Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches— Volume 4

Author: Thomas Babington Macaulay

Theological Tests in the Scotch Universities (July 9, 1845)


On the first of May, 1845, Mr Rutherford, Member for Leith, obtained leave to bring in a bill to regulate admission to the Secular Chairs in the Universities of Scotland. On the morning of the sixth of May the bill was read a first time, and remained two months on the table of the House. At length the second reading was fixed for the ninth of July. Mr Rutherfurd was unable to attend on that day: and it was necessary that one of his friends should supply his place. Accordingly, as soon as the Order of the Day had been read, the following Speech was made.

On a division the bill was rejected by 116 votes to 108. But, in the state in which parties then were, this defeat was generally considered as a victory.

Mr Speaker,—I have been requested by my honourable and learned friend, the Member for Leith, to act as his substitute on this occasion. I am truly sorry that any substitute should be necessary. I am truly sorry that he is not among us to take charge of the bill which he not long ago introduced with one of the most forcible and luminous speeches that I ever had the pleasure of hearing. His audience was small; but the few who formed that audience cannot have forgotten the effect which his arguments and his eloquence produced. The Ministers had come down to resist his motion: but their courage failed them: they hesitated: they conferred together: at last they consented that he should have leave to bring in his bill. Such, indeed, was the language which they held on that and on a subsequent occasion, that both my honourable and learned friend and myself gave them more credit than they deserved. We really believed that they had resolved to offer no opposition to a law which it was quite evident that they perceived to be just and beneficial. But we have been disappointed. It has been notified to us that the whole influence of the Government is to be exerted against our bill. In such discouraging circumstances it is that I rise to move the second reading.

Yet, Sir, I do not altogether despair of success. When I consider what strong, what irresistible reasons we have to urge, I can hardly think it possible that the mandate of the most powerful administration can prevail against them. Nay, I should consider victory, not merely as probable, but as certain, if I did not know how imperfect is the information which English gentlemen generally possess concerning Scotch questions. It is because I know this that I think it my duty to depart from the ordinary practice, and, instead of simply moving the second reading, to explain at some length the principles on which this bill has been framed. I earnestly entreat those English Members who were not so fortunate as to hear the speech of my honourable and learned friend, the Member for Leith to favour me with their attention. They will, I think, admit, that I have a right to be heard with indulgence. I have been sent to this house by a great city which was once a capital, the abode of a Sovereign, the place where the Estates of a realm held their sittings. For the general good of the empire, Edinburgh descended from that high eminence. But, ceasing to be a political metropolis, she became an intellectual metropolis. For the loss of a Court, of a Privy Council, of a Parliament, she found compensation in the prosperity and splendour of an University renowned to the farthest ends of the earth as a school of physical and moral science. This noble and beneficent institution is now threatened with ruin by the folly of the Government, and by the violence of an ecclesiastical faction which is bent on persecution without having the miserable excuse of fanaticism. Nor is it only the University of Edinburgh that is in danger. In pleading for that University, I plead for all the great academical institutions of Scotland. The fate of all depends on the event of this debate; and, in the name of all, I demand the attention of every man who loves either learning or religious liberty.

The first question which we have to consider is, whether the principles of the bill be sound. I believe that they are sound; and I am quite confident that nobody who sits on the Treasury Bench will venture to pronounce them unsound. It does not lie in the mouths of the Ministers to say that literary instruction and scientific instruction are inseparably connected with religious instruction. It is not for them to rail against Godless Colleges. It is not for them to talk with horror of the danger of suffering young men to listen to the lectures of an Arian professor of Botany or of a Popish professor of Chemistry. They are themselves at this moment setting up in Ireland a system exactly resembling the system which we wish to set up in Scotland. Only a few hours have elapsed since they were themselves labouring to prove that, in a country in which a large proportion of those who require a liberal education are dissenters from the Established Church, it is desirable that there should be schools without theological tests. The right honourable Baronet at the head of the Government proposes that in the new colleges which he is establishing at Belfast, Cork, Limerick, and Galway, the professorships shall be open to men of every creed: and he has strenuously defended that part of his plan against attacks from opposite quarters, against the attacks of zealous members of the Church of England, and of zealous members of the Church of Rome. Only the day before yesterday the honourable Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Thomas Acland.) ventured to suggest a test as unobjectionable as a test could well be. He would merely have required the professors to declare their general belief in the divine authority of the Old and New Testaments. But even this amendment the First Lord of the Treasury resisted, and I think quite rightly. He told us that it was quite unnecessary to institute an inquisition into the religious opinions of people whose business was merely to teach secular knowledge, and that it was absurd to imagine that any man of learning would disgrace and ruin himself by preaching infidelity from the Greek chair or the Mathematical chair.

