William Hamilton.

Discussions on philosophy and literature, education and university reform. Chiefly from the Edinburgh review; cor., vindicated, enl., in notes and appendices online

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Online LibraryWilliam HamiltonDiscussions on philosophy and literature, education and university reform. Chiefly from the Edinburgh review; cor., vindicated, enl., in notes and appendices → online text (page 76 of 94)
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• ntury with the last: — w'e find the medical students in the former
I'arly doubling in number those in the latter ; whereas the medi-

* It is well known, that the power of medical examination secures attend-
iice on the class of the examiner, even though such attendance be not
•quired for a Degi'ee. Hence the anxiety to be admitted a medical
\aniiner in this University, howbeit without a participation in the direct
udluments of the labour.

t The late Professor Leslie, in his evidence taken by the A'isitors, and
•caking of the medical department of the University of Edinlnir<,di, says : —
It is too severe a trial on human nature to have one's duty set in direct
'|»osition to his interests. No real reform in the curriculum can ever be
tV'Cted but by the application of extrinsic and paramount authority." —
:v. I. 1.0.5.)


cal degrees are, in proportion to the students, nearly thrice asi
numerous, being, in the former, somewhat less than one to fifteen,
in the latter, somewhat less than one to five. And this too, though
in the former, only a three years medical study in any University
was required ; whilst in the latter, such a study during-ybwr years,
and one at least in the University of Edinburgh, became neces-
sary. Now what does this evince? — Firstly, That the University
is trading on its former credit, a trade which if suifered to con-
tinue must end in a bankruptcy of that credit itself. For;
secondly, its degrees are now granted to an inferior and more
numerous order of students ; which, thirdly, appears, because
the proportional increase has taken place along with, and in
consequence of, a diminution in the requirement of litei^ary and
liberal qualification in the examinee ; whilst, fourthly, it is manin
fest, that students now resort to this medical school, chiefly for
the sake of its facile and unlettered Doctorate, for, as four years
of medical lectures in a university are here necessary for the
degree, the whole number of medical pupils in attendance on this
University is little more than four times the number of the gra-
duates whom it annually turns out.

It thus appears that the students in medicine are attracted tc
Edinburgh chiefly by the bribe of its degree ; and that at least '
the English candidates are almost exclusively those who
either too illiterate to 'satisfy the liberal requirements even oii
the London University, (for Oxford and Cambridge are here ouli
of question), or professionally too incompetent to stand the test o1
the impartial examination there organised. When the literarji
qualifications for our Scottish medical degrees are raised to
level even with the lowest standard of other British Universiti
and when our Scottish academical examinations are rende:
unbiassed criteria of professional competency ; then will the num
ber of our medical graduates aftord an index of the relative emij
nence of our medical school ; — but not till then. Should matter;!
go on as hitherto ; if, now there be no certainty, so, soon there wilj
be no probability, that even the " small Latin and no Greek,'
still nominally required, will be furnished by the medical candi
date and exacted by the medical examiner. " 'Tis Latin, and can.
not be read ;" this which the late Dr Gregory predicted woul(,
soon be the rule in his profession, is certainly no longer tli
exception : nay, even English grammar and spelling are, by th
confession of Edinburgh Medical Professors, luxuries, bat no




necessities, for those whom our University proclaims to the world,

as meriting and having received her '• liiglicst Honours in >\Iedi-

line." Latin is now, as Greek was before 182.'> ; — it is nominally

itH^uired for an Edinburgh medical degree, and an examination

as to sufficiency, is left to the Medical Faculty. But in 1820.

- 'arcely three years after Greek was dropt from the Edinburgh

lequiroments for a physician, we have the highest authority

ill that Faculty declaring, '' that not one medical man in five

hundred reads Greek." And yet only three short years before.

rlio Medical Faculty was professedly reading and examining in

ilreek, nay certifying to the sufficiency of all its graduates, in

he language of Hippocrates, — the language now authoritatively

leclared (what was long known in fact.) to be professionally obso-

eto. Such, however, is a specimen of free professorial examina-

ion. Again : in 1825, the necessity of speaking and of under-

tanding spoken Latin was formally taken oft' both Professor and

student ; a candidate's Latinity was left hereafter to be ti'ied by

he same examiners as was, heretofore, his knowledge of Greek ;

nd now, after the operation not of three but of nearly thirty

ears, — now, after reducing the examination from the level of

third, to a level of all the students, how many are there, —

) five hundred medical graduates of Edinburgh, let us say, — who

ad Latin ? In fact, though not without advantages, in certain

-pects, this measure has left us no security, that cither medical

raduate or medical professor, should henceforward be able to make

iv use of the language of the learned, — the language in which

neteen in the score of medical notabilities have been Avritten.

