Theodore and Wells Beardsley letters  1808, 1833
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Collection Scope and Content Note

Two debating societies based in Montgomery, New York, recorded their constitutions and meeting minutes in this volume (approximately 180 pp.) in the early to mid-19th century. At weekly meetings, members discussed political issues and moral questions.

The title page has an unattributed epigram taken from verses written by Robert Burns for the Freemasons. Following this, the Farmers & Mechanicks Debating Society of Montgomery recorded its first minutes (February 4, 1823), which pre-date its constitution (February 11, 1823). The 4-page constitution and 2-page list of members' signatures are followed by about 70 pages of minutes from the society's weekly meetings. Every week, the group discussed a member's question, posed and chosen the week before, with members arguing in the negative and affirmative. Questions covered a range of moral and political subjects such as quality of life, wealth, women's rights, punishment for crimes, and finances, though religious topics were banned. The minutes record the names of members presenting either side of the question and occasionally concern administrative affairs such as officer elections. The final dated entry appears on January 26, 1825, with one last entry from "Saturday evening Feb 28" of an unknown year.

The second section (approximately 90 pages) contains the minutes and constitution of the Farmers & Mechanicks Debating Society's successor, the Good-Will Debating Society, in the Town of Montgomery. Its constitution, which has later annotations and alterations, is largely similar to the earlier document. Weekly meeting minutes cover December 11, 1840-January 30, 1846, though some dates are missing or appear out of chronological sequence. The society's debate topics were similar to its predecessor's, though some related to contemporary political issues such as the annexation of Texas. A group of loosely tied newspaper clippings laid into the volume (dated 1846) pertain to the Mexican-American War and topics related to mechanics and manufacturing.

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