Project Canterbury

The Oxford Movement
Twelve Years 1833-1845

by R. W .Church, M.A., D.C.L.,
Sometime Dean of St Paul's, and Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford

London: Macmillan & Co. 1894

Transcribed by The Revd R D Hacking
AD 2003


No. 90, with the explanations of it given by Mr. Newman and the other leaders of the movement, might have raised an important and not very easy question, but one in no way different from the general character of the matters in debate in the theological controversy of the time. But No. 90, with the comments on it of Mr. Ward, was quite another matter, and finally broke up the party of the movement. It was one thing to show how much there is in common between England and Rome, and quite another to argue that there is no difference. Mr. Ward's refusal to allow a reasonable and a Catholic interpretation to the doctrine of the Articles on Justification, though such an understanding of it had not only been maintained by Bishop Bull and the later orthodox divines, but was impressed on all the popular books of devotion, such as the Whole Duly of Man and Bishop Wilson's Sacra Privata; and along with this, the extreme claim to hold compatible with the Articles the "whole cycle of Roman doctrine," introduced entirely new conditions into the whole question. Non haec in foedera was the natural reflection of numbers of those who most sympathised with the Tractarian school. The English Church might have many shortcomings and want many improvements; but after all she had something to say for herself in her quarrel with Rome; and the witness of experience for fifteen hundred years must be not merely qualified and corrected, but absolutely wiped out, if the allegation were to be accepted that Rome was blameless in all that quarrel, and had no part in bringing about the confusions of Christendom. And this contention was more and more enforced in Mr. Ward's articles in the British Critic--enforced, more effectively than by direct statement, by continual and passing assumption and implication. They were papers of considerable power and acuteness, and of great earnestness in their constant appeal to the moral criteria of truth; though Mr. Ward was not then at his best as a writer, and they were in composition heavy, diffuse, monotonous, and wearisome. But the attitude of deep depreciation, steady, systematic, unrelieved, in regard to that which ought, if acknowledged at all, to deserve the highest reverence among all things on earth, in regard to an institution which, with whatever faults, he himself in words still recognised as the Church of God, was an indefensible and an unwholesome paradox. The analogy is a commonly accepted one between the Church and the family. How could any household go on in which there was at work an animus of unceasing and relentless, though possibly too just criticism, on its characteristic and perhaps serious faults; and of comparisons, also possibly most just, with the better ways of other families? It might be the honest desire of reform and improvement; but charity, patience, equitableness are virtues of men in society, as well as strict justice and the desire of improvement. In the case of the family, such action could only lead to daily misery and the wasting and dying out of home affections. In the case of a Church, it must come to the sundering of ties which ought no longer to bind. Mr. Ward all along insisted that there was no necessity for looking forward to such an event. He wished to raise, purify, reform the Church in which Providence had placed him; utterly dissatisfied as he was with it, intellectually and morally, convinced more and more that it was wrong, dismally, fearfully wrong, it was his duty, he thought, to abide in it without looking to consequences; but it was also his duty to shake the faith of any one he could in its present claims and working, and to hold up an incomparably purer model of truth and holiness. That his purpose was what he considered real reform, there is no reason to doubt, though he chose to shut his eyes to what must come of it. The position was an unnatural one, but he had great faith in his own well-fenced logical creations, and defied the objections of a homelier common sense. He was not content to wait in silence the slow and sad changes of old convictions, the painful decay and disappearance of long-cherished ties. His mind was too active, restless, unreserved. To the last he persisted in forcing on the world, professedly to influence it, really to defy it, the most violent assertions which he could formulate of the most paradoxical claims on friends and opponents which had ever been made.

