London Debating Societies 1776-1799. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1994.
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Duelling is one of those Evils which arise from a Refinement of Manners. To investigate that fatal Rashness, which, through a mistaken Principle of Honour, has robbed Society of some of its brightest Ornaments, is an Employment which must display the Abilities of the Gentlemen who speak in the Westminster Forum to great Advantage.'
The Conductors of this Institution have been informed by many of Mr. Fox's Friends, that notwithstanding the late Resolutions of the City of London, in favour of the Minister's late Conduct, they have the strongest Reason to believe that the Majority of the Citizens are inimical to the Measures he has adopted respecting the Regency; they are therefore desirous that this interesting Subject should undergo a fair and free Debate, and that the real Sense of the Publick be collected upon it.'
Debating Societies, when properly conducted, have been esteemed by the wise and intelligent as School of Morality. It is the aim of the Managers of the Westminster Forum to select Questions which, while they afford an opportunity to display the talents of the orator, affix some important moral truths in the human mind.'
Love is a Passion whose effects have puzzled the wisest Philosophers; by some it has been called the Spring from whence Virtue is often conveyed into resisting Nature; that it renders the Coward brave; and melts the hardiest Soul into a sense of Social Duty.'
It is the great, the invaluable Blessing of the British Constitution, that Englishmen enjoy the privileges to investigate all public Transactions. The present crisis of affairs commands universal attention. The actions of past Administrations - the present effects of their measures the alarming situation of the nation - the danger or advantages which may probably result to the country, from the expected change in Administration - will constitute the theme of this Debate.
The House on the last Evening had a numerous attendance, when JOHN BULL, Representative of the whole British Nation, was called to the Chair, and the Society resolved itself into a Committee of the whole House.'
'It is requested, that those Gentlemen who support Administration, particularly those who intend to speak, will take their seats on the Treasury Bench, on the right, and the Opposition on the left side of the Chairman.'
'Is the admired Constitution of this Country more in danger from the encroachments of the executive Power, or a Faction in the House of Commons? and then, Which is more censurable, the Foppery of the Men, or the Boldness of the Women?
To inform the judgment - correct the taste - remove pernicious prejudices - and lead the enquiring mind to the love of Truth, and the practice of Virtue, is the principle and natural tendency of this institution.'
The Rev. Caleb Evans of Bristol, having mentioned in his Sermon an extraordinary Circumstance of a Lady's having dreamt she was dancing, died, and sunk into a Place of Torment (who upon going that evening to a Ball, actually died, as she had dreamt, induced the Managers to adopt the [above] Question. . .
Resolution 1st. That as the Regent is to be considered as the representative of Majesty, all restrictions on his authority which the necessity of the case do not absolutely require, are indecent and improper.
Resolution 2nd. That considering the effectual precautions taken by our Ancestors to preserve the Constitution and religious Establishment of this Country, the revival of the Topic of a rumoured Marriage between the Prince of Wales, and a certain Personage, at this Juncture, can only tend to inflame the minds of the people, disseminate suspicion, and consequently demands the loudest censure from ever true friend to the interests of this country.'
'Has not Mr. Pitt, by his resolute and successful endeavours to restore the Regal Power unimpaired into the hands of his Royal Master, merited the unlimited confidence of the Sovereign, and the universal applause of the people?
After a most excellent debate, the numbers were nearly equal, when a small majority appeared in favour of Administration: however, after most of the Members had paired off from the Treasury Bench, Tellers were demanded by the Opposition. This was resolutely withstood by the Speaker; but at the particular request of several popular Characters, the subject will be resumed. . .'
The unfortunate affair that lately happened in Greenwich-Park, is at present a general subject of conversation among all ranks of people; that a man should deliberately become his own murderer, and thereby arraign the disposer of all events, for having conferred on him the privilege of human existence, is no less surprising than shocking, to those who believe in a state of future rewards and punishment. - There are however, many who have dignified this horrid act, by giving to it the virtue of courage. This has induced a worthy Clergyman to propose for public discussion the . . . [above] question.'