Some members of this House certainly held very different language: but their arguments made as little impression on Her Majesty’s Ministers as on me. We were told with the utmost earnestness that secular knowledge, unaccompanied by a sound religious faith, and unsanctified by religious feeling, was not only useless, but positively noxious, a curse to the possessor, a curse to society. I feel the greatest personal kindness and respect for some gentlemen who hold this language. But they must pardon me if I say that the proposition which they have so confidently laid down, however well it may sound in pious ears while it is expressed in general terms, to be too monstrous, too ludicrous, for grave refutation. Is it seriously meant that, if the Captain of an Indiaman is a Socinian, it would be better for himself, his crew, and his passengers, that he should not know how to use his quadrant and his chronometers? Is it seriously meant that, if a druggist is a Swedenborgian, it would be better for himself and his customers that he should not know the difference between Epsom salts and oxalic acid? A hundred millions of the Queen’s Asiatic subjects are Mahometans and Pagans. Is it seriously meant that it is desirable that they should be as ignorant as the aboriginal inhabitants of New South Wales, that they should have no alphabet, that they should have no arithmetic, that they should not know how to build a bridge, how to sink a well, how to irrigate a field? If it be true that secular knowledge, unsanctified by true religion, is a positive evil, all these consequences follow. Yet surely they are consequences from which every sane mind must recoil. It is a great evil, no doubt, that a man should be a heretic or an atheist. But I am quite at a loss to understand how this evil is mitigated by his not knowing that the earth moves round the sun, that by the help of a lever, a small power will lift a great weight, that Virginia is a republic, or that Paris is the capital of France.

On these grounds, Sir, I have cordially supported the Irish Colleges Bill. But the principle of the Irish Colleges and the principle of the bill which I hold in my hand are exactly the same: and the House and the country have a right to know why the authors of the former bill are the opponents of the latter bill. One distinction there is, I admit, between Ireland and Scotland. It is true that in Scotland there is no clamour against the Union with England. It is true that in Scotland no demagogue can obtain applause and riches by slandering and reviling the English people. It is true that in Scotland there is no traitor who would dare to say that he regards the enemies of the state as his allies. In every extremity the Scottish nation will be found faithful to the common cause of the empire. But Her Majesty’s Ministers will hardly I think, venture to say that this is their reason for refusing to Scotland the boon which they propose to confer on Ireland. And yet, if this be not their reason, what reason can we find? Observe how strictly analogous the cases are. You give it as a reason for establishing in Ireland colleges without tests that the Established Church of Ireland is the Church of the minority. Unhappily it may well be doubted whether the Established Church of Scotland, too, be not now, thanks to your policy, the Church of the minority. It is true that the members of the Established Church of Scotland are about a half of the whole population of Scotland; and that the members of the Established Church of Ireland are not much more than a tenth of the whole population of Ireland. But the question now before us does not concern the whole population. It concerns only the class which requires academical education: and I do not hesitate to say that, in the class which requires academical education, in the class for the sake of which universities exist, the proportion of persons who do not belong to the Established Church is as great in Scotland as in Ireland. You tell us that sectarian education in Ireland is an evil. Is it less an evil in Scotland? You tell us that it is desirable that the Protestant and the Roman Catholic should study together at Cork. Is it less desirable that the son of an elder of the Established Church and the son of an elder of the Free Church should study together at Edinburgh? You tell us that it is not reasonable to require from a Professor of Astronomy or Surgery in Connaught a declaration that he believes in the Gospels. On what ground, then, can you think it reasonable to require from every Professor in Scotland a declaration that he approves of the Presbyterian form of church government? I defy you, with all your ingenuity, to find one argument, one rhetorical topic, against our bill which may not be used with equal effect against your own Irish Colleges Bill.

