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The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, October 1918

Debating Club

page 60

Debating Club

"His industry is upstairs and downstairs; his eloquence the parcel of reckoning."—Shakes.

man standing on box shouting

The report of the Society which preceded this expressed feelings of shame that we had fallen in such evil days. After the witness of the last three months we cannot but retract such sentiments. We cannot remember more spirited encounters or a higher standard of speaking than this session has produced. On no occasion have there been the long breaks with which former sessions have made us familiar. If Mr. Sheat were given to the phraseology of our schooldays he would frequently have to record that the combatants "rose freely." It is often quite difficult to "catch the speaker's eye!" Among the newcomers who are with one another to draw Mr. Thompson's gaze are Messar. Croker, Moore, Aayon, Pope, Jackson, and Whitehouse.

Early in the session the Chairman of the Society, Mr. E. Evans, found it necessary to relinquish his duties and Mr. R. D. Thompson, M. A., was appointed to the position.

The second debates of the year was given up to a discussion "That Science has done more than literature to forward the interests of mankind." Messrs. C. G. Kirk and F. W. Martin, B.A., undertook to support the motions; they found more or less willing opponents in Messre. R. R. Scott and P. Martin Smith. They were followed by an eager succession of speakers from the body of the hall. The debate took place so long ago that we don't remember much about the details. We have, however, quite pleasant recollections of a sally by Mr. Martin n the matter of wives and arts and cookery. Mr. Scott didn't seem impressed. The judge, Mr. H. F. Von Haast, M.A., LL.B., placed the speakers in the following order:—Martin-Smith, J. H. Sheat and W. A. Sheet, Leicester, Kirk. The motion was carried.

At the next meeting of the Society opinions were aired as to whether "Interference with Liberty of Speech and Discussion is in the best interests of the State." Messre. H. G. Miller and W. A. Sheat were quite sure that such interference was very bad. Messre. G. T. Saker and W. E. Leicester, in opposing, had quite other opinion. The movers took their text from the gospel according to J. S. Mill, and gave some very abstract reasoning, which the judge had doubts about. The opposers vainly struggled to bring the matter down to earth. I delivering judgment, Mr. Mazengarb gave the speakers what we thought to be rather dubious advice, and placed the debaters as follows: Leicester, Kirk, Saker, Martin-Smith, and J. H. Sheat. The meeting endorsed the opinion of the movers.

On Thursday, August 18th the Presidential Address was delivered by Prof. T. A. Hunter, on "The University and Social Reconstruction." An account of this is given elsewhere in this issue.

The 199th meeting of the Society was faced with the peace problem. The motion was; "That a lasting Peace can be secured only by adherence to the principle of No Annexations and No Indemnities." Messrs. P. Martin-Smith page 61 and I. L. G. Sutherland were with President Wilson in the matter; Miss N. P. Norman, B.A., and Mr. A. B. Croker were not. Most of the usual supporters of the Society were taking their ease elsewhere, and the audience was small. Those who were present were evenly divided; the motion was carried by one vote. Mr. H. F. O'Leary placed the speakers in order as follows: Sutherland, Croker, Martin-Smith, Kirk and Leicester.

The motion "That the Present Tendency to Assimilate the Activities of Men and Women is not in the best Interests of Society,' roused great interest. The Society established a precedent by appointing a lady as judge. However, Mrs. Atkinson gave a quite clear account of her own opinions, and delivered what we thought to be a very fair verdict. Mr. S. A. Wiren and Miss D. Bingham supported the motion and Mr. J. H. Sheat and Miss E. R. Davies gave reasons for opposing it. The attendance was large. The speeches were quite good. Miss Bingham especially gave a very breezy account of her views; Miss Davies also in opposing made some good points. Mr. Wiren was dry, and Mr. Sheat, in his opening remarks at any rate, was very ragged. Mr. Sheat picked up in replying. Mr. Wiren supplied some interesting emanation to the received account of Jewish history. Mr. Leicester, as is his wont, rattled out some glowing periods; one of his "purple patches" fairly convulsed the audience. The vote went to the opposers. The order was: J. H. Sheat, Misses Bingham, Davies and Purdy, Leicester.

On 31st August representatives of the Wellington Social Democratic party paid the Society a visit. This year Messrs. P. Fraser and G. Brindle were entrusted with the good news. The motion was; "That Socialism will bring universal peace." Messrs. Miller and Sutherland opposed the visitors. The audience was composed largely of adherents to the Social Democratic Party. On the whole the debate was quite interesting, and was certainly less acrimonious than these debates are accustomed to be. The supporters of the motion were not lacking in enthusiasm or arguments; with one or two exceptions the opposers were coldly sceptical. Mr. Fraser, in opening, contented himself with expounding the economic conception of history: wars and everything else were due to economic facts. Mr. Miller was prepared to recognise the value of the emphasis laid by Socialists on the social side of human nature. But this emphasis was not familiar to Socialism. Its distinctive feature was its political programme, a change in institutions. No mere change in institutions would avail to develop the social instinct, and to lead the other instinct of pugnacity which underlay war into healthier channels. Mr. Brindle elaborated Mr. Fraser's argument. Mr. Sutherland in replying made a speech of the evening. The "real war" was a war of ideas. A change in institutions was not enough; movers were claiming too much for Socialism.

From this stage onward discussion did not flag till closing time. The Socialists fastened on to the "instinct of pugnacity" and handled it pretty roughly. The Varsity speakers were not for taking the matter very seriously. According to Mr. Martin-Smith the Capitalists weren't so bad anyway. We discovered that our old friend Mr. Schmidt was a humorist. More of this, please, Mr. Schmidt. Mr. Whitehouse was rather flippant. Mr. W. A. Sheat and Misses Neumann and Purdy also had something to say, while interjections from the body of the hall were frequent. The visitors had no difficulty in carrying their motion.