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THE PRIVILEGES OF THE Univerſity of OXFORD, In point of VISITATION: Cleerly evidenced by LETTER To an Honourable Perſonage.

TOGETHER WITH The Ʋniverſities ANSWER to the Summons of the Viſitors.

[printer's or publisher's device]


8ber. 14thPrinted for Richard Royſton. 1647.


THE PRIVILEGES OF The Univerſity of OXFORD, In point of Viſitation, &c.

Honoured Sir,

HOw violently active the reſentments of Liberty and Freedome are in the minds of men, there needs no other evidence then this late War, wherein the moſt earthy ſoules, with earneſt zeale, have ſacrificed their blood unto the name and empty ſhadow of it. And if the bare ſhape, and apparition could actuate thoſe Icie ſpirits; I cannot but wonder you ſhould thinke, that the more Free and Aeriall ones, whoſe induſtry en­deavours to reſtore the Soul to its native Priviledge and Birthright, ſhould be ſenſeleſſe of their juſt intereſt, eſpecially where Religion adds his Title unto Right; and private Liberty, built upon publick Priviledge, in its fall engages his Foundation, and renders the neglect of a ſingle ſafety, a deſertion to the Generall, and Treaſon to Succeſsion. But ſince you take no knowledge of theſe ſo2 high engagements; and ſeeme pre-poſſeſt with the ſpeci­ous deſigne of reforming of Errours, and the Authori­tative name of a Viſitation: I ſhall endeavour to De­monſtrate the propoſition I glanced upon in my laſt Letter, and you ſo much ſtartle at, that the right of Vi­ſiting the Univerſity of Oxford is onely in the Kings Ma­jeſty: and that it is exempt from all other juriſdiction, both by reaſon of its foundation, in regard that all Soci­eties whereof the King or his Predeceſſors were Founders, are onely Viſitable by the King, by the Common Law of this Realme. aa6 Hen. 7. fo. 14. 2 Hen. 5.And ſecondly, by reaſon of ſeverall grants of Exemption:bbMalmesbur. de Antiq. Glaſton. Auth. Annal. de Monaſt. de Hide, Jo: Roſſus de Regibus. Literae Hen. 4. ad Papam Johannem: ex fund. Regis. Firſt, That the Uni­verſity of Oxford wholly refers to the King as its Original and Founder, is cleere, in that almoſt 800. yeers ſince King Alured founded not only Pub­lique Schooles of Arts and Lectures, but their Privi­leges and Immunities, having got them confirmed by the then Pope,**Martin. 2. and although the bounty of inferiour Benefactors added to the bulk and magnifience of the Foundation, yet the King ſtil aſſumed the Title, as being the totall founder of the Deſigne; and his immunities deriving and communicating themſelves to the whole; and thoſe more particular founders were alſo in a lower ranck acknowledged by the Univerſity, who ever both ſubmitted and ſheltred themſelves under the title of the Kings Foundation,ccInſtrum. Univer. Ox­on. ad Ric. ſecundum: Veſtrae Fundationis & Patronatus. Hare memor. Univer. Oxon. Fol. 92. Vetus Epiſtolarum Lib. pag. 51. & 56. Ad Regem Hen. 6. pag. 90. & 108. Antiqu. Oxon. Lib. 2. à pag. 182. ad pag. 202. and as yet doe; (the power of the Chancellour being immediately, and only derived from3 theddEdvar. 3. Poteſtatē re­giam per nos & progenito­res noſtros ipſ­conceſſam. Hare, memor. Univ. Oxon. in Edvar. 3. fo. 65. The vi­olation of his Privileges, in particular that of not obeying his Citation, is called, Laeſio Coronae, &c. ex Rot. clauſ. de an. 34. reg. Edv. 3. in dorf. memb. 27. Tur. Lond. Rot. patent. de an. 36. parte 2. memb. 44. in dorſ. in Tur. Lond. Rot. patent. de an. 18. parte 2. memb. 31. Tur. Lond. King) and are obliged to doe ſo; unleſſe that Logick whick makes Protection and Subjection Relatives, diſpute us out of ſubmiſſion to the Kings onely juriſdiction, be­cauſe He is diſabled from the maintenance of our Privi­leges; and will not let Him be our Viſitor, becauſe He can­not be our Defender. And here you may pleaſe to conſi­der, that the Foundation of the Univerſity, being the Kings and His Predeceſſors Perſonal act, His intereſt lies not within the reach of that beaten evaſion of a publique or politique capacity.