Is there any peculiarity in the academical system of Scotland which makes these tests necessary? Certainly not. The academical system of Scotland has its peculiarities; but they are peculiarities which are not in harmony with these tests, peculiarities which jar with these tests. It is an error to imagine that, by passing this bill, we shall establish a precedent which will lead to a change in the constitution of the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. Whether such a change be or be not desirable is a question which must be decided on grounds quite distinct from those on which we rest our case. I entreat English gentlemen not to be misled by the word University. That word means two different things on the two different sides of the Tweed. The academical authorities at Cambridge and Oxford stand in a parental relation to the student. They undertake, not merely to instruct him in philology, geometry, natural philosophy, but to form his religious opinions, and to watch over his morals. He is to be bred a Churchman. At Cambridge, he cannot graduate, at Oxford, I believe, he cannot matriculate, without declaring himself a Churchman. The College is a large family. An undergraduate is lodged either within the gates, or in some private house licensed and regulated by the academical authorities. He is required to attend public worship according to the forms of the Church of England several times every week. It is the duty of one officer to note the absence of young men from divine service, of another to note their absence from the public table, of another to report those who return home at unseasonably late hours. An academical police parade the streets at night to seize upon any unlucky reveller who may be found drunk or in bad company. There are punishments of various degrees for irregularities of conduct. Sometimes the offender has to learn a chapter of the Greek Testament; sometimes he is confined to his college; sometimes he is publicly reprimanded: for grave offences he is rusticated or expelled. Now, Sir, whether this system be good or bad, efficient or inefficient, I will not now inquire. This is evident; that religious tests are perfectly in harmony with such a system. Christ Church and King’s College undertake to instruct every young man who goes to them in the doctrines of the Church of England, and to see that he regularly attends the worship of the Church of England. Whether this ought to be so, I repeat, I will not now inquire: but, while it is so, nothing can be more reasonable than to require from the rulers of Christ Church and King’s College some declaration that they are themselves members of the Church of England.

The character of the Scotch universities is altogether different. There you have no functionaries resembling the Vice-Chancellors and Proctors, the Heads of Houses, Tutors and Deans, whom I used to cap at Cambridge. There is no chapel; there is no academical authority entitled to ask a young man whether he goes to the parish church or the Quaker meeting, to synagogue or to mass. With his moral conduct the university has nothing to do. The Principal and the whole Academical Senate cannot put any restraint, or inflict any punishment, on a lad whom they may see lying dead drunk in the High Street of Edinburgh. In truth, a student at a Scotch university is in a situation closely resembling that of a medical student in London. There are great numbers of youths in London who attend St George’s Hospital, or St Bartholomew’s Hospital. One of these youths may also go to Albermarle Street to hear Mr Faraday lecture on chemistry, or to Willis’s rooms to hear Mr Carlyle lecture on German literature. On the Sunday he goes perhaps to church, perhaps to the Roman Catholic chapel, perhaps to the Tabernacle, perhaps nowhere. None of the gentlemen whose lectures he has attended during the week has the smallest right to tell him where he shall worship, or to punish him for gambling in hells, or tippling in cider cellars. Surely we must all feel that it would be the height of absurdity to require Mr Faraday and Mr Carlyle to subscribe a confession of faith before they lecture; and in what does their situation differ from the situation of the Scotch professor.

In the peculiar character of the Scotch universities, therefore, I find a strong reason for the passing of this bill. I find a reason stronger still when I look at the terms of the engagements which exist between the English and Scotch nations.

Some gentlemen, I see, think that I am venturing on dangerous ground. We have been told, in confident tones, that, if we pass this bill, we shall commit a gross breach of public faith, we shall violate the Treaty of Union, and the Act of Security. With equal confidence, and with confidence much better grounded, I affirm that the Treaty of Union and the Act of Security not only do not oblige us to reject this bill, but do oblige us to pass this bill, or some bill nearly resembling this.

