AT the present time, when so much is being said about the department of Oratory and Rhetoric in our own College, and an effort is being made to improve the condition of our literary societies, it is neither uninteresting nor profitless to ascertain how much importance is attached to these arts in foreign universities, and to examine the success of undergraduate clubs formed for the purpose of fostering them. The Oxford Union Society is an organization of this character, and the report of the celebration of its fiftieth anniversary in the London Times, of October 23, affords good evidence of its success, and shows how prized among Englishmen is the power to express their thoughts with ease and clearness, whatever be the number of listeners.
The anniversary banquet was held in the Corn Exchange, Oxford, and so great was the number of guests that special trains were run from London for their accommodation. Lord Selborne, Lord High Chancellor, presided, and among the company, which comprised many of England's most distinguished men, were the Bishop of Oxford, the Marquis of Salisbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Manning, Mr. Cardwell, of the Cabinet, and Matthew Arnold. The after-dinner speeches were many in number, and one distinguished gentleman after another acknowledged how much good he had derived from the Union in his younger days. We quote from the speech of the Lord Chancellor in proposing the "prosperity of the Society" as a toast: "He did not propose to enter now into the question which had divided the minds of the venerable founders of that Society, whether eloquence had been productive of more good or of more evil; but, at all events, in all nations that breathed the atmosphere of freedom eloquence had been at all times one of the most potent influences of society, from the days of Pericles and Demosthenes to those of Cicero, and from the days of Cicero to those of Pitt and Canning. In all such countries the power of speech had ruled in the Church, in the law, and in the senate. The government of men had been with that power, it was so still, and it would, he doubted not, long continue so; and if the cultivation of that power were neglected in the principal places of education, they would be neglecting one of the chief instruments by which to perform the duties of their future lives."
When shall we have such a society at Harvard?