Terræ-filius: or, the Secret History of the University of Oxford/Preface

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THE distance of time between the first and second appearance of the following papers, together with the difference in the past and present state of the university of Oxford, make it necessary for me to prefix something by way of apology for this work, which may seem to those persons, who are not acquainted with the subject in hand, or do not make a proper distinction of time, to stand in need of a justification.

The undertaker and publisher of these sheets went to Oxford in the year 1716. when the seeds of the late unnatural Rebellion were not yet extinguish'd; and continued there till June 1719. during which time he was a witness of that disloyal and treasonable disposition, of those corruptions, follies, and vices, which are complained of in the following book. For the truth of these particulars he appeals to the world, and especially to those who were his contemporaries there, excepting only some, who would think it very hard to be oblig'd to speak the Truth.

As to my charge of a treasonable spirit reigning in the university at that time, I think it generally known, that I need not use any arguments, or produce any vouchers, to prove to be just; it was so far from being disowned by the persons possess'd of that spirit, that was boasted of, in most of their sermons and publick speeches, tho' under another name as the chief ornament and glory of the place. They labour'd to convince the world how strenuous they were in the cause of High church and the Pretender, by publick drinking his health, defending his right, praying for his restoration, and caressing his m[??] open and declar'd adherents. This is suficiently confirmed by the prudent steps which the Government took, at that time, to prevent their farther designs, by sending a regiment of Dragoons into the university; a thing which is never done, but in cases of the utmost extremity. To this we may add the [??][1] solutions which afterwards passed, in the House of Lords, on a complaint of a Riot at Oxford by which Resolutions it appears, according to the judgement of the Lords, both spiritual [??] temporal, after the strickest examination at the Governors of the university and city of Oxford were notoriously guilty of practices, highly disrespectful to his majessty's royal family, and tending to Sedition.

I will mention but one thing more upon [?]is head, besides what is farther alledged in the following volumes, which is the treatment that the Consitution-club received from the Magistrates and Rulers, as well as the in[?]rior part of the university; a Club, which deserves immortal honour, and the highest encouragement, for thier zeal and services to the present happy settlement, in the most [?]itical season; for which they were repaid [?] Oxford with persecution and disgrace, with injuries and hardships, and with the most partial and cruel treatment. Were witnesses wanting to the truth of this, I could appeal to several Gentlemen of great distinction, and shining ornaments of their country, who were formerly members of that society and at present make a considerable figure in the House of Commons.

It must be confess'd, indeed, that this seditious spirit, and these treasonable practices have, of late years, so much abated, if not entirely ceased there, that it induced his Majesty, out of his royal goodness, to distinguish his subjects at Oxford with several valuable Donations, and marks of his affection: Neither ought it to be dissembled, what a loyal, dutiful, and grateful sense they expressed of these favours; of which their famous Address of thanks, as well as the manner in which it was sent to his majesty, is a lasting and memorable instance: nay, so zealous were they in this matter, and so feaful lest they should be thought deficient in their acknowledgements of royal bounty, that they back'd this address with another, expressing in almost higher strains of gratitude, which the Vice-chanellor condescended to bring up himself; and the manner, in which they still speak of those benefactions at Oxford, shew how far they have alter'd their sentiments, and how well they deserve his Majesty's farther encouragement.

But their being good subjects now does not prove that they were so nine or ten years ago; nor does their present Loyalty oblige me to conceal their former Disobedience; which ought, for many reasons, to be exposed and recorded to posterity.

First, were it only as an historical fact, and for the information of succeeding ages, who have certainly a right to be made accquainted with the behaviour and practices of their Forefathers.

Secondly, for a proof of the inftability of human affairs, what sudden changes are brought about in the world, and how surprisingly good is produce'd out of evil.

Thirdly, to humble the pride and self-sufficiency of mankind, who ought not to be too much elated with an opinioin of their own knowledge and virtue, when they see that so famous a nursery of religion and learning has not been free from very great errors and miscarriages; as, by the difference in their present conduct, they seem themselves to acknowledge.

