London debates: 1785

London Debating Societies: 1776-1799. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1994.

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'London debates: 1785', in London Debating Societies: 1776-1799, ed. Donna T Andrew( London, 1994), British History Online [accessed 16 July 2024].

'London debates: 1785', in London Debating Societies: 1776-1799. Edited by Donna T Andrew( London, 1994), British History Online, accessed July 16, 2024,

"London debates: 1785". London Debating Societies: 1776-1799. Ed. Donna T Andrew(London, 1994), , British History Online. Web. 16 July 2024.

980. January 4, 1785 Ciceronian Society, Margaret Street Chapel, Oxford Market

'Is it consistent with Female Delicacy for a Lady, under any Circumstances, to make the first Proposals of Marriage?'

Daily Advertiser January 3

981. January 6, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Is a Maid or a Widow of the same age, and in the same circumstances, to be preferred in the choice of a Wife?'

General Advertiser January 5

982. January 11, 1785 Ciceronian Society

'Is Flattery a necessary Ingredient to conduct Mankind in the Affairs of Life?'

Daily Advertiser January 3

983. January 13, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Which should a woman prefer as essential to her happiness in the marriage state, the FOOL on the pinnacle of fortune, or the man of SENSE in the vale of indigence?'


984. January 18, 1785 Ciceronian Society

'Is a private or a publick Education preferable, when the Circumstances of the Parents will admit of the former?'

Daily Advertiser January 10,

985. January 20, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Whose feelings are most poignant, the mariner expecting shipwreck, the criminal on the point of execution, or the lover informed of the desertion of his mistress?'


986. January 25, 1785 Ciceronian Society

'Which Form of Government is best calculated to secure the Liberty of the Subject, that of a Republick, or that as by Law established in this Kingdom?'

Daily Advertiser January 17

987. January 27, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Has a man unjustly sentenced to a shameful and painful death, a right to avoid the infamy and torture of the same, by putting a period to his own existence?'


988. February 1, 1785 Ciceronian Society

'Is the Christian Church authorized from Scripture to observe the first Day of the Week, in Preference to the Seventh, as the Sabbath?'

Daily Advertiser January 24

989. February 3, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Ought not every man to be considered as an enemy to his country that attempts to oppose a Reform in Parliament?'


990. February 8, 1785 Ciceronian Society

'Is not the Caledonian Society that meets in Pall-Mall, and profess to encourage one another only in the Way of Trade, a dangerous Combination?'

Daily Advertiser February 7

991. February 10, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Ought not that Man who attempts to oppose a Reform in Parliament, to be esteemed as an enemy to his Country?'

General Advertiser February 9

992. February 17, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Ought not any one who attempts to oppose a Reform in Parliament to be esteemed an enemy to this Country?'


993. February 23, 1785 Debating Society, The Crown, Cranbourn Passage, Leicester Fields

'Are the decisions of the Commons, respecting the Westminster Election, to be attributed more to Justice or Party prejudice?

Tickets to be had at the bar, at 6d. each, to be spent in manner most agreeable to the purchaser.'

Gazetteer February 22

994. February 24, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Has not the Westminster Scrutiny been carried on more to gratify party views, than to produce justice to the contending candidates?'


995. February 29, 1785 Ciceronian Society

'Does the love of Liberty, the love of Life, or the love of Ladies, predominate most in the breast of Man?'

General Advertiser February 28

996. March 3, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Which profession (in the hands of bad men) is most injurious to mankind, Law, Physic or Divinity?'


997. March 10, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Would it be for the interest of this country to coincide with the resolutions of the Irish Parliament respecting the commerce of both countries?

As it is expected that upon a subject so materially interesting to trade, the company will be uncommonly numerous . . .'


998. March 17, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Would it be for the interest of this country to coincide with the resolutions of the Irish Parliament respecting the commerce of both countries?'


999. March 22, 1785 Ciceronian Society

'Can the eternal Salvation of every Individual of the human Race be proved from Scripture and Reason?'

Daily Advertiser March 21,

1000. March 24, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Will it be for the benefit of this country to confirm the resolutions of the Irish Parliament, respecting the commerce of both countries?

The Question on the Irish Resolutions was carried last Thursday by a very large majority against them . . .'

Morning Herald

1001. March 25, 1785 Theological Society, Margaret Street Chapel

'Heb. ii vers. 9 "He tasted Death for every Man." Are not the Doctrines of Election and Reprobation depreciating the Sacrifice of Christ, and derogatory to the Honour of God?'

Daily Advertiser

1002. March 29, 1785 Ciceronian Society

'Do the Diversions of the Stage tend most to improve or contaminate the morals of Mankind?'