'Has not Mr. Pitt, by his resolute and successful endeavours to restore the Regal Power unimpaired into the hands of his Royal Master, merited the unlimited confidence of the Sovereign, and the universal applause of the people?'
'Did the English Majority in the House of Commons, that voted the Restrictions in Mr. Pitt's Regency Bill - or the Irish Delegates, who addressed his Royal Highness to accept the Regency with unlimited powers - act more consistently with true Principles of Patriotism?
The above subject is of the highest national importance. This institution (opened for a few nights, under the patronage of several eminent political characters) will be sacred to such enquiries alone. The persons who may probably speak, being such as seldom honour debating societies with their presence, the Managers hope no one will attend who cannot preserve his temper, and treat Gentlemen with that degree of candour and liberality due to those who publicly deliver their opinions in support of the constitutional rights of their native country.'
'The respectability of the debating society, well known under the appellation of the Forum, may, in fact, be imagined by the riot which took place there on their last night but one of debate; and by the harangue of one of the most notorious black-legs in London.'
A young Lady, on perusing the Trial of Lady Strathmore, observed to a polite company of both sexes, that the most effectual mode of securing a tolerable life with a bad husband, was to "oppose him with becoming spirit". This remark occasioning much difference of opinion, the above Question was immediately framed, and conveyed to the Managers of this Society, who, in compliance with the wishes of their Fair Correspondents, readily adopt it.'
'Did the English Majority in the House of Commons that voted the Restrictions in Mr. Pitt's Regency Bill - or the Irish Parliament, who commissioned the Delegates to address his Royal Highness to accept the Regency with unlimited powers - act more consistently with the true principles of Patriotism?
A Lady lately returned from the Continent has published an excellent Pamphlet on the Subject of Divorces, in which she has asserted that "the exclusive Privileges and Indulgence which the English married Ladies receive from their Husbands may be considered as a principal Cause of the Number of matrimonial Suits that are constantly instituted in Doctors Commons." This extraordinary Observation from the Pen of a Female has induced several Ladies to propose the . . . [above] singular question.'
'Did the conduct of certain Servants of the Sovereign (lately dismissed) indicate a disinterested Patriotism superior to private Obligations; or a time-serving Inclination to promote their own Interests?
- The dismissal of the Marquis of Lothian, Duke of Queensberry &c. now engrosses general conversation. - A great Political Character, the Author of this Question, must pardon our not prefacing this Advertisement with the Title he sent us, "Dismission of the Rats". - Illiberality shall never be adopted by the Conductors of the Westminster Forum.'
Were we to publish the letter in which the above question was inclosed, it must excite universal Risibility. The Writer appears to have lost large Sums in the Lottery, which produced some matrimonial Bickerings from his Wife; angered with her Taunts he has taken this publick and comical Method of Revenge.
Though not in the habit of publick Speaking, he signifies his intention of addressing the Chair. As at this Society one Lady has frequently spoken, we cannot help reminding him that his Wife may perhaps claim the same Privilege. The Managers are conscious of the Frivolity of the Question, but they have adopted it as a necessary Relief to the important Subjects lately debated.'
We are happy to find, although too many dissipate their Time in Gaming, brutal Diversions, and Frivolity, that this Society still possesses the highest Degree of public Approbation. What can afford greater Pleasure to an ingenious Mind than to behold a Multitude of both Sexes assembled for the Purpose of rational Entertainment and mental Improvement.'
As it [the Question] involves the late Political Transactions of both Parties, they respectfully recommend Candour and Moderation to the various Gentlemen who may speak; and as the Decision, which must be publickly announced, will proclaim the Opinion of a polite and intelligent Audience upon the actions of the Minister in the Aggregate, they hope the Gentlemen of either Party will not quit the Room till the close of the Debate.'
