William Hermann letters  1944-1945
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Collection Scope and Content Note

This manuscript book of a late 19th-century meeting of an unknown debating society contains the text of two debates. The first argument (76 pages) was to debate whether George Washington or Abraham Lincoln was "the greater man." Individual speakers, whose names have often been added in pencil, are identified as supporting either Washington or Lincoln. Those who advocated for Washington concentrated on his military service and his role in establishing the United States. One repeated argument in his favor, for example, was his refusal to accept a royal title after leading the Continental Army to victory over British forces. Those who favored Lincoln focused on his character, decisions made during the Civil War, and eventual martyrdom. The matter was taken to a vote following an argument that both presidents deserved to be lauded. The middle of this debate is marked by a brief foray into Constitutional issues, particularly the advisability of introducing amendments, though the argument soon returned to its original topic. An additional argument in favor of Washington, written on a separate piece of paper, is placed inside the book's front cover.

Five newspaper clippings are inserted into the volume:

  • "Abraham Lincoln: Lord of Himself, Leader of Others," laid into the front of the volume (undated)
  • "Dallas Academy and Washington's Birthday," containing the program for the Philomethean Society's celebration of George Washington's 152nd birthday, pasted into the volume (1884)
  • "Stand Points in the Life and Times of Washington," containing extracts from a speech delivered by Erastus Brooks on February 22, 1866, pinned into a page in the volume (undated)
  • "Washington's Birthday," commemorating the 153rd anniversary of George Washington's birth, pasted into the volume (1885)
  • Untitled article examining aspects of Abraham Lincoln's character, pasted into the volume (undated)

The second debate (50 pages) concerned a comparison of the "Mental Capacities of the Sexes," specifically whether the minds of women are equal to those men. After heated debate, centered on the more prominent historical roles of men and the impact of women in the domestic and maternal spheres, the group decided overwhelmingly ("Loud cries of All, All") that the genders did share equivalent mental capacities. This debate was briefly interrupted following a general outcry over contentious remarks made by a man named Spooner.

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