the Church of England, very speedily divided themselves into two classes, the one favouring or tending towards the opinions of Calvin; the other looking back with sentiments of regret to the Church of Rome, and adhering in many respects to the doctrines and practices of that Church. The Earl of Leicester, who was Chancellor of the University, in order to confirm the supremacy of the Protestant party, of which he was the head, established subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles, which he required to be imposed not only on Doctors and Masters of Arts, but also on Bachelors of Arts and undergraduates. Till a very late period, this subscription was required on the matriculation of every young man who entered the Universities. The party to which I have been alluding prevailed for a time; but as soon as the Princes of the House of Stuart ascended the throne, a different doctrine came into operation; but instead of taking that which would have been the right course, of removing the subscription required by the Earl of Leicester, and maintaining religious liberality in their own case, as well as for others, this party added other tests and declarations to those which I have mentioned. At this time were established the declarations acknowledging the King's supremacy, conformity to the Liturgy of the Church, and conformity to the Thirty-nine Articles. In the reign of James II. another change was attempted which would have gone still further in the direction of the Church of Rome, but that attempt was successfully resisted. In 1854, in consequence of the Report of a Commission appointed at the request of the House of Commons, a change was made with respect to some of these declarations—that is to say, that undergraduates at matriculation and Bachelors of Arts should be relieved from these declarations. For my own part, I regretted that the question was introduced at that time; but it was thought necessary to make some immediate arrange- ment, and to postpone a general revision of the whole subject to a future occasion. The consequence has been, that, as the Petitioners say, these declarations have failed to secure unanimity of opinion, or even religious peace in the University. There are parties still in the Church much resembling those, one of which was headed by the Earl of Leicester, and the other by Archbishop Laud. There are those who object to certain parts of the Articles and yet sign them. There are those who cannot fully "assent and consent" to the whole Liturgy and yet make the declaration. The consequence is that these parties are continually objecting to one another that they have made declarations not in conformity with the sense which those declarations required. The consequence is that religious peace is disturbed, and, I must say, some slur is thrown upon the religious sincerity of those who signed those declarations. I wish your Lordships to understand that I am speaking now solely of the declarations required by the University, and not of clerical subscription, which is a matter totally apart from the question whether it is necessary that young men who have fairly won and deserved the honours due to their attainments should be required to subscribe their assent to the Thirty-nine Articles or to the Liturgy. It was well said in a recent debate by Earl Grey that there is a very great mischief in multiplying declarations unnecessarily, and thereby producing an uneasy feeling in the minds of young men, who are told by some that the declarations merely involve conformity to the general doctrines of the Church of England, and by others that they are guilty of something akin to perjury, if they sign and do not assent to each particular doctrine and Article. It is of the first importance to consider how much the moral purity and moral simplicity of young men may be tainted by requiring of them these declarations at a period of life when they have not fully matured their own opinions. The first question it, what is the practical effect on those who take these declarations; and another question is, why should persons who do not belong to the Church—Protestant Dissenters and Roman Catholics—he excluded from the degree of Master of Arts, or kept away from the Universities by these tests. This, however, is practically a less important question; because, according to my observation, the tendency of the present time is that persons of the same religious de- nomination cling closer together, rather than seek to go to places of education which are chiefly the seats of other forms