The Lady who occasionally speaks in this Society will . . . at the particular Request of an illustrious foreign Nobleman, now on a Visit to this Country, who was disappointed when she spoke to the following question at the Westminster Forum, again deliver her sentiments.'
It is not a little extraordinary that the Lady, at whose Solicitation this Subject is to undergo a publick Discussion, has declared, that she married the Man of her Heart, who proved the most kind and affectionate Husband, she is inclined nevertheless to favour Mr. Addison's opinion.'
The Managers flatter themselves that the above Question is perfectly suited to the decorum necessary to be observed on this festival. The evils of political prejudice may be strikingly exemplified by its banishing such characters as Messrs. Fox, Sheridan, Burke, &c. from active situations; religious prejudice may employ the talents of the orator, in depicting the horrors of persecution, and even call in the aid of the humourist to expose the folly and ridicule the absurdity of Methodism, Popery, and fanatic Hypocrisy.'
The Advocates for the Advantages of Refinement and Civilization in Society, will have an Opportunity to declaim against a Practice repugnant to the Feelings of Humanity; while, on the other Hand, the Amateurs of Boxing may argue in Favour of the Science, as a constant Means of Self-defence, consistent with the naturally bold and hardy Characters of the ancient Race of Britons.'
The Question received in a 'Petition from several Ladies, who stile themselves Old Maids, complaining of the Foppery of the Men and the forward Boldness of the Women, which they say is a principal Cause of many modest Ladies being obliged to live in a State of Celibacy.'
A Civic Wreath of silver, the reward conferred by ancient Rome on virtuous Citizens, will be transmitted to him who shall be adjudged the superior character, by the hands of that gentleman who, in the opinion of his own party, shall be considered as having best defended the cause he espoused.
To which Character (next to the Supreme Disposer of all Events) ought this Country to pay the greatest Tribute of Gratitude; her Majesty, for her amiable Conduct during the Royal Malady; Dr. Willis, for his unremitting Attention to retrieve the Health of our Sovereign; or Mr. Pitt, for his preserving the Regal Authority in that State most agreeable to the Constitution of this Country and the Inclinations of his Royal Master?
'We cannot promise either a Civic Wreath to the Victor in this Debate, nor a Medal to the Gentleman who best defends him; but we pledge ourselves strictly to observe the most decided Impartiality on the subject.'
'A Club of Female Literature, composed of Ladies of all ages, is lately instituted; the object of which is to read together, and endeavour to explore the truth and meaning of all books of a sentimental nature, especially such as relate to the conduct and happiness of their own sex. In all doubtful or difficult cases, a question is to be framed and transmitted to the Society at Coachmaker's-Hall, for Public discussion. One of the Sisterhood at their last meeting, read the following couplet on Wit and Beauty:
After some conversation, the following question was framed, and sent to Coachmaker's-Hall, viz. 'Which is the most attractive in the Female Sex, Wit, Beauty, or Good Nature?' . . . Most of the Club will attend.
Question 'proposed by a Society of Merchants . . . Without intending to detract from the merit of similar institutions, we must allow Coachmakers hall to be the most popular assembly for free debate, in this country. Several learned Divines, and other distinguished characters who have written for and against the Abolition of the Slave Trade, are expected to be present, and take a part in the Debate.
One Gentleman only opposed the Abolition, which he did in a Speech of great Fluency and Strength of Reasoning. He was replied to by an African (not Gustavus Vassa) who discovered much strong natural Sense, and spoke with wonderful Facility.'
The African Prince who lately spoke in this Society has promised to be present; the celebrated Ouladah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, who has lately published his Memoirs, will speak, and the Lady, whose abilities are the Ornament of this Institution and the Admiration of the Publick, positively will deliver her Sentiments.'
'Can the Legislators of this Country, consistently with its true Interests, consent to the total Abolition of the Slave Trade? then, Does the earnest Wish of the Dissenters for the Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts appear to originate in a Spirit of Patriotism, or a Wish for those Honours and Emolument which their Ancestors the Puritans affected to despise?