Admittance for the future 3d. to the Body of the Chapel, 6d. to the Gallery.

Daily Advertiser March 28

1003. March 31, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Which stands the best chance for a Husband, the Prude, or the Coquette?'

The Question 'was determined in favour of the latter'.

Morning Herald

1004. April 1, 1785 Theological Society, Margaret Street Chapel

'Heb. ii. 9. "He tasted Death for every Man." Are not the Doctrines of Election and Reprobation depreciating the Sacrifice of Christ, and derogatory to the Honour of God?'

Admission 3d. to the body of the Chapel and 6d. to the galleries.

Daily Advertiser

1005. April 7, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Has a minister of this country a right to make any concessions, or bring forward any measure which may affect Great Britain, without consulting the British Parliament?'

It was (almost unanimously) determined 'against the minister's actions.' Morning Herald

1006. April 14, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Which ought a Woman most to avoid, in the choice of a Husband Deformity of Body, - or Weakness of Mind?

Company were almost unanimous that weakness of mind ought to be more avoided.'

Morning Herald

1007. April 15, 1785 Theological Society

1 Pet. iv. 12 'Is not the Roman Catholick Doctrine of Purgatory agreeable to Reason and Revelation?'

Daily Advertiser

1008. April 21, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Which is the more desirable situation, to be alive to all the feelings of sensibility, or totally indifferent to every thing that does not immediately concern ourselves?'

It was 'determined (by a great majority) that it was more desirable to be alive to all the feelings of sensibility.'

Morning Herald

1009. April 28, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Which is the greatest object of pity, the Woman who is tied to a Drunken Husband, or the Man who is tied to a scolding Wife?'

Company decided that a woman with a drunken husband was more to be pitied.

Morning Herald

1010. May 5, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Are the bold manners of the Women, or the fopperies of the Men, more censurable in the present day?'

Determined that the fopperies of the men were more censurable. Morning Herald

1011. May 12, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Which, during the course of his Administration, has given the greater proof of Patriotism, Mr. FOX or Mr. PITT?'

Morning Herald

1012. May 19, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Which, during the course of his Administration, has given the greater proof of Patriotism, Mr. FOX or Mr. PITT?

It was after a most spirited debate, determined by a very great majority, that the patriotism of Mr. Fox in and out of office, was far superior to that of Mr. Pitt.'

Morning Herald May 26

1013. May 26, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Does the Minister deserve more credit or censure for the contents of his Budget?'

Morning Herald

1014. September 1, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Is it constitutional to oppose an act of Parliament which is generally admitted to be partial and oppressive?'

The vote was carried, by a small majority, in the negative.

Daily Advertiser

1015. September 8, 1785 Coachmakers-hall Society

'Would it be political in Administration to prosecute further the Irish propositions?'

The question 'was debated before a very respectful and numerous audience; but so ill an impression have these propositions left on the minds of the public, that scarcely an advocate appeared for their further prosecution, it was therefore carried almost unanimously in the negative.' Gazetteer September 15

1016. September 8, 1785 Westminster Forum, at the One Tun, Strand 'Would the retail Shopkeepers be justifiable in refusing Payment of the Shop Tax?'

Admittance 6d., beer included.

Daily Advertiser September 7

1017. September 8, 1785 The original Society for free debate, lately held at Coachmakers-hall, is now removed to the Assembly Room, at the Mitre Tavern, Fleet-Street

'Would not a union of this country with Ireland, similar to that with Scotland, be likely to quiet the jealousies subsisting between the two nations?

After a most spirited debate, it was unanimously agreed to adjourn the further discussion of this interesting subject to this evening, to give those Gentlemen an opportunity of speaking who could not be heard for want of time.'


1018. September 15, 1785 Coachmakers-hall Society

'Have the present Ministry discovered a disposition more favourable or inimical to the liberties of the people?'

Audience decided that ministry was inimical, by a great majority. Gazetteer

1019. September 15, 1785 Society for free debate, Mitre Tavern 'Would not a union of this country with Ireland, similar to that with Scotland, be likely to quiet the jealousies subsisting between the two nations?

N.B. the Managers most respectfully inform the public that they have no connection whatever with any society now held at Coachmaker's-hall as the whole of the persons concerned in the Society lately held there have left that place (except the person who rents the Hall).'


1020. September 22, 1785 Coachmakers-hall debating Society

'Is the assertion of Mr. Pope true, that every woman is at heart a rake?

When after a very ingenious and lively debate, conducted with becoming deference to female delicacy, the dictum of that eminent poet was almost unanimously declared to be false.'

