15 DECEMBER 1866, Page 9


rilHE Council of University College contains some strong men, and these strong men have committed the College to a strong course, which will need a strong remedy. They have alienated a large number of the College's not too numerous friends, and will bring on its Executive a very grave censure, which apparently it courts. Our readers are aware that a great question of principle has recently arisen,—it has been more than once discussed in these col- umns,—as to the true mode of keeping the College =sectarian. Pub- lic opinion in general—public opinion in quarters as unconnected with University College as the writers in the Saturday Review and the Daily Telegraph, —and, in a most emphatic sense, the public opinion of the old students of University College, has declared, with its most distinguished Professor, Mr. de Morgan, in favour of that kind of =sectarianism which simply ignores religious opinions, religious professions, religious eminence, and every other sort of religious distinction, altogether, in the actual conduct of the College,—except, perhaps, as regards the constitution of the Council of the College, where a fair mixture of different forms of faith is desirable as a guarantee of religious impartiality. In appointing professors, for instance, just as in examining students, almost all the alumni of University College hold, with almost all respectable organs of the Press, that you have no more right to consider the candidate's external religious position than the colour of his hair. You have to ask, as in the case of the students, what are the relative qualiflcationa ,.gf the candidates, and nothing more. This is not only the view of „the great majority of the old students of University College, and of external critics who look at it without bias from outside, but it is the view on which University College has always hitherto been governed, as we shall presently show. The precedents as well as the reasons are all in its favour. But a new party has arisen in the Council,—and, we grieve to say it, among the professors,—who profess another view, which they have the greatest difficulty in putting into words with any approach to articulate thought. That view appears to be, that either as a question of policy, as some maintain, or as a question of principle, as others maintain, the College is to be kept =sectarian by excluding men eminent for their religious opinions, or religious leadership, or ministerial eminence,—nobody agrees as to how it should be expressed,—from the Chairs. This is a completely new principle, if it be a principle,—a com- pletely new policy, if it be only a new policy. It came by surprise upon the great mass of the friends of University College,—it was simply a moral shock to its old students. Eminent clergymen were at one time common among its professors. Canon Dale was its first Professor of English, the Rev. John Williams was its first Professor of Latin, the Rev. William Ritchie one of its earliest Professors of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy. The Rev. Dr. Dionysius Lardner,— afterwards, unfortunately, eminent in other ways than as either a clergyman or a natural philosopher,—was another Professor of Natural Philo- sophy and Astronomy. The Rev. Dr. Vaughan, a shining light in the Independent body, a religious leader, if ever there were a religious leader, a teacher of dogmatic theology, if ever there were a teacher of dogmatic theology,—was for a long time Professor of History,—far the most delicate of all subjects taught in University College as regards its religious bearings,—and no adherent of the College was ever heard to object. The Rev. Professor Marks, the Chief Rabbi of the London Jews, is still Professor of Hebrew in the College. The Rev. Dr. Hoppa, a preacher of orthodox Presbyterianism, was the last occupant of the Chair which has just been so discreditably filled up. In .the School, under Professor Key, two Unitarian ministers have held posts as masters while in the exercise of their profession. We are justified, then, in saying that neither ministerial duties, nor religious eminence, nor religious leadership, nor any sort of conspicuousness in the religious world, was known as a valid objection to a professor in University College, until a distinguished Unitarian minister applied for a Chair. Then sud- denly, then for the first time, it was discovered by a large party in the Council, that the objection which was not valid against Canon Dale, or Dr. Vaughan, or Mr. Marks, or Dr. Hoppus, or any of the other clergymen and dissenting ministers appointed, was valid against Mr. Martineau. There was no question seriously raised as to his great superiority in all other qualifications to the rival candidates, except, we believe, by Mr. Grote, as to philoso- phical orthodoxy ; but that was not a motive which had any in- fluence with the majority of the Council. Either, then, an entirely new principle, or an entirely new policy,—we do not care which,— had been confessedly initiated in the Council. It was reason- able,—it was inevitable,—that the proprietors should feel a deep interest in the step thus rashly taken, and should wish to discuss the new principle or policy before it should be acted on. A powerfully signed requisition was presented to the Council last Saturday for a Special Court of Proprietors' meeting, "To consider a recent resolution of the Council declining to appoint the Rev. James Martineau to the Professorship of Philosophy of the Mind and Logic, after a report from the Senate that he was the best qualified candidate for that Chair." But the majority of the Council were angry at the universal condemnation passed upon their policy. They were chafing under the sense of a false intellectual position. They were probably half conscious that they had been lowering their own position as the Executive of a learned institution, and quite conscious that a proprietors' meeting, if summoned, would probably declare against them. Accordingly, they raised what we fear we must call a quibble on a legal question involved. Nobody doubts that the Council have full power to consult a Court of Proprietors on any question of principle. No one doubts that they are required to comply with a requisition for a meeting to discuss any question of principle. But the wording of the requisition suggested another possible interpretation of the purpose of the meeting, which at least might be unconstitutional. It might be intended not to discuss any principle or general policy, but to revise the discretion exercised by the Council on matters of practical judgment. Many members of the majority must have known that this was not the object. One at least knew that no vote of censure was intended by the requisitionists. In any case nothing was easier than to inform the requisitionists of the limits within which alone the " considera- tion " proposed could be legal. Nothing would have been easier than to say, 'Your requisition is in form possibly not legal, but as we conclude the object is to discuss a question of general policy or principle, we will give you the opportunity you want, by ourselves summoning a special meeting of proprietors to discuss the question of principle or general policy involved.' It was clearly a matter on which, if on any, the decision of the ultimate power in the College was wanted. It was confessedly a breach of all old precedents, a beginning of new things, to regard it as an objection, still more as a final objection, to any candidate otherwise the best qualified, that he was—in capacities external to the College—involved in a cloud of religious associations. But the Council did not wish for a fair discussion. They were as sore as men in the wrong usually are. They wished to steal a march on the proprietors, and they have done so. They referred the requisition to the Attorney and

