24 JULY 1869, Page 6


IN spiteof the compromise upon the Irish Church Bill, we believe it simply impossible for the nation to get along with the House of Lords as at present constituted. Whatever the ultimate change,—whether the House is swamped with Life Peers, or Privy Councillors are allowed to sit and vote, or the Peers are declared admissible to seats in the Commons, change, it is daily becoming clearer, there must be, if the machine is to go on at all. Look at this debate, or rather decision, for there was no debate, upon the University Tests' Bill. After years of discussion, and agitation, and progressive experiment, the country has decided that University Tests shall be finally and totally abolished. No man's creed shall be a barrier to his obtaining the pecuniary reward of his exertions as a student ; no man shall be prevented from teaching because of his religious opinions. Career in the Universities, as in the world, is to be opened to the competent, and the obligation of hypocrisy now enforced on the ambitious is to be finally re- moved. A Bill embodying these principles is introduced into the Commons for two successive years, is supported, as the "Seven Fellows" tell us, by half the Professoriate and half the working bodies of the two Universities, is debated with great earnestness and acrimony, and though declared to be, as regards party politics, an open question, is passed through all stages by majorities which, when the principle was attacked, rose even, we think, to 120. Then it goes up to the Peers, who almost without discussion, certainly without debate, declare that the nation shall not have its way ; that religious opinion shall continue to be a disqualification for the office of teacher in a national University. As if to mark, beyond all possibility of doubt, the depth of the chasm between the two Houses, the Peer who advises and leads the rejection is one who represents not its lowest, but its highest enlightenment. One of the chiefs of the middle party, and perhaps the clearest thinker within it,—for if Lord Salisbury has more driving force, he has much less width,—a scholar and a statesman, Lord Carnarvon has repeatedly given proofs of that " detachment " of mind, as theologians call it, which is of all qualities the one most essential to the judicial temper. Though a Conservative, he quitted his party for the sake of a principle ; though passion- ately attached to his Church, he told the Irish Bishops to their faces that their branch of it had failed ; though aris- tocrat, alike by temper and conviction, he has fought strongly for the infusion not only of "new blood," but of a new kind of blood, into the House of Lords. In discussing this very measure, he was willing to make what he doubtless con- sidered large concessions on the pecuniary side, giving up half the fellowships now held by the Colleges to the Universities, to , be thrown open to competitors, without as well as within the religious pale. Yet this Peer, who is to the rank and file of Tories what Dr. Thirlwall is to the rack of the Episcopal Bench, cannot endure to give, and effectively refuses that which the nation desires, the principle and pith of the Bill, liberty of teaching to all com- petent to teach, independent of what their theology may chance to be. He does not care, as so many of those who support him do care, that the Church shall have a monopoly of University cash ; but he cares intensely to preserve to it a monopoly of the governing power, that is, of the ultimate right of teaching, the very monopoly a nation devoid of unity of religious belief desires to overthrow. It is on the test-point not on details, on the vital principle not the arrangements of the Bill, on that which touches men's in- stincts, their ultimate drift and object in education, that Lord Carnarvon differs from the nation. Indeed, he does not affect to conceal the ground of his opposition. The argu- ment which extorted a cheer from Lord Derby, that the "question of tests, as regards the colleges, comes before us for the first time," was, we imagine, a mere " House ". argument, a technicality not meant to be seriously pressed. The Lords may not have discussed that particular point before,. though we believe they have done so incidentally when dis- cuseing University tests ; but they have discussed changes invorving this. rine a huadrezifieli ovtr, and their minds are just as well informed on the miter as they ever will be. Nor- do we suppose the speaker was particularly bigoted in favour of the plan he shadowed out, 'a plan clearly not developed even in his own mind, and apparently suggested mainly to show *hat nobody doubted, tha3 he was fighting for the- spiritual claims of his Church, and not for the odd pennies in her purse. The argument which, really weighed with the speallr and those who followed him was not that, but another, namely, that students mutt be sheltered against the- danger of free discussion, that they must not be exposed to the arguments of the Romanist on the one Elide and the Rationalist on the other, but "surrounded by religious influences" during the "impressionable period." The Church, in fact, is to have all the advantage it can get from obscurantism enforced by the State and by society. We do not want to-day to point out again what we have so often pointed out before, that supposing a "religious atmosphere " to be a good thing—which, provided it is a breezy and not a stagnant atmosphere, we entirely believe—the existing system dispels instead of creating it, that it compels the- "impressionable " lads to discuss Rationalism and Romanistu with each other only, because they know that their natard teachers are compelled by law to give conventional replies, not, as the questioners fancy, revealing all the arguments, but concealing half ; nor do we wish to dwell on the well-known fact that Tests always let through all but those whose intel- lectual uprightness is perfect ; nor will we repeat, what all the world knows, that important conversions both to Rome and to infidelity are occurring in the Universities every day despite all the legal tests. Our point to-day is the utter divergence obviously existing between Lord Carnarvon and the country at large, as shown by its representatives' vote,. and to ask if this chasm between him and them is so visible, what must be the depth of that chasm which divides the- nation from the rank and file of the Lords, who have not either his faculty of detachment, or his desire to be rigidly im- partial,—who, for example, would never think of asking the- Nonconformists to consider whether an argument is not, after- s% an accurate expression of their own fears, but would rather say, if they spoke the truth, that if Dissenters agreed with them, they must be in the wrong? We believe that chasm has, since the Reform Bill, become bottomless, that it cannot be filled up or bridged over, that, in fact, the Peers- and the nation are in hopeless and permanent, because conscien- tious, antagonism to each other.

Lord Carnarvon would, doubtless, reply to all this, suppos- ing it to have been urged from the Ministerial Bench,—where, by the way, the Bill seems to have been regarded as a sort of illegitimate child, not to be disavowed, for truth's sake, but still not to be defended,—that the Peers could not help a divergence which was no fault of theirs ; that their duty was- to act on their consciences ; and that he, for one, intended to perform it. He is quite right, and they too ; and it is because- they are right, because the Lords, if they act on their con- sciences, must oppose themselves to the national will, that we believe the Constitution as it stands to have become un- workable. If the Peers efface themselves, they are powerless ;- if they act, and act on their consciences, their action cannot, and ought not, to be endured. It cannot, because- in a country like this, with so many abuses still unremedied, and so much misery still unrelieved, legislation cannot be- allowed to come to a dead-lock. It ought not, because what- ever the capacity, or the wealth, or the popularity of the Peers, they are still but individuals, and to permit three or four- hundred individuals to arrest legislation forcibly is to abolish representative government. Granting even that theyindirectly- represent in some sense a great minority, which, upon certain, questions is true, still the minority can only claim its full rights, and those full rights do not include a clear veto upon the resolve- of the majority. This Bill may wait very well for a year,— though it should not be forgotten that every year 300,000' young men pass the age of twenty-one ; but it is not this Bill, but the whole course of English legislation which is in question. The nation wishes it to go one way, the Peers wish it to go another, and if both are sincere, then, as both have by law equal powers, there must be a permanent dead-look.