Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 08.djvu/130
118 Southern Historical Society Papers.
face of the speaker crimsoned, he stammered a little, but recovered his self-possession and with heroic courage returned to the question as originally propounded, and again attempted a definition. Scarcely, however, had the question begun to assume tangible shape, when the president again called him to order, stating that he had mani- festly wandered from the subject. The situation was now not only critical but perilous for our young orator. The great beads of per- spiration were upon his brow. His knees, unconsciously to him- self, were smiting together; his fingers were nervously plying as if to catch the thin air by his side; a faint, half-choking "Mr. Presi- dent"; a somewhat more audible repetition after a long pause, "Mr. President"; a half- vacant stare around the room as if he would catch the lost thread of his argument in the look of some one of his hearers; then the light play of a smile upon his features, as he began to realize the ludicrousness of the situation, a smile followed by a simultaneous outburst of laughter and shouts of huzzah from the audience, in the midst of which the discomfited orator retired, losing himself from view in the depths of the throng*
The first speaker in the negative was then called, but was shrewd enough to baffle us by entering a plea, sustained by the president, that as no argument had been advanced on the affirmative side, he had the right to withhold his rejoinder until the second affirm- ative had spoken.
The second affirmative was therefore called for, and a surgeon responded, one of those ready speakers whose boast it was that he was always ready to speak, and that the more abstruse the subject the better suited to his tastes. He began by saying that he was exceedingly gratified that the subject now under consideration had been chosen for discussion. It was one to the study of which he had devoted much attention. Indeed, its importance could not be overestimated. It was the neglect of this great question on the part of our statesmen which had deluged the land in blood, dis- membered a once prosperous and happy republic, arrayed brother against brother in fratricidal strife, &c. After this telling intro- duction, he proceeded to state that there were two great sources of knowledge intuitive or a priori convictions, and inductive or a posteori conclusions that from the first of these we derive the inherent principles of social ethics, and from the second the phi- losophy of practical utility ; that the question, therefore, resolves itself into this, whether we are to be governed by a priori and in- tuitive convictions of conscience, or by a posteori and inductive