QBDBD’s history

QBDBD’s history


Founded on the 14th  of November 1892, QBDBD is the oldest legal faculty association in the Netherlands. On the occasion of the 21st lustrum of the association, Professor Faber, Legal History professor at the VU University, has conducted research into the history of QBDBD. Further on you can read in detail how the association ruled in the years before the Second World War.

Little is known about the history of QBDBD after the Second World War. The QBDBD room contains an archive with incoming and outgoing documents from the years 1946-1947, in which a farewell party was prepared for Prof. G.J.M van der Molen, one of the first female professors to teach at the law faculty of the VU. There are also many cards on which new boards of fraternities of the VU Corps (now called: L.A.N.X.) introduce themselves. There are no records of meetings, therefore little is known about the events during this period.

In the 1970s, a wind of activism blew through the VU. Rumors have it that QBDBD was very left winged. Postal items from that time show that the policy of the association was aimed at “good and accessible education as an indispensable collective facility and a democratically established education and research program.” The association was actively involved in student interests, a task that has now been taken over by the faculty student council. The sale of books and lecture notes began in the late 1970s, now one of the association’s main tasks.

In the eighties the activities of the association declined somewhat, with the result that in the early nineties there was a budget deficit of no less than NLG 20,000. It took until the mid-1990s for any change to take place. Boards came to revive the association. The 105th anniversary was celebrated with numerous activities, including a play and the first company day.

The following years are characterized by new developments. The CICERO advocacy group came under the wing of QBDBD and achieved great success. The company day was here to stay and is nowadays known under the name ‘Amsterdamse Juridische Bedrijvendag (AJB)’.

A hardcover almanac is published every five years. The lecture committee annually organizes interesting lectures on various, legal topics. More practical matters will also be tackled: the membership system will be renewed, the sponsorship policy will be professionalized, the range of books will be expanded, an ATM will be purchased, and a website will be opened.

The growth and professionalization continues into the new millennium, and with a current membership of more than 2,200 souls, the association is bigger than ever. The founders of QBDBD will not have foreseen such developments. They founded QBDBD only for the purpose of holding legal debates. How the association went in the first years after its foundation can be read below in the piece written by Prof. Faber in 1997.

Clarification by darkening

In the old Q.B.D. room in the main building of the VU only recent papers were left. Decades ago, there were still a few dozen boxes and binders with older items on that spot (then 6A-O8). There was hardly any system and its substantive value was very disappointing.

Much had been lost before. Some of the remnants from 1991 and of even younger material have now been transferred to the archives of the VU, in the cellars of the main building.

Of course, there must still be a few things in all kinds of places: old photos, badges, letters. In part, this is rightfully private property that the owners are reluctant to hand over for understandable reasons. However, there are also archives that have falsely come into private hands. It concerns former administrators and others who saw that such material could only be saved from irrevocable destruction by embezzlement. It is important to praise such people sincerely and exuberantly for their vision, because if their wrongdoing comes true or they confess to it, it can immediately yield an important piece of the past. To increase the yield, Q.B.D. may even consider taking the means of honorary membership!

The oldest minutes books

A very spectacular example of saved archive material are the oldest minutes books of Q.B.D., of which no one any longer suspected the existence.

It was not yet possible to determine exactly what their fate was like, but it is certain that two names should be mentioned with honor, namely that of Mrs. W.F. Wijnnan-Huber (for long-term storage) and that of Mrs. A. van Solinge-Van Lange. The latter ensured that two minutes books fell into the hands of the author of this contribution, through the hands of the former dean of the law faculty A. Soeteman and the former PR officer W. Heersink, who – for the sake of certainty – immediately mentioned it. – will ensure that both minutes books, after they have been used for this contribution, are handed over to the administrator of the official VU archive storage space in the main building which meets all requirements.

Knowing that these kinds of valuable witnesses will be kept safe there and will, of course, be available for serious investigation, may other esteemed culprits lead them to part with any precious remains.

The establishment

The oldest copy of these two acquisitions makes it immediately clear with its first pages (‘No. I’ and ‘Book of Minutes of the meetings of the Juridisch Dispuutgezelschap’ under the motto ‘Qui bene distinguit, bene docet’) that it is the oldest record, and that QBD started as a dispute and not as a faculty association.

We will hear more about this difference later. The first text from this minute book, the ‘History of the origins of the Juridisch Dispuutgezelschap’ (read and arrested at the meeting of February 3, 1893) says this: the plans that have long existed among some students of the law faculty to come to the creation of a ‘company of lawyers… with the aim of practicing each other in the debate’ were difficult to realize in the early years of the VU due to a lack of enough students.

