תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

at all events, as 'the Saturday Review justly remarked, the queerest recognition on record of the jurisdiction of the press. The Board were ill-advised when they resolved to strain an ancient restriction on the side of strictness. These rusty fetters have a trick of snapping, if screwed too tightly. The fact is, that just as an old woman of eighty will call her grandson a boy after he has passed two score, the worthy seniors are accustomed to regard the non-tutors as mere schoolboys whose youth, in fact, excludes them from tutorships, and who will be frightened out of their wits, and come down on their knees at an angry look from a senior, glad to get off without a whipping. These schoolboys, however, are old enough to be bishops, and many of them are not younger than senior fellows themselves used to be in olden times. So the Board found they had caught a couple of Tartars. The fellows censured appealed to the visitors, and presently after, an article was announced to appear in the Dublin University Magazine, which would at once carry the question into the London press. Here was a pretty pickle! what on earth was to be done? The first move was to establish a censorship of the press. The publishers were requested to cancel the article. This of course they could not do. Perhaps, however, the Lord Lieutenant would do them the favor to require the author's signature to every article published, in which case collegiate discipline might be brought to bear again. All in vain. The article appeared, sharp and decisive, and as was expected, the London papers immediately took up the question. New plans were nooted from day to day. Should they reply? To do so in their own names, would make matters worse. Should they prosecute some one paper for libel? Some member of the Board better acquained than the rest with modern facts and ideas, reminded them that the law of libel had been changed. At last a move was actually adopted, that the supposed author should be summoned, and required to confess. We will not venture to affirm that a rack was obtained from the museum to have its persuading powers tried. Fortunately accident prevented the monstrous scheme from being carried out immediately, and the following day (which was Sunday,) brought with it wiser counsels. But something must be done to shew that the Board is not to be trifled with with impunity. Eüppua! the publisher of the Magazine being also bookseller to the University, was informed that he could not retain both offices; no senior Fellow could be expected to enter a shop, in which the first object to meet his senses would be that nasty Magazine with the shocking mass of corruption, which had been stirred in its pages. Thus the only sufferer from the vengeance of the Board hitherto has been a bookseller. With respect to the censure of Messrs. Shaw and Carmichael, the visitors will probably decide before this is published, whether it was justified by the statutes. They will of course make every allowance for the Board, who as a plain matter-of-fact body, could not understand that the phases “tribunal of public opinion,

“ verdict of the press," &c., were not to be taken literally as implying a recognised court. It will be a strong temptation to the Archbishop of Dublin, one of the visitors, to read them a lecture on the influence of words on thought. We shall expect to see this notable instance exposed in the next edition of his Grace's Logic. As the Board, however, have recognised the existence of a public tribunal, we hope they will feel bound to respect its decisions.

If the visitors should decide that writing in the newspapers is within the meaning of the statute what will be the result ? First it is to be observed that the punishment enacted by the statute is, academically speaking, capital, nothing short in fact of expulsion. And we may note that if the board believed two of the fellows to have been guilty of such an offence, they might have told them plainly that the next offence committed after warning would be visited with expulsion. Would the tribunal of public opinion tolerate such a punishment for such an offence?" The Board in fact have been endeavouring in their usual antiquated fashion to follow the example of some of the Grecian States, who used occasionally to fortify a Jaw by making it capital to propose its repeal. They have chosen an unlucky precedent, and an unlucky occasion for its imitation. Their attempt must utterly fail

. There is no need to sign letters in the newspapers, and the Board will

gain little by changing avowed into anonymous publications. They will talk of course of

anonymous scribblers” but with little effect, as long as they make it penal to quit the anonymous. They must then revive the "question" to compel authors to confess, and this they have shown they are at least prepared to attempt. But moreover, one can surely plead in any court by word of mouth, as well as by writing; and that no less in that court which the Board have just recognised than in the Queen's Bench; the

Board must therefore either shut up the fellows in ceils to prevent communication with the outer world, or must bave its system of espionage, its Dionysius' Ear which will convey to its august presence the murmurs of the whole city.

The nearest approach to a violation of this now noted statute which we can call to mind occurred in 1852, before the University Commission, which had some claim to be regarded as a Royal Court, though not judicial, and the authority of which in respect to collegiate matters, the Provost and Senior Fellows expressly declined to acknowledge. Before that court, however, the Provost brought against the whole class of non tutor Fellows, the charge of being useless and a “nursery of discoutent."*

The Board might have had some ground for their censure if they had charged the two fellows with a violation of that clause in the fellow's oath, which binds them to promote the health, peace, dignity and comfort of the Senior Fellows. Were they silly enough to imagine that the dignity and comfort of the Senior Fellows would be promoted by the publication of their college affairs ? They know the Board long enough to be aware that publicity is the last thing it desires. Now that the proceedings of former years are being raked up, doubtless the next step will be to demand the regular publication of all proceedings of the Board for the future : alarming foreboding! Why, how could those nice little arrangements of whicb Senior Fellows now reap the fruits ever have been adopted if publicity had been necessary? The Board have a vested right to secrecy.t Without it their power is incomplete, even in cases

* About two hundred years ago, the Irish Parliament found it necessary to inquire into the conduct of Provost Chappels, and issued a commission for the purpose. The scholars alleged that the statute bound them not to give information, but the Parliament made short work of the objection, by suspending the statute. We mention this partly to show that a commission such as that of 1852, would accor. ding to precedent be understood to come within the meaning of the statute.

