The Golden Age of the Literary Societies 371
Immediately helpful to the literary work of the Societies was the
improvement in facilities for the use of books and periodicals in the
new library and reading room, beginning from 1879. Books were now
much easier to handle and consult, and for the first time newspapers
and periodicals made readily available for students. The result was
that soon the queries for debates were changing to matters of current
interest. Of course, the change was not made all at once. The Societies
continued to discuss "Which was the better general, Hannibal or
Scipio," and tried to determine whether "Cromwell was a patriot or an
ambitious aspirant." Such questions were regarded as suitable for
freshmen, since they had learned something of them in their study of
history, and literature on them was abundant in the Library. More and
more frequent, however, the debates were on such matters of current
interest as prohibition, the annexation of Cuba, immigration, federal
aid to public schools, methods of electing presidents and senators, and
protection or free trade. This change of interest and of debate is well
illustrated in the queries used in the Anniversary debates. In 1872 the
query was "Is increase of knowledge increase of happiness?" In 1874:
"Which is the cause of more evil, ambition of intemperance?" After
the students had a freer use of periodicals, the Anniversary debaters
began to discuss such questions as immigration (1883), the obligation
of the government to furnish free education for all classes of its
citizens (1886), and the advisability of railroad commission for the
national Government (1890), and other timely questions.
Probably freer access to current periodicals was the means of
causing the Societies to foster another enterprise, the Wake Forest
Student, of which an account is found in a separate chapter.
In this period, as in the previous, the societies were quickening and
calling forth the best efforts for improvement in public speech of such
men as W. L. Wright, D. W. Herring, Thomas Dixon, Jr.,
6 See the list of anniversary debaters and queries appended to this chapter.
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