of worship. But still, as to the great national Universities, and considering how many subjects of Her Majesty, whether in this country or in the Colonies, are not members of the Church of England, the door of distinction ought not to be shut to those who seek education either at Oxford or Cambridge, because they cannot assent to these forms. The petitioners say that these requirements tend to perplex the conscience, to introduce an ambiguous interpretation of solemn obligations, and to raise a danger of losing to the University the services of men of high character and ability. That, also, is a question of very considerable importance, for it is a great misfortune that there should be any chance of losing men of great genius and learning through the impossibility of their acceding to these declarations. Is it not desirable that a place of great learning, and so distinguished as Oxford, should open its doors to those who belong to different Churches, rather than shut them on account of these forms? The persons who take the degree of Master of Arts may become clergymen, but they may become barristers, physicians, or civil engineers, and what can be the use of the test in any other profession except the Church? In the University of Cambridge these requirements are no longer made. In the year 1854 they were removed in the case of Bachelors of Arts and undergraduates of the University of Oxford. But in the following year, when the Act was passed for the reform of the University of Cambridge, it was provided that the degree of Master of Arts should be allowed without any of these declarations; but, at the same time, there was a proviso that those who belonged to the governing body of the University of Cambridge should declare themselves to be members of the Church of England. I do not think that was a very good provision, because it introduced a new test, and it will not be difficult to secure the object in some other way. The petitioners agree that the religious teaching of the University of Oxford should be the religious teaching of the Church of England; and if any means are required to secure that object, it will be a proper subject of consideration. It is free for Parliament to say, "Subscription is not required for the degree of Master of Arts; but we will take care that the body who have the control of the education of the University shall be members of the Church of England." There are various ways of doing this, into which I need not enter, as I am only asking your Lordships to agree in the prayer of the Petition, that the subscription required for the degree of Master of Arts be henceforth abolished, believing, as I do, that if that were accomplished, it would give a more general and more liberal character to the University of Oxford, while it would favour that liberty of conscience which this country should always be careful to cherish. I frankly own that I think, that though this Petition does not come from the majority of the resident members of the University, yet it is one which in its spirit will, in a short time, be adopted by a great majority. It seems to me so reasonable, so moderate, and so far from interference with the teaching of the Church of England, that sooner or later it must become the foundation of legislation. I believe that it is in the power of the University itself to declare that this subscription shall not be demanded; but we all know what obstinacy there has always been there in resisting reforms, and how strong has been what Lord Bacon calls "the fro ward retention of custom." For three centuries the University made no alteration in these matters, and probably never would have made any if Parliament had not interfered. I hope before long—not in the present Session, but in some future Session—that a Bill will be introduced which will carry out the prayer of these distinguished men. I am glad to say that the spirit of religious reform is abroad in Europe. In the two Sicilies, where by the law of 1824 the Roman Catholic religion alone was recognised, and no person could be registered as belonging to any other religion but the Roman Catholic, we find now that that provision is held to be quite inconsistent with the constitution of the Kingdom of Italy, which recognises the principle of religious liberty. When, then, we see religious persecution dying in other countries, I hope that, in a spirit of conservative reform, your Lordships will not be averse to the Petition which I have the honour to present. The noble Earl concluded by presenting the Petition.


