Last Thursday saw the Union Debating Society, in conjunction with The History Society, debate like it was 1776, as Lower Parliament Hall went back in time to the eve of the American Revolution to debate the motion, ‘This House Believes the Thirteen Colonies Should Declare Independence from Great Britain’. Featuring dodgy wigs, Thespian spirit and radical revolutionary sentiment, the night was an overwhelming success!
The evening was kicked off by a historical list of speakers. They included Thomas Paine (author of ‘Common Sense’ and republican revolutionary), William Franklin (Son of revolutionary Benjamin Franklin), Andrew Allen (Representative of Pennsylvania at the Second Continental Congress and loyalist to the British crown) and Thomas Jefferson (Representative in the Continental Congress, author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States). But don’t worry, there haven’t been any strangely supernatural events happening in the bubble recently, these characters were played by Chase Hopkins and Will Lord, the Debating Society’s very own talented speakers, David Patterson from The Mermaids and Association President Freddie Fforde. With such a list of talent, the acting and speaking was bound to be highly entertaining, and it certainly did not disappoint.
Aside from the speeches, one of the most remarkable aspects of the evening was Chase Hopkins’ ability to keep up Thomas Jefferson’s Virginian accent for the entirety of his seven minute speech. If the job market is still stagnant after his graduation then a career in acting certainty awaits. The debate took a dramatic turn when Andrew Allen, played by David Patterson, was interrupted by supporters of the Boston Tea Party who staged a protest, much to the baffled wonderment of the audience. They were unappeased by offers of a place on the tea manufacturer’s graduate training scheme and left the hall with cries of ‘to the harbour!’ Obviously graduate jobs were much easier to come by in 1776!
From a fashion perspective, the evening was a delight. Many people, and particularly The History Society, had gone all out to capture a sense of revolutionary spirit and patriotic pride. Red coats, elegant tails and a particularly fetching Union Jack patterned waist coat could be spotted among the scarlet gowns. It could have been the Diamond Jubilee all over again!
Additionally, as to be expected in a university which is more American than Scottish, there was no shortage of light-hearted patriotism during the course of the evening. There was a particularly tense moment when the American Flag, which had been draped over the proposition’s side of the table, fell to the floor. However, this was soon recovered. Benjamin Franklin emerged from the audience to give an impassioned speech in favour of independence. Chants of ‘God Save The Queen’ were met with renditions of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.
Despite an excellent performance from the proposition, it was a British victory in the end as St Andrew’s students voted to keep the thirteen colonies. To commemorate this historical occasion, the usual exit song, The Gaudeamus, was replaced with the sonorous tones of the Sergeant At Arms leading the hall in a rendition of ‘God Save The Queen’.