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Having dismissed the subject of the admission of Dissenters into the existing Universities, Mr. Sewell proceeds to consider the incorporation of the London College (as he calls it,) or the 'Society in Gower Street.' He begins his discussion with a candid avowal of his sentiments towards the Dissenters, which amounts exactly to this ;-that, so long as they submitted quietly to their grievances, he was graciously disposed to hold out to them his charitable toleration; but now that they begin to be impatient and troublesome, he has no longer any consideration for them; nay, he even begins to look on them with suspicion and alarm.
Then comes a grave declaration in the most serious tone, about the necessity of the University stating their reasons against any such innovation, in the most maturely considered manner, and it is followed by what is, with all solemnity, proposed as a specimen of the way in which such a manifesto should be framed.
We confess we began reading this, as we have sometimes unwarily been led to do a serious-looking paragraph in a newspaper, which we were sore vexed to find ending with Rowland's Kalydor, or Turner's jet blacking. After a most solemn preamble, the author runs off into such bantering levity as this:speaking of the claims of the London University ;
Very little either of jealousy or fear mingles in our feelings towards that Institution. We very seldom think, and still more seldom speak of it. Neither the state of its funds, nor its progressive reputation, nor the distinguished character of its council or professors, give rise to any selfish anxiety for our own prosperity. It is a very elegant building. I wish it were finished, and could be placed in a more conspicuous position, as one of the greatest ornaments to our improving Metropolis. And it would seem a pity, as some reports have hinted, that it should be converted into a hospital! &c. &c. ' p. 3.
As the system adopted in that institution consists of public lectures in the different departments of literature and science, and not in a course of private tuition and religious instruction, such as is professed to be followed in the colleges in Oxford, the author cannot consent to allow it any claim to be considered a university system at all. He therefore studiously labours to represent it, as merely one of the numerous institutions which are established in the metropolis, and in other cities and towns. To show his profound contempt for these London institutions, he affects an ignorance of their names and localities; those in the country are described in the following terms, doubtless meant to be very witty:
'We must all be familiar with the little museums accumulated for the service of science, by the philosophers of all our country towns.
The stuffed ducks, the skeleton in the mahogany case, the starved cat and rat, which were found behind a wainscot, the broken potsherd from an old barrow, the tattoed head of a New Zealand chief, the very unpleasant looking lizards and snakes coiled up in their spirits of wine, the flint stones and cockle shells, not to mention the butterflies, and beetles, and bits of wood from Bonaparte's willow, and fragments of stone from the top of the great pyramid. All these illustrations of past and materials for future researches must be as well known to us, as they are in their several treasure houses to those indefatigable philosophers who, every returning month, prepare their copious papers, and, raised above their delighted audience, grind round the planets in an orrery, or electrify a dead frog for the advancement and diffusion of science, Nothing can be more innocent or ingenious. No man would wish to impede these toils for the happiness of mankind.' (p. 9.)
This absurd banter would be contemptible were it not for the heartless malevolence which it shows. Ridicule cast upon attempts, even were they ever so feeble and inefficient, to acquire knowledge by those whose situation and means allow them few facilities for doing so, comes with a singularly bad grace from a minister of the gospel, enjoying all the advantages of leisure afforded by a collegiate endowment.
We say, were those attempts ever so feeble. But Mr. Sewell is evidently writing on a subject of which he knows nothing at all. These provincial institutions for the promotion of science have done, and are doing, more towards the great end of intellectual, and we will add, too, of moral, and even, indirectly, religious enlightenment, than he and other academics, wrapped up in the self-sufficiency of fancied superiority, seem to be at all aware. From those very provincial nstitutions have come forth Priestley and Beddoes, Dalton and Davy and they are at this moment, in all parts of the country, adorned by a number of real and unpretending cultivators of science, who are shedding a light over the country, which bids fair soon to equal any which shines forth from Exeter College (not excepting the brilliant theories of Dr. Nolan-vide his Bampton Lectures for 1833). Nay, it is this very instruction which has carried the general intellect of the country so decidedly in advance of many college-fellows.
But science, the science of physics,' is encompassed with 'perils,' says the author. We do not well make out his views: and of his enlightened notions of philosophy, and its mischievous tendency to irreligion, we find it somewhat difficult to give an adequate account, and must therefore refer our readers to the Second Letter, p. 5, et seq. Mr. Sewell, we think, will not gain credit for much liberality, though he makes a certain kind of profession of it; his intolerance and
love of persecution are too sincere to be disguised. A man of science and a Christian-let us venerate and place him, almost for our worship, on the highest throne of human glory. A man of science, and not a Christian-let us take him as a convict, branded, and chained, and watched-but still made to toil and dig for the good of mankind, with the whip always raised above his back to lash him into safety and submission.' Such is Mr. Sewell's liberality. If we venture to ask, by what right would you claim such power over a fellow creature, however false and obnoxious his opinions? He answers,
This is our duty in this age of danger and temptation from reason.' The very plea of Cortez, in the conversion of the Americans by the rack. Duty is always the plea of the persecutor. Will the advocates of religion never open their eyes to the folly of decrying reason and carrying on the warfare against intellect? Will they always be so blind as not to perceive that their words may fairly bear an interpretation which we are sure they would object to? It might be said, that they declaim against reason because they have good ground to be afraid of it—that they decry intellect in the conscious want of it.