My Lords, I shall not follow the noble Earl into his historical account of the progress of religious liberty, nor into that portion of his speech which seemed to have still less to do with the question before the House—what advances in religious toleration have been made in Italy since the formation of that kingdom. I beard with considerable regret—with more regret, perhaps, than surprise—the comparison the noble Earl drew between the persecution to which the Protestant religion has been and is still subjected in many Roman Catholic countries, and the state of things to which this Petition refers. The noble Earl has been good enough to allow me to look at the signatures to the Petition. I readily admit that there are among them many names of considerable eminence, whose opinions are entitled to the greatest weight; but, at the same time, the noble Earl, I think, has somewhat exaggerated the case. When we come to consider what is the amount of distinction of those who have signed and those who have not signed the Petition, I think it will be found that the majority of high honours is in favour of those who have not signed it. Again, the noble Earl has presented the Petition as the Petition of Heads of Colleges. [Earl RUSSELL: Of certain Heads of Colleges.] Yes, exactly; of certain Heads—that is, of two out of the twenty-four Heads of Colleges; quite enough, truly, to justify the noble Earl in saying "certain Heads." It is the Petition of "certain Heads, Professors, Fellows, and Tutors." With regard to the Professors, I freely admit that a considerable number of distinguished men have put their names to the Petition; but the noble Earl, when he said that the whole of those who had put their names to the Petition were either Professors or persons who were or had been Tutors or Fellows, was mistaken. He will find that a considerable number are neither Fellows nor Tutors, but merely students at the present moment. When we bear in mind that of all the members of the University, resident and non-resident, past and present, only 160 have signed this Petition, I must say, with all respect to the eminent men who have signed it, that it cannot be taken as representing the sense of any considerable portion of the University. When I heard, a week ago, of the noble Earl's intention to present the Petition, I wrote down to Oxford to know under what circumstances the Petition had been prepared, and what was the general feeling of the University on the subject. The answer I received was that of the Petition and the petitioners nothing positive was known in the University itself: it was known that there was such a Petition, and that important names were attached to it; but that the Petition had never been laid on the table of one common-room in the University; that it had never been submitted to the Hebdomadal Council; that its signatures had been merely obtained by private canvass among those who were known to be favourable to it. These are the circumstances under which the Petition was prepared, and is now presented to your Lordships' House. But that is not all. Early in the spring there was a talk of presenting this Petition; and upon the announcement that there was such a Petition in progress, a counter petition was immediately set on foot. The Petition was then withdrawn, and the counter petition consequently fell to the ground. It was not till after the University had separated for the long vacation, when it was impossible to ascertain the feelings, wishes, and opinions of the University as a body—when it was impossible for the dissentients to express their opinions, and come before your Lordships' House with a counter petition—it was not till then that the Petition prepared in the spring, withdrawn in the summer, and withheld to the last moment, was placed in the hands of the noble Earl for presentation to the House as embodying the opinions of the University. Now, I must say, with all respect to the eminent men who have signed the Petition, that I do not think this is the mode in which a question of so much importance should be submitted to Parliament. I do not know whether the noble Earl is speaking as a Member of the Government, or whether he is merely stating his own individual wish, which may not be shared by his Colleagues; but it is important that we should know; for the noble Earl must forgive me for saying that it is unfortunate that one in his position, and with his high authority, should speak of bringing forward in another Session a Bill founded upon the recommendation of this Petition. [Earl RUSSELL: I said nothing about the Government bringing in a Bill.] No; the noble Earl certainly did not. But he, a Member of the Government, hoped, that if not in this, at least in an early Session, a Bill would be brought in for carrying out the prayer of this Petition. But, let me ask, is it desirable that from time to time, at very short intervals, the discipline and management of the University should be brought under the consideration of Parliament? It is only nine years since an Act was passed, followed by a most careful examination into the whole system of the government of the University of Oxford by a body of Commissioners, who introduced a considerable number of ordinances, which ordinances had become the law of the University. And this is not a question that was omitted from the consideration of Parliament at that time. It is a question that was then fully and deliberately discussed. The noble Earl would have the House believe that the subscription required is required from a great portion of the youth of the University. The case is this:—It is declared by the Act that from and after the passing of the Act it shall not be necessary for any person entering at the University to make any declaration or take any oath; nor shall it be necessary for any person taking the degree of Bachelor of Arts, Medicine, or Music, to make any subscription, declaration, or take any oath; but such degree shall not constitute a qualification for any office hitherto held by a member of the Established Church, and for which such degree has constituted a qualification, unless the usual oaths and declarations be taken. After the inquiry which preceded the legislation of nine years ago, and after that legislation having been adopted with such full deliberation—and moreover, since the Act gave the University of Oxford the power of dealing with this as with any other ordinance—I think it most unfortunate that any Member of the Government should come forward in his place in Parliament to lay open this question, which was looked upon as settled, and bring the Universities again under the guidance and control of Parliament. And this has been done before any reference has been made to the University of Oxford itself—before the question was raised in that University—before it was asked how far it would be willing to adopt any modification of the existing subscription. I cannot answer for what the opinion of the University may be; but this I know, that the natural course for those gentlemen who have petitioned would have been to bring their proposals before the University, and to urge their case to the authorities at Oxford. They would then have had the opinions of those who dissented from them, and would thus have had the question settled, as far as the University is concerned. If after such a proceeding it appeared that the policy of the University was at variance with the public good, an appeal might have been made to the authority of Parliament. I will not enter into the great question of subscription. The noble Earl says that the question which he has introduced applies to the general University subscription, and not to the clerical subscription; but I think this is the first step in the direction of a proposal to alter the clerical subscription. The question really raised by the noble Earl is this:—Is it desirable that the two Universities, in their management, authority, and teaching, should be in close and intimate connection with the Church of England? I think the speech of the noble Earl, and more particularly the observations he made in reference to the provisions with respect to subscription in the University of Cambridge, ought to induce your Lordships to watch very jealously, to see whether effect may not be given to the opinions which the noble Earl has uttered. I am much afraid that such a declaration, coming from one who holds the position of a Minister of the Crown, may have a prejudicial effect in respect to measures which may hereafter be proposed. I wish to speak with every respect of the petitioners, and I think it unfortunate that the noble Earl did not confine himself to the prayer of that Petition, but should have gone much further, and raised, on his own behalf and that of his Colleagues, a much larger question.


