The immediate causes of the dissolution of the "Bluemont Literary Society" are somewhat shrouded in mystery. Suffice it to say, however, that the result of the turmoil which accompanied and succeeded its demise was the organization of the present Webster Society, under the caption of the "Websterian Literary Debating Society," as proposed by Mr. Williston. The name was soon changed to "The Webster Literary Society," as it now stands, and a constitution was immediately adopted and placed in the hands of the printer for publication.
The birth and subsequent development dates from the 12th of October, 1868. Among those whose names appear as charter members may be mentioned: J. F. Johnson (since dead), J. P. Shannon, C. O. Whedon, C. H. Young, J. D. Houston, jr., A. F. White and S. Wendell Williston.
For nearly three years the society was on a very precarious footing, owing as much as anything, perhaps, to the fact that the society spent the most of its time in electing officers and the remainder in challenging the Alpha Betas to join debates, instead of attending to their legitimate duties. In January, 1871, Mr. C. O. Whedon was appointed to secure a charter for the society, which was accordingly done. The name, object, etc., were placed on file in the State Auditor's office.
At the suggestion of Prof. Hougham, who proposed to give five dollars, provided the society should give an equal amount, a library was started in February, 1872. By various other contributions and donations of books and papers, the library grew in usefulness to the society until the fall term of 1885, when it numbered 250 volumes. At this time, deeming it unnecessary for the society to own a library when the college library was at the disposal of the members, and being in special need of funds to defray the expenses of furnishing the new society hall, it was sold at auction.
Saturday, March 30, 1878, the first monthly edition of the Webster Reporter appeared, with A. N. Godfrey as its editor. A few months later the semi-monthly Reporter appeared, and has been continued to date. The interest taken in the paper is manifested in the attention given it, and in the regularity of its issue. The drill furnished by it has been a source of both pleasure and profit to all taking part.
The large assembly which met to witness the work of the society at its first annual exhibition, March 29, 1883, showed how much the public had become interested in its work, and this, in turn, stimulated its members to more zealous activity. Since that time they have given to the public, from year to year, the rich fruits of their untiring efforts. And now the society holds during each year three public exercises, consisting of a special session in the fall term, an annual exhibition in the winter term, and an address, given by some person selected by the society, in the spring term. It is needless to say that these exercises have always been well attended and appreciated by the public.
Such are the brief outlines of the society's history. Although it has long been regarded as the foremost society in the College, it can hardly claim such a position now, as new societies have sprung up which are justly claiming equal commendation in literary work. Its usefulness, however, bids fair to increase, because its true members ever heed the truth of the motto: "Labor-Omnia Vincit."
The following is a list of the presiding officers:
1868-9 - J. P. Shannon, I. P. Johnson, M. R. Mudge, A. J. White.
1869-70 - C. O. Whedon, O. P. Hipple, S. D. Houston, W. R. Smith.
1870-1 - C. O. Whedon, A. W. Webster, J. Kimble.
1871-2 - P. F. McClure, S. S. Caldwell, P. F. McClure, A. Todd.
1872-3 - A. J. White, Sam Kimble, S. Chenowerth, Sam Kimble, W. S. Ward, H. S. Maynard.
1873-4 - J. E. Willis, G. T. Martin, E. L. Thorpe, Jno. Rogers.
1875-6 - M. F. Leasure, L. B. Rogers, A. R. Oursler, M. F. Leasure.
1876-7 - J. E. Williamson, L. O. Hoyt, John King, R. A. DeForest.
1877-8 - A. N. Godfrey, A. Todd, B. Anderson, L. A. Salter.
1878-9 - J. Mann, C. M. T. Hulett, H. E. Rushmore, C. E. Wood.
1879-80 - N. A. Richardson, D. S. Leach, A. Beacham, M. A. Reeve.
1880-1 - W. Knaus, G. F. Thompson, W. S. Myers, S. C. Mason.
