Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Young Men’s Debating Association of Sandusky

The secretary’s book containing the minutes of the Young Men’s Debating Association is housed in the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library. The group was organized in 1840 and was later called the Philomathesian Society (a precursor of the Sandusky Library). The back of the book contains a listing of the questions which were debated as well as the bylaws, constitution, treasurers’ accounts, and a record of fines that were collected. The book was donated by Thomas B. Hoxsey. According to notes found with the secretary’s book, the group’s motto was “Knowledge is power.”

In the beginning, only the surnames of the members were given. Early members were: Mr. Lockwood, Mr. Campbell, Mr. Camp, Mr. Vrooman, Mr. McGee, Mr. Cooke, Mr. Mills, and Mr. Davidson. H. D. Cooke, brother of Jay Cooke, served as the Secretary-Treasurer in August 1840. A different member served as president of each meeting.

On October 7, 1840, the Young Men’s Debating Association met in Sandusky. Mr. J. Vrooman served as president, as the person who was designated to serve as president was absent. Attending the meeting were: Jacob A. Camp, William S. Mills, J. H .Lockwood, J. Steiner, E. B. Goodrich, J. S. Vrooman, and James McGee. The members debated the question: “Which is more desirable knowledge or fame?” The minutes read that “after a long and extremely animating debate” the president awarded the honor to both parties. The question for the next meeting was “Should fiction ever be considered as a vehicle for truth?”

Other questions debated were:

“Which affords the greatest field for eloquence, the pulpit or the bar?”
“Which has been the most benefit to mankind, invention or discovery?”
“Was Columbus the first discoverer of America?”
“Is conscience an innate principle?”

The final entry in the minutes book of the Young Men’s Debating Society is dated April 13, 1841. Jacob A. Camp was serving as the Secretary-Treasurer at this time, and Mr. Vrooman chaired the meeting.

Long before radio, television, cell phones, and the Internet, debating served as an enjoyable pastime for Sandusky’s young men. Visit the Sandusky Library’s Archives Research Center to view the minutes of the Young Men’s Debating Association.

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