And as this right and title of Viſiting is the Kings Prerogative as Founder, ſo the privilege of being by him onely Viſited, is our lawfull inheritance, which we claim by preſcription,eeIndult. Dom. Papa Bonif. 8. con­firm. privileg. Regal. ipſamqueƲniverſitatē eximens ab omni Juriſd. Archiep. Epiſop. &c. & à Viſi­tatione: adding, that they had had theſe privileges à tempore cujus contrarii memo­niâ non exiſtit: Hare, li. de Priv. Ʋniv. Ox. Lib. Vet. Statut. Ox. p. 95. Lib. Vet. Se­nior. procur. p. 4. the ſame ratified and confirm'd by Sixtus 4. Lib. Epiſt. Ʋniv. Ox. in Hen. 3. Act of Parl. 25 H. 8. c. 21. fo. 556. all power of Viſitation is given onely to ſuch as ſhal have immediate authority by the Kings Commiſſion under the Great Seale of England, in places formerly exempted, as Colleges, &c. All Letters Patents heretofore made by the Kings Progenitours, in behalf of the Univerſities, are confirmed by Act of Parliament, 13. Elizab. And in 19. Eli­zab. part 12. in dorſrot. the Privileges of the Univerſity are confirm'd in the ve­ry words of Bonif. 8. acknowledged they had them by Preſcription: the imme­diate ſubjection of the Univerſity to the authority & juriſdiction of the Prince, and all their other exemptions ratified; and theſe acknowleged to be ſworn to, in the Oath taken by every Graduate, ad obſerv. Statut. Privil. Con­ſuet, &c. allowed and confirm'd by Char­ters from ſeveral Kings, both by themſelves and ine Parliaments; and whatſoever free Royall grant was4 before the Reformation, confirm'd unto us by the Pope, (that being then thought neceſſary) was (after that the Royal Authority had aſſerted to its Prerogative the Eccleſiaſtical Juriſdiction) by the ſucceeding Princes in thee ſame words eſtabliſh't: Nor did the practiſe of Viſitations diſſent, for all thoſe that happen'd in the re­mainder of Hen. 8 time,ffFoure Viſitations ſince the Re­formation, all by the Kings Com­miſſion, ex­cept in Q. Maries time, when the Eccleſiaſticall juriſdiction was again retur­ned to the Pope, then Cardinall Pool viſited, as Legatus à latere, which is Equi­valent. Citat. Cardin. Poli. ad Ʋniverſ. Ed: 6. Q. Mary, Q. Eliz. were held by the reſpective Princes Authority, and the Perſons Viſiting were onely their Repreſentatives, and whoſoe­ver ſate, the King Viſited.

I have thus farre as much as may be expected from one, not us'd to ſuch encounters, nor advantag'd by any of the Vniverſity writings and muniments, (they ha­ving been of lateggAt the beginning of this Parl. the Univerſity Writings were requi­red, and everſince are de­tained. withheld from us) diſcover'd our Privileges in point of Viſitation; being put to this une­qual Combate, to engage with perſons arm'd with pow­er and our own weapons too, onely ſhielded by naked Truth.

