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J. H. AND Jas. paeker.


"YTEW Statutes having just been made by the Crown,
-^^ on the recommendation of the Council, for the
purpose of adapting the Professorship I have the
honour to hold to the present requirements of the
University, this seems a fit occasion for saying a few
w^ords on the study of Modern History in Oxford,
and the functions of this Chair in relation to that
study. I made some remarks on the subject in com-
mencing my first course with my class ; but the new
statutes were then only under consideration, and
before venturing to address the University, I wished
to see something of the state of the Modern History
school, and the duties of my Chair.

This Chair was founded in the reign of George I.,
and its original object was to train students for the
public service. The foundation was double, one Chair
here and one at Cambridge. Attached to each Chair
were two teachers of modern languages, and twenty
King's scholars, wdiose education in history and the
modern languages the Professor was to superintend ;
and the most proficient among whom he was to re-
commend from time to time for employment, at home
or abroad, in the service of the State. Diplomacy
was evidently the first object of the foundation, for
a knowledge of treaties is mentioned in the letters
patent of foundation as specially necessary for the
public interest. Some subsequent regulations, though


of doubtful validity, named International Law and
Political Economy, with the method of reading Modern
History and Political Biography, as the subjects for
the Professor's lectures. Thus the whole foundation
may be said to have been in great measure an anti-
cipation of the late resolution of the University to
found a school of Law and Modern History. The
Professorship of Modern History, the Professorship
of Political Economy, the Chichele Professorship of
Diplomacy, the Professor and Teachers of the Modern
Languages, do now for the students of our present
school just what the Professor of History and his
two teachers of Modern Languages were originally
intended to do for the twenty King's scholars under
their care. The whole of these subjects have further
been brought into connection, in the new school, with
their natural associate, the study of Law.

I have failed, in spite of the kind assistance of my
friends, the Librarian of the Bodleian and the Keeper
of the Archives, to trace the real author of what we
must allow to have been an enlightened and far-sighted
scheme — a scheme which, had it taken effect, might
have filled the Parliament and the public service of
the last century with highly -trained legislators and
statesmen, and perhaps have torn some dark and
disastrous pages from our history. It is not likely
that the praise is due to the King himself, who,
though not without sense and public spirit, was in-
different to intellectual pursuits. Conjecture points
to Sir Robert Walpole. That Minister was at the
height of power when the Professorship was founded
under George I. When the foundation was confirmed
under George II., he had just thrust aside the feeble

pretensions of Sir Spencer Compton, and gathered the


owe .
% J

reins of government, for a moment placed in the weak
hands of the favomite, again into his own strong and
skilful grasp. If Walpole was the real founder, if he
even as minister approved the foundation, it is a
remarkable testimony from a political leader of a turn
of mind practical to coarseness, and who had dis-
carded the literary statesmen of the Somers and
Halifax school, to the value of high political edu-
cation as a qualification for the public service. It
is also creditable to the memory of a minister, the re-
puted father of the system of Parliamentary corrup-
tion, that he should have so far anticipated one of the
best of modern reforms as to have been willing to
devote a large amount of his patronage to merit, and
to take that merit on the recommendation of Univer-
sities, one of which, at least, was by no means friendly
to the Crown.

King George I., however, or his Minister, was not
the first of English rulers who had endeavoured to
draw direct from the University a supply of talented
and highly-educated men for the service of the State.
I almost shrink from mentioning the name which
intrudes so grimly into the long list of the Tory and
High Church Chancellors of Oxford. But it was at
least the nobler part of Cromwell's character which
led him to protect Oxford and Cambridge from the
levelling fanaticism of his party, to make himself our
Chancellor, to foster our learning with his all-perva-
ding energy, and to seek to draw our choicest youth
to councils which it must be allowed were always
filled, as far as the evil time permitted, with an eye
to the interest of England and to her interest alone.
Cromwell's name is always in the mouths of those
who despise or hate high education, who call, in every


