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Title: "A President's Address," by Charles Phillips, August 1840: Electronic Edition.
Author: Phillips, Charles, 1822-1889
Funding from the University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by Bari Helms
Images scanned by Caitlin R. Donnelly
Text encoded by Stephanie Adamson
First Edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: ca. 20K
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text
The electronic edition is a part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-02-07, Stephanie Adamson finished TEI/XML encoding.
Title of collection: Records of the Dialectic Society (#40152), University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: "A President's Address," by Charles Phillips, August 1840
Author: Charles Phillips
Description: 7 pages, 8 page images
Note: Call number 40152 (University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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"A President's Address," by Charles Phillips , August 1840
Phillips, Charles, 1822-1889

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Fellow members,

After the separation of a few weeks we have again with joyous faces and hearts elate with hope reassembled in the Dialectic Hall, for the purpose of mutual instruction and to drink deep of the pure and copious fountain of knowledge presented by our extensive library. But above all, we have another opportunity of renewing and cementing those friendships which are the charms of a College life, and will form "the bright spots on memory's page," when we shall have left the groves of Chapel Hill to mingle in the busy scenes and share in the all-engrossing cares of the wide world. How necessary then, whilst here sheltered from the stormy waves of active life and secure of the smiles of approving friends ready to cheer us on, in our course of intellectual culture, that we should improve the present opportunity. Every hour that we spend, every breath that we draw shortens the seed time of life. Yet how much remains to be accomplished. In this present time of political excitement, when even the public press losing sight of its proper end — the diffusion of information indulges in all the madness of party strife, our country calls loudly on her educated young men to proffer their aid in stopping the headlong

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current that bids fair to overwhelm her bright prospects in utter destruction.
Although our separation has been short yet on our reunion we find our little band diminished in numbers. Those to whom we were accustomed to look for advice and example and with whom we were knit in the closest bonds of amity, have gone to act their destined parts in the great drama of life, and well are we assured that they will discharge the duties which devolve on them with honour to themselves and to their country. In the intercourse which young men enjoy with each other, as members of this Society and as intimate friends, frequent and valuable opportunities are afforded for judging of the capacities of their associates. Hence, although an instructor may form a wrong estimate of the amount of talent that a young man possesses, his fellow students rarely mistake. Judging by this rule it is with confidence that we auger the future success of our late associates. But though this conviction rests with us, still would we say to them in the impressive language of olden time, "Macte nova virtute, sic itur ad astra." Be it our care to imitate their good example in the increased attention shown to our duties both as members of Society and as Students of the University.

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So often, Fellow members, has the word of advice reproof and warning, been addressed to you from this chair, that were I to follow the same track my remarks would be as little heeded as the pattering of rain on the shingled roof. But the commencement of a scholastic year affords such an opportunity for giving advice, that to refrain entirely might be considered as a dereliction of duty. I hope that it will be received in the same spirit with which it is tendered.
It must afford sincere pleasure to every true friend of the Dialectic Society, to see its ranks so rapidly increasing in numbers, for thus the sphere of its influence is enlarged and the benevolent intentions of its founders will be more perfectly realized. But mere accession of numbers will neither add to the respectability nor augment the usefulness of the Society. When on the 3rd June 1795 a few of the Students of the University — at that time a mere high school — formed an association which they called "The Debating Society" they expected to found an institution which should not be materially affected by the hastily formed opinions of the inexperienced youths who flock to this seat of the Muses. They intended that it should derive its character from and owe its chief advantages to the virtue, the talents, the maturer experience of

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its senior members and the unwearied exertion of all in the acquisition and diffusion of valuable information. For thus it would attain the highest rank among similar institutions and acquire a name of which all might be justly proud. And well have their expectations been fulfilled.
What means were employed to accomplish their object?
If we look back into the history of this body we will find one leading feature characterizing its operations — the maintenance of a discipline which knew no relaxation. A strict watch was kept over the conduct of members both in the hall and in their rooms. Vice and immorality of every kind was firmly discountenanced not only by the imposition of severe penalties but by the frowns of the members. Profanity which can present no claims to indulgence, nor offer any excuse to palliate its criminality, but which has become so fashionable of late, finding no advocates for its practice, nor partners in its guilt was put down by public sentiment or if indulged in was silenced by a fine. We have members whose first application for admission was rejected lest they should prove undeserving of the honour, but whose names now stand high on the roll of fame in their native state.

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The ballot box was not then kept for appearance's sake.
Although many of the old laws were too strict yet we see what a rich legacy has been left to us through their influence. From a simple "Debating Society" where it was gravely discussed whether "beasts had souls—" and whether "the ladies or wine exerted more deteriorating effect on the mind of the Student—" where laws were passed forbidding the members to appear in the hall barefooted — an association hardly noticed by the heads of the and of little repute among the students — it has grown in importance and become a powerful Society, whose assistance is eagerly sought by the Trustees and Faculty in the preservation of good order, and spoken of with feelings of respect and admiration by all who mention it. On us devolves the responsibility of transmitting to our successors unimpaired in vigour of action this sacred charge which we have received from our predecessors. The question would naturally arise, how shall this responsibility be discharged? By persevering in the honorable course pointed out by our hardy pioneers. Let us therefore watch with renewed vigilance lest in our present increase of numbers practices should be introduced;

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subversive of all good order.
It is obviously useless to crowd our Statue books with laws, resolutions and motions in the hope of thereby restraining members from the commission of acts at variance with decorum and destructive of wholesome discipline, whilst the means of restraint lies with the members themselves. But a lamentable want of disposition to enforce the laws is wanting. It has been observed that "public sentiment is of more efficacy than the laws." If this remark holds good with respect to communities at large, how powerful must it be when applied to a body constituted as ours, where the happiness of each individual member depends so entirely on his intercourse with his fellow members. Exert then this power in behalf of the Dialectic Society, and put an end to some practices which are too prevalent.
It was to be hoped that the abuse of our Library would be reformed and this hope was strengthened by the manifestation of opinion on the subject at the close of the last session. But the same course is persisted in; no attention is paid to the Library Laws, books are taken out on irregular days and without covers. Access to many books is denied to some of the members through the neglect of members in returning what they have read. Next to the conduct of

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our members, our greatest interest should be felt in the improvement of our Library. Already we boast of the largest and finest south of the Potomac, though still, how, far from perfection. Yet, how can it improve either in appearance or in real worth, while neglected as it is at present, when the office of librarian is a perfect sinecure. Let me beseech you to turn your attention to this matter and produce a speedy reformation.
It is a source of pleasure, to learn that so many of the Senior Class are unwilling to deprive themselves of the means of improvement afforded by our exercises, and that they are ready to offer their experience as a guide to the younger members of this body where precedents have such a sway. The custom so lately introduced of releasing the older members from all obligations to attend its meetings could be productive of nothing but injury to the body.
In conclusion, Fellow members allow me to return to you my sincere thanks for the unmerited honour, you have conferred on me and to solicit your hearty cooperation in administering the laws and promoting the unity and prosperity, individually and generally of the Dialectic Society.

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