As this Enquiry may probably cause the Attendance of several of the Dissenting Clergy, the Managers pledge themselves to observe that Impartiality due to Gentlemen of the sacred Character, when addressing a numerous and respectable Audience on Behalf of the religious and civil Rights of Mankind.'
The Question was 'proposed by several Protestant Dissenters who are Advocates for universal Toleration. . . Some of the Dissenters say that several of their Ministers, and particularly those two celebrated Philosophers and Theologists, Doctors Priestly and Price, are capable of answering every Objection that has been made to a free and general Participation of civil and religious Liberties; they will probably both attend.'
'Do the strenuous Efforts of the Dissenters for the Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, appear to originate in a Spirit of Patriotism, or a Wish for those Honours and Emoluments their Ancestors, the Puritans, professed to despise?
It has long been Matter of Doubt, whether Ambition or Piety are the leading Motives of the Dissenters. Their Conduct during the Reign of Charles the First, and the Usurpation of Oliver Cromwell, will doubtless be alluded to.'
As that great Reasoner and Friend to the Freedom of Debate, the Rev. Mr. Robinson, of Cambridge, is now in London, the Managers anticipate the Pleasure of receiving as much Instruction from him at Coachmakers Hall upon a Question which involves the Civil and Religious Rights of Mankind, as he never fails to communicate from the Pulpit upon Religious and Moral Obligations . . . Such is the acknowledged Utility of this popular Institution, that several Law Students, who bid fair to rise to the highest Honours in their Profession, intend, after the Example of those admired Barristers, Messrs. Dallas and Garrow, to make it their School for practical Improvement in the Art of publick Speaking.'
Indeed the Question is amazingly calculated to excite Risibility, provoke Mirth and create Entertainment at the Expence of Vanity, Affectation, and ill-Nature; nor is the Exercise of persuasive Eloquence totally excluded, a powerful Apology for the old Maid arising from the Treachery of the Male Sex, many of the fairest Blossoms of the Female Creation frequently being abandoned by their faithless Admirers, and left through Life to blush unseen, or waste their Fragrance on the desert Air.'
Many injurious Reflections on the above noble Characters have appeared in various Publications, at the particular Request of several Persons of Fashion and Distinction, the above Question is appointed for Free Debate . . . to convey to the Publick, through the Medium of this popular and respectable Institution, Facts as yet known but to few, and Circumstances which the Heat of Party Zeal has misrepresented, to the manifest Injury of both the noble Combatants.'
The Managers of this Society, impressed with a lively Sense of that distinguished Patronage they have received, respectfully apprize Gentlemen at and intended for the Bar, their various other literary Correspondents, their noble Patrons, and the Publick at large, that the Season will commence . . . with the above popular and important Question: The Revolution in States, the Declension of Slavery, the Progress of Liberty, their respective and united Effects on the Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce of Great Britain are involved in this Subject. The Managers respectfully thank the Duke D'- for his polite Intimation, and promise every Thing in their Power to render the Debate worthy so noble an Attendant.'
'Can Animal Magnetism as practiced by Drs. Yeldall and da Mainauduc, Mr. Loutherberg and others, be supported on the rational Principles of sound Philosophy, or is it, according to the Report of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, a mere Imposture, calculated to deceive the Credulous?'
The Debating Society, at Coachmakers Hall, Foster Lane, Cheapside, an institution established near a century, and allowed to be the most instructive and agreeable entertainment of any in this metropolis.'
The Author of this Question must pardon our erasing the Names of the Parties concerned in the late unhappy Catastrophe at Whitechapel; the Reason must be obvious to every Man of Feeling: a most splendid Debate however may be expected on such a Subject, not a Father, Brother or Admirer of the Sex but must find himself interested in its Discussion; the elegant Assemblage of Ladies who lately honoured these Debates with their Attendance must animate the Speaker on such a Theme. . .
'Whether the late Destruction of the Bastile, and the spirited Conduct of the French, do not prove that the general Opinion of their being possessed by a slavish Disposition was founded in National Prejudice?'