But ſhould I wave the former debate of Intereſt, and onely look upon the tye of Honour, I cannot but with wonder and juſt ſcorn reſent the mean opinion we are now faln into, who for almoſt 800 years the care and ſtrife ofhhAlured himſelf viſits an. 886. Ex Aſſer. Me­neu. Epiſ. Reg. Alured. Scrib. Ex edit. Cambd. Edvar. 3. & Rich. 2. themſelves decided controverſies, that a­roſe in the Univerſity. The late Viſitations performed by Commiſſioners, the chief Nobility of the Kingdome: and His Majeſty that now is. viſited Chriſt-Church perſonally with 8. Lords of the Counſell. Princes, are made now the prize and ſpoil of our fellow-ſubjects; and what ſpeakes more diſhonour ſubmitted to the ſtrict Tribunal of our own members, who having**Jur. in admiſ. ad gradus. ſworn the obſervation of our Statutes, liber­ties, and cuſtomes, cannot appear as Judges over us, with­out5 a violation of their oaths ſo often and ſolemnly taken; nor yet without a manifeſt oppoſition of Nature, where parts judge the whole; and the Lawes of juſtice too; e­ſpecially if we conſider the Intereſts and ingagements, nay often profeſſions of the moſt active inſtruments of this work.

But to go a ſtep farther, and reſt ſatisfied both in the Viſitation and Viſitors, it is evident that neither the one or the other can concern us, till by ſome Legal way their Power is manifeſted. It is true, about three months ſince, a Citation was publiquely ſet up to ſummon our appearance, but the force of that being lapſt, we are to expect a new one, not onely by the common rules of Ju­ſtice, but their own alſo, who conceiv'd a Citation at firſt neceſſary, and know the former to have been voyded by their own default. Now let the world be Judge, what obligation can lie on any man to leave his occaſions and affairs, to appear, and that under the penalty of impri­ſonment, before thoſe men he knows not, or at leaſt is not Legally ſuppos'd to know, to have any Authority over him?

But ſhould we be willing to ſacrifice our Honour to a more Chriſtian virtue of humility, and our freedome un­to patient ſufferance (as in moſt caſes we may lawfully recede from our ſtrict rights:) Yet would there a grea­ter ſtop to our deſires then any yet mentioned interpoſe it ſelfe, the ſevere law of Conſcience; from whoſe com­mands neither hope may lead, nor danger force us. Proteſt. May 5. 1641. We are all engag'd by ſolemn proſteſtation before Almighty God to defend and maintain our Lawful Rights and privi­leges, (in the number of which I am confident I have ſhew'd our exemption from this Viſitation to be:) and hereby our adverſaries are themſelves bound to protect and defend us in whatſoever we ſhal do, in purſuance of6 them: But if this be not of force to us, as it is not con­ceived to be by them, we have yet a more ſtrict and par­ticular obligation, being ſworn by our reſpective ſtatutes, to allow or ſubmit to no Viſitation, but from thoſe who are nominated by our founders, and enabled by the Kings grant and Patent, confirmed by Act of Parliament, and ſo enlivened to the ſtrength of Lawes.

Thus farre briefly of Privilege and Exemption, I am now to clear a part yet untoucht, but of no leſſe concern­ment; that is, the neceſſity and want of Viſitation. It being given out by the Out-cries and clamours of our Ad­verſaries, that we are wholly corrupt and loſt, and not to be redeemed to any thing that's good and virtuous, but by extirpation & ruine. To the malice of which imputa­tions, how uncharitable. ſoever, I can obſerve no return but prayers and ſilence, finding in the general, breaſts neither conſcious of the crimes they are accuſed of, nor revengeful ones towards the perſons of their Accuſers, but cheerfully receiving their many injuries (having for whole years together, been publiquely ſlandered to their faces:) and burying in filence thoſe dark Arts, and ſtrangely falſe ſuggeſtions which have been uſed to pro­cure this Viſitation, commit themſelves to the protection of providence: aſſured either by clearing all Accuſations, or by a Chriſtian ſuffering of whatſoever ſhall be unjuſt­ly inflicted, to evidence to the world, they are not thoſe monſters that their Enemies Character would ſpeak them: Nor yet men altogether unworthy their Educati­on, or their founders munificence. For my particular, next to the teſtimony of Conſcience, Ambition cannot name unto me a higher note of Innocence, then to be ac­knowledged as

Your moſt humble Servant.