nd from the illiterate and nameless multitude of tliis fallen and

lling profession, the courted, canvassed, cajoled, concussed elec-

rs— the incompetent crowd, (not certainly without its competent

dividuals also,) to whom has been abandoned the patronage of

'is University, are still left (apart from occasional notoriety of

1 rit) to nominate, by chance, favour, or intrigue, among others,

i medical professors ; and these medical professors, now consti-

<:ing the predominant influence in the Senatus Academicus, take

' on them, and are quietly allowed, to administer, according to

'■ir lights, the affairs of this intended school of learning, and to

' !-h for their personal interest, and not for the common good,

'^fs fondly confided to the Senatus, when the Senatus was still,

' uparatively, a learned, inteUigent, and well-balanced body.

' leed, if the law do not avert the evil, the IJeid Trust, instead of



a resource towards the great ends of the University, — of tin
teachers not more than of the taught, — seems destined to bt
degraded into a fund for reckless htigation, into a fund for th ;
private pro&t of the trustees, and medical trustees, in particular;
(See p. 385.) ;

The history of Universities — in truth, of all human institutions
lay or clerical, proves, by a melancholy experience, that sem:)
naries founded for the common weal, in the furtherance of soun
knowledge, are, if left to themselves, — if left without an extern;
and vigilant, an intelligent and disinterested supervision, regularl:
deflected from the great end for Avhich they were created, an,
perverted to the private advantages of those through whom thf|
end, it was confidently hoped, would be best accomplished. An
this melancholy experience is, though in different forms, alm(
equally afforded in all our older British Universities ; for all
these the State has founded and privileged, but over none has
ever organized any adequate controlling power. And what
the consequence ? AVhat is their condition ? What ought the
to be, and what are they ? Corrupt all ; — all clamant for refori:
But unless the reform come from without, we need not, in aij
University, have any expectation of a reform coming from withi;
Left to itself, there is no redemption ; j

" Ipsa sui merces erit, et sine viiidice praida." |

Our only hope, a hope, indeed, long deferred, is a reform frc
without, — from above, — from the Supreme Civil Power,
regard to Edinburgh, it would be peculiarly simple to expect
correction of the evils prevalent in that University, from t\
bodies — either that in which the corruption has originated, or :
by which it has been tolerated, or rather, — we should say
charity, — not observed. It would, indeed, be positively foolishl
call to the Senatus Academicus, — the Senatus as now constitut
— " Arise! muake!" It would be more rational to invoke evl
the Town Council ; but if the State do not interfere, then tl
University must, with others, abide the alternative — " be for eif i'
fallen!" Surely, however, the State cannot always issue cosfi'
Commissions, and yet, never afterwards heed their recommencM
tions. In the cases of Oxford and Cambridge, reform may indelr
be difficult ; but in the case of Edinburgh, nothing could be m(p
easy. In fact, the most essential improvements are in genejl i
manifest, and even urged in the Reports of the two Commissioi;; I


iiul these, wc may now confidently hope, will not long remain
neglected, seeing- that Government seems seriously engaged on an
inquiry into the EngUsh Universities.

But I have dwelt too long upon this suhject, and shall only
idd : — that the experience of Edinburgh, like the experience of
very other University in which the same practice has been pur-
-ued, proves, that an examination by professors exclusively, — by
dl the professors of a faculty* — and by professors left to their
)wn discretion, and without even the obligation of oath, statute or
iiiblicity, is utterly worthless, as a criterion of competency in the
andidate for an academical degree. Without entering on details,
would only say in general, that to redeem the Edinburgh medi-
al degree, even to respectability, there are required the three
allowing conditions :

1°. An extra-professorial examination, to ascertain whether tlie
indidate possess the general literary and scientific knowledge
oossar}' for any liberal profession.