A great Number of Persons having declared they have been restored to Health by . . . [Mr. Loutherbourg], and that they are ready to attest the same, has induced a popular Clergyman [to request the above debate]. . . There is no Doubt, if any Person has actually received Relief in the Wonderful Manner reported, but that Gratitude of Mr. Loutherbourg, as well as to the Supreme Being, will induce them on this Occasion to appear and publickly to announce it.
A Gentleman . . . stood up and assured a crowded and most respectable Audience, that he himself had obtained a perfect Cure, by this extraordinary Character, without the application of any Medicine. Two Gentlemen defended Mr. de Loutherbourg upon Scriptural Principles with great Ability.'
'Can Animal Magnetism, as practiced by Drs. Yeldall and De Mainauduc, Mr. Loutherberg, and others, be supported on the rational Principles of sound Philosophy; or is it, according to the Report of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, a mere Imposture, calculated to deceive the Credulous?'
The Question is 'by particular Desire of several scientifick Gentlemen, who continually attend the Society. . . During the Course of the first Evening's Debates, Dr. YELDALL will defend the Principles and explain several of the Mysteries of the Science. The Doctor has obligingly signified his Intention of demonstrating, upon his Apparatus, prepared for the Purpose, the Powers of the Magnetic Effluvia. The Curious and Philosophick will therefore have the Opportunity of receiving that Conviction upon the Subject, which an enlightened Publick may justly claim from the Managers of a literary Institution, favoured with general Support and unbounded Patronage. Several Gentlemen wishing to hear the Sentiments of Mr. Loutherberg, and Dr. De Mainauduc, Cards of Invitation will be dispatched to both those great Characters.
To describe Dr. Yeldall's Oration . . . would exceed the Bounds of any Advertisement. His Experiments demonstrated him a Master of his Arts, and impressed that Conviction on a numerous and brilliant Audience, which caused them almost unanimously to declare, that his Practice of Animal Magnetism was founded on the sound Principles of Philosophy.'
'Can Animal Magnetism, as practiced by Mr. De Loutherberg, be supported on the rational Principles of sound Philosophy; or is it, according to the Report of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, a mere Imposture, calculated to deceive the Credulous?'
An amiable but distressed young Lady, who, in Obedience to the Commands of her Relations, married the Man she did not love, has requested that this Subject might be taken into Consideration, in hopes that its Discussion may prevent many of her Sex from suffering the Misery that is her unhappy Lot, and point out to Parents the Folly and Cruelty of forcing their Daughters to give their Hands, where they cannot bestow their Hearts.'
'Can Animal Magnetism, as practiced by Dr. De Mainauduc, be supported on the rational Principles of sound Philosophy; or is it, according to the Report of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, a mere Imposture, calculated to deceive the Credulous?'
The Managers beg Leave to inform the Publick, that Information having been given to them of an Apparition lately appearing to a worthy Clergyman; and some wonderful Discoveries made a few Days since by a modern Astrologer, particularly to a Tradesman in Old-Street, who will attend, and a young Woman lately deceased, the Love of Truth, the grand actuating Principle of this Institution, has induced them to bring forward the above Question, to which they solicit the Attention of the Divine, the Philosopher, and every person who can speak from Experience on this Occasion.'
Several Ladies of fashion were lately discoursing of the extra-ordinary abilities of a Lady who spoke in the City Debates, (for the information of some of our readers, it may be necessary to mention, that this is the original Debating Society, instituted more than half a century. . .). This produced a violent altercation upon the abilities of the sex in general, the power they possess over the actions of mankind, and the situation in which the first woman was placed.'
