[The following entries have been transcribed from the minute books kept in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.]
On January 28th 1933 the Confraternitas held its 152nd meeting, the annual Banquet. After the performance of the opening ceremonies in Fr. Passant’s room, fratres (all of them present members of the Confraternity) adjourned to the College Hall, where they endeavoured to co-ordinate the items of an excellent dinner with the most learned phrasing of the carta XXX.
After the toasts of “The King” “& absent friends” a return was made to Fr. Passant’s rooms where Fr. Ward read his paper on “Crime and Punishment”. So successfully did he relate his cases of perverted humanity, so patiently did he weave his spell of horror, that the circulation of the excellent port and madeira faltered, and at times, alas, completely failed. When the Confraternity dispersed at a late hour, the decanters remained unemptied.
L.J. Ashford Mag. Rot.
Eric. E. Stanton Princeps.
On Feb. 20th 1933 was held the 153rd meeting of the Confraternitas Historica, the Visitors [sic] meeting. At the appointed time the fratres were carefully disengaged from their guests and removed to Fr. Passant’s “other room” where the opening and closing ceremonies were performed.
By the favour of the governing body of the College, the company then adjourned to the Senior Combination room, where our Visitor, Mr Butterfield of Peterhouse read his paper on “Macchiavelli’s [sic] Science of Statecraft[“]. He said that Macchiavelli [sic] compiled a series of general political maxims on the assumption that these were certain constants in history which would enable the application of such maxims to particular cases. His conception of Statecraft was scientific as opposed to the artistic conception of his contemporary Guicchiardini [sic]. His interest lay chiefly in war & especially in the campaigns of antiquity[.] The events of antiquity always appeared to him of a magnitude never equalled in more recent times. Many of his maxims were taken straight from classical authors, so that he could not be called entirely inductive in his methods. When particular instances would not conform to the maxims he had [passed?], Macchiavelli [sic] was puzzled. Finally, his conceptions could not be regarded merely as the generally accepted doctrines of his day. He himself was responsible for macchiavellianism [sic].
This interesting paper provoked the discussion for which the reader had expressed a hope, until the Pontifex, thanking Mr Butterfield on behalf of the Confraternity, brought the meeting to a close.
L.J. Ashford Mag. Rotulorum
Eric. E. Stanton Princeps.
On Monday, March 6th 1933 was held the 154th meeting of the Confraternitas Historica in Frater Passant’s room. When the opening ceremonies had been performed a number of letters of apology were read. These were accepted grudgingly by the Confraternity and expression was given to the general feeling that writers of such letters should be more specific in their excuses. At this stage in the proceedings a diversion was provided by the utterly reprehensible entrance of Fr. Acworth who had failed to don either a dinner-jacket or the red socks of the Confraternity. There ensued a battle between outraged propriety and Acworthian blarney. For once propriety won, and the erring frater was sent away to clad himself properly.
The Comes produced his budget which was accepted as in every way adequate.
The magister announced that the officers for the following year had been elected by the Senate:
as Princeps Senatus, Fr. Thomson
” Pontifex Maximus ” Ashford
as Magister Rotulorum, Fr. Smail
” Ceremoniarius, ” Hemming
” Comes, ” XXX
At length, Fr. Stanton was able to proceed with his paper on Alexander I. His able exposition of the many mysteries surrounding the life and death of his subject led to a considerable discussion among fratres, in which it was clear that to the budding historian, if not to the ripened sage of Clio’s temple, antecedent probability is often more attractive than hard indisputable fact.
When the lateness of the hour put an end to this discussion, the new pontifex was initiated, who stumbled through the valedictory rites as well as he might in the awe-inspiring shoes into which he had just stepped.
L.J. Ashford Mag Rot
E. Thomson Princeps.
The 155th meeting of the Confraternitas Historica was held in Frater Passant’s rooms on Monday, October 23rd 1933 at 8.15 p.m.