2". An examination, either wholly extra-professorial, or, at
-t, with extra-professorial judges (who should also be examin-
. to ascertain the professional quahfications of the candidate.
'■)". The examiners and judges : — to be adequate to their f unc-
us ; to act by rule ; publicly, as far as possible ; and, now as
i-merly, here as elsewhere, under the obligation of a solemn


r When limited to a few, responsibility is concentrated ; but when (i
in Edinburgh,) the right of examination, and consequently the benefit
I indirect compulsion on attendance, is conceded to all the members of
Facidty, all become interested in certain measures, responsibility is
nnated to a minimum, and the whole body does, what a part of it would
be bold enough to attempt. Since the previous sheet Avas printed, above
months ago, I see that the medical examiners have been publicly accused
■ejecting a candidate, not for incompetence, but on the confessed ground
he was supposed favourable to a medical theory, rising dangerously in

ii* lion, and not in unison with the medical theory of his examiners. On
a step, — such an injustice, — such an absurdity, the old sectional exa
ere would not have ventured. If the charge be well founded, an Edin
gh medical graduate may now' be an ignorant, unable to spell his mother
ne, but must not be a proficient, professing to think for himself. So cer-
also are now the opinions of a majority touching the very ])ractice, and
le very body, where, heretofore, medical scepticism was always in pro-
n to medical wisdom ! Our Gregorys and Thomsons — what would they
say to this ? See p. -202^ note.





These are the requisites of mere respectability ; but were thij
candidates impartially and ably classified on a sufficient standarda
the examination might be raised to a higher value.

The recommendation now made to introduce other examiner
for a degree beside the academical lecturers, is no anomaly, is n|
innovation. It is, in fact, a return to principle — to the custom c
all academical antiquity, a return even to the practice of th.
University of Edinburgh itself, to wit, in its first bestoAval
medical degrees. Then, the Doctors of the Edinburgh College (
Physicians were called in ; indeed, the graduation fee which ha
since been left to the " Medical Faculty " of the University
belonged to the Library, and was thence taken, to bestow it o
these extra-academical examiners, in compensation of their noi
official trouble. — I may add, that had the Tov/n-Council, in thei
recent regulation touching the medical degrees of this University
limited the qualifying attendance to the courses given by medic
graduates, and more especiall}'^ by Edinburgh medical graduate
there could not possibly have been any valid doubt with regat
to the legal competency of such regulation, which would, in fac
have been only a step toward a state of true academical legality.!







I HAVE previousl}' referred (p. 407) to this Appendix, for a
tat€ment in regard to the examination for degrees by the Univer-
ty of Louvain, in its Faculty of Arts ; ^vhich, though overlooked
Y all academical historians, is, I think, the best example upon
jcord of the true mode of such examination, and, until recent
mes, in fact, the only example in the history of Universities
orthy of consideration at all. And as I shall have occasion to
lake a reference to this examination, from the Appendix upon
raord, it may be convenient to insert here, what I should other-
jise have postponed.

The University of Louvain, long second only to that of Paris
the number of its students and the celebrity of its teachers, and
've comprehensive even than Paris in the subjects taught ; was
x several centuries famed, especially, for the vaUdity of its cer-
licates of competency — for the value of its different degrees. It
i,recorded by Erasmus as a current saying, " that no one can
^aduate in Louvain Avithout knowledge, manners, and age." But
tjiong its different degrees, a Louvain promotion in Arts was
ccidedly pre-eminent ; because, in this Faculty, the principles of
slidemical examination were most fully and purely carried out.
I|im acquainted, I think, with all the principal documents touch-
i : this illustrious school ; and beside the Priviligia, or collection
' -tatutes, &c. (1728,) possess the relative historical works of
Jpsius (1605,) of Grammaye (1G07,) of Vernul^us (1027 and
TO of Golnitz (1631,) of'' Valerius Andreas (1636 and 1650,)
ojthe Zedlerian Lexicon (1738,) and of Keiffcnbcrg (1829, sq.)
It strange to say, I have found no articulate account of its
fnous examinations, except in the Academia Lovaniensis of Ver-
n aeus ; and from that book, with a short preliminary extract
fim the Fasti of Andreas, I translate the following passages.