This proposition seems to be regarded by the Ministers as paradoxical: but I undertake to prove it by the plainest and fairest argument. I shall resort to no chicanery. If I did think that the safety of the commonwealth required that we should violate the Treaty of Union, I would violate it openly, and defend my conduct on the ground of necessity. It may, in an extreme case, be our duty to break our compacts. It never can be our duty to quibble them away. What I say is that the Treaty of Union, construed, not with the subtlety of a pettifogger, but according to the spirit, binds us to pass this bill or some similar bill.

By the Treaty of Union it was covenanted that no person should be a teacher or office-bearer in the Scotch Universities who should not declare that he conformed to the worship and polity of the Established Church of Scotland. What Church was meant by the two contracting parties? What Church was meant, more especially, by the party to the side of which we ought always to lean, I mean the weaker party? Surely the Church established in 1707, when the Union took place. Is then, the Church of Scotland at the present moment constituted, on all points which the members of that Church think essential, exactly as it was constituted in 1707? Most assuredly not.

Every person who knows anything of the ecclesiastical history of Scotland knows that, ever since the Reformation, the great body of the Presbyterians of that country have held that congregations ought to have a share in the appointment of their ministers. This principle is laid down most distinctly in the First Book of Discipline, drawn up by John Knox. It is laid down, though not quite so strongly, in the Second Book of Discipline, drawn up by Andrew Melville. And I beg gentlemen, English gentlemen, to observe that in Scotland this is not regarded as a matter of mere expediency. All staunch Presbyterians think that the flock is entitled, jure divino, to a voice in the appointment of the pastor, and that to force a pastor on a parish to which he is unacceptable is a sin as much forbidden by the Word of God as idolatry or perjury. I am quite sure that I do not exaggerate when I say that the highest of our high churchmen at Oxford cannot attach more importance to episcopal government and episcopal ordination than many thousands of Scotchmen, shrewd men, respectable men, men who fear God and honour the Queen, attach to this right of the people.

When, at the time of the Revolution, the Presbyterian worship and discipline were established in Scotland, the question of patronage was settled by a compromise, which was far indeed from satisfying men of extreme opinions, but which was generally accepted. An Act, passed at Edinburgh, in 1690, transferred what we should call in England the advowsons from the old patrons to parochial councils, composed of the elders and the Protestant landowners. This system, however imperfect it might appear to such rigid Covenanters as Davie Deans and Gifted Gilfillan, worked satisfactorily; and the Scotch nation seems to have been contented with its ecclesiastical polity when the Treaty of Union was concluded. By that treaty the ecclesiastical polity of Scotland was declared to be unalterable. Nothing, therefore, can be more clear than that the Parliament of Great Britain was bound by the most sacred obligations not to revive those rights of patronage which the Parliament of Scotland had abolished.

But, Sir, the Union had not lasted five years when our ancestors were guilty of a great violation of public faith. The history of that great fault and of its consequences is full of interest and instruction. The wrong was committed hastily, and with contumelious levity. The offenders were doubtless far from foreseeing that their offence would be visited on the third and fourth generation; that we should be paying in 1845 the penalty of what they did in 1712.

In 1712, Sir, the Whigs, who were the chief authors of the Union, had been driven from power. The prosecution of Sacheverell had made them odious to the nation. The general election of 1710 had gone against them. Tory statesmen were in office. Tory squires formed more than five-sixths of this House. The party which was uppermost thought that England had, in 1707, made a bad bargain, a bargain so bad that it could hardly be considered as binding. The guarantee so solemnly given to the Church of Scotland was a subject of loud and bitter complaint. The Ministers hated that Church much; and their chief supporters, the country gentlemen and country clergymen of England, hated it still more. Numerous petty insults were offered to the opinions, or, if you please, the prejudices of the Presbyterians. At length it was determined to go further, and to restore to the old patrons those rights which had been taken away in 1690. A bill was brought into this House, the history of which you may trace in our Journals. Some of the entries are very significant. In spite of all remonstrances the Tory majority would not hear of delay. The Whig minority struggled hard, appealed to the act of Union and the Act of Security, and insisted on having both those Acts read at the table. The bill passed this House, however, before the people of Scotland knew that it had been brought in. For there were then neither reporters nor railroads; and intelligence from Westminster was longer in travelling to Cambridge than it now is in travelling to Aberdeen. The bill was in the House of Lords before the Church of Scotland could make her voice heard. Then came a petition from a committee appointed by the General Assembly to watch over the interests of religion while the General Assembly itself was not sitting. The first name attached to that petition is the name of Principal Carstairs, a man who had stood high in the esteem and favour of William the Third, and who had borne a chief part in establishing the Presbyterian Church in Scotland. Carstairs and his colleagues appealed to the Act of Union, and implored the peers not to violate that Act. But party spirit ran high; public faith was disregarded: patronage was restored. To that breach of the Treaty of Union are to be directly ascribed all the schisms that have since rent the Church of Scotland.