Lastly, that the present members of that university may have the glory which is due to them, for bringing about so desirable a work; and that we, whose spiritual welfare depends so much upon the purity of those fountains, may rejoice and be glad in it.

We are assur'd in scripture, that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance. If the same rule is to be observed upon earth, how great and extraordinary should the national joy be at present, upon account of this Academical Reformation, when we consider that the number of penitent sinners is so large, and of theose, who need no repentance, so very small?

But we may carry this evangelical doctrine too far, which obliges us to forgive and rejoice over our Rebellious repenting brethren; but not to reward and confide in them beyond those who need no political repentance; for it cannot surely be interpreted to mean, that a man, who has but just escaped the gallows or scaffold, which he consessedly deserved, has immediately a right to a prime Post, or an overgrown Pension.

Indeed the labourers in the gospel, who came in at the eleventh hour, received every man a penny, as well as those, who had borne the heat and burthen of the day; and when the latter repined at this, as an unequal distribution, they were severely rebuked for it, because it did them no wrong. But, if the master of the vinyard had paid those, who came in at that late hour, every man a penny, and had given nothing to those, who bore the heat and burthen of the day, I believe it would have been condemn'd in the parable, as a very hard and unjustifiable proceeding.

This, I say, therefore is straining the sacred text, and is destructive of all Morality as well as Religion; for it tends to the encouragement of Religion; for it tends to the encouragement of Rebellion and makes Loyalty (instead of being its own reward) become its own punishment.

It were to be wished indeed, that the stale, political maxim of obliging our Enemies, under the strange supposition that our Friends will continue to be our Friends, at all events, were as fully exploded in practice, as it is in theory; for though it is universally condemned by all parties, as ungrateful, base, and impolitick; yet it has had too much influence in the counsels and administrations of all Reigns; unless I may be allowed to except the present.

However this conduct may serve the purposes of an ambitious Statesman, who is declining in the esteem of that Party, upon which he first set out, and by whose interest he aggrandiz'd himself; yet it never did, nor ever will conduce to the good of any Nation, or the glory of any Prince.

I shall not insist upon the baseness or ingratitude of such proceedings, because as publick Honesly has, long ago, been laugh'd at as a chimæra, it would be ridiculous to argue upon publick Gratitude. But, speaking politically, what can any Government be said to gain by such conduct? if it engages an Enemy, does it not also endanger the loss of a Friend? Or, can an old inveterate Adversary, brought over by venal motives, be ore rely'd upon than staunch Friend, actuated by the natural principles and dictates of his heart?—It is, at best, nothing else but giving away with one hand, what they gain with the other; not to mention the hazard, which they run, of being betray'd or undermin'd by their new converts and adherents.

To suppose that our friends will always be our friends, however deserted, disregarded, or ill-used, is equally ridiculous with believing that mercenary Proselytes can be safely confided in, when there is real danger. Zeal and Affection to a cause may go a great way in restraining some persons from defection; but men of all parties are equally men, composed of the same flesh and blood, and subject to the same frailties. Nature will sometimes rebel against principle, when it is long and grievously provoked by male-treatment and oppression; as even the grossest patrons of blind obedience and implicit submission have frequently acknowledge'd by their actions, as well as their words.

It is the glory of Those in the present administration, that they have conquer'd all opposition, and subdued the hearts of their enemies by the force of truth and the unblameable conduct of publick affairs, without having recourse to those mean artifices of deserting their Friends, and suborning the nation's known Enemies into their service. We now see the publick business going on, without any of those rubs and impediments, which used to clog the proceedings, and embarrass the designs of men in power. Those persons who, sometimes ago, were loudest upon these occasions, are now convinced of their error, and, by the meer force of Reason, are obliged to alter their conduct, by joining chearfully, with our present Patriots, in all schemes and measures for the publick good. They see the weakness of their former arguments; the reasons of their late discontent are quite vanished, and the subjects of popular clamour are laid aside. The necessary, yearly taxes, occasional deficiencies, and even that dreadful topick of standing armies have lost their weight, and are no longer bug-bears, to deter them from pursuing the true interest of their country.—I speak this, for the honour of Those, to whom we are oblig'd for this happy Coalition!