1881-2 - J. C. Allen, M. T. Ward, F. W. Bevington.
1882-3 - J. W. Berry, L. W. Call, J. D. Needham.
1883-4 - J. W. Shartel, J. H. Calvin, C. L. Marlatt.
1884-5 - A. Lewis, F. A. Hutto, C. D. Pratt.
1885-6 - J. B. Brown, D. G. Robertson, C. M. Breese.
1886-7 - J. E. Payne, F. H. Avery, W. J. Burtis.
1887-8 - E. H. Snyder, C. E. Friend. A. A. Mills.
1888-9 - W. R. Browning, H. S. Willard, W. H. Olin.
1889-90 - E. T. Martin, G. E. Stoker, John Davis.
1890-1 - K. C. Davis, H. W. Avery, S. N. Chaffee.
|ROLL OF MEMBERS.|
|W. S. Arbuthnot,||S. N. Chaffee,||D. C. McDowell,|
|H. W. Avery,||P. S. Creager,||P. C. Milner,|
|J. N. Bridgman,||K. C. Davis,||J. 0. Morse,|
|C. A. Campbell,||A. A. Gist,||A. J. Rudy,|
|H. V. Rudy.|
|H. F. Avery,||G. C. Gentes,||F. S. Little,|
|E. R. Burtis,||J. W. Hartley,||D. H. Otis,|
|H. Darnell,||L. S. Harner,||B. H. Pugh,|
|W. H. Edelblute,||R. C. Hunter,||E. W. Reed,|
|J. Frost,||C. A. Kimball,||W. T. Taylor,|
|W. P. Tucker.|
|A. K. Barnes,||R. C. Harner,||F. E. Rader,|
|E. M. S. Curtis,||A. S. Houghton,||1. A. Robertson,|
|D. T. Davies,||M. F. Hulett,||C. B. Selby,|
|A. Dickens,||M. W. McCrea,||G. W. Smith,|
|M. L. Dickson,||S. R. Moore,||W. H. Stewart,|
|W. S. Dille,||A. F. Neimoller,||G. K. Thompson,|
|J. E. Dorman,||C. W. Pape,||W. AT. Town,|
|C. F. Pfuetze,||J. C. Wilkin.|
|E. L. Beard,||Phil Hay,||T. B. Sears,|
|W. Brown,||G. R. McLeavy,||F. Shaw,|
|E. A. Clark,||P. H. Pagett,||H. B. Walter,|
|J. W. Evans,||C. R. Pearson,||J. Al. Williams,|
|C. S. Green,||W. W. Robinson,||C. D. Young,|
|C. O. Whitford.|
For years the struggle between justice and force has been waged. Despotisms have been overthrown, nobilities destroyed and slavery abolished; but still, here in our country, where every effort has been to forward justice, and protect the rights of men, we hear the cry of oppression.
The colonists had no sooner gained independence from the kings of England, and established a government on free principles, than the slavery question was brought before the people. Justice clamored for its abolition. Force, backed by custom, by tradition and by religion, demanded its continuance. The struggle was long and bitter, but in the end the black man walked forth, a citizen - another star was added to the crown of justice.
A quarter of a century has passed since that bitter strife. Material growth has been unparalleled. Mighty corporations have sprung up, and justice is again called to protect the weak from the crushing power of the strong. Well may men ask, how long is this struggle to last? Will justice never conquer? Will every victory be won only to find the enemy entrenched in stronger works" True it is that in the past every victory has been followed by a fiercer struggle; that the sceptre of the king is gone, but the sceptre of wealth is here; that the nobility of birth has been destroyed, but the nobility of dollars is growing stronger; that the sale of men has been forbidden, but the control and sale of labor still goes unpunished.