Valerius Andreas.—" Philosophy, from the very com
menccment of the University, was wont to be taught, partly i
private houses, partly in 'the Street' or public School of Art
(where, indeed, the prelections of two chairs in that Faculty, tj
Avit Etldcs and Rhetoric, are even now publicly delivered,) tb
Masters themselves teaching each his peculiar subject at a fixe
and separate hour ; until, in the year 1446, by the authority
the Faculty, [private tuition was abolished, and] four Houses wei'
appropriated to licensed instruction in Philosophy, [some eigl
and twenty other Colleges belonging to it, being left to suppl
board and lodging to the students.] These four Houses are cob
monly called Pccdagogia, and, from their several insignia, go \
the names of the Lily, the Falcon, the Castle, the Hog — Tl
Languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Latin,) thereafter obtained th(
special Pi'ofessors in the Trilingual or Buslidian College — Tl
chair of Mathematics, (though its subject had been previousi
taught,) was founded in the year 1636."— (Pp. 9, 243, 249.)

Vernul^eus, L. ii. c. 6. " On Study and Degrees in ti
[Louvain] Faculty of Arts.

" Let us now speak concerning Study, which in this Facul

is twofold.

" The study of Philosophy is accomplished in two years. Fj
there is given nine months to Logic, eight to Physics, four
Metaphysics ; whilst the three last months are devoted to
titions of the whole course of Philosophy. — [' Account is alj
taken of Moj-al Philosophy, taught on Sundays and Holidays,
the public Professor, in ' the Street ' or School of Arts, and in t
Pffidagogia by domestic Professors.' — (V. Andreas, p. 242.)]

"■ The exercises of this philosophical study take place in foj
Gymnasia, called Pwdagogia. In each of these there are foj
daily prelections, two before, two after, noon ; - - - - and ea
House has four Professors of Philosophy, two of whom are
Primaries, two Secondaries. These Professors divide among thi
the Avhole course of Philosophy. And first, in Logic : The
maries expound the Introduction of Porphyry, Aristotle's Ci
gories, and his books of Prior and Posterior Analytics; whilst
Secondaries, after an explanation of the Elements of Logic, lecti|'H'll
upon Aristotle's books of Enouncement, Topics, and Sophisi- pf
In Physics and Metaphysics,* [I omit the enumeration of bookj j.

* Compare Valenns Andreas, pp. 242, 243. • J''**


the Primaries teach at the hours of six and ten of the uiorn'mi^ ;
the Secondaries at two and four of the afternoon ; and the hearers
for one hour take down the dictates* of their instructor, wliilst for
another they are examined and required to give an account of tlie
prelection which they have again, in the interval, considered.

" The exercises of Disputation are cither private or puhlic.

" The private are conducted in the several Pajdagogia, and in
kind are twofold. — In the first place, the students, at certain fixed
hours, contend with each other, on proposed questions, note each
other's errors, and submit them to the judgment of the Professor ;
and he, thereafter, assigns place and rank to the more learned. —
Besides these, on each Monday and Friday, there are Disputations
held on points of Logic and Physics, over which one of the Pro-
fessors in rotation presides. These commence in January and end
in June.

" The public Disputations take place in the common School of
Arts, which is called ' The Street ; ' and these also are of two
kinds. — In the first place, on Mondays and Fridays, during Lent,
the Physical auditors of all the Gymnasia, divided into certain
classes, compete among themselves for glory ; one prescribing to
another the matter of chsputation. — Besides these, there are eight
other Disputations, carried through on Sundays, and which com-
mence in January. There are present all the Physical hearers
with their Professors, and in these they severally make answer
during an hour on certain predetermined theses ; and are oppugned
by the Prior Bachelor, (that is, by him who has been chosen from
the more learned,) and thereafter by others.

•' The Honours or Degrees which are obtained in this Faculty
lie those of Bachelor, Licentiate, Master. Previous to these there
is one public act, that of Determination, as it is called. Therein
rhe students of Logic, in a public meeting of the whole Univer-
sity, severally state their opinion on some P]thical question pro-
nosed by the Proses, who is one of the Professors. In this manner
hey profess themselves Students of Philosophy, but obtain no
I )egree.

" The Baccalaureate is here twofold. The one is obtained on

* The Faculty had not aprinted cursns on these departments, as on Logic.
"lie Commentaries by the ^Masters of Louvaiu on the books of the Organon,
re among the best extant. But the objects of study in all the Pscdagogia

'le unifoi-m; and all the pupils could be equally examined, &c., against

' 1i ntlicr in the general concourse of the University.


examination after a three months study of Physics ; the other,iH)
after the completion of the course of Metaphysics, and a public
responsion touching Philosophy in general.