Gazetteer September 29

1021. September 22, 1785 Society for Free Debate, Mitre Tavern

'Whether Ambition or the passion of Love had been productive of more injury to society?

At a large and respectable meeting of both sexes, it was determined that Ambition' had caused most injury.

Gazetteer September 29

1022. September 29, 1785 Coachmakers-hall debating Society

'Which is the more useful member of society, the Divine, the Physician, or the Lawyer?

When, after several ingenious gentlemen had displayed their abilities in support of the several learned characters, the audience was pleased, by their almost unanimous decision, to declare the Divine to be the most useful member of society.'


1023. September 29, 1785 Society for Free Debate, Mitre Tavern

'Which of the two statesmen, Mr. Fox or Mr. Pitt, from his past conduct, has given the greater proof of ABILITY to rule this country in its present situation?'


1024. October 6, 1785 Coach Maker's-Hall Debating Society

'Is not the delicate sensibility of females the principal cause of their own misfortune?'

The Question 'was introduced by a gentleman of distinguished abilities in an elegant speech, replete with sterling sense, and delivered with a laudable regard to the chastest ear of the female part of the audience, and afforded a very interesting debate, in which the sensibility of the fair sex was ably defended as the guardian of feminine virtue; the seductive arts of gallantry justly reprobated; and many seasonable observations thrown out, tending to the general promotion of virtue, and the discouragement of vice: it was decided by a considerable majority in the negative.'


1025. October 10, 1785 London Theological Society for Free Debate, Queen's Arms Tavern, Newgate street

'Will Scripture or Reason support the Doctrine of eternal Punishment?

In this enlightened and enquiring Age, it is presumed that a Society instituted for the investigation of Theological and Metaphysical Subjects will meet with universal Approbation.'

The Question was determined in the affirmative.

Admittance to Ladies and Gentlemen 6d. each.

General Advertiser October 13

1026. October 13, 1785 Coachmakers-Hall Debating Society

'Did the present Administration come into office upon constitutional grounds? and has their conduct since been such as to entitle them to the support of every true friend to his country?'

The Question, 'after a most animated debate (before a crowded audience) was determined in favour of the Ministry'.

Daily Advertiser

1027. October 17, 1785 London Theological Society for Free Debate

'Can man by his conduct shorten or prolong his own life?

It was determined in the affirmative by a large majority.'

General Advertiser October 13

1028. October 20, 1785 Coach-maker's Hall Debating Society

'Does not suicide originate in cowardice?

Many different opinions were ably maintained, as the source from whence it originates; but they all united in the laudable purpose of exposing its heinous deformity, and recommending religion and virtue as the only effectual shield against it. It was decided in the negative.'

Daily Advertiser

1029. October 21, 1785 Times

To the Editor of the Universal Register


Every plan or institution designed to disseminate knowledge, to improve the taste, and advance eloquence, merits attention and encouragement. I was led to this remark by the weekly meetings of several societies, in which questions relative to religion and morality, to government, policy, and legislation, have been, or are to be proposed for discussion.

By attending assemblies of this sort, such an emulation may be raised, as shall stimulate to read, and to investigate useful subjects. May not gentlemen, who speak on points which have been proposed, acquire an easy correct manner of expressing themselves, or at length gain such an acquaintance with polite literature, as shall prove highly useful and ornamental through the whole of life?

Precision and perspicuity in reasoning may thus be learned, or arguments properly arranged, and just conclusions drawn. In disquisitions of this sort, a relish for what is manly and liberal must be acquired, the narrow and contracted will be banished, and a generous cultivation take place: the dogmatical and petulant will be avoided, nor will vague assertions be admitted to supply the place of evidence and argument.

I therefore add, that these disinterested literary societies may be considered as nurseries for several of the departments in life, particularly the senate, the bar, and the pulpit, in which places the wish of clearness and precision of spirit and rhetoric, as well as of classical elegance, is too often discernible.

If the fine arts be favourable to virtue, certainly a person's preparing himself to speak with propriety in public (if he feel as he ought) cannot but cultivate the understanding, and mend the heart: and, when what is spoken comes from an individual marked by purity of manners, joined to a refined taste, it is received with respect, and makes a suitable impression.

Though a celebrated writer says, "that eloquence leads men by the ears", yet it is hoped that the mere tinsel and jingle of words, or dressed out sentences, without any thing solid and convincing, will not be received as oratory. Eloquence is the art of persuasion; its most essential requisites are sound reasoning, perspicuity, and an appearance of sincerity in the speaker; with such graces of style and utterance as shall invite and command attention; good sense must be its foundation. Without this no man can be truly eloquent: fools can persuade none but fools; a man of sense must be convinced before he is persuaded.'