Another beautiful instance of liberality and consistency occurs, where, speaking of the great bulk of Christian Dissenters, the author observes, Let me say at once, all of them, with the exception of Socinians.... let us willingly believe, dissent on strong feelings of religion.' Thus the title of Christian, half conceded to the Socinians, does not yet prove that they dissent on strong feelings of religion-they may be Christians, but have no religion. The author also speaks of his affection for the great body of conscientious Dissenters: he talks of loving them as Christians, while we oppose them as sectarians: this is a nice and beautiful distinction. Again he asks, triumphantly, whether, among the supporters of the London University, there is one from any sect marked by strong and inflexible attachment to the principles of religion? Are they not chiefly Socinians-(I beg their pardon)-Unitarians? or, what is still worse, modern philosophers?'
Who,' says the author, is the advocate of these and similar claims for equal civil privileges ?-Is it a member of the Church of England?-is it a man of any faith or any church ?—is it a Christian or is it a Dissenter ?-or is it something worse?' We will answer him in a word :-it is all men of sense and liberality, who, whether members of this or that persuasion, established by law or not, claim no superiority over those of other persuasions, and therefore wish to see them all alike partake in those advantages which should be open to all.
With regard to Oxford, its condition and state of feeling, Mr. Sewell makes some extraordinary confessions, which we give in his own words, because we should not otherwise gain credit for a fair representation of his meaning:-' There learning is by no means the grand object of our studies or ambition.'. ... Our present degrees, in fact, are very little valued as tests of learning.' (p. 41). A man, of course, naturally wishes to know for what then they are valuable. The author considerately answers the question in p. 21. If the state' still connects with these titles any posts which are marks of its favour, still more which command the Church, is there not something like treachery in giving the pass-word to Dissenters; or rather, something like an open announcement that Churchman or Dissenter is all alike ?
'Tros Tyriusve mihi nullo discrimine habetur.'
Is it not, in fact, the severing of 'one more tie which binds the State to the Church, and the Church to the State?-and a tie of no little strength, but perhaps, if it be duly considered, the strongest and the best?' Has the author really only just discovered, that if we are to go to first principles, that on which the Dissenters would claim admission to academic degrees is simply and precisely this, of standing on the same equal footing as fellow-citizens; nay, even as fellow-Christians, with Churchmen.
But he proceeds, Let us not affect to disguise it-we may close our eyes, but others are wide awake: they know what they demand.' These are indeed important truths, and no doubt will open the eyes of the academical dignitaries as wide as those of the Dissenters.
From a desire to do justice to the author's learning and taste, we give an extract, characterized by that true sublimity which, as an eminent critic has laid it down, produces its effect by overwhelming the mind with the accumulation of images, till it loses all definite conception.
They feel the precious jewel, which is given them wrapped up in the soft, and smooth, and worthless coquetry of an enlightened liberality, bachelors, masters, and doctors! Do we suppose these names, or all the alphabet of academic honours, is worth a straw in the eye of one who sees behind them all-the gap widening and widening, never to be closed again, between the legislature and its religion; the gap through which Dissenters are to pass into the honours and possessions of the state, marching in triumphal procession, and not seeing the shapes which follow close upon their heels, ready to expel them in turn-the shapes of anarchy, and atheism, and woe.'-p. 22.
The Dissenters, we believe, are already admitted to the
honours and emoluments of the state; and the author need not have spoken in the future tense. How they are to be expelled, we confess is somewhat inexplicable; especially by the still wider admission hinted at as likely to follow, but which, in truth, has taken place long ago. Men, destitute of all principle and all religion, have always been admissible, through all tests and oaths whatsoever, to all offices, not only in the state, but in the Universities and the Church too; and the fact is, the whole question ought to be put upon this ground, the object ought to be the admission and protection of the conscientious of all denominations-the exclusion, if possible, of the unprincipled of all professions. Precisely the reverse has been the system hitherto acted on.
We should not be doing Mr. Sewell justice if we were to omit a magnificent, or rather a comical, passage (p. 25-the reader will judge which term is the more appropriate), about the conferring of honorary degrees by the university of Oxford upon Dalton and other distinguished philosophers, notwithstanding they were Dissenters, at the meeting of the British Association. A celebrated character observed to the author, on that occasion, You will win the hearts of the Dissenters.' This is indeed an exalted piece of liberality! Win the hearts of the Dissenters ?-and by what? By saying, in effect, to them, we exclude you from all our real and substantial advantages; yet we will not deny the compliment, which we are in the habit of paying to any man of rank who may ask for it, to one of the first philosophers in Europe, because he happens to be a Quaker. If this be liberality, Oxford is certainly not deficient in it. The eminent Dissenters who visited the university on the occasion alluded to, were received with much attention and hospitality; they were invited to dinners and breakfasts they were treated in such a way, that really no distinction was made between them and Churchmen. But touch upon anything connected with the established system of the university, and the whole phalanx of bigotry is instantly in array; talk only of the privilege of Dissenters graduating and the alarm spreads like wildfire; hint at the removal of religious restrictions, and you will yourself run a chance of being set down as little better than (what forms the climax of orthodox objurgation)-a Socinian!
Mr. Sewell attaches great importance to the feeling of antiquity which pervades everything in the university of Oxford: its effect on the young students is magical-It sobers their minds, it feeds their imagination, it solemnizes their thoughts, it suspends over them a mystery of grandeur; which tells on