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Friday the 24th 1747.

Preamble to the

Mr Mohun. President
Mr Dennis, Secretary
Mr Burke

Mr Buck.

Pursuant to the order of the Pres: in the last assembly Mr Buck produc'd his system of laws, having read them. Mr Burke apologizes for not bringing his as he had approv'd of Mr Buck's, his excuse is accepted. Mr Dennis makes the same apology which is likewise accepted. After some opposition Mr Buck's laws (being further explain'd corrected and amended) pass with the general voice. The laws are as follows with the preamble

The improvement of the mind being the proper employment of a reasonable creature (especially while that mind is capable of improvement) everything conducive to this should be regarded in the light in which the instrument of so good a work deserves to be considered. Whatever therefore can make us better men, Whatever might render us fitter, and more agreeable members of the happy community in which we live; that shou'd be the study & the practice (and rightly pursued might be the entertainment) of our youth, and when years draw us farther into the cares and business of life, we would be thereby enabled to go with more ease thro' the Duties of it; and more largely to contribute to the good of the publick and to the increase of our private interest. Thoughts of this nature gave birth to the Academy of Belles Lettres, a weekly club instituted for the improvement of its members in the more refin'd elegant and usefull parts of Litterature, these seeming the most likely means for attaining the great end in view. The formation of our minds and manners for the functions of Civil Society, for conversation and emulation greatly facilitate and further such a design, nay such a design could not at all be carried on without them: Each may become master of the Theory of Arts and science in his closet, but the practice & the benefit & the use of them can only be known and had in Society, there we have fair opportunities of correcting our taste, regulating and enriching our judgment, brightening our wit, and enlarging our knowledge, and of being serviceable to others in the same things. For this purpose 'tis necessary we acquire an habit of expressing our thoughts in an easie, genteel style, and manner, with readiness, justness, force and proper grace. Language is the eye of Society, without it we could very ill signify our wants for our own relief, and by no means could communicate our knowledge, for the amusement or amendment of our fellow creatures; and therefore without it the comforts and delights of life could not be enjoyed, no conveyance of learning, of chastisement, of praise, of solace, scarce virtue be practised, friendship subsist,



1st Law.


Decency and good Manners, virtue and religion, must guide THE MEMBERS, their whole Behaviour, and no word, gesture, or action, contrary THEIR CONDUCT, thereto





No future members to be admitted but by general approbation.

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nor religion ever taught and defended. And as language is the cement of Society so is the perfection thereof perhaps its greatest ornament, and not the least of its Blessings. In it Innocense & truth find a defence and reward, and guilt from it, its discovery, conviction and disgrace. For this reason then the business of the Club is speeching, reading writing and arguing, in morality, History, Criticism, Politics, and all the useful branches of Philosophy: The Proceeding to be directed and control'ed and the whole Club govern'd by the President, and a record of the transactions and accounts of the Club to be kept by the Secretary.—

But as order is one of the greatest beauties in the works of Nature, so no Society can be preserv'd in its purity, or last any time wherein that is not strictly observ'd. But daily experience shews how apt is the freedom of man's will to break out into licentiousness and disturb the order of things, unless awed and restrained by laws enforced with proper sanctions— Wherefore the Academy has enacted these laws that the business propos'd might be perform'd and its advantages reap'd in all their Perfection and Beauty.


The Club meet on Tuesdays and Fridays and sit from five to nine, the absent censur'd, less sick. The order in which the several members sit and succeed in the several offices and duties must for the present be determin'd by lots, but for future members by the times of their admission.

On Tuesday an Oration must be spoken, made by the speaker on a given subject, and a miscellaneous Paper the matter and manner at the choice of the writer, but to be approved of by the Pres: must be given in, the Author passing his word and Honour that he wrote it originally for that time and purpose.

On Friday, a Speech out of some Book must be spoken off with proper emphasis and action, and a written paper, be given in, on a given topic on Morality. The rest of the time to be spent in reading, speeching, &c as the Pres appoints.

The President opens the Club with an Harangue has a negative (and on equality of voices) a casting vote. He appoints the subjects for orations and papers, and chooses the book for the speech and the book to be read at leisure time, unless he'd rather give subjects for the extempore speeches or for fictitious debates. No speech to be made or future member propos'd without his leave. He only to interrupt any speech, wear his hat,

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6th Law.

or speak sitting. No accusation to be made or tryal of a member to come on but by his permission. No new law to be debated on or voted without his leave. The opinion of the Club concerning performances and their censure on offenders to be deliver'd by him in a set speech and in debates he is to give his judgment first summing up the arguments on both sides and then give his reason for giving that judgement.


The power of the President continues but one week, he is not to plead or make any motion, and is liable to censure for maleadministration.





No one to be accused for anything done out of the Club, except to one of the Members, nor even in that case if the injury was done before the institution of the Club; nor tried till a list of Articles of Accusation and the law by which he is accus'd be given in to him to ye President and the Secretary the preceeding Club night.

No light offence shall come to tryal but be immediately pounished by the President. No accusation shall be deferr'd beyond the next Club night after the offence except that of a President.


No debate on any law or accusations on the ordinary Club nights, nor more extraordinary nights than one in a week.

At tryal the accus'd shall stand at the Bar.

No President shall be accus'd before the second night after he quits his office. Every new law when enacted shall be recorded with the preamble.


Every person who transgresses any of these Statutes or neglects to do the business given in charge to him, shall be fined and censured.

The least fine shall be a halfpenny. Three halfpence in one night, shall destroy his vote for the next. His vote lost three nights running shall destroy his next right of Presidency. Three losses of the Presidency running shall cause public admonition. Three such admonitions cause expulsion.

Whoever will not subscribe to these Statutes shall not be admitted, and he that denies his debts to the Club shall be immediately expell'd.

WE the undernamed assent to the above Laws.




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