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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, October 1909

[Activities of the debating society]

"You wisest Graecians, pardon me this brag.
His insolence draws folly form my lips;
But I'll endeavour deeds to match these words,
Or may I never.—"

Troilus and Cressida.

Urquent Rustice Sane

TThe work of the Society still continues to be attended with success, though the speaker of the second term has not addressed audiences quite so large as those who waited on him in the first, but he has been able easier to catch the wandering eye of the Chairman. The walls of Victoria College will now no more dam back a flood of rhetoric, but it has been left with all the windy draughts that were wont to congregate there, for the Social Hall of the new Gymnasium. Here many new voices have beard their echoes for the first time, but its fire baptism is not yet completed; for we are not able to place on record that any lady member has spoken in the new hall.

The Society began with the success of last year in the Union Tournament. In the first round Vitoria College was represented by A. Fair, W. J. McEldowney and J. Mason, and proved victorious. In the second round the Society drew a bye. In the third round J. W. Ross replaced J. Mason, but the College team met defeat in this semi-final. The Committee, in selecting the representatives of the Society, had regard to the desirability not only of winning the Union Tournament, also of giving promising speakers a wider experience; the ultimate aim of such tournaments and competitions it is considered, is to keep a certain Joynt Challenge Scroll within Victoria College, until not another inscription can be engraved upon it.

The first debate in the vacation took place on July 3rd, when Allan Macdougall, supported by J. W. Ross moved," That the Celtic element in our poetical literature is of greater value than the Teutonic." The opposers were C. H. Taylor and H. D. Skinner. Several new speakers were in evidence in this debate; H. Wild in particular, made a good initial effort, while page 25 J. Ogg showed his versatility by taking pride of place with a vigorous speech—which was not humorous. The subject evidentally had charms for the lady members, two speaking to the motion; Miss N. Coad well deserving her positing in the Judge's award. According the Judge there was but one who really understood his subject, and that might account for the hesitation of the meeting, when by only one vote—14 to 13—it decided that the Celtic element was not the greater value. Mr. J. W. Joynt, M. A., placed the first five speakere as follows:—J. Ogg, C. H. Taylor, J. W. Ross, Miss Coad and H. D. Skinner. A. Macdougall did not compete, which was a consideration of importance to those accumulating points for the Union Prize.

Considerations of time and space, or to be more precise,"Shackleton Out-Shacked "crowded out the" irregular "debate, and the opportunity given the humorous later, served but to prove, that humor, like art, cannot be forced—at least not at short notice.

On July 31st the Society met for the first time in the Social Hall of new Gymnasium building. This was the occasion of the Presidential address, and Prof. Adamson chose for his subject "Some Hints on Public Speaking" "The purpose of a college training," he said," was to teach me to think; that of Debating Society, to teach them to think on their feet."

Great importance was to be placed upon style in the delivery of a speech. This should be cultivated by studying the rhetoric devices of such men as Demosthenes, Cicero, Curran, Pitt, or Gladstone, parts of whose orations might well be committed to memory.

The Professor illustrated the various points brought forward, by reference to his own experience as a barrister, as well as to the speeches of several noted orators, and concluded with a quotation from Mark Antony:—

"I tell you that which you yourselves do know,
Show you sweet Caesar's wounds.—poor, poor, dumb muths,
And bid them speak for me."

The hour being still early compared to that at which debaters—and others—usually exhaust their founts of eloquence, the Chairman called on several members to deliver impromptu speeches on subjects set up by the audience. The proceedings were lively and amusing, but were not marked by quite the usual eagerness to catch the Chairman 's eye.

On August 14th the motion for debate was "That New Zealand should adopt a system of compulsory military training." page 26 The movers were L. Short and J. Hogben, and the opposers J. Mason and C.H. Taylor. The debate was more than usually keen and opinion was very evenly divided among the speakers, nine being in favour of the motion while nine opposed it. The arguments brought forward were, on the whole, to the point, though there seemed to be considerable difference of opinion amongst the supporters as to the exact utility of the course of training suggested. Mr A. L. Herdman, M.P., who acted as judge, placed the five best speakers in the following order:—R Girling-Butcher, J. Hogben, L. Short, M. H. Oram and C. speaking in public, and paid the Society the somewhat doubtful compliment of saying that some of its members are as good speakers as some of the country representatives in Parliament.

The eight debate of the session—the 116th meeting of the Society, to use the language of the minute book—was held on September 4th. A. D. Brodie, seconded by H. A. Wild, moved "That Wasjomgton was greater as a patriot than Garibaldi." J. M. Hogben and M. H. Oram opposed. Both patriots were duly praised, and when that gave little promise the movers and opposers fell back on some interesting technical defences. The movers endeavoured to prove an alibi—Cavour was the man. This the opposers denied, but held that Washington was not a patriot at all, within the meaning of the term. Oram endeavoured to prove his case more geometric with his own truthfulness as his major premise—which, surely required separate proof. However the audience was inclined to look with favour on this argument and to accept the sophistries of one who dealt only with "patriotism in the abstract," when it decided in favour of Garibaldi by ten votes to four. Mr C. Wilson judged the debate and placed the five best speakers in the following order:—R. Girling-Butcher, A. D. Brodie, J. M Hogben, R. Kennedy and E. S. Rutherfurd.

The last debate of the season was held on September 25th, the motion being," That the state is not justified in entering into competition with legitimate private enterprise." Mr. E. S. Rutherfurd seconded by Mr. A. J. Luke led on the supporters; Mr. R. Girling-Butcher seconded by Mr. C. A. L. Treadwell appeared to oppose. Incidentally the Government was attacked, Mill quoted and the Crown Suits Act, fully explained with decided cases and judicial dicta. Thedebate was a good one, with just a little levity to relieve solidity. Mr. Webb, who acted as judge arranged the five best speakers in the following order:—M. H. Oram, R. Girling-Butcher, E. S. Tutherfurd, G. W. Morice and A. J. luke.

page 27

The recipients of the Society's honours were: J. M. Hogben, who won the Union Prize with 17½ Points in six debates, and J. Ogg who was awarded the New Speakers' Prize. M. H. Oram was proxime accessit in the Union Prize Competition with 15 points in 6 debates.