Will Preston, former president of the Hamilton Chapter of the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity, presented a public lecture on his senior thesis: “A Lost Cause: Intellectuals in the American South.” The presentation took place at 8 pm, Monday 28 February, in the Banquet Room of the Alexander Hamilton Institute. About forty students and adults attended, including Mr. Preston’s parents David and Shelley.
American historians have often written as if the antebellum South had no intelligentsia worthy of respect or that the very idea of an antebellum “southern intelligentsia” is an oxymoron. Mr. Preston countered such flaccid stereotyping by discussing the southern critique of modernity, its dislike of abstractions and rationalism, and its concern about the excesses of freedom and individualism. In his talk, Mr. Preston ranged from John Locke to John Calhoun to Sarah Gayle. By 1860, many southern intellectuals, in defending slavery as a positive good, had come to reject entirely the concept of pre-social rights and raised important questions about the dangers of radical individualism in the antebellum North and the potential there for class warfare in a world where David Ricardo’s iron law of wages held sway for slaveholders and non-slaveholders alike.
Samuel Eells founded the ADP Fraternity as a literary society at Hamilton College in 1832. ADP has a significant intellectual tradition of its own. The AHI has teamed up with the Hamilton chapter so that current members of the fraternity can showcase their research and speaking skills by presenting a series of public lectures on topics consonant with the mission of the AHI.