1030. October 24, 1785 London Theological Society

'If the generally received doctrine of eternal punishment be true, are not the brute creation happier than the human race?'

General Advertiser

1031. October 24, 1785 Debate at Mr. Kinloch's, the Newcastle upon Tyne, Broad street Square

'Would it tend to the Aggrandizement of the State were Debt expunged, and the Stock-Holders to receive Annuities?'

Daily Advertiser December 22

1032. October 27, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Have theatrical entertainments a general tendency to improve or prejudice the morals of the people, and was it prudent to grant a license to Mr. Palmer for opening a new place of publick exhibition?'

Question 'was carried in favour of the Stage by a small majority; but against Mr. Palmer's intended new Theatre, by a great Majority.'

General Advertiser November 3

1033. October 27, 1785 Free Debate, Mitre Tavern

'Whether the friendship of individuals should, at all times, give place to the love of their country?'

The Question was 'determined by a small majority, in favour of the love of their country'.

Morning Herald November 3

1034. November 2, 1785 Theological Debate, Oratory, Surry Bridewell, St. George's-fields

'Upon what Ground can the Doctrine of Universal Salvation be supported?'

Admission three-pence only.


1035. November 3, 1785 Mitre Tavern

'Does pride tend more to protect or to destroy female virtue?'

The Question was debated 'before a polite and numerous auditory of Ladies and Gentlemen . . . The business was opened by a well-informed speaker, in an elaborate and accurate speech. He touched upon all the leading points, that were connected with the subject. He spoke fully upon the nature of pride, as it affected both sexes, and all classes of mankind. He gave a number of instances from domestic and public history of the fatal consequences of pride upon the female sex, but reserved his final decision upon the question till a further period of the debate.

He was succeeded by a number of able disputants, who generally contended, that pride was an enemy to the virtue of the fair.

There were not wanting, however, ingenious advocates to support a contrary doctrine, who argued, that pride from a sense of shame they must endure, if they swerved from virtue, would induce those who were governed by it, to guard against a loss of honour; and that though deviations from chastity were, from their elevated situations more glaring among the higher orders of the people, than among the latter; yet, unfortunately, they were infinitely more frequent among the latter. After a well-conducted debate, more connected than diffusive, and more argumentative than elegant, it was decided, that "Pride tends more to destroy than to protect female virtue." In the course of the business, a short altercation arose on some misconceived expressions used by one of the speakers, which, however, was soon reconciled by the judicious moderation of the Chairman, and the polite forbearance of the gentlemen who uttered them.'

General Advertiser November 8

1036. November 3, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Are the understandings of men naturally superior to those of women, or does education constitute the difference?

It was determined by a majority, nearly amounting to a unanimity, that men have no claim to a native superiority of understanding.'

General Advertiser

1037. November 10, 1785 Coach Maker's Hall Debating Society

'Is it justifiable in Creditors to detain their Debtors in prison, who have surrendered up the whole of their Property - and would it be a measure of Wisdom in the Legislature, at the present Period, to pass a general Act of Insolvency?'

First part of Question was decided to be unjustifiable 'by a considerable majority'; second part of Question 'by a small majority'.

General Advertiser

1038. November 10, 1785 Mitre Tavern Society for Free Debate

'Whether the Discontent of the People of this country, during the present reign, has arisen more from real or imaginary evils?

It was determined by an almost united vote of all present, that there were real evils enough in the present reign, without recurring to imaginary ones.'

Morning Herald November 17

1039. November 14, 1785 London Theological Society

'Whether the present is the only state of probation?

Afforded a very entertaining and interesting Debate. The Speakers entered minutely into the subject, and by reference to Jewish, Pagan, and Christian authority, displayed admirable learning, ability, and force of reasoning, on both sides of the question; although the decision was almost unanimously in favour of the present being the only state of probation.'

General Advertiser November 21

1040. November 17, 1785 Coach Maker's Hall Debating Society

'Have the late Lord Chesterfield's Letters to his Son, been injurious to the morals of society?'

The audience voted in the affirmative by a small majority.


1041. November 17, 1785 Mitre Tavern Society for Free Debate

'Is an Old Maid a proper object of Ridicule?'

Morning Herald

1042. November 21, 1785 London Theological Society

'Which was the most criminal, Adam or Eve, in eating the forbidden fruit?

General Advertiser

1043. November 24, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Does conjugal affection most prevail among the lower, the middling, or the higher ranks of people?