public emergency, for native energy and rude common
sense, — for no subtle and fastidious philosophers, but
strong practical men. They seem to think that he
really was a brewer of Huntingdon who left his low call-
ing in a fit of fanatical enthusiasm to lead a great cause
(great, whether it were the right cause or the wrong,)
in camp and council, to win Dunbar against a general
who had foiled Wallenstein, to fascinate the imagina-
tion of Milton, and by his administration at home and
abroad to raise England, in five short years and on the
morrow of a bloody civil war, to a height of greatness
to which she still looks back with a proud and wistful
eye. Cromwell, to use his own words, "was by birth
a gentleman, living neither in any considerable height,
nor yet in obscurity ;" he was educated, suitably to
his birth, at a good classical school; he was at Cam-
bridge ; he read law ; but what was much more than
this, he, who is supposed to have owed his power to
ignorance and narrowness of mind, had brooded almost
to madness over the deepest questions of religion and
politics, and, as a kinsman of Hampden and an active
member of Hampden's party, had held intimate con-
verse on those questions with the profoundest and
keenest intellects of that unrivalled age. And there-
fore his ambition, if it was treasonable, was not low.
Therefore he bore himself always not as one who
gambled for a stake, but as one who struggled for a
cause. Therefore the great soldier loved the glory of
peace above the glory of war, and the moment he
could do so, sheathed his victorious sword ; therefore,
if he was driven to govern by force, he was driven
to it with reluctance, and only after long striving to
govern by nobler means ; therefore he kept a heart
above tinsel, and, at a height which had turned the

head of Ceesar, remained always master of himself;
therefore he loved and called to his council-board
high and cultivated intellect, and employed it to
serve the interest of the State without too anxiously
enquiring how it would serve his own ; therefore he
felt the worth of the Universities, saved them from
the storm which laid throne and altar in the dust, and
earnestly endeavoured to give them their due place
and influence as seminaries of statesmen. Those who
wish to see the conduct of a real brewer turned into
a political chief should mark the course of Santerre
in the French Revolution. Those who wish to see
how power is wielded without high cultivation and
great ideas, should trace the course of Napoleon,
so often compared with Cromwell, and preferred to
him ; — of Napoleon the great despiser of philoso-
phers ; — and ask whether a little of the philosophy
which he despised might not have mitigated the
vulgar vanity which breathes through his bulletins,
and tempered his vulgar lust of conquest with some
regard for nobler things. It would indeed be a flaw
in nature if that which Arnold called the highest
earthly work, the work of government, were best per-
formed by blind ignorance and headlong force, or by a
cunning which belongs almost as much to brutes as
man. The men who have really left their mark on
England, the founders of her greatness from Alfred to
the Elizabethan statesmen, and from the Elizabethan
statesmen down to Canning and Peel, have been cul-
tivated in various ways ; some more by study, some
more by thought ; some by one kind of study, some
by another : but in one way or other they have been
all cultivated men. The minds of all have been fed
and stimulated, through one channel or other, with

the great thoughts of those who had gone before
them ; and prepared for action by lofty meditations,
the parents of high designs.

The attempt of the Crown, however, to found a
poUtical school at Oxford and Cambridge by means
of this Professorship, must be said, at the time, to
have failed. Perhaps at Oxford the Whig seed fell on
a Jacobite soil. Long after this the evils of a disputed
succession were felt here, and the University was the
slave of one of the two political factions, to the utter
loss of her true power and her true dignity as the im-
partial parent of good and great citizens for the whole
nation. The Jacobite Hearne has recorded in his Diary
his anguish at the base condescension of the Convocation
in even returning thanks for the Professorship to the
royal founder, whom he styles " the Duke of Bruns-
wick, commonly called King George I." Nor does
the new study in itself seem to have been more wel-
come, at this time, than other innovations. The Con-
vocation point their gratitude especially to that part
of the royal letter which promises " that the hours
for teaching His Majesty's scholars the Modern Lan-
guages shall be so ordered, as not to interfere with
those already appointed for their academical studies."
What the academical studies were which were to be
so jealously guarded against the intrusion of Modern
History and Modern Languages, what they were even
for one who came to Oxford, gifted, ardent, eager to
be taught, is written in the autobiography of Gibbon.
It is written in every history, every essay, every novel,
every play which describes or betrays the manners of
the clergy and gentry of England in that dissolute,
heartless, and unbelieving age. It is written in the
still darker records of faction, misgovernment, ini-


