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founders' will. Yet this does not hurt their consciences; though any farther trespass is deprecated as an iniquity. Those who talk so much of the sacredness of wills, are not found anxious to give back into the hands of Roman Catholics the rich foundations which are come down to us from Papal times: nor do scruples of conscience often stand in the way, when mere convenience dictates to dispense with statutes. Yet, while this has all the appearance of hypocrisy, we believe that in the majority it is rather ignorance and party spirit. Many are little aware what are their own statutes; much less aware how widely different is the position now held by the colleges, from that in which they stood originally.
The Dissenters of England have another ground of interest in the National Universities. They look upon them as an inheritance of which they are unjustly defrauded, not by the University itself, but by the English Parliament. A founder perhaps has left estates for the benefit of the county of Hampshire; but a Hampshire man is excluded from the benefit, unless he will subscribe the Act of Uniformity. This Act was passed at a time, when principles of persecution were held and acted on: but now that such principles are disavowed, it appears but congruous to repeal all acts of persecution; of which this is but a part. No Oxonian can pretend that this is to be consecrated in deference to the founders; or that Parliament has no right to repent of its own persecuting act. If our exhortations could be heard, we would say, Let them be more cautious. A church raised against Romanism by State Patronage can ill afford to assume haughty airs against the State, her master.
It is also requisite for mere admission to the University, to subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion. We should have believed this to be by Act of Parliament, but that of late, when it was proposed to rescind it, in conformity with the opinion of the Chancellor, it does not appear that the opponents objected that the University had no power to repeal it, as being an act of the national legislature. If then the enactment is, as we infer, a bye-law of the University, it is a formal annulling, on her part, of the regulations of founders. For, even if the Act of Uniformity were repealed, this subscription would act as a prohibition on the Fellows of a College to admit Dissenters, though their founder had left no such prohibition; nay, though they should be founders' kin.
But, as regards Dissenters and their claims, we are not sure whether in a religious point of view they would not be losers, if they were admitted into the Universities without great reformations having been effected. The moral scandals and dangers to young men, are too fearful to be passed over slightly, for the sake of literature or emoluments: and we think it highly desirable that
the public should gain a more detailed and accurate conception of the interior constitution of the Universities, and the working of their machinery: a matter on which the body of the nation, (even members of the Establishment,) are exceedingly in the dark. As we must presume that a large majority of our readers are Dissenters, we propose to devote this article to an analysis of the system of the University of Oxford; and think it expedient to do this with a minuteness which would be needless and tedious, except on the supposition that the reader has only vague acquaintance with the subject.
In the present article we must confine ourselves to the University and College Systems; intending, in a future number, to discuss other topics which are involved in the general subject.
I. The word University has been erroneously understood, to mean a place in which the universal' range of science is cultivated. Some attention was called to the topic, by the frivolous objection drawn from this source, against the London University; in which the science of Divinity is not studied. It was shown on the other hand, that celebrated Universities had existed, in which nothing was studied but Medicine, or nothing but Law; and that according to etymology, the word University is identical with Community; for, in Monkish Latin, vestra universitas, means 'your totality,' or 'all of you.' In fact, if the etymology so flippantly and pertinaciously urged against the London University, were allowed to decide the use of the term, Oxford must at once renounce the name.
It is generally difficult to make strangers understand the difference between the University and the Colleges; nor is it possible to explain it, without some reference to their history. The University is the chartered and privileged body, which originally was every thing; while the Colleges have been well compared to boarding-houses, instituted at first to afford lodging and food to needy students, either gratis, or at small expense. They rose one after another by the charity or ambition of rich individuals; a few by royal endowment; but in early times only a small number of University students were members of Colleges. It appears, however, that the institution is very ancient, by which the students were formed into bodies called Halls; over which some Master of Arts, said to have been chosen by the students themselves, presided: but as the number of such Halls could be multiplied indefinitely, or again extinguished, the system possessed a flexibility not found in it at present. For now, the Colleges take in two sorts of students; viz. not only those who receive pecuniary benefit from the founder, but others besides: and the number of the Halls is only five. Also, every student admitted in the University, is bound to enter himself simultaneously as a
member of some College or Hall. Thus at present, the Colleges and four Halls are the parts, the total of which make up the University. And each of the separate houses has its own laws on numerous points, while all are alike subject to the laws of the University. An American might compare the system to that of the United States; in which each state has its own constitution and legislative assembly, while in Congress all together legislate for all, without trenching on their separate liberties.
Convocation. The legislative power of the University resides in this body, which is composed of those who have attained the degree of Master of Arts-and the higher degrees. (It is not worth while to be here more explicit.) The Convocation has theoretically no limit to its power, so long as it keeps within the charter of the University, which of course it cannot violate.
The language talked in convocation is Latin. This was adopted naturally, at a time when all the learned men of Europe talked and wrote Latin; and it then greatly facilitated intercourse with foreign professors, who could teach at Oxford without any impediment from difference of language. But at present, when the speaking of Latin is not cultivated, the antiquated custom operates to prevent convocation from deliberating at all. They assemble, not to discuss, not to communicate opinions, but to give votes already decided. The result is what might be expected. No free intercourse of sentiment is obtained; the merits of measures cannot be generally understood, and undue weight is given to the party-feeling of particular Colleges. Perhaps what the Christ-Church men propose, causes jealousy at Oriel; or what the Oriel men would have, the Magdalen men are determined to reject. This is productive of no very manifest inconvenience in matters upon which there is no excitement felt; as the intercourse kept up in the common rooms and other opportunities, seems to supply the want of public deliberation. But doctrines repugnant to the general feeling cannot make their way, under a system which practically prohibits public discussion, and despoils truth and reason of their best arms.
