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The Spike or Victoria College Review June 1914

The Debate

The Debate.

"Pronunciato est vocis, et vultus est Gestus moderatio cum venustate"


"How now, my sweet creature of bombast?"


The debate for the Joynt Challenge Scroll was held in a dreadful barn, called by courtesy, the King's Theatre. A goodly number had assembled before the appointed hour, and weird sounds made by members of a "band" gladdened the hearts of the waiting audience. The band retired, and, as Scott should have said,

With that straight up the aisle there strode
Some students, out for gore;
And in their arms a helpless load,
An Easter egg they bore.

page 32

A short, sharp, and deadly struggle for possession ensued, and after mangling several chairs and damaging their own clothes the combatants retired to seats in the hall.

The subject for debate was "That Democracy as Typified by the Labour Movement is Detrimental to National Character." In the first debate, F. D. McLiver and L. Phillips (A.U.C.) took the affirmative, and were opposed by G. G. G. Watson and A. B. Sievwright (V.U.C.) The Aucklanders argued that democracy was but a despotism of a new kind, and that under such a system individuality would be crushed. Cultured men would shrink from entering public life, and the country would not be governed by its "brains." The Wellington men argued that democracy improved environment and gave all men a chance in life. As it is by environment that man's character is improved, then as democracy tends to improve environment, so it tends to improve national character, which is but the sum total of the character of the individual.

W. P. Gordon and R. Cuthbert (O.U.) affirmed the motion in the second debate, and R. Lawry and J. V. Wilson opposed it. The Otago debaters made the mistake of making the debate, to some extent, "local," instead of keeping to the broad principles as laid down in the judges' letter. Cuthbert's references to "Red Fedism" carried no weight at all. The Canterbury speakers were not successful in their combined treatment; but Lawry made a telling speech. Wilson had a bad time for the noisy section of the audience.

The debate was rather vaguely worded, and the result was that some of the speeches were merely so much "hot air." One of the best speeches from the point of view of matter was that of McLiver. The combined treatment of the Wellington representatives was easily the best of the evening. Their platform style was also better than that of the others, and they were not so handicapped vocally as the other competitors by the fearful acoustics of the hall.

The win of the V.U.C. representatives was well deserved. Sievwright's speech was well delivered and page 33 sounded convincing; and Watson, though at first seemingly nervous owing to interruptions, settled down in a few minutes, and scored neatly off one of his interrupters. His was a good fighting speech.

Once again, with weariness, we wish to protest against the senseless interruptions that come from students in the hall. This year was no exception. It is true that owing to the barn-like nature of the hall the voices of some of the speakers did not carry very far, but that was no excuse for the foolish interruptions that came freely from some of the audience, throwing the speakers out of their stride. The last speakers were particularly unfortunate in this respect, Wilson being subjected to a continuous flow of noise and alleged witticisms. The general hilarity and fun is all very well in the intervals, but decency demands that the speakers should be given a fair hearing.