Mr. Ward's influence was felt also in another way; though here it is not easy to measure the degree of its force. He was in the habit of appealing to Mr. Newman to pronounce on the soundness of his principles and inferences, with the view of getting Mr. Newman's sanction for them against more timid or more dissatisfied friends; and he would come down with great glee on objectors to some new and startling position, with the reply, "Newman says so." Every one knows from the Apologia what was Mr. Newman's state of mind after 1841--a state of perplexity, distress, anxiety; he was moving undoubtedly in one direction, but moving slowly, painfully, reluctantly, intermittently, with views sometimes clear, sometimes clouded, of that terribly complicated problem the answer to which was full of such consequences to himself and to others. No one ever felt more keenly that it was no mere affair of dexterous or brilliant logic; if logic could have settled it, the question would never have arisen. But in this fevered state, with mind, soul, heart all torn and distracted by the tremendous responsibilities pressing on him, wishing above everything to be quiet, to be silent, at least not to speak except at his own times and when he saw the occasion, he had, besides bearing his own difficulties, to return off-hand and at the moment some response to questions which he had not framed, which he did not care for, on which he felt no call to pronounce, which he was not perhaps yet ready to face, and to answer which he must commit himself irrevocably and publicly to more than he was prepared for. Every one is familiar with the proverbial distribution of parts in the asking and the answering of questions; but when the asker is no fool, but one of the sharpest-witted of mankind, asking with little consideration for the condition or the wishes of the answerer, with great power to force the answer he wants, and with no great tenderness in the use he makes of it, the situation becomes a trying one. Mr. Ward was continually forcing on Mr. Newman so-called irresistible inferences: "If you say so and so, surely you must also say something more?" Avowedly ignorant of facts and depending for them on others, he was only concerned with logical consistency. And accordingly Mr. Newman, with whom producible logical consistency was indeed a great thing, but with whom it was very far from being everything, had continually to accept conclusions which he would rather have kept in abeyance, to make admissions which were used without their qualifications, to push on and sanction extreme ideas which he himself shrank from because they were extreme. But it was all over with his command of time, his liberty to make up his mind slowly on the great decision. He had to go at Mr. Ward's pace, and not his own. He had to take Mr. Ward's questions, not when he wanted to have them and at his own time, but at Mr. Ward's. No one can tell how much this state of things affected the working of Mr. Newman's mind in that pause of hesitation before the final step; how far it accelerated the view which he ultimately took of his position. No one can tell, for many other influences were mixed up with this one. But there is no doubt that Mr. Newman felt the annoyance and the unfairness of this perpetual questioning for the benefit of Mr. Ward's theories, and there can be little doubt that, in effect, it drove him onwards and cut short his time of waiting. Engineers tell us that, in the case of a ship rolling in a sea-way, when the periodic times of the ship's roll coincide with those of the undulations of the waves, a condition of things arises highly dangerous to the ship's stability. So the agitations of Mr. Newman's mind were reinforced by the impulses of Mr. Ward's.

But the great question between England and Rome was not the only matter which engaged Mr. Ward's active mind. In the course of his articles in the British Critic he endeavoured to develop in large outlines a philosophy of religious belief. Restless on all matters without a theory, he felt the need of a theory of the true method of reaching, verifying, and judging of religious truth: it seemed to him necessary especially to a popular religion, such as Christianity claimed to be; and it was not the least of the points on which he congratulated himself that he had worked out a view which extended greatly the province and office of conscience, and of fidelity to it, and greatly narrowed the province and office of the mere intellect in the case of the great mass of mankind. The Oxford writers had all along laid stress on the paramount necessity of the single eye and disciplined heart in accepting or judging religion; moral subjects could be only appreciated by moral experience; purity, reverence, humility were as essential in such questions a zeal, industry, truthfulness, honesty; religious truth is a gift as well as a conquest; and they dwelt on the great maxims of the New Testament: "To him that bath shall be given"; "If any man will do the will of the Father, he shall know of the doctrine." But though Mr. Newman especially had thrown out deep and illuminating thoughts on this difficult question, it had not been treated systematically; and this treatment Mr. Ward attempted to give to it. It was a striking and powerful effort, full of keen insight into human experience and acute observations on its real laws and conditions; but on the face of it, it was laboured and strained; it chose its own ground, and passed unnoticed neighbouring regions under different conditions; it left undealt with the infinite variety of circumstances, history, capacities, natural temperament, and those unexplored depths of will and. character, affecting choice and judgment, the realities of which have been brought home to us by our later ethical literature. Up to a certain point his task was easy. It is easy to say that a bad life, a rebellious temper, a selfish spirit are hopeless disqualifications for judging spiritual things; that we must take something for granted in learning any truths whatever; that men must act as moral creatures to attain insight into moral truths, to realise and grasp them as things, and not abstractions and words. But then came the questions--What is that moral training, which, in the case of the good heart, will be practically infallible in leading into truth? And what is that type of character, of saintliness, which gives authority which we cannot do wrong in following; where, if question and controversy arise, is the common measure binding on both sides; and can even the saints, with their immense variations and apparent mixtures and failings, furnish that type? And next, where, in the investigations which may be endlessly diversified, does intellect properly come in and give its help? For come in somewhere, of course it must; and the conspicuous dominance of the intellectual element in Mr. Ward's treatment of the subject is palpable on the face of it. His attempt is to make out a theory of the reasonableness of unproducible, because unanalysed, reasons; reasons which, though the individual cannot state them, may be as real and as legitimately active as the obscure rays of the spectrum. But though the discussion in Mr. Ward's hands was suggestive of much, though he might expose the superciliousness of Whately or the shallowness of Mr. Goode, and show himself no unequal antagonist to Mr. J. S. Mill, it left great difficulties unanswered, and it had too much the appearance of being directed to a particular end, that of guarding the Catholic view of a popular religion from formidable objections.