I will not detain the House by giving a minute account of those schisms. It is enough to say that the law of patronage produced, first the secession of 1733 and the establishment of the Associate Synod, then the secession of 1752 and the establishment of the Relief Synod, and finally the great secession of 1843 and the establishment of the Free Church. Only two years have elapsed since we saw, with mingled admiration and pity, a spectacle worthy of the best ages of the Church. Four hundred and seventy ministers resigned their stipends, quitted their manses, and went forth committing themselves, their wives, their children, to the care of Providence. Their congregations followed them by thousands, and listened eagerly to the Word of Life in tents, in barns, or on those hills and moors where the stubborn Presbyterians of a former generation had prayed and sung their psalms in defiance of the boot of Lauderdale and of the sword of Dundee. The rich gave largely of their riches. The poor contributed with the spirit of her who put her two mites into the treasury of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, in all the churches of large towns, of whole counties, the established clergy were preaching to empty benches. And of these secessions every one may be distinctly traced to that violation of the Treaty of Union which was committed in 1712.

This, Sir, is the true history of dissent in Scotland: and, this being so, how can any man have the front to invoke the Treaty of Union and the Act of Security against those who are devotedly attached to that system which the Treaty of Union and the Act of Security were designed to protect, and who are seceders only because the Treaty of Union and the Act of Security have been infringed? I implore gentlemen to reflect on the manner in which they and their fathers have acted towards the Scotch Presbyterians. First you bind yourselves by the most solemn obligations to maintain unaltered their Church as it was constituted in 1707. Five years later you alter the constitution of their Church in a point regarded by them as essential. In consequence of your breach of faith secession after secession takes place, till at length the Church of the State ceases to be the Church of the People. Then you begin to be squeamish. Then those articles of the Treaty of Union which, when they really were obligatory, you outrageously violated, now when they are no longer obligatory, now when it is no longer in your power to observe them according to the spirit, are represented as inviolable. You first, by breaking your word, turn hundreds of thousands of Churchmen into Dissenters; and then you punish them for being Dissenters, because, forsooth, you never break your word. If your consciences really are so tender, why do you not repeal the Act of 1712? Why do you not put the Church of Scotland back into the same situation in which she was in 1707. We have had occasion more than once in the course of this session to admire the casuistical skill of Her Majesty’s Ministers. But I must say that even their scruple about slave-grown sugar, though that scruple is the laughing-stock of all Europe and all America, is respectable when compared with their scruple about the Treaty of Union. Is there the slightest doubt that every compact ought to be construed according to the sense in which it was understood by those who made it? And is there the slightest doubt as to the sense in which the compact between England and Scotland was understood by those who made it? Suppose that we could call up from their graves the Presbyterian divines who then sate in the General Assembly. Suppose that we could call up Carstairs; that we could call up Boston, the author of the Fourfold State; that we could relate to them the history of the ecclesiastical revolutions which have, since their time, taken place in Scotland; and that we could then ask them, "Is the Established Church, or is the Free Church, identical with the Church which existed at the time of the Union?" Is it not quite certain what their answer would be? They would say, "Our Church, the Church which you promised to maintain unalterable, was not the Church which you protect, but the Church which you oppress. Our Church was the Church of Chalmers and Brewster, not the Church of Bryce and Muir."

