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Title: Address by Samuel F. Phillips for the Dialectic Society, January 1841: Electronic Edition.
Author: Phillips, Samuel F.
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. 24K
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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:
2007-02-08, 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: Address by Samuel F. Phillips for the Dialectic Society, January 1841
Author: Saml. F. Phillips
Description: 7 pages, 8 page images
Note: Call number 40152 (University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Editorial practices
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Address by Samuel F. Phillips for the Dialectic Society, January 1841
Phillips, Samuel F.

Page 1

Fellow members:

The commencement of an other session has already recalled our collegiate brethren to the pursuit of their several studies, and again we drawn together by stronger & more lasting ties have rekindled the flame on our little altar of science.
The intervention of a few weeks since last we met has doubtless served to prepare your minds for the exercises of the ensuing session, whilst it may be hoped that after your late visit to those places where was instilled into your young breasts each lofty aspiration & virtuous sentiment which can hallow ambition & render life pleasant you have returned to tell by precept & example that this is no transient impression. Another session with its pleasures & pains is before us & Gentlemen you will pardon me for saying that on you & you alone will depend the character of those proceedings which shall mark its progress in this hall. More than this, if you determine that these shall be harmonious, you alone will reap the pleasures consequent thereon. If otherwise, you will suffer all the pain arising from their discord. For, within this hall we exist as a seperate world, we have our convulsions, times of prosperity & depression & we alone are affected by them. Whilst on the other hand no revolution in the affairs of the country can interrupt our deliberations, no political excitement extend its influence within yonder sacred lintel. We feel that—
"Tis pleasant, thro' the loop-holes of retreat
To peep at such a world; to see the stir
Of the great Babel, & not feel the crowd;
To hear the roar she sends through all her gates
At a safe distance, where the dying sound
Falls a soft murmur on the uninjured ear"
Fellow-members — it was with astonishment that I heard advocated here the inutility of addressing you on the subject of abuses in this hall, I was astonished because the doctrine seemed replete with absurdity. Carry it out — destroy the system of public monitors, acknowledge the uselessness of those who weekly in the pulpit or periodically in your halls of legislation reprove the misdeeds of their fellows, "allure to brighter worlds & lead the way," and you instantly sap the very foundations

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of society. This system is as important to its existence as is that of the law. Although its jurisdiction is more circumscribed than is that of the law, though the enimes of which it takes cognizance are less quality in their nature, still it founds the basis & chief support of the legal structure. It is founded on the principle that man is not wholly depraved in his relations to his fellows & that when interest fends the way he will pursue the paths of virtue & wisdom. Such is the monitory system as it exists in the world & such is its nature here although in a few things necessarily different, and if as such a few members regard & a few others choose to disregard it surely we can not accuse it of being wholly unprofitable. Influenced by such considerations as these Gentlemen, I feel it an imperative duty to warn you of the lax state of discipline & irregular performances of what is called our regular duties which at present characterise the meetings in this hall. To you the falling off may seem unworthy of notice on account of its smallness, but I assure that to any one who may have been absent from it for three years it would be not only remarkable but astonishing. Instead of the interest then displayed by every one in society, in place of zeal shown by every one to be foremost in each of the branches, there is now a singular, an unnatural & to me an unaccountable apathy to every thing in any way concerning it. When a few years since we raised the standard of qualifications necessary for our representations, it was hoped that it would be an additional spur to excellence in all the departments, but three years can testify that those hopes have been sadly disappointed. A number barely sufficient to supply the desideratum step forward into the arena & are proclaimed candidates, from that instant all competition is at an end — the consequence is that our debates have lost all their interest whilst scarcely worthy of the name. But, Gentlemen, you must be employed about something, for we scarcely see those faculties with which God has endorsed man wholly unemployed. Do your text books occupy your time? I appeal to the last report for an answer. Are you wasting it in idle reading or still idler meriment?

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In playing cards or drinking, in composing, yes thinking out anecdotes whose only merit is their length, slang and freedom from truth or practising music long since fashionable at the neighboring corn-shucking? I sent the question directly to each one of you and you must answer it as best you can. If indeed you are those wasting any considerable portion of your collegiate course beleive me you will repent of it, the time will come sooner or later when you will in vain endeavour to recall these moments thus entirely wasted, moments of what time of your life! Was it in childhood 'ere the sun of reason dawned bright enough to [unrecovered] those morning mists which then enveloped your feeble intellects, or after he was immersed in the clouds of age? No! even this flimsy consolation will be refused as conscience reminds you that it was when your intellects were most vigorous, when they needed little but experience to place them on an equality with those of the middle aged man. In the words of Solomon— "Rejoice O young man in thy youth & let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thy heart & in the sight of thine eyes: But know then that for all these things "thy God and by agent thy conscience" will bring thee into judgment," and as certainly as every idled or misspent hour adds its drop of bitterness to that cup of remorse which all mankind must drink so certainly shall these form no inconsiderable portion of that which shall be allotted to you.
Fellow-members, you must be aware that the employments which I have named are totally unworthy of you who will shortly be called on to fill that place which a state expects to be occupied