My Lords, I do not wonder that the noble Earl should have taken a part in this discussion; and in consequence of the position which he holds in this House, and of that which he holds in connection with the University of Oxford, I was very anxious to hear how he would deal with the subject, after the very temperate and judicious manner in which it had been introduced by my noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. In common with all your Lordships, I always listen with pleasure to the fluent and eloquent speeches made by my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) in this House; and within the last month I have had the gratification of hearing him speak in most elegant Latin, which astonished not only ignorant persons like myself, but the most learned and accomplished professors of the University of Oxford; but, my Lords, I must confess that on this occasion my noble Friend has addressed the House with unusual embarrassment. In dealing with a question of such importance to the University over which he presides, the noble Earl declined to say one word which had any real bearing on the speech of my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary. He made attacks on certain little portions of that speech, and he made an attack on the Petition which my noble Friend presented, founded on the number of signatures to that document. With respect to the latter point, I am credibly informed, that without regard to numerical strength, the names attached to the Petition represent some of the ablest and most useful intellects in the University of Oxford; and though I do not want to put my information against that of my noble Friend opposite, I am told that he has been misinformed in reference to the getting-up of the Petition. I am told that it had never been withdrawn from the time it was first laid on the table, and that it had been laid on the common table; and further, I have heard that Petitions in the other sense were beginning to be prepared in the University, but were abandoned. My noble Friend opposite has made a strong and, I think, a most indecorous attack on the observations of my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary with respect to the probability of a measure being brought in at a future time. My noble Friend did not say that the Government intended to bring in a Bill, or that he himself intended to bring in a Bill; he only alluded to the probability of a Bill being brought in at a future time. The noble Earl considers that a great dereliction of duty, and an interference with the University; and he asks why the University should not be left to take the initiative. But I think it not unworthy of remark that the University has been content to rest for three hundred years without making any alteration in a subscription drawn up to meet quite a different state of things from that which exists at the present time. The University of Cambridge has been relieved from this grievous encumbrance by Act of Parliament, founded upon the recommendation of Commissioners; and surely, if the University of Oxford will not itself move in the matter, it is quite a legitimate subject of discussion in Parliament. I think the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) has entirely failed in his answer to my noble Friend; and I regret that as Chancellor of the University, speaking on a question of such importance to the University of Oxford and to the educated classes of this country, the noble Earl should have thought it consistent with his duty merely to dwell upon the small points in my noble Friend's speech, instead of addressing himself to the great question brought before the House.