It is true, Sir, that the Presbyterian dissenters are not the only dissenters whom this bill will relieve. By the law, as it now stands, all persons who refuse to declare their approbation of the synodical polity, that is to say, all persons who refuse to declare that they consider episcopal government and episcopal ordination as, at least, matters altogether indifferent, are incapable of holding academical office in Scotland. Now, Sir, will any gentleman who loves the Church of England vote for maintaining this law? If, indeed, he were bound by public faith to maintain this law, I admit that he would have no choice. But I have proved, unless I greatly deceive myself, that he is not bound by public faith to maintain this law? Can he then conscientiously support the Ministers to-night? If he votes with them, he votes for persecuting what he himself believes to be the truth. He holds out to the members of his own Church lures to tempt them to renounce that Church, and to join themselves to a Church which he considers as less pure. We may differ as to the propriety of imposing penalties and disabilities on heretics. But surely we shall agree in thinking that we ought not to punish men for orthodoxy.

I know, Sir, that there are many gentlemen who dislike innovation merely as innovation, and would be glad always to keep things as they are now. Even to this class of persons I will venture to appeal. I assure them that we are not the innovators. I assure them that our object is to keep things as they are and as they have long been. In form, I own, we are proposing a change; but in truth we are resisting a change. The question really is, not whether we shall remove old tests, but whether we shall impose new ones. The law which we seek to repeal has long been obsolete. So completely have the tests been disused that, only the other day, the right honourable Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department, when speaking in favour of the Irish Colleges Bill, told us that the Government was not making a rash experiment. "Our plan," he said, "has already been tried at Edinburgh and has succeeded. At Edinburgh the tests have been disused near a hundred years." As to Glasgow the gentlemen opposite can give us full information from their own experience. For there are at least three members of the Cabinet who have been Lords Rectors; the First Lord of the Treasury, and the Secretaries for the Home Department and the Colonial Department. They never took the test. They probably would not have taken it; for they are all Episcopalians. In fact, they belong to the very class which the test was especially meant to exclude. The test was not meant to exclude Presbyterian dissenters; for the Presbyterian Church was not yet rent by any serious schism. Nor was the test meant to exclude the Roman Catholics; for against the Roman Catholics there was already abundant security. The Protestant Episcopalian was the enemy against whom it was, in 1707, thought peculiarly necessary to take precautions. That those precautions have long been disused the three members of the Cabinet whom I mentioned can certify.

On a sudden the law, which had long slept a deep sleep, has been awakened, stirred up, and put into vigorous action. These obsolete tests are now, it seems, to be exacted with severity. And why? Simply because an event has taken place which makes them ten times as unjust and oppressive as they would have been formerly. They were not required while the Established Church was the Church of the majority. They are to be required solely because a secession has taken place which has made the Established Church the Church of the minority. While they could have done little mischief they were suffered to lie neglected. They are now to be used, because a time has come at which they cannot be used without fatal consequences.

It is impossible for me to speak without indignation of those who have taken the lead in the work of persecution. Yet I must give them credit for courage. They have selected as their object of attack no less a man than Sir David Brewster, Principal of the University of Saint Andrews. I hold in my hand the libel, as it is technically called, in which a Presbytery of the Established Church demands that Sir David, for the crime of adhering to that ecclesiastical polity which was guaranteed to his country by the Act of Union, shall be "removed from his office, and visited with such other censure or punishment as the laws of the Church enjoin, for the glory of God, the safety of the Church, and the prosperity of the University, and to deter others holding the same important office from committing the like offence in all time coming, but that others may hear and fear the danger and detriment of following divisive courses." Yes; for the glory of God, the safety of the Church, and the prosperity of the University. What right, Sir, have the authors of such an instrument as this to raise their voices against the insolence and intolerance of the Vatican? The glory of God! As to that, I will only say that this is not the first occasion on which the glory of God has been made a pretext for the injustice of man. The safety of the Church! Sir, if, which God forbid, that Church is really possessed by the evil spirit which actuates this Presbytery; if that Church, having recently lost hundreds of able ministers and hundreds of thousands of devout hearers, shall, instead of endeavouring, by meekness, and by redoubled diligence, to regain those whom she has estranged, give them new provocation; if she shall sharpen against them an old law the edge of which has long rusted off, and which, when it was first made, was made not for her defence, but for theirs; then I pronounce the days of that Church numbered. As to the prosperity of the University, is there a corner of Europe where men of science will not laugh when they hear that the prosperity of the University of Saint Andrews is to be promoted by expelling Sir David Brewster on account of a theological squabble? The professors of Edinburgh know better than this Presbytery how the prosperity of a seat of learning is to be promoted. There the Academic Senate is almost unanimous in favour of the bill. And indeed it is quite certain that, unless this bill, or some similar bill, be passed, a new college will soon be founded and endowed with that munificence of which the history of the Free Church furnishes so many examples. From the day on which such an university arises, the old universities must decline. Now, they are practically national, and not sectarian, institutions. And yet, even now, the emoluments of a professorship are so much smaller than those which ability and industry can obtain in other ways, that it is difficult to find eminent men to fill the chairs. And if there be this difficulty now, when students of all religious persuasions attend the lectures, what is likely to happen when all the members of the Free Church go elsewhere for instruction? If there be this difficulty when you have all the world to choose professors from, what is likely to happen when your choice is narrowed to less than one-half of Scotland? As the professorships become poorer, the professors will become less competent. As the professors become less competent, the classes will become thinner. As the classes become thinner, the professorships will again become poorer. The decline will become rapid and headlong. In a short time, the lectures will be delivered to empty rooms: the grass will grow in the courts: and men not fit to be village dominies will occupy the chairs of Adam Smith and Dugald Stewart, of Reid and Black, of Playfair and Jamieson.

