Friday, March 6, 2015

"Juvinis" urges support for debating society of the Albany Young Men's Association, December 1837

For, happily in this our favored land, no mitred priesthood, nor titled nobility, or gowned lawyers, are self-constituted pilots of our noble ship the Republic....

The democratic flourish is very much in Gansevoort's line, though his continued involvement with the Young Men's Association seems doubtful: Gansevoort, a former president of the YMA debating society (Hershel Parker, Herman Melville: A Biography V1.104), had resigned from the Executive Committee in April 1837 after his business went bankrupt (Parker, V1.113). Following the example of "Juvinis," Herman Melville would endorse the same YMA debating society (not Philo Logos) in his final letter as "Philologean" to the editor of The Albany Microscope, published March 31, 1838.

So the debating society season ran from November to April 1st.

Albany Evening Journal - December 22, 1837
via GenealogyBank


Mr. EDITOR—Permit me, through your columns, to call the attention of the Young Men of Albany to one, and that not the least important of the means of improvement extended to them by the Young Men’s Association; and one which they have shamefully neglected. I mean the Debating Society which, by the rules of the association, holds a meeting in the Lecture room once in each week from the first of November to the first of April. The exercises of the debating Society are by no means exclusively for the Professions which make public speaking their almost daily occupation. For, happily in this our favored land, no mitred priesthood, nor titled nobility, or gowned lawyers, are self-constituted pilots of our noble ship the Republic; but here the merchant, the lawyer, the physician, the mechanic, and every other honest man is privileged—nay, bound, so far as circumstances will permit, to exert his influence, not only in the primary meetings, but in the legislative halls of his country. The study of books, attendance upon lectures, and habits of though and observation may partially qualify him for these duties of an American citizen; but unless he acquire by practice a confidence and a habit of arrangement and perspicuity which will enable him to deliver the result of his study and observation to his fellow citizens in a manner that shall not compel them to exchange attention to his subject for feelings of pity and perhaps contempt for the man who presumes to waste their time by attempting to address them, his days of study and nights of thought will only serve to aggravate his confusion. I therefore beg young men in future to show that they value their privileges, and will exercise them; and not suffer the officers of the Debating Society to hold their formal meetings—with scarce none but themselves in attendance, which has too frequently been the case. 
Every member of the association has a right to become a member of the Debating Society by signing the list in possession of the Secretary; and all members, both regular and honorary, have a right to attend its meetings. And permit me to suggest that the presence of the honorary members, who have leisure, might serve to stimulate the exertions of the debators. The meetings for this and the coming week will be on Friday evening, after then on Thursday. Yours truly,

--Albany Evening Journal, Friday, December 22, 1837
For some advertised subjects of discussion by the YMA Debating Society in 1837-8, see the previous post on questions for debate.

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