By these changes humanity has been greatly benefited, but at the same time the social questions arising from the new conditions are far more difficult than those that have been settled. The evils of monarchies, of nobilities, and of slavery were destroyed by destroying the power that made them possible. The abuse of the power of wealth must be remedied without destroying that power. Corporation and monopoly must be made to respect justice, and at the same time be allowed to retain that force necessary to carry on the great enterprises of to-day.
Many urge that the relations of capital and labor can be regulated only by the law of supply and demand; that the opportunities of the laborer are all that can be asked; and his own idleness and vice are the causes of all his misery and want. It is a sad fact that there are hundreds of laborers who waste their money and strength in the grog shops, leaving their families to starve or recruit the vast army of paupers and criminals. But there are thousands of others who work and save for years, who give the best of their lives to their employers, and in the end are forced to see their families driven from their homes. Shall we deny these justice because there are some black sheep in the labor flock?
True the relation of supply to demand is the natural regulator of wages and prices, and, if allowed to operate unrestricted, would doubtless be just. But is this allowed? No. The law of supply and demand of to-day means nothing more than the arrangement that will bring the greatest profit to the monopolies in control, and this with no regard to justice. "But still capital does not override labor. All have equal rights in making the laws. If the laborer does not want to work for the wages offered, he can go elsewhere. If the farmer does not want to sell for what he can get, he is at liberty to keep his produce." These are plausible arguments, but if you would be convinced that something is wrong, go to the cities and look at the class that has not enough to eat. Look at the factories that have shut their doors and turned their employes out because the law of supply and demand was lessening their profits. Go to the farming community and bear the complaint of no market."
An over-production and people going hungry in the same land, with modern means of transportation, is an absurdity. Logic may not be able to find the fallacy in the argument that says this is just, but the conscience of every man tells him that the fallacy is there. Nothing is just that allows some men millions while others starve. It is not liberty to tell the laborer he may work for a dollar a day or quit, when he has a family to support. It is not liberty to tell the farmer he can sell at prices to the very bottom or keep his produce, when be has a mortgage to pay. The laborer has to work. The farmer must sell. And the man or the corporation that takes advantage of these facts, and forces them to take less than their commodities are worth, commits an outrage on justice and is an enemy to society.
Justice does not demand the equal distribution of property. The capacities to accumulate and utilize wealth are as varied as the natures of men. To say that one man should own no more than his neighbor would be as absurd as to say that one writer should produce no better articles than another, or that no scientist should make more discoveries than his contemporaries. The effect of this would be to kill industry and ambition, and retard the development of our country. It is the duty of every man to add to the wealth of the world as much as his ability will allow, and when, like the scientist and writer, the moneyed man will use his special ability to improve and increase the comforts of his fellow men, there will be no complaint.
Modern society can be maintained only by the centralization of power, but does anyone believe that we cannot have a great commercial center without a suburb of misery and want; that our great manufactories can be operated only by keeping the employés at merely maintenance wages; or that the tramp is a necessary adjunct of our great railway systems?
It is not an answer to the demands of the laborer to say that they are better off than those of any other country, or any other time. No one doubts this. The question is, are they as well off as they should be? Do they get their honest share of the returns from the great industries they represent? Have their comforts been increased in as great a ratio as the products of their labor? I fear that these questions can only be answered in the negative.
The laborers do not wish to scatter the wealth and break the power that moves the great industries of to-day, but they do ask that this power may not be used to rob their families of food and homes, and it is the duty of the government to see that this request is granted. Legislation should not attempt to keep men from amassing great fortunes, but it should prevent their using this power in subjugating their fellow men and in demoralizing society.
The unscrupulous may always strive to maintain themselves by force, but let us not despair. For every victory of justice is rewarded by a higher civilization and a happier people. These are the victories that have changed despotisms to republics, slaves to citizens, and it is by these alone, that the children can be taken from the factories and given to the schools, that the hovels may be swept from the land and homes raised in their places, that the scales of justice may be made to balance between labor and capital, and the wail of misery and the cry of oppression be forgotten.
Tom & Carolyn Ward