Georgetown’s Historic Debate Groups

While today the Philodemic stands alone as Georgetown’s only debate society, the university used to support several other similar groups.  While the Philodemic Society remained the most elite and exclusive organization among them, a spirited sense of competition and friendly rivalry was fostered between these groups.  


Philonomosian Debating Society

The Philonomosian Society was founded in 1839 as Georgetown’s second debate society.  It eventually became the second senior debate society around 1912-1913 when demand for membership in the Philonomosian and Philodemic could not accommodate both upper and lower classmen. The Philonomosian, like the Philodemic, became exclusively upperclassmen after that point.  Membership in the Philonomosian and Philodemic was capped at forty people, a limitation that itself spawned the need for the Philonomosian.  This Society held its own special cup, the Philonomosian cup, and debated regularly until it was disbanded sometime around 1935.   Like the Philodemic, the Philonomosian’s engaged in both inter-collegiate and in-house debates.  


White Debating Society

Founded in 1912 in honor of Supreme Court Justice Edward Douglas White, the White Debate Society was one of the junior debating societies from which the upper-classmen debating societies recruited.  A particular strength of the White Debate Society was its emphasis on extemporaneous speaking.  The White’s engaged in both inter-collegiate debate and in-house debates.    


Gaston Debating Society

Founded in 1913, the Gaston Debate society was Georgetown’s second junior debate society for underclassmen.  The Gaston Society competed every year with the White Debating Society for the well named Gaston-White Debate.  The Gaston Debating Society’s motto, “advancing ourselves in the love of knowledge and truth, and to make progress in eloquence”, bears close resemblance words used in the current Philodemic member oath.      

One thought on “Georgetown’s Historic Debate Groups

  1. Wow, Andrew, this is interesting. I’ve done a lot of research on Philodemic history and I completely missed those last two.

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