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ENGLISH SOCIETIES.

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

HAVING received copies of the rules and regulations of the Oxford and Cambridge Union Societies. I have tried to prepare a brief resume of those rules, in the hope that it will prove of interest to the readers of the Magenta. I must first, however, premise that almost all my information is derived from the printed regulations, so that my readers must pardon me if I make mistakes in statements about matters which are not found in those documents.

Most of us have heard that the English government watch the debates in order to select the most promising speakers and put them in office; whether this be true or not, there have certainly been many men who were prominent in the Societies and afterwards attained great prominence in public life. For instance, in a list of one hundred and fifty five Presidents at Oxford there are thirty who are marked as M. P.'s, or as in some way connected with the government, while almost seventy have some distinction either of rank or in the government, in the Universities or the Church. Among the officers at Cambridge have been Macaulay, Earl Grey, Chief Justice Cockburn, Bulwer Lytton, and Archbishop Trench; at Oxford, Earl Stanhope, Gladstone, the Earl of Elgin, the Duke of Newcastle, Robert Lowe, the Earl of Dufferin; there may be other names which I have passed over in ignorance.

The regulations are so very complex that it is hard to give a general idea of them, but one sees at once that the Unions are much more extensive and business-like than anything we have at Harvard. Each Society owns the building it occupies; at least, I infer that Oxford does. The President of the Cambridge Union writes that their "present building is large and extensive, and embraces a library, debating-hall, closets and offices on the ground floor; a magazine room and writing room on the second floor; and a smoking and coffee room and reference room on the third floor. It is thus a kind of undergraduate club, but differs from ordinary clubs in maintaining a 'literary' or 'intellectual' character." The entrance-money is one pound, and the terminal subscription (there are three terms in the year) either one pound or twenty-two shillings, which must, at Oxford, be paid to the Society's Bankers. The report of the Cambridge Union states that during the three years from October, 1871, to the end of the Easter term, 1874. 985 members were admitted, so that, as there were 195 members on the "Electoral roll" of the University, there were 1,180 members resident in the Easter term, 1874. The expenses for one year were pound 2,188 leaving a balance on hand of pound 296. The chief items were pound 380 for the salaries of the three clerks, housekeeper, and porter, and pound 280 for dividends on "debentures," and a debenture of pound 250 was paid off. These statistics are of value in showing the extent and flourishing condition of the Society; let me now quote again from a letter in regard to its character:

"Debates are held once a week, - the debating-hall seating about 400. The subjects are as varied as possible, and constant efforts are made to prevent the debates becoming purely political. Social questions are not unfrequently discussed, whilst there are, occasionally, pure scientific or literary debates. There is no doubt, however that politics give rise to the most animated debates, - the house always being crowded when the principles of conservatism or liberalism are at stake. As to the 'style' of the debate, the House of Commons is closely followed. No one is allowed to name a speaker, - all are spoken of as 'honorable members'; personalities are always repressed, and 'hissing,' as a mode of expressing approval, is regarded as contrary to the 'customs' of the Society. These matters, though apparently trifling in themselves, are really part of the 'coloring' which gives the Union its distinctive characteristics. They serve a double purpose, - they give a high tone to the debates, and accustom the members to habits which may afterwards be of much service to them, should they become members of the House of Commons. The voting is very uncertain except in questions of pure politics. Speeches have very great effect; a good opening speech, and a good reply will often carry the House; whilst a dull speaker ruins his side. Though the majority of the House is very conservative, yet motions have been passed approving of the faithful services of Mr. Gladstone to his country, and condemning the conservatives in regard to their policy in the case of the endowed schools. It may be interesting to you to know that the smallest conservative majority on a question of politics was thirteen, and that on the question of Mr. Gladstone's programme at the time of the late dissolution. A motion in favor of cremation was passed by a large majority, whilst a motion against marriage with a deceased wife's sister was rejected by a large majority."

Any member can bring up for discussion any subject that is not strictly theological by posting a motion in the rooms three or four days before a debate; if no motion is posted, the standing committee has to provide a subject; no written speeches can be delivered. I have not the report of the Oxford Union, but in Cambridge the debates seem quite well attended; I did not find less than seventy-seven who voted on any motion, and there were over a hundred present at most of the meetings. There is a very interesting list of the additions made to the Library during the last year and of the periodicals taken by the Society, which shows that the members are intelligent and interested in the latest researches in all departments of knowledge. The whole system seems to be directed to the development of a riper, sounder judgment and understanding than is common among American undergraduates.

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