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by her educated young men, or of sons, whom their parents sent here — if not to compete for college distinction at least to maintain that respectable standing which would tell them that their outlay had not been in vain. Can you for a moment suppose that by this conduct you are injuring any one but yourselves? You may greive the heart of a fond parent but he will look to some other child as his solace. You may disappoint the expectation of your friends, but they will find it easy to turn from you & fix their hopes on some other young man, & nothing will remain to assure you that you have a partner in your misfortunes. To this every young man who has been a graduate for ten years will testify. Let one who having barely [unrecovered] through college, after graduation reformed himself let him tell you of his experiences on the subject. He will bear witness to the difficulty of training your mind to rigid application after the season of early youth has passed, he will talk of the high privileges enjoyed in the performance of regular duties in this hall & will lament the gap in his life caused by his wasting the four years of College life. But such instances, of reformation are rare & you will find that after passing four years of your life in utter idleness that your habits have become a second nature & that it is next to impossible to shake them off. Then let me advise you to pay more attention to your society duties. For if you intend to pursue the profession of law, when stammering out a confused & misty opinion before the bar with no friend to cheer but with many an anxious, envious and malicious rival ready to expose & rejoice over your errors you will then vainly regret the idle hours which you are now spending here & the many opportunities of debating which you carelessly

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passd. by in this society. Are you to be a physician? clear & concise accounts of the cases which should happen to fall under your observation together with the treatment required by each will always prove acceptable to the public & will secure renown as well as business. And no matter what profession you intend to pursue the spirit of the age is such as to make ignorance as a greater disgrace than learning is praised. Man rarely feels the worth of those advantages which he enjoys until they have irrevocably fled; the sick man discourses eloquently on the blessings of health; the statesman on the pleasures of retirement, & you will only hereafter learn to appreciate fully the priveliges which you now enjoy. But in order that you may reap some benefit from them let me beg you to lay aside your childish amusements & feeling assured that your own interests are at stake from each other in the regular performance of your regular duties. Are you diffident? Remember that Mr. Clay himself when he first rose to address a petty debating society of which he was a member was decidedly the greatest blunderer & most awkward member of which it boasted. Did he falter & fall? "Not so — the virtue still adorns our age."
"His speech, his form, his action full of grace
"And all his country beaming in his face
"No sycophant or slave that dared oppose
"Her sacred cause but trembled when he rose"
— proves that success has crowned his early efforts to distinguish himself. Do you fear the corrections? be assured that if you intend to occupy a situation before the public these criticisms on your style & delivery must be made; & that they will be proportionably severe according as they come

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early or late. Each composition written makes the next easier, each speech declaimed gives additional polish to your manner, each debate discussed accustoms your mind to quick perception, clear arrangements of your thoughts, & ready as well as convincing replies to specious & sophistical arguments.
Again, gentlemen, let me urge on you the propriety of a better attendance on the duties which you owe to your teachers. A general knowledge, at least, of the studies which you are pursuing in your several classes is absolutely necessary for your improvement & would doubtless greatly better the course at present followed. It is not necessary for you to engage in the contest for distinctions although it would be gratifying — highly gratifying to see our society at least equal her rival in this particular. Mental discipline is the great end of a collegiate education, & it makes but little difference whether this is attained by attention to your text books, or the duties of society, although should you be obliged to neglect one of the two (and I for one do not see the obligation) I would prefer that the lot should fall on your text books because from their perusal you obtain nothing but rigid discipline whilst in the other instance you are exercising yourselves in the pursuits of your future life.
To a few gentlemen in this hall I would say that a better attendance should be observed as we do not recognize the "divine right," doing as one pleases here. In conclusion, let me entreat you one & all to change your course of conduct & knowing yourselves to be deeply interested in the result perform the duties devolving on you with that which has always heretofore characterised the members of the Dialectic Society, or if you find them too irksome & valueless take the sad & only honorable alternative, & by withdrawing show that you are

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unwilling to influence the conduct or constrain the ambition of your younger fellow members. A whole session is before us, to a part it will be the last of their collegiate course, but be it first or last may you all endeavour to regain that imminence from which as a body we have fallen, for this is a fact admitted by all.
The honour which you have thought fit to confer on me, I shall always remember with gratitude, & let me hope for your assistance in my endeavours to perform my duties with fidelity as well as impartiality.

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