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The Oxford University election

February 1829

The following report is taken from the Edinburgh Review of February 1829; the Review reproduced reports from other newspapers.

The election of an MP for Oxford University was precipitated by the resignation of Robert Peel as the sitting MP.

From the Spectator

It is one of the many inconveniences attending the non-settlement of the Roman Catholic question, that it narrows extremely the number of candidates for seats in Parliament. We do not allude to the Catholic merit, but to the Protestant merit, that it shuts out. Were this shibboleth removed, there would be a mighty change for the better in the character off the House of Commons. There are probably not fewer than a hundred persons who sit there to the exclusion of others, who are notoriously more intelligent, more eloquent, more fit in all things, but who are unfortunately incapable of answering satisfactorily the query of the zealous partisans who watch the fords of our political Jordan. We have a curious exemplification of this fact, in the approaching contest for the representation of the University of Oxford. Mr Secretary Peel is a man of a very clear understanding, a good speaker, of long habits of business, and zealous in the discharge of his ministerial duties. It is indeed acknowledged by every man in the kingdom, that are more able or a more efficient Secretary never filled the Home Office. He has the substantial praise also of having done more for the criminal law of England than any one legislator living or dead; and he did more to insure its correct administration, by his bill for regulating juries, than had ever been attempted by any preceding legal reformer. He is moreover an elegant scholar, a sound judge of the fine arts, and their liberal patron. All these matters are known and acknowledged. Sir Robert Harry Inglis, so far as the worthy baronet is known, is a person inferior in understanding and acquirements — a much feebler speaker, and a smaller scholar than the Home Secretary; and even passing over such particulars, on which men's judgment will necessarily differ, Sir Robert has done nothing which, were he gathered to his fathers tomorrow, would continue his name for a fortnight, unless among his friends and relations. Now it certainly is an unfortunate state of things, in consequence of which, men, not unreasonable nor unenlightened, feel themselves constrained to take the worse and reject the better of these two candidates, because on a question that has puzzled the wisest men in the kingdom, they happen to judge differently.

In respect of the disinterestedness of the two parties — of which, as well as of their actions, all men can judge clearly — Mr Peel having determined to cease opposing the Catholics, has resigned the seat which was bestowed on him as the reward of his opposition; Sir Robert, having determined to cease supporting ministers, has retained the sinecure which was bestowed on him as a reward of his support.

Again, of the cui bono of a change of representatives — Mr Peel will give his vote and his influence for the Emancipation Bill, whether he be elected or not; Sir Robert will give his vote (he has no influence) against it, whether he be elected or not: so that the bill itself will not be affected by the election.

If it be said that the electors wish to mark their admiration of consistency — we answer, that their marking it will not lose Mr Peel one cheer of those who approve of his conduct, nor put one hiss additional in the mouths of those who disapprove of it; and therefore the fame of the Home Secretary will not be affected by the election.

But there is one party that will be affected by it. Mr Peel holds high office; Sir Robert hold no office — Mr Peel has many good things to distribute; Sir Robert has nothing but his sweet voice to give away — Mr Peel, when the University has a request to prefer, can back his Alma Mater, not only with his eloquence, but with his interest; Sir Robert has little eloquence to lend her, and no interest at all: therefore, the University, both corporately and individually, will be deeply affected by the election.

From this induction, it is no great leap to the conclusion that the University of Oxford will again return Mr Peel.

* * * * * * *

On Thursday, this election commenced. During the preceding night, voters were arriving form all parts of the kingdom; many of them upwards of 200 miles. The election commenced in the Convocation Hall at 12 o'clock. Dr Marsham, Warden of Merton, nominated Mr Peel. He said the hon. gentleman had done nothing to forfeit their confidence. The Catholic Question was one on which the wisest statesmen differed, and in which the greatest charity ought to be shown when opinions came in collision. My recommitting the trust into the hands of Mr Peel, they would best consult the safety of the Church, and the interests of the University. The Rev. Doctor was frequently interrupted by violent outcries from the friends of the opposition candidate. Dr Ingram, Master of Trinity, proposed Sir Robert H. Inglis. At the close of the first day's poll, the numbers were:—
For Sir R. Inglis . . . . . . 311
Mr Peel . . . . . . 268

At none o'clock, on Friday, the poll recommenced. At 10 o'clock, Sir R. Inglis's majority was reduced to 20, but his voters afterwards rallied; and at the close of the second day's poll, the numbers were:—

Sir R. Inglis . . . . . . 676
Mr Peel . . . . . . 550

The private letters from Oxford, in the London papers, dated Saturday morning, despaired of the success of Mr Peel. There are 2386 members of convocation, or voters for the University. Of these, one-half had been polled in two days. Lord Granville Somerset, Mr. M.A. Taylor, Mr Wilmot Horton, Mr Jephson, and several other members of Parliament voted late in the day. Lord Grenville's political connexions also voted for Mr Peel. Several of Sir R. Inglis's friends came from remote parts of Scotland and Wales. At the close of the poll on Saturday, the numbers were

Sir R. Inglis . . . . . . 755
Mr Peel . . . . . . 609

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