We have known Oxonians zealously uphold the advantage of having the debates of convocation, (if such they can be called,) in Latin, by an argument which would seem insulting to the University, if it came from the mouth of an enemy. They say that it is undesirable to allow the Masters to speak in English, because so many foolish things would probably be said. We may well allow the probability of this; but if the evil were so desperate as to need such a remedy, it would imply that convocation consists of persons less orderly and less sensible than the commonest clubs.
It is well to remark, how uniformly the upholders of 'things
as they are,' fall into the mistake of admiring, as the emphasis of wisdom, what has been brought about by unforeseen circumWhen Latin was made the language of the University, it was a language habitually familiar to the learned for the purposes of philosophic disputation. A change of circumstances has made the result different at present. The existing state of things is wholly opposed to that which once was; yet this is upheld by the fancied authority of antiquity, as though it were a wise institution of our ancestors.
Another disadvantageous circumstance is, that non-resident Masters possess votes in convocation, which are never used except in times of excitement such as we have spoken of. Habit, or laziness, or ignorance, or undue influence of personal feeling, has most extensively produced the result, that absent members vote as their College votes. The meaning is, that if the Head and resident Fellows of a College take a strong view on one side of a question, they write to their non-resident Masters, entreating them to come up and vote that way. This of course cannot be a thing of every day; as the trouble is too great. The result, however is, that the College which can count most votes, (by the accidental circumstance of the capacity of its walls,) has an undue power in convocation: moreover, it must often be a matter of accident, how many of these non-residents are present, or come on being summoned, and the legislative body is of a very shifting kind.
Attendance to speak in Latin, and vote on ordinary business, has so few charms, that it cannot be expected that many should frequent the convocation at all. Nor is it perhaps to be much regretted, that the chief business is practically settled before another tribunal, of which we shall presently speak.
Chancellor. At present it is thought to conduce to the dignity of the Universities, to have some distinguished nobleman with this title; the practical meaning of which is little different from that of Patron. How little is his real influence, may be seen by the contempt which was thrown on the proposal advocated by the present Chancellor, (the Duke of Wellington,) to substitute in place of Subscription to the Articles, a declaration that the young student is a member of the Church of England. The Chancellor has with the University a sort of evía, or friendship of occasional hospitality; and little more. His real duty is entirely performed by his deputy, the Vice-Chancellor; and it would be felt as unseemly for him to wish it otherwise, as for the King of England to carry on public business without ministers.
Board of Heads of Houses. By an arrangement comparatively modern, an Upper House has been formed, of the Heads of Colleges and Halls; who prepare all the matters to be laid
before convocation. This might seem likely to conduce to the dispatch of business; and in ordinary cases it is no doubt found convenient. But as no measures and no votes can be passed in convocation, unless they are first approved by the Board of Heads, it is in fact an entire revolution; a virtual suppression of the liberties of convocation, and a violation of the University charter. We believe it was originally a usurpation; but we do not wish to concern ourselves with mere antiquarian researches. If it is good, let it be sanctioned; or if it be bad, let it be altered; whether it was carried legally or not. It is, however, obvious, that the Heads of Houses could not originally have had any such power; for the Colleges did not exist when the convocation received its rights from the crown. At present, if the whole body of convocation desire a particular measure, it cannot be proposed, until the majority of the Heads consent to it. Neither can convocation amend the bills laid before them: from which we have understood that much inconvenience occasionally results.
Vice-Chancellor and Proctors. These three University officers are practically the most prominent, it being the duty of undergraduates to salute them in the street by taking off the cap; on which account they always appear in full dress, the Vice-Chancellor being likewise attended by persons bearing silver or gold 'pokers,' as they are familiarly called. The Vice-Chancellor is one of the Heads of Houses, appointed for four years, who is not only (as deputy of the Chancellor) President of Convocation, but likewise President of the Board of Heads, and of most of the subordinate University boards, which may be compared to permanent Committees of Parliament. The Proctors are two Masters of Arts, annually chosen, to perform the office of High Constable or Sheriff to the University. The employment is sufficiently unpleasant, to parade the streets, especially towards night, and apprehend for punishment any disorderly gownsmen. But, beside this, the Proctors have a seat in the Board of Heads, and have the singular right to stop the proceedings of convocation by their veto. This was an invention of the crown to bridle
Public Professors. It is at first rather puzzling to a student, when he finds University Professors as well as College Tutors. He is perhaps disposed to think the Professors a sort of complement to the Tutors. They appear to take up those more miscellaneous and irregular topics, which modern science has superadded. Thus he hears much of the Professors of Chemistry, of Mineralogy and Geology, of Astronomy and Geometry, of Sanscrit, of Political Economy. Yet, when he reflects that there are two Professors of Divinity, one of Poetry, one of Hebrew, and one of Greek, it is presently manifest that his first impression