October 26, 2011
Dylan J. DelliSanti '14
The night of October 7 marked the beginning of what will become a great new tradition at Hampden-Sydney College. On that night, the Union-Philanthropic Literary Society, colloquially known as UPLS, debated and defeated the University of Virginia's Jefferson Society.
The debate, now named the "Patrick Henry Debate," was the first meeting between these two august and storied societies. Participating for Hampden-Sydney College were seniors Chris Turpin and Kyle Gilbert. The resolution was: "Labeling Terrorists as Enemy Combatants Violates Just War Theory," and Hampden-Sydney College chose to affirm the resolution.
Mr. Gilbert, a philosophy major, and Mr. Turpin, a foreign affairs major, were able to synthesize their separate expertise and formulate a logical argument for why labeling terrorists as enemy combatants violates just war theory. Mr. Gilbert opened the debate with a strong foundation that, "This is a debate of definitions, nothing more, nothing less." Giving the final speech, Mr. Turpin, who had almost lost his voice that morning, would drive the nail in the coffin by asserting that UVA's debaters had failed to address the resolution. Their opponents, while equally skilled as orators, were unable crack our side's logic, nor provide an argument that was pertinent to the resolution.
UPLS overcame great odds to score the victory. The debate was hosted at UVA, with UVA graduate students as judges, with UVA's parliamentary rules, and used the topic chosen by UVA. Both sides submitted potential resolutions, with the UPLS topic being: "Legalizing Cocaine is a Net Benefit to the United States." However, a coin flip landed in UVA's favor and their resolution was chosen. This at least gave UPLS the opportunity to choose which side to be on, opting for the affirmative. UPLS also entered a hostile environment being outnumbered nearly 10 to 1 by Jefferson Society members. Moreover, Jefferson Society members snapped their fingers every time they agreed with something their speakers said, and hissed every time they disagreed with something said by Mr. Turpin or Mr. Gilbert. After the debate, UPLS junior member Christian Hebert-Pryor '12 asked an opposing member why they snapped their fingers. She replied that in the past, Jefferson Society members held their drinks in the other hand making it difficult to clap and thus the tradition of snapping came into being. Nevertheless, UPLS countered this tradition with the sobriety of their arguments.
Furthermore, Mr. Turpin's voice was only half present making it difficult for him to speak. After the victory, Mr. Turpin said triumphantly, "Imagine what I could have done if I hadn't lost my voice!" At the end of the evening the odds didn't matter. Mr. Turpin and Mr. Gilbert had proven that their argument was superior regardless of the overwhelming circumstances.
UPLS and the Jefferson Society plan to continue this tradition of The Patrick Henry Debate next year as the Jefferson Society will travel to Hampden-Sydney. This will hopefully become a lasting and stable friendship between our two literary societies (who both contend to be the second-oldest in the U.S.). However, UPLS actually is the second oldest in the country, with its origin extending back to 1789 with the founding of the Union Society. The Philanthropic Society was founded in 1805 and the two would merge in 1929. The Society is also the oldest on campus as well and in the past has debated such controversial topics as the ethics of slavery - as they did in 1810 -- or whether or not Muslims and Christians worship the same God - as they did on October 9, 2011.
To participate in the Union-Philanthropic Literary Society, come to their weekly meetings every Sunday at 6 PM in Winston Hall. Each Sunday a new resolution is debated and discussed as members pursue truth and cultivate an atmosphere of sound learning in which good men and good citizens can be formed.