The moral side of religion had been from the first a prominent subject in the teaching of the movement. Its protests had been earnest and constant against intellectual self-sufficiency, and the notion that mere shrewdness and cleverness were competent judges of Christian truth, or that soundness of judgment in religious matters was compatible with arrogance or an imperfect moral standard; and it revolted against the conventional and inconsistent severity of Puritanism, which was shocked at dancing but indulged freely in good dinners, and was ostentatious in using the phrases of spiritual life and in marking a separation from the world, while it surrounded itself with all the luxuries of modern inventiveness. But this moral teaching was confined to the statement of principles, and it was carried out in actual life with the utmost dislike of display and with a shrinking from strong professions. The motto of Froude's Remains, which embodied his characteristic temper, was an expression of the feeling of the school:

Se sub serenis vultibus
Austera virtus occulit;
Timet videri, ne suum,
Dum prodit, amittat decus.

The heroic strictness and self-denial of the early Church were the objects of admiration, as what ought to be the standard of Christians; but people did not yet like to talk much about attempts to copy them. Such a book as the Church of the Fathers brought out with great force and great sympathy the ascetic temper and the value put on celibacy in the early days, and it made a deep impression; but nothing was yet formulated as characteristic and accepted doctrine.

It was not unnatural that this should change. The principles exemplified in the high Christian lives of antiquity became concrete in definite rules and doctrines, and these rules and doctrines were most readily found in the forms in which the Roman schools and teachers had embodied them. The distinction between the secular life and the life of "religion," with all its consequences, became an accepted one. Celibacy came to be regarded as an obvious part of the self-sacrifice of a clergyman's life, and the belief and the profession of it formed a test, understood if not avowed, by which the more advanced or resolute members of the party were distinguished from the rest. This came home to men on the threshold of life with a keener and closer touch than questions about doctrine. It was the subject of many a bitter, agonising struggle which no one knew anything of; it was with many the act of a supreme self-oblation. The idea of the single life may be a utilitarian one as well as a religious one. It may be chosen with no thought of renunciation or self-denial, for the greater convenience and freedom of the student or the philosopher, the soldier or the man of affairs. It may also be chosen without any special feeling of a sacrifice by the clergyman, as most helpful for his work. But the idea of celibacy, in those whom it affected at Oxford, was in the highest degree a religious and romantic one. The hold which it had on the leader of the movement made itself felt, though little was directly said. To shrink from it was a mark of want of strength or intelligence, of an unmanly preference for English home life, of insensibility to the generous devotion and purity of the saints. It cannot be doubted that at this period of the movement the power of this idea over imagination and conscience was one of the strongest forces in the direction of Rome.