If we see that in the course years 1880-’81 to 1891-’92, on average, less than two students registered for legal studies per year, then we can imagine this. “Finally, however, Mr. L. van Andel and A.F. de Savomin Lohman (jr.) thought they should no longer postpone the matter.” They registered in 1889 and 1890 respectively and invited a number of fellow students to discuss their plans. Finally, on November 14, 1892, at the home of “Mr. Lohman”, the two initiators: H. W. Hovy, J. Jonker and J.G. Bavinck met. J. Schokking, who has also been invited, has written back that unfortunately he cannot participate because of his “advanced studies”. Lohman once again explains what the intention is: a ‘club’ where lawyers can train each other in debating and disputing is not yet known at the VU. There is, however, “Keuchenius” for lawyers, an association that, however, he believes, goes “too high” for lawyers. Jonker asks whether the new debating club should be accessible to all students without balloting. A “lively discussion” develops on this matter. Jonker demands a generous admission policy, Bavinck would not completely rule out the possibility of limitation. The former wins: all legal students at the VU may become a member, although they must also be a member of the Student Corps.

Subsequently, at this inaugural meeting, the ‘household furnishings’ of the company are discussed. It is agreed that at each meeting two propositions will be discussed and that for each proposition one “defendent” and one “opponent” will be discussed. These statements must concern a subject of a legal or economic nature. It is further decided, among other things, that the meetings are held every fourteen days, on Thursdays, at the home of one of the members. They will be opened by the Praeses with prayer and concluded with benediction. Contribution will not be charged; the costs will be divided jointly. A committee consisting of Hovy and Van Andel will further elaborate this in draft regulations.

The regulation 

Two weeks later, on December 1st, 1892, the next meeting indeed took place. In addition to the five founders, two other legal students are present who do not want to become a member yet and are allowed to attend the meeting as “hospitants”. Most of the time is spent on the Rules of the new “Legal Disputes Company”.

The goal is described in Article 1 as “(developing) the legal aptitude and oratorical gifts of the members”. The designers have added some elements that were not mentioned at the founding meeting. Introductions to opposition and criticism can also be admitted during the meetings (Article 7), while professors can also be invited to challenge or defend a thesis.

There are also penalties: for example, arriving more than ten minutes late costs 10 cents and a fine of two quarters will be imposed if they stay away. One of the final provisions, art. 24, also offers the option of “exemption” for valid reasons for the default. Of the provisions related to the board and board members, only art. 13h, which further betrays that the dispute is to some extent incorporated in the student body: the secretary of Q.B.D. must notify the abactis of the corps of changes in the board and the regulations, while article 25 stipulates that in the event of dissolution of the company, the archive is deposited with the latter. Lohman’s proposal was unanimously adopted and as such “Qui Bene Distinguit Bene Docet” has been accepted as the company’s motto.

Van Andel (chairman), Bavinck (secretary) and De Savornin Lohman (tax authorities) are elected board members. The date for the next meeting – which, according to the new regulations, no longer necessarily has to take place on Thursday, but must take place every two weeks – is set on December 1st, 1892. The subject which will be discussed on the Nieuwe Herengracht, where Hovy lives, is also determined.

The rest of the first year 

After the first two meetings where Q.B.D. got its contours, six more followed in the academic year 1892-1893. The regularity prescribed by the regulations does not make much sense, as evidenced by the dates 14 December, 3 February, 27 February, 20 March, 1 May and 23 May.

The association also fails to put forward two statements at every meeting. The first meeting only one statement has been put forward. At the end of that meeting of December 14th, 1892, on Jonker’s proposal, it was decided to ‘deviate from the rule this time and to discuss only one thesis at the next meeting’, while a first meeting with a proposition had just been completed! 

That very first statement was put forward by the president and reads: “The Dutch nationality of art. 5 [sub] 3 BW is obtained by birth under the condition of establishment “. It is such a formulation that opponent (Bavinck) and defendant (Van Andel) are given the opportunity to continue to disagree on this. ‘In his reply the opponent declares himself disappointed by what the defendant has said’, while the defendant replies, ‘with a renewed appeal to the letter of the law’, ‘that he still feels unimpaired in his position and sees no reason to give an opinion ‘.

After the debaters have spoken a third time and no one else from the meeting wants to oppose, there is still an opportunity for “the criticism”. It seems to have been fairly candid. The other members are “generally quite favorable about the” dispute “. However, the wording used is judged to be “less parliamentary”, while the opponents “were somewhat confused and (did not) speak firmly enough”. The verdict on the statement is unanimously negative: “quite insignificant and unimportant”. Also, because there is no time and space for this, we cannot go into this discussion any further. It is quite remarkable that the disappearance of the aforementioned article of the law from the Civil Code, as a result of the Dutch Nationality Act of December 12th, 1892, if we can rely on the minutes, did not play a role in the dispute.