quity in the high places botli of Church and State,
and in the poUtical evils and fiscal burdens which
have been bequeathed by those bad rulers even to our
time. The corruption was not universal, or the nation
would never have lifted its head again. The people
received the religion which the gentry and clergy
had rejected : the people preserved the traditions of
English morality and English duty : the people re-
paired, by their unflagging industry, the waste of pro-
fligate finance, and of reckless and misconducted wars.
But as to the character of the upper classes, whose
educational discipline the Convocation of that day
were so anxious to guard against the intrusion of
new knowledge, there cannot be two opinions. We
have left that depravity far behind us, but in the
day of its ascendancy perhaps its greatest source was

But not only was Oxford lukewarm in encouraging
the new studies ; the Crown, almost unavoidably,
failed to do its part. At the time of the foundation
Walpole was all-powerful, and might have spared a
part of the great bribery fund of patronage for the
promotion of merit. But soon followed the fierce
Parliamentary struggles of his declining hour, when
the refusal of a place in a public office might have
cost a vote, a vote might have turned a division, and
an adverse division might not only have driven the
hated minister from place, but have consigned him to .
the Tower. After the fall of Walpole came a long
reign of corruption, connived at, though not shared,
even by the soaring patriotism of Chatham, in which
it would have been in vain to hope that anything
which could be coveted by a boroughmonger would
be bestowed upon a promising student. Under these


most adverse circumstances, few King's Scholars seem
ever to have been appointed. The Scholars, and the
commission given by the original statutes to the Pro-
fessor to recommend the most diligent for employment
under the Crown, have now, after long abeyance, been
formally abolished by the Council in framing the new
statutes ; I confess, a little to my regret. The abuse
of patronage drove the nation to the system of com-
petitive examination. Competitive examination, in its
turn, may be found to have its drawbacks. In that
case, there may be a disposition to try honest recom-
mendation by public bodies ; and in that event, it
might not have been out of place for the Universities
to remind the Government of the expressed desire
and the old engagement of the Crown.

In the meantime, Modern History and its associate
studies enjoy the more certain encouragement of a
Modern History School and academical honours. They
also enjoy, or ought to enjoy, the encouragement of
being the subjects of examination for the Fellowships
of All Souls ; a College destined, by the Statesman
who founded it, in great measure for the study of the
Civil Law, that study which once formed the States-
men of Europe and connected the Universities with
the cabinets of Kings, and the wealthy and powerful
professors of which, in Italy, its most famous seat,
sleep beside great princes, magistrates, and nobles, in
many a sumptuous tomb.

Possibly, also, the School of Law and Modern His-
tory being practically a modified revival of the Faculty
of Law in the University, the subjects of examination
for the degree of B.C.L., and the qualifications for
the degree of D.C.L. might be modified in a corre-
sponding manner. If this were done, I should not


despair of seeing a real value imparted to these
degrees. I would commend this point to the con-
sideration of the Council.