How do Her Majesty’s Ministers like such a prospect as this! Already they have, whether by their fault or their misfortune I will not now inquire, secured for themselves an unenviable place in the history of Scotland. Their names are already inseparably associated with the disruption of her Church. Are those names to be as inseparably associated with the ruin of her Universities?

If the Government were consistent in error, some respect might be mingled with our disapprobation. But a Government which is guided by no principle; a Government which, on the gravest questions, does not know its own mind twenty-four hours together; a Government which is against tests at Cork, and for tests at Glasgow, against tests at Belfast, and for tests at Edinburgh, against tests on the Monday, for them on the Wednesday, against them again on the Thursday—how can such a Government command esteem or confidence? How can the Ministers wonder that their uncertain and capricious liberality fails to obtain the applause of the liberal party? What right have they to complain if they lose the confidence of half the nation without gaining the confidence of the other half?

But I do not speak to the Government. I speak to the House. I appeal to those who, on Monday last, voted with the Ministers against the test proposed by the honourable Baronet the Member for North Devon. I know what is due to party ties. But there is a mire so black and so deep that no leader has a right to drag his followers through it. It is only forty-eight hours since honourable gentlemen were brought down to the House to vote against requiring the professors in the Irish Colleges to make a declaration of belief in the Gospel: and now the same gentlemen are expected to come down and to vote that no man shall be a professor in a Scottish college who does not declare himself a Calvinist and a Presbyterian. Flagrant as is the injustice with which the ministers have on this occasion treated Scotland, the injustice with which they have treated their own supporters is more flagrant still. I call on all who voted with the Government on Monday to consider whether they can consistently and honourably vote with the Government to-night: I call on all members of the Church of England to ponder well before they make it penal to be a member of the Church of England; and, lastly, I call on every man of every sect and party who loves science and letters, who is solicitous for the public tranquillity, who respects the public faith, to stand by us in this our hard struggle to avert the ruin which threatens the Universities of Scotland. I move that this bill be now read a second time.



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Chicago: Thomas Babington Macaulay, "Theological Tests in the Scotch Universities (July 9, 1845)," Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches— Volume 4, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Evans, Sebastian in Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches—Volume 4 Original Sources, accessed September 25, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L884FJUUQQJCM14.

MLA: Macaulay, Thomas Babington. "Theological Tests in the Scotch Universities (July 9, 1845)." Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches— Volume 4, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Evans, Sebastian, in Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches—Volume 4, Original Sources. 25 Sep. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L884FJUUQQJCM14.

Harvard: Macaulay, TB, 'Theological Tests in the Scotch Universities (July 9, 1845)' in Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches— Volume 4, ed. and trans. . cited in , Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches—Volume 4. Original Sources, retrieved 25 September 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L884FJUUQQJCM14.