The Barbourville (Ky.) Debating Society minutes (122 pages) concern the group's weekly meetings between May 27, 1837, and November 16, 1839, with breaks between November 18, 1837-March 10, 1838, and August 4, 1838-March 30, 1839. The first entry and those that immediately follow the breaks contain the society's 3 constitutions. In addition to meeting minutes, the volume includes a 2-page membership list.
Most sets of weekly minutes list the names of attending members, the names of members selected to debate that meeting's assigned topic, the results of the society's vote, and the topic to be discussed at the following meeting. The minutes also reflect administrative matters settled during meetings, frequently regarding the admittance of new members and the election of officers. The Barbourville Debating Society mainly discussed political matters; some topics were debated on multiple occasions. Issues for debate included banking and taxation, the death penalty, revision of the Kentucky constitution, the admission of Texas to the Union, the relative worth of wealth and talent, the intellectual capacity of men and women, foreign immigration to the United States, the propriety of sanctioning divorces, and the desired amount of government funding for education and infrastructure. On at least two occasions, the society considered whether Native American removal or slavery was the greater evil, and on one occasion they considered whether the United States government could be justified in its actions against the Seminole tribe (July 13, 1839). The society also debated the legacies of politicians such as Andrew Jackson and Napoleon Bonaparte, and discussed the possibility of Henry Clay running for president in 1840.