Nay, should it, at any time, be thought necessary, for the safety and glory of this nation, to heap Honours upon such men, because they have been Enemies to their country; and to crush others, for being over-zealour in their duty, (which possibly may be sometimes objected) I have nothing to say against it, however grating it may be to those, whom it shall affect: littl einconveniences must be submitted to, for the publick good; and as long as the Places of trust and profit are not engrossed and monopoliz'd in a few hands, but distributed without partiality amongst the most deserbing; as long as Pensions are bestowed only upon those, who are intitled to them by their zeal and sufferings for the present Government, and not squander'd away upon the most ill-deserving men, I think every good subject ought to sit down contented, under all private hardships, now without blessing those wise heads and honest hearts, by which the Publick is so well secur'd!

I must, however, beg leave to observe, that whenever such retrograde measures shall be judged expedient by those in power, it will be very unreasonable for them to cry Turn-coat first, and charge their own fickleness upon those, who chuse to abide by their former principles, and will not join with them in their new counsels and Tergiversations.—But it is still more ridiculous for any man to exclaim against Trimming, even supposing the charge to be true, who has been notoriously guilty of that practice himself, whenever his Resentments or Ambition have made it convenient.

For my part, I freely confess (and let my Enemies take it for an handle of triumph) that I have been, for a long time, entirely mistaken in my general opinion of mankind, and the common transactions of the world. I once thought there was a real difference in Parties, and that there was something more in those distinctions, which have so long divided up, than a mere struggle for Power, and a tryal of skill, between a few great men, to determine which of them shall be Greatest.

I am now convinced of the contrary: I have seen it; I have felt it; and find, by fatal experience, that there is nothing in outward names and professions; but I begin to consider most of the great disputes in Politicks and Controversies about Religion only as ingenious devices to aggrandize a few disigning Knaves, at the expence of a vast number of honest, undesigning zealots, who join with them in the same cause. When this point is once gained, the mask is thrown off, and the next besiness is to cajole themselves into the favour of those, whom they had before despleased; which is requently done by leaving their late vigorous adherents in the lurch; or, perhaps, giving them up as sacrifices to appease the resentments of the opposite Party.

I do not mention this with any vain expectations that what I can say will produce the least amendment or alteration; but only by way of apology for my own conduct, in having been too zealous in a good cause, and fondly imagining that the rest of the world were as much in earnest as myself.

It will probably be objected by the little bigots to a party, and tools to ambition, that it is presumptuous and impertinent for any private person to speak thus freely of men, who move in an orb so far above his own. Such proveling objectors may enoy their sordid opinions as long as they please, which perhaps will be no longer than they themselves continue in dependance, and their Patrons in place. But let them know, that it was always a rooted persuasion in my mind, that every one, who is not become a slave by his own consent, has a right to speak with the utmost freedom consistent with decency and the publick good, of any men, in whatever rank or station they are placed. Let them know farther, that I think it the duty of every member of a free society to maintain his private property, interest, and privileges, however small, in that society; and that, for my own particular, I am resolved to assert my Right, and defend the little I have left, to the utmost of my power; unless I find it necessary to sacrifice even that also to the service of my Country.

With this resolution I undertook the following work, and, having received some marks of disgrace and ill-usage in the university, evdeavoured, by a very just Recrimination, to vindicate mysels, and expose those who had deprived me of my Right. I shall not, in this place, trouble the reader with the circumstances of my case, and the treatment I met with at Oxford, having been, perhaps, too prolix upon that head, in one of the following[2] papers, to which I refer.

