Richard Newton’s 1726 Account of the Founding of Oxford University

Newton, Richard. University Education. London, 1726.

In ancient times certain Learned Men resided in the City of OXFORD, and there taught those Arts and Sciences, which are call’d Liberal, to such as were dispos’d to learn them.  The Reputation of Their Skill, and the Fine Situation of the Place, invited such a general Resort of Scholars to it from All Parts, that it soon obtain’d the Name of an UNIVERSITY.  It became of so great Use to the Publick, that Princes were induc’d to honour it with divers Grants of Privileges and Immunities; and private Men of Princely Minds repaid the Treasures of Learning they borrow’d from it in many Marks of Beneficence and Favour towards it.  The Citizens, for the better Accommodation of the Students, from whose Residence amongst them they receiv’d great Benefit, let out such of their Houses, as they did not Themselves inhabit, to the Teachers of these Arts; who, again, let out the several Rooms thereof to their respective Scholars, as to Under-Tenants.  Such Houses, from the Time they were apply’d to the Purposes of Liberal Education, were call’d Halls; and the several Governors of these Voluntary Societies, Principals of Halls. Long before any of these Halls were converted into Colleges, the UNIVERSITY, by Prescription, us’d a publick Seal, receiv’d Lands, was possess’d of Customs, and made Laws for the Government of its own Body as a Corporation.  And, in the 13th Year of Q. Eliz. long after many of these Halls had been appropriated to the Uses of Learning, and endow’d, it was enacted by the Queen, Lords, and Commons, “That the Earl of Leicester, then Chancellor of the UNIVERSITY of OXFORD, and his Successors for ever, and the Masters and Scholars for the time being, shall be Incorporate, and have a perpetual Succession in Fact, Deed, and Name, by the Name of the Chancellor, Masters, and Scholars of the UNIVERSITY of OXFORD for evermore.”

The UNIVERSITY, from the time She first became a Political Person, was consider’d as a Mother, adopting those for her Children who were desirous to listen to her Instructions, and willing to be Rul’d by her.  These Entring themselves Members of her Political Body, and stipulating for the Observance of her Laws, were said to be Matriculated, or made Sons of this Mother; and were from thenceforth entitled to any Privileges, or Favours, which She had to bestow, and They, by their Dutifulness, should deserve.  The several Halls, or Houses of Learning, which She permitted to receive her numerous Youth, were, as so many Nurseries, intrusted by Her to the Care of such Governors as, by her great Indulgence, should be Chosen by these Voluntary Societies Themselves; to be Approv’d by Her for their Sobriety, Prudence, and Learning; and upon whose Fidelity she could depend, when any of her Children should, by Them, be presented to Her, as worthy, for their Manners and Improvements, to receive Honour or Favour at her Hands. Which Nurseries also she frequently Visited, as any Complaints were made to her of Abuse of Power on the side of the Preceptors, or of Contempt of Authority on the Scholar’s Part; reducing, as she might, with Equal Tenderness, Discretion, and Courage, the One to Moderation, and the Other to Obedience.

The Rules and Customs of the several Halls, were, at first, very different, as the respective Principals thereof varied in their Opinions of the Methods of Education.  In tract of time, as the Number of Halls increas’d, and an unseemly Contention for Scholars in the Governors thereof was noted, a good deal of Liberty, not to say Licence, was indulg’d to the young Students, lest, otherwise, they should be tempted to remove from one House of Learning to another, as they should be inform’d that there was Looser Discipline in This, than in That, to the lessening the Number of the Tenants, and, consequently, the Rent and Subsistence, of their former Principal.

The University finding, by sad Experience, how much this would tend to the Corruption of the Youth of the Kingdom, instead of their Virtuous and Learned Education, was resolv’d to put Matters upon another Foot; and, accordingly, gave All these Societies One Rule, a Body of Statutes call’d Statuta Aularia; conceiving, that no Scholar, hereafter, would except against the Rules of his Particular Hall, which were now to be observ’d in every Other House of Education. (pp. 1-5)

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