" For the Licence, the candidates of all the Gymnasia are pre-
sented in a body to the Venerable Faculty of Arts ; and on that
occasion, and in their presence, their future Examiners (that is the
[eight] Primary Professors of all the Gymnasia, nominated by the
gymnasiarchs,) make solemn oath, that they will be influenced by
no private favour, but rank each candidate in the strict order of
merit. — The examination then begins. This is twofold ; the onei
is called the Trial, the other the Examination [proper.] For;
each, the whole body of candidates is divided into three Classes^
The First Class consists of twelve, to wit, three from each of the'
gymnasia, students namely, who by the judgment of the Professors;
stand highest in learning. The Second Class, in lilve manner,
comprehends twelve, the three, to wit, who from the four gym-j
nasi a are named as nearest in proficiency to the first. To them
[of the second class,] are added twelve others, called Aspirants,
The Third Class is composed of all the rest. Those who are oi
the First Class are [each] examined for about three hours on
the branches of Philosophy ; those who are of the Second, for two
iiours ; those who are of the Third, for half an hour ; and this,
both in what is called the Trial, and in the Examination proper.
The several examiners Write down the answers of all tlie candi-
dates, read them over again at home, and determine [what in their
several opinions should be] the order of all and each, and writei
out the list. The Examination finished, the examiners, on a day
appointed, consign their lists of arrangement to the Dean, whoi
delivers them to the Gymnasiarchs. They consult among them-
selves, and, by an ingenious device, calculate the suffrages ol
arrangement, and appoint to each candidate his true and unqui
ti enable rank.

" When, however, the First or highest (Primus) is proclaimed,
the bell is tolled in his gymnasium, for tln'ee days and nights, and
holiday celebrated. 1 pass over the other signs of public rejoicing.
This honour is valued at the highest, and he who obtains it is an
object of universal observation. On the third day thereafter, in
the public School of Arts, the candidates are, in this fashion, pro-
claimed Licentiates : —In the first place, the Dean of the Venerable
Faculty, after a public oration, presents the candidates to the
Chancellor, [wlio on this occasion ranks superior to the Rector.]


lie (tlie Chancellor) tlien, having propounded a question, urdeis
the Primus to afford, in the answer, a specimen of his erudition,
he himself acting as opponent. The names of all the others are
then proclaimed by the Beadle, in the order established by the
1 Gymnasiarchs, on the votes of the examining Professors."

L. ii. c. 8. On the celebrity of the [Lou vain] Faculty

i»F Arts. " j^early two hundred candidates annually merit

the Laurel of Arts ; what other Universiiy confers so many ? The

undat ion prevalent between all the \_IIouses,'] blasters, and Stu-

■ nts of this Facidty, and which though intense is void of envy,

ii- in study discord is concordant; — this emulation braces both

(he diligence of the teachers, and the application of the taught.

And while they who stand first in the classitication, merit and

receive especial honour, while they who stand last, are almost

equally disgraced ; * the issue is, that no labour is spared either

I'll the Professors in teaching, or by the Pupils in learning. The

;iinbition of all is here honourable and hard-working."

The result of this excellent scheme of examination is, — that a
ilcgree, taken in the University of Louvain, was always accounted
respectable, and, if connected with a high place upon the hst,
-upcrior to any other throughout Christendom. And this too
wlien the relative eminence of its Professors had, from a vicious
itronage, (partly in the hands of the Academical, partly in the

It does not appear that there were in Louvain any, at least any ade-
ute, rejections. — Universities, whicli have not lavished their degrees on

re standing, or mere professorial attendance, (to say nothing of inferior
nsiderations,) have endeavoured to make their examinations respectable,
three ways : which ways also admit of junction ; for any two of them may

Lombined, whilst the whole tlu'ee may also be united. These are, 1".
jectiou of incompetent candidates, by relation to some minimum of know-

Online LibraryWilliam HamiltonDiscussions on philosophy and literature, education and university reform. Chiefly from the Edinburgh review; cor., vindicated, enl., in notes and appendices → online text (page 76 of 94)