No fewer than eleven guests had been invited to this meeting, and Frater Passant’s rooms were thronged long before the official proceedings had begun. At 8.30 the great officers were ready to celebrate the opening rights [sic], & with odd but traditional courtesy the guests were asked to retire into another & colder room. Fortunately they were not long expelled. The fratres paid their devotions to Clio; with a roll of sonorous Latin the new magister was consecrated to his duties, and the guests were brought back to the intellectual light and the spiritual warmth which must always pervade a meeting of the Confraternity.
The Minutes were read & signed; Frater Godfrey’s resignation was accepted; Frater Carey’s excuses were criticised but never finally rejected. In fact, the fratres did not show their usual keenness for discussion & dealing with business. Frater Passant discussed the prospect of a joint meeting with another college society, but except for an occasional word of encouragement from the princeps he was allowed to discuss it alone.
The magister offered the alluring prospect of a hue & cry after the red socks of ex-frater Godfrey, but his stirring proposals were chilled by the silence in which they were received. Most amazing of all, the beer of the Confraternity stood untouched until the meeting was nearing its close, & probably it would never have been touched at all had the fratres not been stimulated into life by Frater Passant’s talk on “The Nazi Revolution in Germany”.
As Frater Passant had lived for many months with the Nazi Revolution around him, the Confraternity listened to him as one speaking with the voice of authority. He dealt with the establishment of the Weimar constitution and the reasons for its failure, from which he passed naturally to the rise to power of Herr Hitler and his party, and the factors which would probably keep them in their present position.
When question time came Frater Passant was seen to even greater advantage. Before a continuous stream of enquiries he showed great knowledge and an even greater dexterity. From answering a question on the religious beliefs of Herr Hitler, he would with it answer some more weighty questions on the economies of Hitlerism & the failure of Europe; only to be required by another to give details of the private life of General Göring, which he did with modesty and assurance.
Even when the meeting was ended & the closing rites had been celebrated, Frater Passant still found himself discussing Germany with a group of fratres, and it was not until a late hour that his rooms were empty of the meeting.
R. G Smail Magister Rotulorum
These were proposed & elected as members Messrs.
The 156th Meeting of the Confraternitas Historica was held in Frater Passant’s rooms on Monday, November 7th, 1933, at 8.15 p.m.
According to unmemorial custom the members-elect were first initiated; and with solemn vows and fraternal handshaking no fewer than six were born into the Confraternity. When this long ceremony was over and the meeting had dedicated itself to Clio, the minutes were read. Frater Dakin, whose behaviour throughout the [sic] was little short of undignified, at once proposed an alteration. The Magister had referred to the “great officers” of the Confraternity; Frater Dakin moved that the word “great” be deleted. The motion was opposed, & on surveying the imposing forms of the princeps, the fabricius and the ceremoniarius it was decided that the adjective was fair comment. The proposal was lost by six votes to three.
Excuses were read from absent fratres, and the curt note of Frater Winterton gave rise to the ancient question as to whether a specific excuse should be given. Opinions were expressed between long reflective silences, until the Magister XXX proposed “In future fratres shall make a specific excuse for their absence”. Voting was keen and a recount was demanded; but it was declared carried by 10 votes to 9 and a constitutional landmark of some importance was established.
The Confraternity was immediately called upon to decide whether a joint meeting should be held with the historical society of another college or whether there should be a visitors [sic] meeting to which fratres might bring guests of their own choosing. A visitors [sic] meeting was proposed but Frater Hemming, who did not like the thought of ladies being present, spoke strongly against it. But when he was called upon to vote, he himself showed a feminine inconstancy by voting for the motion, which was carried by an overwhelming majority.
The Magister was asked a question by Frater Shaw concerning the red socks of the resigned Frater Godfrey. He was informed that they had been confiscated & would in due course be sold to one of the […] for a sum which would help reduce the general subscription.
There was no more business, and the Princeps called upon the Pontifex Maximus to read his paper on John of Gaunt.
