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Meyer, Wallace (ed.) / The Wisconsin magazine
Volume XIII, Number 5 (February 1916)

Stephens, S. D.
Wisconsin student life 1865-73,   pp. Twenty-seven-Thirty

Page Twenty-nine

women's society was begun in 1872,
called Laurea, an organization which
seemed to be successful until the late
nineties .when, after  twenty-seven
years, literary work in class exercises
and the lack of interest on the part
of its members caused its dissolution.
  The renaissance of forensic activities
showed itself not only in new societies
but in new contests and debates. The
most important of these is, of course,
the joint debate, revived in 1867, after
several unsuccessful attempts at organ-
ization ten years before. The first was
on the constitutionality of the military
reconstruction bill of the 39th Con-
gress, with W. C. Damon, J. Turner
and W. E. Huntington debating for
Athenae, and J. S. Leavitt, F. S. Stein
and Burr W. Jones debating for Hes-
peria. Hesperia was successful. To
those who are interested in the success
of Wisconsin alumni it might be
pointed out that Mr. Jones has since
attained prominence which is nation-
wide as a legal authority, while Mr.
Huntington was for many years presi-
dent of Boston Universitv. The roll of
honor of Wisconsin Joint Debaters be-
gan early. The debate was held in the
chapel of the University, with R. M.
Bashford, who later became a member
of the Wisconsin supreme court, as
president. Mr. Bashford was then a
student. For many years the chair-
men of the debates were chosen from
the societies alternately as had been
the chairmen of the old joint exhibition,
which in some respects was the parent
of the "Joint". The debate itself took
about an hour, and the rest of the pro-
gram consisted of a prayer, music, and
orations. The men showed consider-
able ability "considering" (says the
State Journal) "how little practice
they have had."
  Debates were held in 1867 and 1899,
and then an account of the "Athenae-
ilesperia War" there were no debates
until 1873. Debaters were chosen for
the 1870 debate but could not agree
on a question, nor would the societies
do anything to bring about a concilia-
tion. There was in those days no such
system such as exists today for choos-
ing a question, so the result was a
deadlock. In order to have public de-
bates the societies in 1871-2 instituted
intra-society exercises, consisting of a
debate, orations, etc., entirely managed
by each society separately. (The old
joint exhibitions were still held, how-
ever, so the schism between the socie-
ties was not complete.) After the joint
debates were resumed the semi-publics,
as the intra-society debates were called,
l)ecause eventually limited to saoho-
mores, as a sort of trv-out for the Joint
debate, and they exist todav as the
sophomore semi-publics, though within
recent years they have become inter-
sticietv in character. During the pe-
riod when no joint debates were held
there was the first agitation for inter-
collegiate debates, though none were
held until considerably later.
   Another thing in those days which
 had considerable significance was the
 beginning of prize oratorical contests.
 The first recorded prize ever riven for
 oratory in the University was in a de-
 clamation contest on June 23, 1867.
 Four men from each society, trained
 b~v Professor Pickard, took part. The
 prize, a set of Macaulev's history, was
 won by J. T. Bradley of Hesperia for
 the declamation Reqgpdars to the Car-
 thaqiniaiis. The next contest, also for
 declaiming was held in 1871 on the oc-

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