Many Gentlemen distinguished for their oratorical powers, wit and ingenuity, employed their admired talents in exploring the various cause, which embitter the marriage state, and in recommending virtue and the improvement of the mind as the surest bond of connubial happiness. It was determined by a considerable majority, that the middling orders of the people enjoyed the greatest share of conjugal happiness.' General Advertiser December 1

1044. November 24, 1785 Mitre Tavern Society for Free Debate

'Are Theatrical Representations more conducive to vice or to virtue?'

Determined that theatre more conducive to virtue.

Morning Herald December 1

1045. November 28, 1785 Lyceum Free Debating Society

'Whether Mr. Pitt, by his dereliction of the cause of Whiggism, has not rendered it more essential service than his eloquence could have done, if he had persevered in its support?'

Question originally proposed by the Right Hon. C. J. Fox.

'This society is instituted under the patronage of several gentlemen, distinguished for rank and ability, and its conductors hope, that by maintaining a respectability in its resort, and a delicate propriety in the subjects of discussion, this institution will deserve the support of the public in general.'

Morning Herald

1046. December 1, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Which ought we most to prefer in the choice of a Wife, personal beauty, or mental accomplishments?'

The Question 'was decided by a considerable majority in favour of mental accomplishments.'

General Advertiser

1047. December 1, 1785 Mitre Tavern Society for Free Debate

'Which is more likely to make the better Husband to a woman of sensibility, a Miser or a Spendthrift?

Determined by a small majority, in favour of the Spendthrift.'

Morning Herald

1048. December 5, 1785 Society for Free Debate, Lyceum, Stand

'Whether the male or female sex be more infected with the fashionable foibles of the present day?'

Morning Herald

1049. December 8, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Which is the more essential qualification for a Prime Minister, great abilities, or strict integrity?

After an animated contest, conducted with becoming candour and liberality, it was determined by a small majority, that strict integrity is the most essential qualification in a Prime Minister.'


1050. December 8, 1785 Mitre Tavern Society for Free Debate

'Which is the best situation for the display of Eloquence, the Pulpit, the Bar, or the Senate?'

Morning Herald

1051. December 12, 1785 Free Debating Society, Lyceum in the Strand

'Are the Intellectual Faculties of the Male, naturally superior to those of the Female Sex; or does Education constitute the difference?'

Admission 6d.

Morning Herald

1052. December 15, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Which is the more beneficial to youth of both sexes, a public or private education?

Determined by a small majority in favour of a public education for boys, and almost unanimously of a private one for females.'

Morning Herald December 22

1053. December 15, 1785 Mitre Tavern Society for Free Debate

'Is not an Old Bachelor a contemptible character?

As no criminality appeared to belong to celibacy, unless accompanied with guilt, he was, on the shew of hands, unanimously acquitted (one hand only excepted).'

Morning Herald

1054. December 19, 1785 Lyceum Debating Society

'Is Learning a desirable Qualification in a Wife?

After a debate in which nervous eloquence and poignant wit were happily combined, was decided in the affirmative.

The conductors of this Society return thanks to the Public for the encouragement by which it has already been distinguished, and to the many eloquent and ingenious Gentlemen who have favoured their Assemblies with their entertaining discussions.'

Morning Herald

1055. December 22, 1785 Coachmakers Hall

'Would an Act of Parliament, empowering a family alliance between this country and France, be consistent with prudence and sound policy?'

Morning Herald

1056. December 22, 1785 Mitre Tavern Society for Free Debate

'Which has the best claim to our Affections, our Parent, Wife, or Child?'

Morning Herald

1057. December 26, 1785 Lyceum Debating Society

'Whether the operation of the Marriage Act has tended to the encrease of Conjugal Felicity?'

Morning Herald December 22

1058. December 29, 1785 Coachmakers Hall Debating Society

'Should the Ladies encourage the English Silk Manufacture?'

This Question 'called forth the abilities of many judicious and well informed Speakers: Though every Speaker commiserated the distressed condition of the unemployed Weavers, yet several of them ably pointed out the mischievous consequences that would probably follow to the Cotton Manufacture, by the proposed encouragement of the Silk Weaving Business. After a variety of ingenious arguments, in which the Speakers on both sides displayed equal candour, liberality, and humanity, it was determined, almost unanimously, that it would be highly laudable and patriotic in the Ladies to encourage the Silk Manufacture.' General Advertiser January 4, 1786

1059. December 29, 1785 Mitre Tavern Society for Free Debate

'Whether the principles of Honour practiced by the Great, tended more to promote Vice or Virtue?'

The Question 'after many excellent arguments, both for and against Duelling, which appeared to be the leading feature of the question, it was determined that every species of modern Honour tended to promote Vice rather than Virtue.'

General Advertiser January 4