'Which is more absurd, the Notion of the Turks, that Women have no Souls, or the Opinion of some Philosophers, that Brutes are immortal? Several Arminian and Calvinistick Divines intend to vindicate the Immortality of Brute Creation, as held by the Leaders of both Persuasions, the Rev. Matthew Henry, Mr. Toplady, Mr. J. Wesley, and even those celebrated Philosophers Locke, Hume and Soame Jennings. A Gentleman, long resident in Turkey, has undertaken to defend the Mahometan Opinion, and to prove that Females have no Souls, upon the System of Plato, and other eminent Philosophers.'
The Question 'was sent by a Captain's Lady from Mile-End, who with her Husband, his Mother and an Infant not two Years old, were wrecked on their Return from India. Fortunately they were rescued from their dreadful Situation by a French East-Indiaman, who carried them safe into L'Orient. They will all three be present; and as this Question is an Enquiry into the Force of parental Duty, filial Affection, and conjugal Love, a Debate equally important, and affecting, is expected.'
There appears to reign this season an uncommon spirit of emulation between the leading Debating Societies. The Westminster Forum opened last Wednesday with uncommon splendour; and the Managers of the City Debates, jealous of its success, announce a Lady of the first eminence in the literary world to speak this evening. . . Indeed, the amazing oratorical excellence of the above Lady, is the best reason that can be argued for [the amazing success of the Society].'
Although much may be urged to prove the Force of juvenile Love, yet many Instances (particularly the Lady at Highgate, aged 70, who lately married one of her Domesticks) evince its Power on the Sexes during the latter Period.'
Among the numerous and very respectable Audience who attended to hear this truly interesting Subject . . . was a foreign Prince, supposed by many to be his Highness the Duke of Orleans. He was attended by several of the Nobility, and listened with great Attention to the Speakers on both Sides.'
Several learned and popular Divines, of various Persuasions, perceiving with Regret the Increase of Mr. Winchester's Doctrine, have requested the Managers to announce the above Question for Debate, as they decidedly intend to prove Mr. Winchester's System is at best but a Protestant Purgatory. They have preferred this Society, as better adapted for such a Subject than the Pulpit, Mr. Winchester and his friends being here allowed to answer their Arguments, a Circumstance incompatible with the sacred Order of Publick Worship. Several leaders of Messr. Wesley and Whitfield's Communion have joined in the Requisition. The serious and well-disposed, whether Divines or Laymen, are hereby invited, either as Audience or Speakers, and the Managers sincerely hope the Gay and Volatile will either absent themselves for that Evening, or else hear with Silence and Attention a Debate instituted at the Request of some of the most sacred Characters that adorn the Pulpit, and turning upon that grand Theme of human Salvation, which struck even the Angelick Armies with Silence! The Hint of A.B. has been adopted, Cards of Invitation have already been sent to the Rev. Messr. Knight, Bradburne, and Browne. Several learned Catholicks have signified their Intention to attend, and vindicate the Doctrine of Purgatory by the Tradition of Ages, the Authority of the Church, and the Evidence of Scriptures.
The . . . Debate was peculiarly distinguished by the Speeches of two Gentlemen, one of whom supported Mr. Winchester's Doctrine with great Ability; and the other accused him of prematurely opening the Book of Divine Mercy (sealed to the Day of Doom) to loose one of which Seals would have been Presumption, even in an Archangel!'
'Is the late alarming Number of Suicides to be attributed to Disappointment in the tender Passion, the Progress of Infidelity, or that gloomy Insanity which Foreigners ascribe to the effects of our Soil and Climate? The Duke of Orleans is said recently to have visited the Capel Court Society: His Royal Highness being expected . . . to honour the Westminster Forum with his Presence every Accommodation will be made preparatory to the Reception of such an illustrious Character.'
Mr. Fox, or some of the leading Men in Opposition, are expected to state the Grounds upon which they object to the late Extension of the Excise Laws. This is requested by many respectable Persons, who are convinced that a Question of this Nature ought only to be referred to an Assembly like this composed of a mixed Number of intelligent Citizens, and not to a Party convened at a Tavern, who come avowedly all on one Side.'