Solicitor-General, to know whether it was such a one as, under the charter of the College, they were bound or able to comply with. And, in the meantime, they appointed the respectable and well informed youth who was next in rank,—next magno intervallo,—to Mr. Martineau, on th.eir list of candidates.

We say deliberately that this in an unworthy act, demanding a grave censure, which it will probably receive. It is possible that there may have been a legal informality in the form of the requisition,—though we do not think there is ;—but it is not possible that the true object of the meeting,—to discuss in some form or other the validity of the new objection taken as to reli- gious eminence or leadership, to the best qualified man in a list of candidates for a vacant chair, —was not well known to the Council. If the requisition were informal, it was in their power to take the initiative in sununoning a meeting for an object that would have covered all that the requisitionists desired. It was not only in their power, but an imperative duty to rectify any informality,—if there were any informality,--in the machinery intended to secure a full discussion. The Council, however, prefer to defy public opinion. They have chosen a candidate who, if the special objection alleged to Mr. Martiueau bad been declared utterly invalid, would have had no chance of the chair, and they have challenged, therefore, the censure of their con- _stituents, whose legitimate right of discussion they have treated with so much contempt.

We add with sincere regret,—with deep pain, —that the body of Professors,—the learned body of the College,—have, if an inspired but indiscreet contemporary, the Examiner, may be trusted, them- selves affirmed the principle that the relative qualifications of two teachers for their task is a consideration of less moment in appoint- ing a professor, than accidental and external incidents affecting his religious position in the world. That a body of teachers should not regard learning, and teaching power, as the paramount consideration is a blot on such a body. If the Examiner be right in the indiscreet disclosure which in pity for human weak- ness it should have left in darkness,—(we conclude it speaks, can only speak, on professorial authority),—fourteen professors voted for "sustaining the right of the Council to reject Mr. Martineau, on the ground that his position as an active theologian was of a kind likely to affect the uusectarian character of the College in its relations between teacher and student," and only two voted in the negative. In other words, fourteen men whose colleagues or ex- colleagues had been eminent Church divines, eminent Independent divines, Presbyterian and Jewish divines, and had never made any complaint, found an eminent Unitarian divine an undesirable colleague, and preferred entrusting their students to a youth scarcely escaped from College, to the inconvenience of this latter course. The Council may be, and probably will be, changed before long for the better,—but this vote of the Professors should have been concealed. How will Oxford and Cambridge, how will Gath and A.skalon regard the esteem in which the learned men of Univer- sity College hold the sacred duty of selecting teachers for the young?