Detail of Rufus Kilpatrick Porter's diploma showing Euphradian Society symbol, 1849

Slavery at South Carolina College, 1801–1865:

The Foundations of the University of South Carolina

Debating Slavery

The Euphradian and Clariosophic debate societies allowed students to practice and perfect the public speaking skills many of them would use in careers as legislators, governors, and judges. The two groups split from the original debate club, the Philomathic, in 1806. The 1848 phase of campus construction provided new homes to the debate societies. Mirror-image rooms on the third floors of Harper and Legare Colleges housed the Euphradian and Clariosophic Societies. Most students joined one of the debate societies, where they considered philosophic, social, religious, and political issues of the day. While debating skill figured into determining the winning side, public opinion also played a role in deciding the efficacy of arguments. As the national sectional crisis deepened, the topic of slavery became more prominent in the debates.

Some debates on slavery:

Photograph of restored debating hall in Harper College
Restored debating hall in Harper College
  • 1807—Clariosophic Society debated, “Is the abolition of slavery in this country a thing practical?” (Decided in the affirmative.)
  • 1809—Clariosophic Society debated, “Does justice require the manumission of slaves?” (Decided in the affirmative.)
  • 1809—Clariosophic Society debated, “Has the introduction of slavery been advantageous to South Carolina?” (Decided in the negative.)
  • 1826—Euphradian Society debated, “Is it politic to permit owners of slaves in this country to emancipate them?” (Decided in the negative.)
  • 1827—Euphradian Society debated, “Could South Carolina provide for the emancipation of her slaves in any manner beneficial to them so emancipated?” (Decided in the negative.)
  • 1845—Clariosophic Society debated, “Should restrictions be placed on the education of slaves?” (Decided in the negative.)
  • 1848—Clariosophic Society debated, “Is it likely that slavery will be eventually abolished?” (Decided in the negative.)
  • 1852—Euphradian Society debated, “Should Slaves be allowed to learn trades?” (Decided in the negative.)
  • 1860—Clariosophic Society debated, “Might South Carolina pass a law requiring free negroes to leave the state or become enslaved?” (Decided in the affirmative.)