From the Number of Gospel Ministers, Gentlemen Leaders in Messr. Wesley and Whitfield's Societies, Divines of the Baptist, Presbyterian and Romish Communions who have promised to attend, the Debate . . . will probably be one of the most important ever submitted to the Consideration of the Christian World.'
'Did the late Extension of the Excise Laws originate in the Frauds committed on the Revenue by Smugglers and Dealers in Tobacco, or in the Schemes of artful Ministers to subvert the Liberties of a free People?'
Question proposed 'by a young Lady, whose Friend lately put an End to her Existence from a Disappointment in Love. . . Those who have heard of the late Suicide committed by the unhappy young Girl who was in Love with the Mulatto, together with other similar Cases, and who also recollect many other recent Suicides, to which no other Cause can be assigned but Pride or Lunacy will allow this Subject to have a very high Claim to publick Attention.'
This Institution is founded on the same Principles, as the late Robin Hood Society, which was supported by the best Orators this Country had to boast of, and held in the highest Estimation for more than 40 Years; and the Managers of this Society flatter themselves that this Debate will be truly instructing and entertaining, as many Gentlemen of extraordinary Abilities have promised to be present.'
'Ought the Number of old Maids to be attributed to their Aversion to Matrimony, Disappointment in Love, or any Peculiarity in their Persons or Tempers? and, Which is most absurd, the Notions of the Turks, that Women have no Souls, or the Opinion of some Philosophers, that Brutes are immortal?'
Question originated because 'several Ladies lately discoursing on the Merits of Mr. Haley's celebrated Essay on Old Maids, collected some of the leading Causes assigned by that Author for the Increase of these venerable Pieces of Antiquity.'
The late encreasing Number of Causes for crim. Con. having occasioned much Dispute in the polite Circles, as to the true Source of conjugal Infidelity, seven young Ladies were nominated to frame a Question . . . [and] will all be present.'
'Which is most defensible, the Plurality of Wives, permitted to Eastern Nations; confining the Clergy of Catholick Countries to Celibacy, or allowing Marriage to first, but denying it to second Cousins?'
It is not the Practice of this Society to adopt Questions that have been previously debated in other Institutions: But at the Request of many learned Gentlemen, wishing to investigate the philosophick Part of the Question (who were disappointed Admittance at the Capel-Court Society when this Question was debated there), at the Desire of many Families of Distinction resident in Westminster, and at the Solicitation of several Ladies anxious to hear what can be said on so curious a Subject, a Deviation from established Custom has been permitted.'
This pleasing subject of debate is adopted at the request of the joyful wife of a long banished husband, who, in the course of a checquered life, has been a witness both of the feelings of a distressed mariner, and those of the poor captive freed from the miseries of slavery. A Gentleman many years the unhappy companion of an affectionate husband, who was torn from his wife, and confined in the Bastile; has promised to take a part in the debate on the subject.'
'Is the Conduct of the French Assembly, in declaring the Possession of the Church to be the Property of the Nation, and their Care in providing for the inferior Clergy, worthy the Imitation of this Country?'
The Lady's Oration . . . was the most astonishing display of real Eloquence ever heard in a Society of this Nature; the Audience was numerous and polite; among the bright circle of Beauties three Irish Ladies of Distinction shone conspicuous; they lamented that their departure for their own country, in the suit of his Grace of Westmoreland, would deprive them of carrying any more than this one Testimonial of Female Excellence to a kingdom famed for its admiration of Oratory.'
The above Question . . . was handed to the Chair by an elegant Party of Females who accompanied the Lady who lately spoke in this Society. Not a Father nor a Husband but must be peculiarly interested in the subject, and from the various applications for places in the Gallery which we have received, a most numerous Assemblage of the Fair Sex is expected to be present. It is the earnest wish of the Gentlemen who conduct the Westminster Forum to tender it a School of moral Instruction as well as of polite Amusement. The Orator on this occasion will have every opportunity for the display of his talents, either to expatiate on the feelings of an injured Husband, robbed of the only blessing that could tolerate existence, or of an affectionate Father, encountering that dishonour and anguish in the last stage of life which would be insupportable even in the prime of manhood.'