The University seems to have had two objects in
instituting the New Schools, that of increasing in-
dustry by bringing into play the great motive power
of love of a special subject, and that of making edu-
cation a more direct training for life. These are the
titles of the History School to continued support,
even if its state for some time to come should need
indulgence; as indulgence I fear it will long need,
unless the University should see fit to place it under
more regular and authoritative guidance, and unless
the difficulties which Colleges find in providing per-
manent tuition in this department, can be in some way

That the love of a special subject is a great spur to
industry, needs no proof ; and it has never yet been
shewn that the mind is less exercised when it is exer-
cised with pleasure. Every experienced student knows
that the great secret of study is to read with appetite.
Under the old system, the University relied mainly on
the motive of ambition. Such ambition is manly and
generous, and its contests here, conducted as they
are, teach men to keep the rules of honour in the
contests of after life. Study pursued under its in-
fluence generally makes an aspiring character ; but
study pursued, in part, at least, from love of the
subject, makes a happier character ; and why should
not this also be taken into account in choosing the
subjects of education ? But the grand and proved
defect of ambition as a motive is, that it fails with
most natures, and that it fails especially with those,
certainly not the least momentous part of our charge,


whose position as men of wealth and rank is already
fixed for them in life.

To make University education a more direct pre-
paration for after life, may be called Utilitarianism.
The objection, no doubt, flows from a worthy source.
We are the teachers of a great University, and we
may take counsel of her greatness. We may act, and
are bound to act, on far-sigbted views of the real
interests of education, without paying too much defer-
ence to the mere fashion of the hour. But the most
far-sighted views of the real interests of education
would lead us to make our sj^stem such as to draw
hither all the mental aristocracy of the country ; its
nobiUty, its gentry, its clergy, its great professions,
the heads of its great manufactures and trades. It
was so in the earlier period of our history, when
almost every man of intellectual eminence in any line
must have looked back to the Universities not only
as the scene of his youth but as the source of the
knowledge which was to him power, wealth, and
honour. To power, wealth, and honour, our system
of education must lead, if it is to keep its hold on
England, though it should be to power which shall be
nobly used, to wealth which shall be nobly spent, and
to honour which shall shine beyond the hour. Utili-
tarianism in education is a bad thing. But the great
places of national education may avoid Utilitarianism
till Government is in the hands of ambitious igno-
rance, till the Bench of Justice is filled with petti-
foggers, till coarse cupidity and empiricism stand be-
side the sick bed, till all the great levers of opinion
are in low, uneducated hands. Our care for the
education of the middle classes, however it may be
applauded in itself, will ill compensate the country


for our failure to perform thoroughly the task of
educating our proper charge, the upper classes, and
training them to do, and teaching them how to
do, their duty to the people.

There is one class of our students, — I fear of late a
diminishing class, — which I believe the University had
especially in view in instituting the School of La*v and
Modern History, and which it was thought particularly
desirable to win to study by the attraction of an inter-
esting subject, and to train directly for the duties of
after life ; more especially as the education of this
class closes here. The duties in after life of the class
I refer to are peculiar ; and its position seems fast
becoming unique in Europe.

" In Flanders, Holland, Friesland," says Mr. Laing
in his well-known work on Europe in 1848, "about
the estuaries of the Scheldt, Rhine, Ems, Weser, Elbe
and Eyder ; in a great part of Westphalia and other
districts of Germany ; in Denmark, Sweden, and Nor-
way ; and in the south of Europe, in Switzerland,
the Tyrol, Lombardy and Tuscany, the peasants have
from very early times been the proprietors of a great
proportion of the land. France and Prussia" (it seems
he will soon be able to say Russia) " have in our times
been added to the countries in which the land is
divided into small estates of working peasant pro-
prietors. In every country of Europe, under what-
ever form of government, however remotely and in-
directly affected by the wars and convulsions of the
French revolution, and however little the laws, insti-
tutions and spirit of the government may as yet be
in accordance with this social state of the people, the
tendency, during this century, has been to the division
and distribution of the land into small estates of


a working peasant proprietary, not to its aggregation
into large estates of a nobility and gentry. This has
been the real revolution in Europe. , The only excep-
tion is Great Britain." In the colonies, we may add,
even of Great Britain, the tendency to small estates
and working proprietors prevails ; and as colonies are
drawn, generally speaking, from the most advanced
and enterprising part of the population, their tenden-
cies are to their mother country a prophecy of her
own future.