As for the 'Imprudence of this undertaking, which has frequently been objected, I confess it to be such, and that I have al along proceeded, in the bold search of Truth, without a single view to my own interest, without any promise or expectation of the smallest reward, even that of being presented to a Doctor' degree by the university, in return for all my industry, and the pains which I have taken in its behalf. Having spoken thus much like a child of this world, and frankly acknowledged my self in the wrong, as such; give me leave to declare how far I thing my self in the right, supposing for once, that truth and reason, abstracted from all other considerations, were to be the umpires.

The wordly-wise and the prudent of this generation consider things only as they respect their temporal interest and advantage, without any regard to right or wrong, truth or falshood, any farther than they conduce to their corrupt purposes, and selfish aims. But it is the part of a Scholar and a Honest man, to consider things intrinsically, and to make Truth, Reason, and Equity, the standards of all his determinations. {{--))Let us, therefore, put the question before us in that light, and see whether the present undertaking is blameable or praise-worthy, when thus set in view.

The only two things to be considered in this enquirey, are the matter contained in the following sheets, and themanner in which it is treated.

As to the First: If the facts I have mentioned are true; if my arguments, upon those facts are just and valid; if the practices I have condemned are really unwarrantable; and the whole tenour of what I have written tends, in its nature, to the Reformation of the university, and the interest of Loyalty and true Learning, I think I seserve the thanks, instead of the clamours and ill-will, of all reasonable men.—How far such an attempt is prudent or politick, is quite another question, and nothing to the present purpose, unless we are to admit, (what, I hope, will not be desired) that the world is composed of nothing but juggle, grimace, and legerdemain; and that the before mentioned principles of truth, reason, and equity are only baits to insnare the vulgar, and captivate those, whose ignorance makes them an easy prey.

Upon this issue, therefore, I desire that my Performance my be tried. If it can be proved that I have, in general, misrepresented matters of fact, that my objections have no force, that I have calumniated the university without any reason, and opposed the interest of sound learning, I shall be contented to bear all that load of infamy, which such practices truly deserve. But if nothing of this nature can be fixed upon me, I desire that the odium which hath been unjustly cast upon me, for exposing these corruptions, may be transferr'd to Those who are guilty of them. I speak in general; for it is impossible, in a work of this nature, to avoid mistakes in every trivial circumstance, and minute particular. What I have myself been able to discover of that sort, I have corrected in this edition; and if I am informed of any others, they shall also be amended in the next; but for the rest which hitherto remains, or shall remain unconfuted, I am resolved to justify it upon all occasions, and in any manner.

With regard to that part, which relates to the Exercises and Discipline of the university, I must put the reading in mind, that I represent them as they stood nine or ten years ago, the time when I lay the scene of these papers; for I must confess that, of late years, some wise Regulations have been introduced in those respects.

I mentioned[3] one of my papers, that such a Reformation was then begun in some Colleges; and I am since assured that it has got footing in the publick Exercises of the university. I am well informed that the Discipline in general is more strictly regarded; that the[4] Collectors have been lately curb'd in their exorbitances; that Locke, Clarke, and Sir Isaac Newton begin to find countenance in the schools, and that Aristotle seems to totter on his antient throne. But, I hope, that I shall not be charged with falsification, for representing things as they formerly stood, because they have since been alter'd and reformed. I would not, from hence, be thought to arrogate the least part of this Reformation to myself; but, with the utmost pleasure, am ready to impute it, where it is justly due, to the prevailing good sense, and unprejudiced understanding of several ingenious young Gentlemen, the present ornaments of that university; and especially to Mr. Burton, Fellow of Corpus-Christi College, one of the Pro-protectors for the last and the present year; a Gentleman who bears such a general good character, both as to Learning and Probity, that I will not endeavour to lessen it, by any obnoxious praises which I can bestow. I am, however, sincerely glad to hear, that he has attempted this Change, without incurring upon himself that obloquy and clamour, which usually attend such Innovations, and that he lives in the general esteem of all persons there, excepting only some Pedants and Bigots to antiquity, whose praise or reproach is of equal weight.

