King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
In the Beginning ...

Motives questioned

cartoon image, coloured in, of a see-saw balanced on the back of a man with academics of University College on London on the left up in the air, ballasted with a bag labelled 'sense and science' and on the right a group of three bishops and a man in a suit down near the ground ballasted with a bag labelled 'money and interest'. They shout 'Kings Col for ever huzza''.  In the foreground a devil bursting from a flaming pit points toward this second bagSatirical cartoon on the founding of King's College London (1828)The meeting was convened at the height of the national political debate sparked by the popular movement for Catholic emancipation in Ireland led by Daniel O'Connell's Catholic Association, and demands for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts. These effectively excluded Roman Catholics from British public life.

The crisis came to a head following O'Connell's victory in the County Clare election in July 1828. The Prime Minister, Wellington, who had formed a new ministry in January 1828, and the Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel, were long standing opponents of Catholic emancipation but with the prospect of serious civil unrest in Ireland the two men broke with their more conservative colleagues and reluctantly consented to reform.

In the teeth of fierce resistance, not least by the King, George IV, the Test and Corporation Acts were repealed in May 1828 and measures for the relief of Catholics passed in April 1829.

The controversy provided the backdrop to the Freemasons' Hall gathering.

Many supporters of the proposed College were also determined critics of concessions to Catholics. They envisaged a College that would make subscription to the creeds of the Church of England a condition of entry for prospective students.

They were therefore bitterly disappointed when it was revealed that in the spirit of reform 'no questions whatever as to religious opinions held by the student will ever be asked'. Instead, regular students would be required only to attend chapel and a course of education on the fundamentals of Christianity.

The June meeting determined that King's College would offer a broad education to a diverse cross-section of the population and in no way become an 'Anglican seminary', the exclusive and segregated preserve of the ultra-Protestant wing of the Church of England.

This arguably widened its appeal to the new middle classes and ensured its long-term success.

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