THE BILL. TO EMANCIPATE COLLEGES.
lATELEN. Mr. Beresford Hope said on Wednesday that V V liberalism often means "a desire to get something which belongs to somebody else," it was an obvinus reply that Conservatism much oftener means a desire to keep.what ought to be shared. with somebody else. Tnapecl that is even too advantageous a contrast. Liberalism cannot ask, even with regard to what wrongfully belongs exclusiarely to others, for more than its fair share of the monopoly ; but Conservatism, which takes. so much credit for not invading other persons' rights,. but only holding hard. on to its own, does' usually mean a desire to keep all, and is therefore in essence more selfish, if less grasping, than Liberalism. Liberalism, having nothing, says, Share and share alike." Conservatism, having all, says, " We shall keep all." That is a very good description of the merits of the case discussed on Wednesday, as to the repeal of the statutory prohibition on giving College Fellowships at Oxford. or Cambridge, to Dissenters or Roman Catholics. At present the Colleges themselves are not free in the matter. However much Trinity College, Cambridge, for instance, which happens to impose no subscriptions. on its Fellows by its own statutes, might wish to give one of its fellowships to a. Roman Catholic' or Dissenting Senior Wrangler, the Act of Uni- formity; in a section which Mr. Bouverie proposes to repeal, forbids it- At present the law of Parliament refuses to the Col- leges permission even to think of selecting as one of theirFellows any man not willing to subscribe the Church of England test. Six cases have occurred in which Cambridge Colleges, if not overridden by this Act; would_ have selected a Dissenter for a fellowship.. Seventy-four eminent resident members of the University of Cambridge have petitioned against this restric- tion, and though on occasion of any discussion the Senate is usually swamped by- inamigra.nt clerical members of the Uni- versity; so, that the University nominally is still opposed to the change, it is certain. that many of the, Colleges wish for free- dom and the repeal of the statute. That is all which Mr. Bouverie proposed. He only asked leave to let the Colleges judge in this matter for themselves, to regulate their proceed- ings by their own. academical judgment, and that is what Mr. Beresford Hope calls " a desire to get something which belongs to somebody else." And in a House of 394 members Mr. Bouverie only gained a majority of 22,—a majority, we fear, not strong enough to carry the Bill through the Lords. No less than 186 members voted for not permitting the Col- leges any discretion in the matter as to selecting men from amongst the-Roman Catholics or Dissenters for their Fellows.
And the 186 were no doubt right in thinking that the only way of preventing the Colleges from using this discretion would be not to grant it at all. In the long run it is certain that Colleges will be influenced by considerations affecting their own acadendical effectiveness and success, more than even by long-standing prejudices. Doubtless, if the discretion were once removed; the power given would be very soon frequently used. Distinguished men, who had shown great capacity in classics, or mathematics, or any of the other branches of science, would soon be asked to stand for fellowships, even though they chanced to be Dissenters or Roman Catholics. Bat when Mr. Walpole, and Sir William Heathcote, and Mr. Beresford Hope, and the rest of the alarmists, say that this would soon bring on a breach between the Colleges and the National Church, what are they secretly assuming ?. Before the non-subscribing Fellows of any College could influence the religions teaching and worship of that College they must be in a majority, and if there is any danger of their soon being in a madority,—the vast number of Cam- bridge and Oxford students coming of course from the Esta- blished Quirch,-..,it must be because the non-subscribers are much more likely to distinguish themselves than ordinary Churchmen, which is of course absurd. If, on the other hand. Dissenters or Roman Catholics are ever likely to go in such great numbers to Cambridge and Oxford as together to equal in numbers the Churchmen, then it would be only fair that in some of the Colleges they should adapt the religious teach- ing and worship to their own views. But otherwise, the Church having already an immense start, and no natural inferiority in talent or capacity, it is scarcely credible that she should not keep that start, even after granting free permission to Dissenters to contest her honours and emoluments. It is desirable, no doubt, whatever may be said of religious teach- ing, which is at present so imperfect in Oxford and Cambridge as to be hardly worth mention, that religious worship should be combined with every system. of Collegiate residence. And so it will be under Mr. Bouverie's Bill. While the majority of Fellows who attain their position from in- tellectual successes remain Churchmen, as they surely will do,. the Church of England will be untouched in the Colleges., Whenever, or if. ever, the Church of England ceases to keep her hold over the majority of the men most eompetent to learn. and teach on all other subjects, then, and not till then, wemay presume that she will. lose ground. But is that a con- tingency which good, Churchmen like Mr. Walpole or Sir Heatheote can seriously contemplate V If they truly- believe that the Church is likely to lose her hold over the highest minds and teachers of the day, they do not believe in their Church. There can be no escape from this alternative. If the non-subscribing half of the nation. claim their rights ta learn at the National Universities,—then they ought to have the power, or to be able gradually to win it, to modify, the religious teaching and worship in a fair number of the Colleges. If not, and the Church retains her pre- sent practical monopoly of the candidates, she can only lose hold of the most brilliant and distinguished among them by her own fault, and in that case it would be well she had due warning of that fault. At all events, if the statutory prohibition should work effectively at all,. it can only work by artificially lowering the standard of teaching in other than religious subjects, in order to keep it, erect on religious subjects. But if this were its real effect, it would. be more than probable that the Church would then not deserve its artificial protection on religious subjects. A Church which should steadily lose ground with the best class of its pupils would in all probability be going wrong somehow or somewhere, and would have no reason to thank the legislation which kept it from receiving the rude but salutary lesson a humiliation proper to its condition.