It is not difficult to read a paper on one of those historical figures who have astounded the world by achievements in thought and in action; but Frater Ashford had been courageous enough to write of a much less splendid figure. John of Gaunt was born to a splendid position but lacked the talent to support. His high birth compelled him to attend to domestic affairs in England, while it was his own ambition to be a soldier. By marriage he had a claim on the kingdom of Castile, but that too was denied him. And there befell him also the misfortune to make enemies of some of the monkish chronicles & he consequently suffered in the eyes of posterity. The Pontifex had gone into the original sources with the thoroughness of a scholar, and he succeeded in producing an authoritative paper.
When it was ended the author had to face a selection of questions ranging from abstruce [sic] monetary problems raised by Frater Hemming to “Why was John of Gaunt so called”.
The meeting broke up shortly after ten minutes past eleven o’clock.
R.G. Smail Mag Rot
D. Thomson Princeps
The 157th meeting of the Confraternitas Historica was held in Frater Passant’s rooms on Monday, November 28th 1933 at 8.15pm.
There was a large attendance for the last meeting of the XXX year. Indeed, after the reading of the minutes there was found to be only one note of absence. Frater Romani had sent no specific excuse and the confraternity was in its very fiercest mood; so keen was the hunger for his reason that some time was in enquiring into the nature of Frater Romani’s business. Frater Hemming, who has a fine disregard for detail, said that he was sure that the business was very important; but he would go no further, and the confraternity passed upon Frater Romani a very, very severe vote of censure indeed.
A very pretty piece of corruption followed. It was pointed out that the senate had an uncontrolled power, for during the term no Tribunes of the Plebs had been elected. Accordingly Frater Tyas and Leslie were proposed and seconded; but they were not chosen freely by the mob, but proposed openly by members of the Senate. Such was the feebleness of public spirit, such was the disgusting subservience of the plebs that this amazing breach of the constitution passed entirely unnoticed, and the Senate quickly XXX their puppets with their important offices.
The business was not nearly finished even then, for the Magister were to propose that the confraternity no longer meet in evening dress. Though this proposal was welcomed by the healthier and saner fratres, there was opposition from the Pontifex Maximus. He accused the magister of breaking his oath to the constitution, which the accused did most hotly deny; and there might easily have been a scuffle among the Conscript Fathers but for the timely intervention of the Princeps, who proposed that the plebs should present a petition to the Senate. There the matter stands. The Magister and the Pontifex have not yet fought duel, though the former is still of the opinion that the Pontifex showed considerable XXX in accusing his colleague when he himself had little support for the disgraceful election of the Tribunes.
When this important reform had been obstructed and shelved the Comes Sacrae Thesauri rose to introduce his Budget. From the length of his speech it might easily have been imagined that he had been tremendously industrious; but he did successfully account for each item, and left the Confraternity with the problem of disposing of a handsome surplus of eighteen pence. Frater Passant addressed the meeting for some minutes, and advised that each of the nine new members be given two pence each. The Magister in his XXX proposed that the money be given to him to account for postal expenses of the future. But he was laughed to scorn and Frater Passant’s proposal was unanimously adopted. It had happened that since that evening the Magister has incurred exceptionally heavy postage expenses, which he will not fail to demand from the Confraternity. However, frater Passant showed himself to be kind and good, and it is pleasant here to second that he has given evidence of at least two of the qualities of King Stephen the Impolitic.
At an advanced hour the business was then concluded, and the Princeps called upon Frater Turner to read his paper on “The Spanish Revolution”. As Frater Turner was able to pronounce all the Spanish names properly, his paper had from the first an air of authority, and the Confraternity listened attentively to his story of the antecedents of the last Spanish Revolution, and to his interesting account of the interplay of the elements which shaped its course. His paper brought the story down to the elections which were at that time taking place and by his answers to the questions put to him added to the information already given in his excellent paper.
The meeting finally broke up soon after eleven o’clock.
R. C. Smail (Magister Rolutorum)
D. Thomson. (Princeps)