Of all these ideas Mr. Ward's articles in the British Critic were the vigorous and unintermittent exposition. He spoke out, and without hesitation. There was a perpetual contrast implied, when it was not forcibly insisted on, between all that had usually been esteemed highest in the moral temper of the English Church, always closely connected with home life and much variety of character, and the loftier and bolder but narrower standard of Roman piety. And Mr. Ward was seconded in the British Critic by other writers, all fervid in the same cause, some able and eloquent. The most distinguished of his allies was Mr. Oakeley, Fellow of Balliol and minister of Margaret Chapel in London. Mr. Oakeley was, perhaps, the first to realise the capacities of the Anglican ritual for impressive devotional use, and his services, in spite of the disadvantages of the time, and also of his chapel, are still remembered by some as having realised for them, in a way never since surpassed, the secrets and the consolations of the worship of the Church. Mr. Oakeley, without much learning, was master of a facile and elegant pen. He was a man who followed a trusted leader with chivalrous boldness, and was not afraid of strengthening his statements. Without Mr. Ward's force and originality, his articles were more attractive reading. His article on "Jewel" was more than anything else a landmark in the progress of Roman ideas.

From the time of Mr. Ward's connexion with the British Critic, its anti-Anglican articles had given rise to complaints which did not become less loud as time went on. He was a troublesome contributor to his editor, Mr. T. Mozley, and he made the hair of many of his readers stand on end with his denunciations of things English and eulogies of things Roman. 

My first troubles (writes Mr. Mozley) were with Oakeley and Ward. I will not say that I hesitated much as to the truth of what they wrote, for in that matter I was inclined to go very far, at least in the way of toleration. Yet it appeared to me quite impossible either that any great number of English Churchmen would ever go so far, or that the persons possessing authority in the Church would fail to protest, not to say more. . . . As to Ward I did but touch a filament or two in one of his monstrous cobwebs, and off he ran instantly to Newman to complain of my gratuitous impertinence. Many years after I was forcibly reminded of him by a pretty group of a little Cupid flying to his mother to show a wasp-sting he had just received. Newman was then in this difficulty. He did not disagree with what Ward had written; but, on the other hand, he had given neither me nor Ward to understand that he was likely to step in between us. In fact, he wished to be entirely clear of the editorship. This, however, was a thing that Ward could not or would not understand.

The discontent of readers of the British Critic was great. It was expressed in various ways, and was represented by a pamphlet of Mr. W. Palmer's of Worcester, in which he contrasted, with words of severe condemnation, the later writers in the Review with the teaching of the earlier Tracts for the Times, and denounced the "Romanising" tendency shown in its articles, In the autumn of 1843 the Review came to an end. A field of work was thus cut off from Mr. Ward. Full of the interest of the ideas which possessed him, always equipped and cheerfully ready for the argumentative encounter, and keenly relishing the certaminis gaudia, he at once seized the occasion of Mr. Palmer's pamphlet to state what he considered his position, and to set himself right in the eyes of all fair and intelligent readers. He intended a long pamphlet. It gradually grew under his hands--he was not yet gifted with the power of compression and arrangement--into a volume of 600 pages: the famous Ideal of a Christian Church, considered in Comparison with Existing Practice, published in the summer of 1844.

The Ideal is a ponderous and unattractive volume, ill arranged and rambling, which its style and other circumstances have caused to be almost forgotten. But there are interesting discussions in it which may still repay perusal for their own sakes. The object of the book was twofold. Starting with an "ideal" of what the Christian Church may be expected to be in its various relations to men, it assumes that the Roman Church, and only the Roman Church, satisfies the conditions of what a Church ought to be, and it argues in detail that the English Church, in spite of its professions, utterly and absolutely fails to fulfil them. It is a plaidoirie against everything English, on the ground chat it cannot be Catholic because it is not Roman. It was not consistent, for while the writer alleged that "our Church totally neglected her duties both as guardian of and witness to morality, and as witness and teacher of orthodoxy," yet he saw no difficulty in attributing the revival of Catholic truth to "the inherent vitality and powers of our own Church." But this was not the sting and provocation of the book. That lay in the developed claim, put forward by implication in Mr. Ward's previous writings, and now repeated in the broadest and most unqualified form, to hold his position in the English Church, avowing and teaching all Roman doctrine.

