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Speculative Society

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Title: Speculative Society  
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Subject: Secret society, Henry Cockburn, Lord Cockburn, Francis Jeffrey, Lord Jeffrey, Henry Duncan (minister), John Murray, Lord Murray, Alan Watson (legal scholar)
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Speculative Society

The Speculative Society is a Scottish Enlightenment society dedicated to public speaking and literary composition, founded in 1764.[1] It was mainly, but not exclusively, an Edinburgh University student organisation. The formal purpose of the Society is as a place for social interchange and for practising of professional competency in rhetoric, argument, and the presentation of papers among fellow members. While continuing to meet in its rooms in the University's Old College, it has no formal links to the University.

Early history

A split occurred in the Society in 1794, when Francis Jeffrey and Walter Scott urged the inclusion of contemporary politics in the scope of permitted debating topics.[2] At this period, of political repression, the Society was a venue appreciated by young Whigs.[3] They included Henry Brougham and Francis Horner.[4]


The Edinburgh Review (second series) was founded in 1802 by a group of essayists who knew each other first in the milieu of the Speculative Society.[5]

The University of Cambridge had a Speculative Society in the early years of the 19th century; it was one of the clubs that merged to form the Cambridge Union Society.[6] Around 1825 Utilitarians and Owenites in London engaged in debates, and a formal Debating Society consciously modelled on the Speculative Society of Edinburgh was set up by John Stuart Mill. It was ambitious, but proved short-lived.[7]


Past members of the Speculative Society of Edinburgh included:


External links

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