AS J was Sealing, there came to my hands, the Anſwer of the Ʋniverſity, to the Viſitors Summons, which J here pre­ſent to your view; and doubt not but the Candour and Reaſon, backt by the Autho­rity of ſo great a Name, will adde ſome­thing of weight and moment to what hath been already ſaid.

To the Right VVorſhipfull, Sir Nathaniel Brent, and the reſt of the commiſsioners, ſitting at Merton-Colledge.

WHereas by ſeverall Citations, ſubſcribed, Guiliel. New-houſe Reg. Com. the Vice-chancellour and Proctors (being the Magi­ſtrates and publick Officers of this Univerſity) have been required reſpectively to appear before the ſaid8 Commiſsioners, ſitting in Merton College. They having imparted the ſame to us, the Delegates of the Univerſity, upon due Conſtderation and deliberate Examination of the Premiſes; We the ſaid Delegates, together with the Vice-chancellour and Proctors, do in the name of the Univerſity, with all humble Reverence to the two Honorable Houſes of Parliament; and all due reſpects to the Perſons, and places of thoſe that are imployed by them, Humbly Conceive, we cannot acknowlege any Viſitor but the King, or ſuch as are immediately ſent by His Majeſty; it being one of His Majeſties undoubted Rights (all which we are bound to defend, as by many legall obligations, ſo by our late Proteſtation) and one of the chiefe Privileges of the Univerſity, (all which we are obliged by divers Statutes, and Oathes, to maintaine alſo) That His Majeſtie, and without Him, none other is to Viſit this Univerſity. And therefore we cannot (as we conceive) without the manifeſt danger of incurring multiplyed Perjuries, ſubmit to this Viſitation, or ac­knowledge, thoſe now ſent by the Honourable Houſes of Parliament to Viſit us, to be our Viſitors. And as we are perſwaded, That if the weighty Affaires of the Kingdome, would have permitted the Two Honourable Houſes to have taken this Obligation of ours into Con­ſideration, they would not have thought fit to reduce us to this extremity, either of diſpleaſing them, or do­ing violence to our owne Conſciences; ſo we beleeve, and hope, that if it ſhall pleaſe thoſe that are imployed by them, candidly and charitably to repreſent to them, this our Anſwer, with the Reaſons thereof, (which we moſt earneſtly deſire them to doe) the Honourable9 Houſes will be pleaſed to admit of this our Anſwer, and ſuffer us in the meane while to enjoy what by the Law of the Land (which is the Birth-right of the Subject) as well as by the Privileges of the Univerſity is due unto us; untill we ſhall be proved to have made a Legall forfeiture of it, before ſuch as are our proper and competent Judges: Before whom we ſhall be alwaies ready to appeare, and to Anſwer whatſoever crimes or miſdemeanours ſhall be laid to our charge.


About this transcription

TextThe privileges of the University of Oxford, in point of visitation: cleerly evidenced by letter to an honourable personage. Together with the Universities answer to the summons of the visitors.
AuthorFell, John, 1625-1686..
Extent Approx. 19 KB of XML-encoded text transcribed from 6 1-bit group-IV TIFF page images.
SeriesEarly English books online.
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(EEBO-TCP ; phase 2, no. A85192)

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Bibliographic informationThe privileges of the University of Oxford, in point of visitation: cleerly evidenced by letter to an honourable personage. Together with the Universities answer to the summons of the visitors. Fell, John, 1625-1686., University of Oxford.. [2], 9, [1] p. Printed for Richard Royston,[London] :1647.. (Anonymous. Attributed to John Fell.) (Place of publication from Wing.) (Annotation on Thomason copy: "8ber. [i.e. October] 14th".) (Reproductions of the originals in the British Library.)
  • University of Oxford.
  • Universities and colleges -- Privileges and immunities -- Great Britain -- Early works to 1800.

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