We find (he exclaims), oh, most joyful, most wonderful, most unexpected sight! we find the whole cycle of Roman doctrine gradually possessing numbers of English Churchmen. . . . Three years have passed since I said plainly that in subscribing the Articles I renounce no Roman doctrine; yet I retain my fellowship which I hold on the tenure of subscription, and have received no ecclesiastical censure in any shape.

There was much to learn from the book; much that might bring home to the most loyal Churchman a sense of shortcomings, a burning desire for improvement; much that might give every one a great deal to think about, on some of the deepest problems of the intellectual and religious life. But it could not be expected that such a challenge, in such sentences as these, should remain unnoticed.

The book came out in the Long Vacation, and it was not till the University met in October that signs of storm began to appear. But before it broke an incident occurred which inflamed men's tempers. Dr. Wynter's reign as Vice-Chancellor had come to a close, and the next person, according to the usual custom of succession, was Dr. Symons, Warden of Wadham. Dr. Symons had never concealed his strong hostility to the movement, and he had been one of Dr. Pusey's judges. The prospect of a partisan Vice-Chancellor, certainly very determined, and supposed not to be over-scrupulous, was alarming. The consent of Convocation to the Chancellor's nomination of his substitute had always been given in words, though no instance of its having been refused was known, at least in recent times. But a great jealousy about the rights of Convocation had been growing up under the late autocratic policy of the Heads, and there was a disposition to assert, and even to stretch these rights, a disposition not confined to the party of the movement. It was proposed to challenge Dr. Symons's nomination. Great doubts were felt and expressed about the wisdom of the proposal ; but at length opposition was resolved upon. The step was a warning to the Heads, who had been provoking enough; but there was not enough to warrant such a violent departure from usage, and it was the act of exasperation rather than of wisdom. The blame for it must be shared between the few who fiercely urged it, and the many who disapproved and acquiesced. On the day of nomination, the scrutiny was allowed, salva auctoritate Cancellarii; but Dr. Symons's opponents were completely defeated by 883 to 183. It counted, not unreasonably, as a "Puseyite defeat."

The attempt and its result made it certain that in the attack that was sure to come on Mr. Ward's book, he would meet with no mercy. As soon as term began the Board of Heads of Houses took up the matter; they were earnestly exhorted to it by a letter of Archbishop Whately's, which was read at the Board. But they wanted no pressing, nor is it astonishing that they could not understand the claim to hold the "whole cycle" of Roman doctrine in the English Church. Mr. Ward's view was that he was loyally doing the best he could for "our Church," not only in showing up its heresies and faults, but in urging that the only remedy was wholesale submission to Rome. To the University authorities this was taking advantage of his position in the Church to assail and if possible destroy it. And to numbers of much more sober and moderate Churchmen, sympathisers with the general spirit of the movement, it was evident that Mr. Ward had long passed the point when tolerance could be fairly asked, consistently with any respect for the English Church, for such sweeping and paradoxical contradictions, by her own servants, of her claims and title. Mr. Ward's manner also, which, while it was serious enough in his writings, was easy and even jocular in social intercourse, left the impression, in reality a most unfair impression, that he was playing and amusing himself with these momentous questions.

A Committee of the Board examined the book; a number of startling propositions were with ease picked out, some preliminary skirmishing as to matters of form took place, and in December 1844 the Board announced that they proposed to submit to Convocation without delay three measures:--(1) to condemn Mr. Ward's book; (2) to degrade Mr. Ward by depriving him of all his University degrees; and (3) whereas the existing Statutes gave the Vice-Chancellor power of calling on any member of the University at any time to prove his orthodoxy by subscribing the Articles, to add to this a declaration, to be henceforth made by the subscriber, that he took them in the sense in which "they were both first published and were now imposed by the University," with the penalty of expulsion against any one, lay or clerical, who thrice refused subscription with this declaration.