This Society is now universally allowed to be the best School of useful Knowledge, Eloquence and rational Instruction, as well as a Place of the most agreeable Entertainment of any of which this great Metropolis can boast. Scarcely a Week passes without its acquiring new Patrons and Admirers. A Lady, who has distinguished herself by her literary Productions, has promised to furnish the Managers with every novel Question, the Discussion of which may lead to the Happiness of her own Sex, or the Benefits of the Community at large. As an Earnest of her Friendship she has sent the above Question.'
The late heavy damages given by the Court of King's Bench to the injured Captain Parslow, and many recent instances of Matrimonial Infidelity, render the above Question at this time peculiarly interesting. . . Indeed this Society seems now to have regained the ancient splendour it enjoyed, when those bright luminaries of the Law, Messrs. Erskine, Dallas, and Garrow shone in a conspicuous degree ornaments of the Institution. The numerous attendance of Ladies . . . and the many application for reserved seats . . . prove the estimation in which they and the Publick hold these Societies, as Schools of Morality, Wisdom and Entertainment.'
It is to determine whether Methodists are what they themselves profess, or what their Enemies accuse them of being. . .. The Methodists have been frequently arraigned at the Bar of Ridicule; here they await the unbiassed Determination of Reason and Impartiality. We warn Gentlemen apt to relate Stories of Methodist Preachers (Numbers of which are promised) to be cautious; as there is scarcely one of those Rev. Gentlemen now in Town, upon whom these Tales have been raised, but is expected to be present. ... A late ostentatious Advertisement is too contemptible for the serious Animadversion of the reputable Societies. We leave that Institution, whose empty benches require such adventitious Aid, to trumpet forth its own Praises through the dark Medium of Calumny: The Philosophers, Divines, Wits and Orators who speak in this Society, sufficiently promulgate its Merits, and unequivocally stamp it the leading School of Morality, Science, Instruction and Entertainment.'
'Which is the greater Sufferer from unlawful Love, the Husband, whose Wife's Incontinence obliges him publickly to sue for Justice - the Lady, whose Crime is thereby published to the World - or the Seducer, against whom Damages are awarded to the Ruin of his Fortune?'
'Which Line of Conduct ought a Father to pursue with a seduced Daughter, to banish her from his Family and Protection, as a necessary Warning to her Sisters; or nobly to forgive her Fault, in Hopes of her Repentance?
A young Lady, the unhappy Victim of Seduction, having in Vain supplicated Forgiveness of a once-indulgent but now inexorable Father, framed the above Question, and intreated him, as her last Request, to attend its Discussion in this Society. The Gentleman has written to the Managers, expressing a high Sense of the moral Influence of these Societies, and promising to bring his four other Daughters to hear the Debate, which, it is sincerely hoped, will not only tend to fortify the Female Heart against the Artifices of Seduction, but to relax that parental Rigour which dooms to a Life of Anguish and Infamy an unfortunate Daughter, who might be restored to Happiness, if not to Honour, could her injured Parent once conceive her Re-Admission to his Family not to be a dangerous Example.'
'Ought not the Legislature of this Country, against the next General Election, to follow the Example of the French National Assembly in apportioning the Number of Representatives to the Number of Inhabitants in each District, and thereby preventing the rotten Boroughs from maintaining that Influence they at present hold in the British Parliament?
Capel Loft, Esq. (from the Revolution Society) rose, and addressed the Chair in a Speech of considerable Length, containing among other valuable Particulars, some Communications to that Society from the French National Assembly. The Evening concluded with voting unanimous Thanks (moved and seconded by two Law Students of eminence) to Capel Loft, for his excellent Oration.'
'Is the common Practice of taking the Youth of both Sexes to Plays and similar publick Amusement in the Holidays, more likely to efface the moral and instructive Impressions from their Minds, or to enlarge and improve their Understanding?'