The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, October 1913
For the last two years the complaint has been that interest in debating at the College is dying. In fact, Jeremiahs have not been wanting, who declare that the Debating Society would do well to go into recess until such time as a re-awakened interest in things forensic should justify its re-emergence into College life. Happily these croakers have been confounded. In his Presidential address to the Society, Professor von Zedlitz, in a speech characterised by great depth of thought, profound insight into life, the keenest logic and brilliant dialectical ability, revealed the true disease of which the Society is the hapless prey. However, we are anticipating.
At the 59th meeting of the Society Messrs. R. W. McConnell and P. B. Broad moved "That the Great Powers should have interfered to prevent the Balkan War." Messrs. McEldowney and R. M. Quilliam opposed. The debate, not un-naturally perhaps, turned upon the religious question, though Mr. Quilliam put forward a valuable argument from the point of view of the International Jurist. For the rest, Mr. McEldowney quoted an up-to-date authority, two hundred years old; Mr. Ah Connell was vigorous, if somewhat chaotic; and Mr. Sievwright made a peroration. The judge, Mr. P. Levi, placed the following speakers:—Messrs. Sievwright, McKay, McConnell, McEldowney, and Quilliam.
The most important meeting of the year was held on 4th June, when a public debate took place as to the naval policy of New Zealand. The Hon. Sir John Findlay, K.C., LL.D., in opening, urged that those British colonies, which had a Pacific litoral, should federate with the United States in order to oppose any possible Asiatic aggression. Those who were fortunate enough to hear this speech are never likely to forget its eloquent appeal. Professor Laby followed, and argued that a sound colonial naval policy must be based upon the following condi page 45 tions:—There must be a British fleet in the Pacific; we must contribute to the protection of our trade routes; the people of the self-governing portions of the Empire must share equally the burden of naval defence for the security of the Empire. Mr. G. G. Watson read a paper contributed by an anonymous expert. In our opinion this was the most valuable contribution of the evening. The writer pointed out the unquestionable fact that a naval policy, which decentralized the government of the British fleet, was doomed to failure. Naval strategy required concentration of force. No matter whether each self-governing colony built a navy of its own, that navy should be under the control of the Government responsible for the foreign policy of the Empire. Mr. C. A. Treadwell delivered an address which kept the large audience breathless with anticipation and —er appreciation. Mr. McEldowney spoke in optimistic vein of the future. Mr. E. Tregear was delicious, irrelevant, and occasionally shrewd. Professor Picken urged the need of an Imperial Conference to decide the Empire's naval policy. Profesor Easterfield commented on the wonderful progress of Japan under up-to-date educational method and Mr. Humphries delivered an address scintillating with points of unconscious humour.
The Society met again on the 14th June to discuss the motion: "That the Asquith Ministry is justified in refusing: to extend the Franchise to women." Messrs. A. E. Seaton and Broad moved; Messrs. Stevenson and A. M. Treadwell opposed. The debate was poorly attended, though not lacking in interest. The Judge (Mr. W. G. Wickham) placed the speakers in this order: Messrs. Broad, George, Sievwright, Burne and Quilliam.
On 12th July, Messrs. Morice and Sievwright moved: "That the standard of the Press is the outcome of the wishes and culture of its readers." Messrs. S. R. Mason and O. Borer opposed. Sivvy's accustomed peroration was "off colour" on this occasion. Mr. H. H. Ostler placed the speakers thus:—Miss Nicholls, Messrs. Borer, Morice, Caddick, and George.
On 26th July Professor von Zedlitz delivered his Presidential address, which we have before alluded to. The Professor diagnosed the Society's complaint as intoxication! Of course, he did not suggest that the Society was drunk. The fact was, Debating Societies repose on flattery. Now, flattery is intoxicating. The attraction of being flattered is irresistible. But the most subtle, the most insidious of all flattery, is the flattery of being engaged. Here then was the simple explanation of the decay in interest in debating at Victoria College. The De page 46 bating Society was suffering' to-day because an unusually large number of students is engaged, or ought to be.
We have made numerous inquiries since Professor von Zedlitz's address with a view to testing the correctness of his diagnosis. The evidence, however, is conflicting. The Chairman indignantly denied his rumoured engagement, though- well, never mind! The Vice-Chairman said: "Do I look like it?' We looked at him went to the door; opened it; gasped "No"—and fled. The Secretary, when questioned, was subtle and tortuous; he was observed to close one eye; and we heard a murmur of, "Old man, what about a long sh—?" We thought it better not to trouble the Treasurer's conscience with inquiries.
On 16th August Mr. A. E. Caddick and Miss Tolley moved: "That the French Revolution exercised a greater influence on English Literature than the Renaissance." Messrs. H. E. Evans and Broad opposed. The debate was an interesting one. In addition to the principals, Miss Nicholls spoke with a martyr's patience that should have brought blushes to the cheeks of the movers. Mr. George advanced an original and thoughtful argument; Mr. Borer did not think that a man of his profound learning need study the question and Mr. Sievwright delivered a peroration. Mr. A. R Atkinson placed the following:—Mr. Sievwright, Miss Nicholls, Mr. Broad, and Mr. Evans and Mr. Caddick equal.
On 6th September Mr. G. G. Watson, seconded by Miss Nicholls, moved: "That the Common wealth Government is pursuing the wisest policy in excluding the Asiatic races from the Northern Territory." Messrs. F. E. McKenzie and Broad opposed. This debate again was keen ami interesting. Mr. Watson drew a beautiful picture of the grassy beauty of the Northern Territory. Mr. McKenzie marshalled his facts in solid way. Miss Nicholls drew tears from the sympathetic judge when she spoke of how horrid and dreadful the Chinese would be. Mr. Broad descanted on the iniquity of the white race. Mr. Hudson enlarged on the climatic aspect. Mr. Sievwright delivered a peroration—Gad, he did ! Mr. Meldrum made the most genuinely humorous and amusing speech we have heard this year. We should like to hear him more often. Mr. G. Strack, with a shilellagh in one hand, and a blunderbuss in the other, went for the opposition with whole-hearted zeal. Mr. Borer (unfortunate name, isn't it?) again favoured us with his view, and Mr. C. Strack made an eloquent and irrelevant speech on thermometers. Mr. V. B. Willis placed these five speakers: Mr. Sievwright, Miss Nicholls, Messrs. Broad, Watson, and McKenzie.