Lastly, as to those personal matters, which are scattered up and down through these papers, and particularly with relation to a certain Head of a college, (whose name is grown nauseous to the publick) I will only say, that I took all possible care to inform my self aright in every particular, before I published it. I did, at that time, appeal to the world, as well as himself, for the truth of what I related; and having not yet been contradicted, I presume that it proceeds from the notoriety and consciousness of his guilt. However, I do once more call upon him, in this publick manner, to do himself justice, if he thinks that he is injured; and promise, upon conviction of any material errors, to retract what I have said, and repair the wrong.

But if he thinks proper to make any defence, I must desire and insist upon it, that he will do it, not by private whispers in particular Families, not by live back-biting insinuations and an affected contempt of what I have written; but by plain, open evidence of the falsity of my Facts, or the inconclusiveness of my Reasoning.

I am confident that he cannot do this; and therefore, however the present generation may determine this point against me, for the sake of carrying on little Party views, or the maintainance of bigotted Friendships, or from a joint-concern in the same detestable Practices; yet, I cannot help anticipating to my self the approbation of the next ago, to whose impartial decision I chearfully leave this matter, and doubt not that his memory will stink in the nostrils of posterity.

But Secondly, as to the manner, in which I have treated this subject (which is the next thing to be consider'd) I must first observe, that I am not one of those, who think there is any sin or immorality in Ridicule and a ludicrous stile, provided they are justly apply'd; that, in the present case, if the matters, which I have complained of, be true, they cannot be treated in too scornful and contemptuous a manner; if they are not true, I cannot be justify'd for publishing such falshoods, tho' I did it in the gravest and most solemn stile.

In a work of this nature, it is very hard to please any, and impossible to please all. The different tempers and tastes of men cannot relish the same stile or manner of writing, any more than the same dish or the same deversion: Fops love Romances; Pedants love jargon; the splenatick man delights in satire; and the gay Courtier in panegyrick; some are pleas'd with Poetry; others with Prose; some are for plain truths, and some for disguise and dissimulation.

I was aware of this, when I began, and, in my second paper, reserv'd to my self a liberty to be in what humour I pleas'd, and to vary my manner as well as my subject, hoping thereby to please most sorts of readers; but I quickly found my self disappointed in my expectation, having often receiv'd, by the same post, complaints from some of my correspondents, that I was too grave for the character of Terræ-Filius; and from others, that I affected levity too much for one, who sil'd himself a Reformer.

In answer to both these objections, I shall only beg of my readers to consider, that as, on one had, it ought not to be expected that a man should keep his face upon the broad grin for half a year together; so, on the other, I cannot apprehend that it is at all necessary for a Reformer to be a Puritan, always in the dumps, and always holding forth with a dismal face and a canting tone.

——ridiculum acri
Fortius & melius magnas plerumque secat res.

Upon the whole, after the coolest review of this undertaking, and the various reflections which I have been making upon it, for these five years past, I can see nothing in it, to repent of, but the want of sufficient abilities to treat a subject of such general importance in the manner which it deserves. But I hope the reader will excuse some imperfections, when he considers the nature of my stinted Education, that I was allowed to continue but three years at Oxford, and was not wenty four years of age, when I compleated this undertaking.

Give me leave, for a conclusion, to indulge the natural vanity of an author, by applying to my own performance the self-exaltation of the celebrated Horace; which may seem the more excusable in me, since the gratification of this human foible is the only Reward, which I am ever like to receive for all my zeal and all my labours!

Exegi monumentum ære perennius,
Regalique situ pyramidum altius,
Quod non imber edax, non Aquilo impotens
Possit diruere, aut innumerabilis
Annorum series, & fuga temporum.
Non omnis moriar.
  1. Vide the Journals of the house of lords, April 3, 1717. [Footnote may not appear in exactly this place in the original. See scan.]
  2. Vide Terræ-Filius No. xiv.
  3. Vide Terræ-Filius. No. xxi.
  4. Vide Terræ-Filius. No. xii.