said, he did not think this was a great question of civil and religious liberty. It was a narrow question, and was just this—whether in the University of Oxford persons should be allowed to put the letters M.A. after their surnames without subscribing to the Church of England. The margin of the Church was very wide, but there was a limit in matters of this kind which he hoped their Lordships would not lose sight of.


My Lords, a few nights ago we were engaged in a discussion connected more or less with clerical subscription. We have now to do only with lay subscriptions; the proposal of the petitioners, as I understand it, tending to interfere in no way with divinity degrees. Those degrees, as your Lordships are aware, can only be taken by persons who are clergymen; and all Masters of Arts who are clergymen made at their ordination the very declarations which are now the subject of discussion. The declaration which every Master of Arts is obliged to make is exactly the same as is made by every clergyman who is ordained; and in this matter there is no difference between the declaration made by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack and the most rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of Canterbury): both are required to make this, for laymen, somewhat singular declaration, that they will use the Book of Common Prayer, and none other, in the celebration of the Sacraments. Now, I cannot help thinking that it is a mistake on the part of the University to impose on all its lay members a declaration which in their mouth is futile. In 1852, when I had the honour of being a Member of the Commission for Inquiry into the Constitution and Studies of the University of Oxford, I put my name to this statement in the Report of that Commission— That the imposition of subscription in the manner in which it is now imposed in the University of Oxford habituates the mind to give a careless assent to truths which it has never considered, and naturally leads to sophistry in the interpretation of solemn obligations. I am quite aware that changes have taken place in the University since then, and that, in consequence of the recommendations of the eminent men with whom I was then associated, and of the further progress which was made by the Commission of which the most rev. Prelate was a Member, the subscription then required has been altered; that is, boys of the age of twelve, if they enter the University at that ago, as Jeremy Bentham did, are not required any longer to subscribe; and Bachelors of Arts also are relieved. But the thing has been done, as good things are often done, in such a way that there still remains, to accomplish a very simple end, a most cumbrous machinery. It is desired that the government of the University should be kept in the hands of members of the Church of England; and in order to secure that object every layman who takes the degree of Master of Arts has not only to give his assent to the Thirty-nine Articles, but to the three Articles of the 36th Canon, which contain the very form of declaration required on entrance to holy orders. Now, I cannot help thinking that even at the present day, and after the changes which have been made, we might, if called upon by Her Majesty to inquire into the University of Oxford, still report in reference to these lay subscriptions that the manner in which the subscription is imposed habituates the mind to give a careless assent to truths which it has never considered, and naturally leads to sophistry in the interpretation of solemn obligations. Not long since it was said with very considerable truth that there is a great difference between the obligation under which a clergyman lies and that under which a layman lies; and we have been reminded by high authority that free inquiry is for free inquirers. But if it appears that both clergy and laity have made exactly the same declaration, there must be some sort of sophistry—pardonable I grant—in the reasoning which makes a layman consider that this declaration is nothing at all except so far as it is binding on his friend the clergyman. Now, in my opinion, in all these solemn and sacred matters the more simply and distinctly we say what we mean the better. That was the impression which I endeavoured to convey on the subject of clerical obligations some time ago, and that is exactly my opinion with regard to these lay obligations. The noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby) says that he considers this a matter of very slight importance. I confess that I cannot agree with him. When I was an undergraduate at Oxford, we had a great many declarations, and they were really very harassing for young men, especially where they had passed the earliest period of their youth, and were arriving at an age at which they could take the M.A. degree. In those days there was a solemn promise to observe all the statutes of the University, and there was a solemn promise also to observe all the statutes of your own college, most of which had been enacted in Roman Catholic times and principally centred round the celebration of the mass, which had been abolished by Act of Parliament. Now, there grew up in those days a science of interpreting these promises, which I think was calculated to do a great deal of harm. Our time was worse than wasted in endeavouring to find out what honest interpretation we could put on the declarations which we were then required to make. My Lords, I am thankful that those declarations are gone for ever. They were a disgrace to the University, and I only regret that any shred or tatter of the same system should still remain, kept up by the authority of the University. The present form of declaration required from Masters of Arts does not, I am certain, express distinctly and straightforwardly and honestly that for which it is intended to bind the person who takes it. I agree entirely in what has been said—namely, that it is desirable that this great University, the whole greatness of which has ever arisen from its connection with the Church of England, and which has been the handmaid of the Church in its best days, should still continue its connection with the Church. I should deeply regret anything that should lead to a severance of that connection; but I trust that we live in times when both the Church and the University will face difficulties such as these, and that we shall no longer wish to maintain positions which are not capable of being maintained by sound argument. If it is desirable that laymen taking the M.A. degree should be members of the Church of England, let them say that they are in the fewest and plainest possible words; but if, on the contrary, it is thought that there may be some relaxation, and that as persons not members of the Church of England are admitted as students, so men eminent in science and learning may be enlisted as professors or teachers—if it is thought that that advantage may be gained without any danger of compromising the Church—then I do trust that the University itself will carefully consider how this may be best done, and what safeguards may be imposed, so as at the same time to prevent the connection between the University and the Church from being severed. I can conceive also that some of the petitioners, being, as I assume them to be, attached to the Church of England, and anxious to maintain the connection of which I have spoken, may still think, that if some of those who differ from the Church were permanently connected with the University, not only by the associations of their youth, but also by retaining their privileges when they came to maturity, the result might be the softening of many prejudices which at present keep them far from us, and that both the University and the Church might thus become more truly the centre of the intellectual and religious life of England. It has been said that this matter ought to be left to the University itself; and that is also my opinion. All that I think desirable is that the University should know what are the opinions entertained from without on these subjects by persons not mixed up with the feelings and interests of a purely University life; but who, in the interest both of the University and of the nation at large, enunciate principles which may guide the University in taking into mature consideration this very serious and important subject.

