540 History of Wake Forest College
November, 1852, excluded all "controverted party questions," and
thus for a number of years narrowed the interest of their debates.
Though it will be impossible to consider a tenth of the many
questions that were debated in these years, some understanding may
be had of what the debates meant in the education of the members of
the Societies if we arrange them into groups, and consider each
Many of the questions debated were historical. It is necessary to
warn those who live at a time when courses in history are given in
such great number in the grades and in high school and college that
they must not think lightly of debates on historical subjects in the
days when hardly any history was taught or read. It was from these
debates that the college students of that day gained the greater part of
their historical knowledge. To learn the relative merits of the laws of
Solon and Lycurgus one had to read early Greek history; to be able to
discuss the generalship of Alexander and Hannibal one had to know
something of what each did. A rather extended knowledge of
medieval history was needed to enable one to understand whether or
not the Crusades were beneficial to Europe. And one had to read
much of what then was recent modern history to decide whether
Napoleon was justly banished to St. Helena. If one could defend the
thesis that the Regulators were patriots he had to familiarize himself
with the works of Swain and Hawks and Jones which at that time
were coming from the press. Thus these debates on historical
questions were a stimulus to the reading and study of history which
the students of that day would not have engaged in otherwise.
Some of the questions were mythological rather than historical.
Such was the query, "Was Gyges justified in slaying Candaules?"
which was several times debated. And today we hardly regard as
historical several questions based on the story of early Rome, such as
"Was Horatius justified in putting his sister to death?" Perhaps it was
the issue of casuistry and morals rather than the