The force of opinion in this age is paramount ; and
it runs with the certainty, if not with the speed of
electricity round the sympathetic circle of European
nations. Of these two systems, the system of great
landowners and the system of small working pro-
prietors, that will assuredly prevail which European
opinion shall decide to be the better for the whole
people. But which is the better system for the whole
people, is a question with a double aspect. One
aspect is that of physical condition ; the other is that
of civilization. It may be, that the civilizing influence
of a resident class of gentry, well educated themselves,
and able and willing to be the moral and social edu-
cators of the people, may countervail the material
advantages which a landowning peasantry enjoy, and
even the accession of moral dignity, the prudence,
the frugality, which the possession of property in the
lower class, even more than in ours, seems clearly to
draw in its train. But then the gentry must know
their position, and own their duty to those by whose
labour they are fed. They must be resident, they
must be well-educated, they must be able and willing
to act as the social and moral educators of those
below them. They must do their part, and their


Universities must make it a definite and primary
object to teach them to do their part, in a system
under which, if they will do their part, they at least
may enjoy such pure, true, and homefelt happiness as
never Spanish grandee or French seigneur knew. If
they are to make it their duty, under the influence
of overstrained notions of the rights of property, to
squander the fruits of the peasant's labour in dull
luxury, or in swelling the vice and misery of some
great capital, the cry already heard, " the great
burden on land is the landlord," may swell till it
prevails ; till it prevails in England, as it has pre-
vailed in the land, separated from ours only by a few
leagues of sea, which, eighty years ago, fed the luxury
of Versailles. The luxury of Versailles seemed to
itself harmless and even civihzing ; it was graceful
and enlightened ; it was not even found wanting in
philanthropy, though it was found wanting in active
duty. Before the Revolution, the fervour and the
austerity of Rousseau had cast out from good so-
ciety the levity and sensuality of Voltaire ^. Atheism,
frivolity, heartlessness, sybaritism, had gone out of
fashion with Madame de Pompadour and Madame
Dubarri, Theism, philanthropy, earnestness, even
simplicity of life, or at least the praise of simplicity of
life, had become the order of the day ; and the beams
of better times to come played upon the current, and
the rainbow of Utopian hope bent over it, as it drew,
with a force now past mortal control, to the most
terrible gulf in history. Even the genius of Carlyle
has perhaps failed to paint strongly enough this cha-
racteristic of the Revolution, and to make it preach

" See Lavallee, Histoire des Frangais, Bk. iii., section 3,
chap. 5.


clearly enough its tremendous lesson as to the differ-
ence between social sentiment and social duty. We
know Paley's apologue of the idle pigeon, consuming,
squandering, scattering about in lordly wastefulness
the store of corn laboriously gathered for him by the
subservient flock. That apologue, catching the eye
of King George III., is said to have cost Paley a
bishopric. But its moral, duly pointed, is nothing
more dangerous than that property has its duties.
Landed property, fortunately for the moral dignity
and real happiness of its possessors, has its obvious
duties. Funded property, and other kinds of accu-
mulated wealth, have duties less obvious to which
the possessors must be guided, if their Universities
desire to see them living the life and holding the
place in creation not of animals of large, varied, and
elaborate consumption, but of men.

But can education teach the rich to do their duty ?
If it cannot, why do the rich come to places of educa-
tion ? If it cannot, what have we to do but abdicate
that part of our trust? But experience says it can.
Look round to the really well-educated men of pro-
perty of your acquaintance. Are they not, as a body,
good and active members of society, promoters of good
social objects, and, if landowners, resident, and endea-
vouring to earn the rent the labour of the people pays
them, by doing good among the people? In feudal
times, when the landed aristocracy and gentry owed
the State military service, they were trained to arms ;
now they owe the State social service, and they must
be trained by education to social duties, not to the
duties of schoolmasters, lecturers, or statists, but to
the duties of landed gentlemen. Before the late
changes, the influence of education had hardly been

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Online LibraryGoldwin SmithAn inaugural lecture (Volume Talbot Collection of British Pamphlets) → online text (page 1 of 3)