In reply to Lord BROUGHAM,


explained, that a layman on taking his degree as Master of Arts in the University was required to give his assent to three Articles of the 36th Canon, the first of which related to the Royal Supremacy, and another to the Book of Common Prayer, with a declaration that he will use the form in the said Book prescribed and none other in public prayer and in the celebration of the sacraments.


My Lords, I wish briefly to explain to your Lordships the origin of the subscription, and to show how very little the existing rules apply to the great body of persons who in reality are affected by it. As to the opinion expressed by the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of London) that it may be within the power of the University to alter the statute, I much doubt whether that power exists in the University independent of Parliament. Your Lordships will remember that subscription is now required from those who take the degree of Master of Arts. When a person has taken that degree, after twelve months he becomes a Regent Master. A Regent Master, by the statutes of the University of Oxford, is empowered to teach, and being empowered to teach he may teach divinity, he is a master of theology There being no limit to the power of teaching consequent upon becoming a Regent Master, the person so qualified becomes subject to the operation of the 36th Canon, which requires that no man shall be suffered to teach, to catechize, or to be a lecturer upon divinity in either University unless he shall first have subscribed the three Articles following. The first Article is that acknowledging the King's supremacy. The second— That the Book of Common Prayer and of ordering of bishops, priests, and deacons containeth in it nothing contrary to the Word of God, and that it may lawfully so be used; and that he himself will use the form in the said book pie-scribed, in public prayer, and administration of the sacraments and none other. And the third— That he alloweth the Book of Articles of Religion agreed upon by the archbishops and bishops, &c., and that be acknowledged all and every the Articles therein contained, being in number Nine-and-Thirty, beside the Ratification, to be agreeable to the Word of God. The spirit of the law was that no man should be permitted to teach unless he made a subscription to the declaration. But the great body of persons who desire to take the degree of Master of Arts do not intend to teach in the University; and as my noble Friend in presenting the Petition correctly said, the prayer of the Petition might still further be qualified by inserting, if it should be deemed right, that no man should be permitted to teach divinity in the University who had not subscribed these Articles. But the subscription at present is a bar which excludes from the Houses of Convocation a great number of persons because of their being Regent Masters, and consequently qualified to teach divinity. That is embodied in the statutes of the University of Oxford. I am sorry to say our library is not rich enough to possess a copy of those statutes, and I must therefore quote them at second-hand. The part to which I refer runs thus— Quales Tutores scholaribus præficiendi sint.—Tutor vero scholares tutelæ et regimini suo commissos probis moribus imbuat, et in probatis autoribus instituat; et maximè in rudimentis re-ligionis et doctrinæ Articulis in synodo Londini, anno 1562, editis; ac pro virili suo disciplinæ in Ecclesiâ Anglicanâ publice receptæ eos conformes prætabit. I would beg the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) to observe that subscription to the Articles has been required upon those grounds. Your Lordships are aware that a Regent Master becomes a member of Convocation, which is the governing body of the University. Now, it is a great question, which deserves full consideration whether power in the University should be intrusted to any persons who have not avowed themselves members of the Church of England. But this is a different ground from that on which subscription is at present required. My attention was singularly fixed upon this matter many years ago, when I matriculated at the University at the early age of fourteen. I was told by the Vice Chancellor, "You are too young to take the common oath of obedience to the statute of the University, but you are quite old enough to subscribe the Articles of Religion." Accordingly, as a boy of fourteen, I duly and faithfully subscribed the Articles of Religion; but not until the age of sixteen was I permitted to make a promise of obedience to the statutes of the University. That state of things no longer exists, but I mention it to show to your Lordships the gross anomalies that existed in the doctrine of subscription.