† This line of argument suggested in jest, has been actually adopted by the Counsel for the Board. If he had read the oath he would see that the clause cited binds every fellow to promote the welfare, &c. of the College, and of every member thereof, especially the Provost and Senior Fellows. It therefore binds the Senior Fellows to promote the welfare and dignity of the non tutors or scholars. Have they (to borrow Mr. Brewster's polite phrase) forgotten their oath?

with which the authority of the Board alone is competent to deal, a sharp watch would be kept upon their innovations by the other members of the College, if their proceedings were known. This would of itself serve as a check. There are other cases, however, in which the intervention of the visitors or of the crown is necessary to give validity to the measures of the Board. With the help of secrecy this little obstacle is easily surmounted. An apparently innocent resolution comes before the visitors or the government, for their assent; it is not opposed by any members of the College, for its existence is unknown to them, but of course this silence appears to the visitors or the crown, to imply consent, and consequently the resolution becomes law. It may not be discovered until it is too late to be easily remedied. Probably it may only be the small end of a wedge, the pressure of which is not felt until the sanction of immemorial usage is alleged against those who complain of being crushed. The remedy is publicity."

Do these remarks seem in any degree exaggerated ? we would ask our readers to recollect that it is only a few years since the Board of Trinity College, concocted a statute intended to be a sop to the members of the University who were beginning to ask for a constitution. This statute affected the rights and privileges of some two thousand persons, now masters of arts, besides all future graduates, yet not a hint of its preparation, much less of its contents, was conveyed to any of those persons or to their parliamentary representatives. It was discovered quite accidentally by one of the fellows, as our readers may remember, in the printing office, where it had lain printed and undergoing corrections from time to time for two years, and it finally obtained the Royal sanction, without an opportunity being offered to any member of the University to examine or to discuss its merits, or to suggest amendment.

* It may be worth while to notice the argument put forward on behalf of the Board, that the candour with which they offered every information to the Royal Commissioners proves that they do not shrink from publicity, and contrasts favorably with the Univer. sities of Oxford and Cambridge. Now many of the Colleges in these Universities did give full information to the Commissioners; and those which refused did so on the ground that they were private foundations, and forbidden by their founder's statutes to acknowledge the Commissioners authority. Trinity College, Dublin, is a royal foundation, governed by royal statutes, and wholly subject to the royal authority, to refuse information asked by the fouader would be absurd.

No; that would interfere with the object of the Board which was, seeing that the University was likely to obtain some constitution, to secure for themselves alone the power of framing it, and thereby of neutralizing by subtle

clauses, any apparent privileges which might be granted. The measure which resulted from this notable policy, was characterized by the clearness and exactness familiar to all students, of board-room literature. As to the grammar of it, we should like to know whether the Civil Service Commissioners would consider a man qualified to be secretary to an important board, who after two years devoted to preparation of his exercise, should write of “all such power as to the Provost, Fellows and Scholars, have been given granted or possessed." But there is a more serious fault. In the opinion of a great lawyer, the letters patent, if understood in the only sense which the words naturally can bear, would be of necessity wholly void. The words must be taken in a non-natural sense, if they are to have any force at all. In this a device intended to familiarize the Dublin Students with “non-natural" construction. But in whatever sense the words are taken, the letters patent, according to high legal authority, do not accomplish what they were intended to do, but something wholly different, and what they have done has been executed in such a manner as 10 leave unsettled the most important practical points of detail. To complete the insolence (we can call it no less) of this proceeding of the Board the letters patent when obtained were not communicated to those concerned; we daresay the Junior Fellows of Trinity College were favored with a copy, but the members of the University Senate or those entitled to become such, were left in ignorance of the new law affecting them.

Another instance less noticed is the Queen's letter of 1851, giving compensation for renewal fines. It is probable that the renewal fines were divided by the Provost and senior fellows, at an early period; the fact is, the amount was formerly too small to cause any dispute, and moreover, from the secrecy of the Board, no one else could know what estates were leased, or what fines were received. We cannot discover in the statutes any justificatiou for this distribution, other than the negative one that it is not prohibited. The Statutes provide " in order that the intention of increasing the salaries, may be carried into etfect," that in all College leases, “the Statutes of

« הקודםהמשך »