As usual, the Board entirely mistook the temper of the University, and by their violence and want of judgment turned the best chance they ever had, of carrying the University with them, into what their blunders really made an ignominious defeat. If they had contented themselves with the condemnation, in almost any terms, of Mr. Ward's book, and even of its author, the condemnation would have been overwhelming. A certain number of men would have still stood by Mr. Ward, either from friendship or sympathy, or from independence of judgment, or from dislike of the policy of the Board; but they would have been greatly outnumbered. The degradation--the Board did not venture on the logical consequence, expulsion--was a poor and even ridiculous measure of punishment; to reduce Mr. Ward to an undergraduate in statu pupillari and a commoner's short gown, was a thing to amuse rather than terrify. The personal punishment seemed unworthy when they dared not go farther, while to many the condemnation of the book seemed penalty enough; and the condemnation of the book by these voters was weakened by their refusal to carry it into personal disgrace and disadvantage. Still, if these two measures had stood by themselves, they could not have been resisted, and the triumph of the Board would have been a signal one. But they could not rest. They must needs attempt to put upon subscription, just when its difficulties were beginning to be felt, not by one party, but by all, an interpretation which set the University and Church in a flame. The cry, almost the shriek, arose that it was a new test, and a test which took for granted what certainly needed proof, that the sense in which the Articles were first understood and published was exactly the same as that in which the University now received and imposed them. It was in vain that explanations, assurances, protests, were proffered; no new test, it was said, was thought of--the Board would never think of such a thing; it was only something to ensure good faith and honesty. But it was utterly useless to contend against the storm. A test it was, and a new test no one would have. It was clear that, if the third proposal was pushed, it would endanger the votes about Mr. Ward. After some fruitless attempts at justification the Board had, in the course of a month, to recognise that it had made a great mistake. The condemnation of Mr. Ward was to come on, on the 13th of February; and on the 23rd of January the Vice-Chancellor, in giving notice of it, announced that the third proposal was withdrawn.

It might have been thought that this was lesson enough to leave well alone. The Heads were sure of votes against Mr. Ward, more or less numerous; they were sure of a victory which would be a severe blow, not only to Mr. Ward and his special followers, but to the Tractarian party with which he had been so closely connected. But those bitter and intemperate spirits which had so long led them wrong were not to be taught prudence even by their last experience. The mischief-makers were at work, flitting about the official lodgings at Wadham and Oriel. Could not something be done, even at this late hour, to make up for the loss of the test? Could not something be done to disgrace a greater name than Mr. Ward's? Could not the opportunity which was coming of rousing the feeling of the University against the disciple be turned to account to drag forth his supposed master from his retirement and impunity, and brand the author of No. 90 with the public stigma--no longer this time of a Hebdomadal censure, but of a University condemnation? The temptation was irresistible to a number of disappointed partisans--kindly, generous, good-natured men in private life, but implacable in their fierce fanaticism. In their impetuous vehemence they would not even stop to think what would be said of the conditions and circumstances under which they pressed their point. On the 23rd of January the Vice-Chancellor had withdrawn the test. On the 25th of January--those curious in coincidences may observe  that it was the date of No. 90 in 1841--a circular was issued inviting signatures for a requisition to the Board, asking them to propose, in the approaching Convocation of the 13th of February, a formal censure of the principles of No. 90. The invitation to sign was issued in the names of Dr. Faussett and Dr. Ellerton of Magdalen. It received between four and five hundred signatures, as far as was known; but it was withheld by the Vice-Chancellor from the inspection of those who officially had a right to have it before them. On the 4th of February its prayer came before the Hebdomadal Board. The objection of haste--that not ten days intervened between this new and momentous proposal and the day of voting--was brushed aside. The members of the Board were mad enough not to see, not merely the odiousness of the course, but the aggravated odiousness of hurry. The proposal was voted by the majority, sans phrase. And they ventured, amid all the excitement and irritation of the moment, to offer for the sanction of the University a decree framed in the words of their own censure.