My Lords, I do not wish to assert the proposition that the original reason for requiring Regent Masters to make subscription was to secure that the teachers of the University should be members of the Church of England; the question we have to consider is the effect of this rule upon the University. And the effect is this—that the governing body of the University are all professed members of the Church of England. My right rev. Brother dwelt upon the great advantages that the University would derive if relieved from this restraint by the great increase of learned men who might then hold professorships, but of which advantages the University was now deprived through the dreadful requirement that a Master of Arts should subscribe to the Articles of the Church of England. [The BISHOP of LONDON dissented.] My right rev. Brother says he did not use that argument, but I think the House, like myself, must have understood him to say that we lost many instructors whom we might obtain, but who were excluded by the requirement.


I said I thought it very desirable that the government of the University should be maintained in the hands of members of the Church of England; but that if the University could find any way of adding other eminent men to the body of teachers who were not members of the Church of Eng-and, I should be very glad.


That is pre- cisely what I said. Teachers not belonging to the Church of England to be admitted would be a gain to the University. But that is done already, and no professor need sign the Articles. The governing body of the University is confined to members of the Church of England, as my right rev. Brother desires, and the teaching in the University is set free, as he also desires. Then, having what he wishes, why alter the present arrangement? I know at least one distinguished man—the Professor of Chemistry—who has taught for years in the University without being called upon to subscribe. But I think that nothing should be done to alter the fundamental principle that the government of the University should be retained in the hands of members of the Church of England. My right rev. Brother pointed out what at first seemed to be an absurdity in connection with the signature of the three Articles—but the absurdity was only in appearance, because the signature to those three Articles is accompanied by a declaration that it is to apply to persons who are to be instituted to any living or gift with power of teaching in the Church of England; and then follows the declaration that those persons will not administer the Sacraments except in the form prescribed. It is only by straining the meaning of the words that they can be made to apply to every Master of Arts. My right rev. Brother said there was nothing in the prayer of the Petition to affect the higher degrees of divinity at the Universities. But, if the prayer is granted, there certainly will be nothing to prevent a man from rising to the highest degree in divinity which the University allows, without even professing to hold the doctrines of the Church of England. As to the disinclination to make this subscription, I may be allowed to mention, that since this subject was last under discussion, a Bill which was to affect the whole question came before the House of Commons, and a Petition got up by the undergraduates of Oxford, and signed by 1,030 out of about 1,300, was presented to that House, praying that no alteration might be made in the present law of subscription. If you abolish subscription in these cases, the next proposition will be to dispense with it in the case of the colleges, and then of all members of the Church. That is what is aimed at. This is the beginning of what is considered by those who urge the necessity of these changes, the deliverance of the human mind from the trammels of submission to external truth as taught by authority, and to be believed because it is so taught. The question is whether in a Church so free as ours you can maintain anything like a tradition of dogmatic truth if you do away with this last provision, that those who undertake great responsibilities should believe the teaching which the Church has accepted as the Word of God.


said, that the 106 persons who signed his Petition were either Fellows or Students of Christ Church.


said, that Mr. Bouverie's Bill, against which the Petition to which the right rev. Prelate had referred was directed, dealt with the admission to fellowships—a subject which was expressly excluded from this Petition.


stated, that in addition to the Petition mentioned by the right rev. Prelate as having been got up by the undergraduates in the course of a fortnight, 2,000 non-resident members of Convocation expressed their concurrence with the views therein contained.

Petition to lie on the table.


then moved, That the said Petition be printed.

Objected to; and, after short Debate, the said Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.



gave notice, that if he were in his place on Monday, he would move, and if not present he would get some noble Friend to move, on that evening, that the Petition presented to-night by the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs be printed and circulated.

House adjourned at a quarter past Seven o'clock, to Monday next, Eleven o'clock.