The interval before the Convocation was short, but it was long enough for decisive opinions on the proposal of the Board to be formed and expressed. Leading men in London, Mr. Gladstone among them, were clear that it was an occasion for the exercise of the joint veto with which the Proctors were invested. The veto was intended, if for anything, to save the University from inconsiderate and hasty measures; and seldom, except in revolutionary times, had so momentous and so unexpected a measure been urged on with such unseemly haste. The feeling of the younger Liberals, Mr. Stanley, Mr. Donkin, Mr. Jowett, Dr. Greenhill, was in the same direction. On the 10th of February the Proctors announced to the Board their intention to veto the third proposal. But of course the thing went forward. The Proctors were friends of Mr. Newman, and the Heads believed that this would counterbalance any effect from their act of authority. It is possible that the announcement may have been regarded as a mere menace, too audacious to be fulfilled. On the 13th of February, amid slush and snow, Convocation met in the Theatre. Mr. Ward asked leave to defend himself in English, and occupied one of the rostra, usually devoted to the recital of prize poems and essays. He spoke with vigour and ability, dividing his speech, and resting in the interval between the two portions in the rostrum. There was no other address, and the voting began. The first vote, the condemnation of the book, was carried by 777 to 386. The second, by a more evenly balanced division, 569 to 511. When the Vice-Chancellor put the third, the Proctors rose, and the senior Proctor, Mr. Guillemard of Trinity, stopped it in the words, Nobis procuratoribus non placet. Such a step, of course, only suspended the vote, and the year of office of these Proctors was nearly run. But they had expressed the feeling of those whom they represented. It was shown not only in a largely-signed address of thanks. All attempts to revive the decree at the expiration of their year of office failed. The wiser heads in the Hebdomadal Board recognised at last that they had better hold their hand. Mistakes men may commit, and defeats they may undergo, and yet lose nothing that concerns their character for acting as men of a high standard ought to act. But in this case, mistakes and defeat were the least of what the Board brought on themselves. This was the last act of a long and deliberately pursued course of conduct; and if it was the last, it was because it was the upshot and climax, and neither the University nor any one else would endure that  it should go on any longer. The proposed attack on Mr. Newman betrayed how helpless they were, and to what paltry acts of worrying it was, in their judgment, right and judicious to condescend. It gave a measure of their statesmanship, wisdom, and good feeling in defending the interests of the Church; and it made a very deep and lasting impression on all who were interested in the honour and welfare of Oxford. Men must have blinded themselves to the plainest effects of their own actions who could have laid themselves open to such a description of their conduct as is contained in the following extract from a paper of the time--a passage of which the indignant and pathetic undertone reflected the indignation and the sympathy of hundreds of men of widely differing opinions.

The vote is an answer to a cry--that cry is one of dishonesty, and this dishonesty the proposed resolution, as plainly as it dares to say anything, insinuates. On this part of the question, those who have ever been honoured by Mr. Newman's friendship must feel it dangerous to allow themselves thus to speak. And yet they must speak; for no one else can appreciate it as truly as they do. When they see the person whom they have been accustomed to revere as few men are revered, whose labours, whose greatness, whose tenderness, whose singleness and holiness of purpose, they have been permitted to know intimately not allowed even the poor privilege of satisfying, by silence and retirement by the relinquishment of preferment, position, and influence--the persevering hostility of persons whom they cannot help comparing with him--not permitted even to submit in peace to those irregular censures, to which he seems to have been even morbidly alive, but dragged forth to suffer an oblique and tardy condemnation; called again to account for matters now long ago accounted for; on which a judgment has been pronounced, which, whatever others may think of it, he at least has accepted as conclusive when they contrast his merits, his submission, his treatment, which they see and know, with the merits, the bearing, the fortunes of those who are doggedly pursuing him, it does become very difficult to speak without sullying what it is a kind of pleasure to feel is his cause by using hard words, or betraying it by not using them. It is too difficult to speak, as ought to be spoken, of this ungenerous and gratuitous afterthought--too difficult to keep clear of what, at least, will be thought exaggeration; too difficult to do justice to what they feel to be undoubtedly true; and I will not attempt to say more than enough to mark an opinion which ought to be plainly avowed, as to the nature of this procedure.

Project Canterbury