The propositions that are taken into account at the other meetings have successively as subject: active suffrage, death penalty, property (due to the lack of time, the defendants’ part did not take place), prosecution of the Social Democratic Union and finally the minimum wage issue of those days: do the wages of the worker need to be sufficient for a dignified existence?

This shows that people certainly do not shy away from current events. The internal rules of the company are also constantly kept up-to-date, whether or not by changing the rules: for example, it is finally decided to limit the number of propositions that will be defended per meeting to one (3rd  of February 1893) and the band with the Corps is cut off, “because, in the opinion of one of the members, the present conditions in the Corps make it almost impossible for a decent man to remain a member of that Corps” (February 27th). An altercation about whether the professors will be invited for every meeting or every other one leads to a new redaction of article 8:’ The meetings are open to the high teachers of the university’ and we see that they usually return to these rules in the minutes. This happens for the first time when Prof. W. H. de Savomin Lohman, attends a meeting on May 1st, 1893. He proposes that the topic of that evening should be discussed in the form of a court hearing. Thus it happens.


In the years that can be followed in the first minutes book, the number of meetings is on average five per year. In the courses 1893-1894, 1898-1899 and 1903-1904, the ideal is approached with eight or nine meetings. In the intervening years there were far less, in the years 1895-1896 no minutes were recorded at all, although it appears somewhere that there must have been at least one meeting then.

Perhaps the difficulties that led to the departure of Mr. de Savornin Lohman were (partly) to blame for this. In terms of content and approach, the tone set in the first year will be maintained. A small selection of the many fascinating details will suffice here. Not infrequently, the subjects continue to bear witness to topicality and controversy, such as: printing press offenses (January 22th, 1894), the law of the Pope (February 27th, 1894), cremation (March 12th , 1894), welfare of the poor (meeting canceled).

But the debaters do not shy away from timeless or, on the contrary, at least time-bound subjection: “periculum est emptoris” (April 18th, 1894) and “the legality of the abjuration of Philip II” (June 14th, 1894). The last topic is dealt with at the home of A.F. de Savornin Lohmanjr. (P.C. Hooftstraat 148), which also handles the opposition. His father (Prof. A.F. Sr., as well as his brother Prof. W.H. present) says he was delighted to have heard the discussion. “Because of the advanced hour, he just wanted to make one comment.” He does not spare his son but ends by complimenting him and defending Bavinck. The preparation has so consumed A.F. jr. that he, now abactis, was unable to take minutes. The fine on this got canceled (by six to three votes!!). He himself is not always that long-suffering.

In the minutes of the meeting of April 18th, 1894, he writes about Ter Weele: “The defendants gave a long introduction, which undoubtedly contained many important things. Full of fire, in order to finish off anyone who would dare to say something against his thesis, he had already gathered together all possible arguments against the thesis and tried to refute it. But the referent made a mistake, namely that people could not follow his statement, and because of the accumulation of all possible and impossible systems, and because he spoke unintelligibly. The minutes show many of the student-like meeting culture, which continued to exist well into the 1960s: annual reports by abactis and tax authorities, ‘recodification of the regulations’, a motion of no confidence against the president, votes and revisions , making decisions about the conclusion of the discussion and sagging until about four o’clock. The distant past, the young past and the present are also connected in this first minutes book by names such as De Gaay Fortman (B.), Diepenhorst (P.A), Rutgers (V.H.) and Verdam (J.).

In the presence of professors – in the years 1896-1904, it was only one of them – that stopped attending the meetings. In the minutes of January 31th, 1899, we read that Prof. Fabius continues to refuse to visit the meetings of Q.B.D. because of the “conduct of some H.H. students “. Presumably it concerns “too occasional lecture visits and too few visits to the professorial residence”. The proposition being discussed at this meeting reads: “The inquiry into paternity should be allowed without restriction.” During this period, it is customary to mention not only the names of those who took part in opposition and criticism, but also those who refrained from doing so. During the next meeting, March 14th, no fewer than three Roman law propositions are discussed, but a representation of the discussion is spared by the abactis, a novelty that occurs more often in that year.

For P.A. Diepenhorst it is an exciting time. At the meeting of October 27th, 1899, he was fined 50 cents for absence, elected abactis and appointed opponent for the next meeting. All this will be “reported to him”. At the next meeting, November 14th, also the Dies Natalis, a letter from him is read in his presence, “seeking to invalidate a letter sent by him, in which he declares his membership,”. Later during this meeting, he was not installed as an abactis, but as a taxman, he opposes a proposition about the legal position of “Native Christians” and finally discusses the manner of debating with Fernhout. At the end of 1900 (December 8th) he was installed as chairman. During the survey, the new member asked Praetorius for regulations and “the meaning of” Q.B.D.B.D. “. The chairman answers him.

Faculty association?

At the beginning of the 20th century, changes to the regulations were regularly on the meeting agenda. Repeatedly in 1902 and 1903 it is said that Q.B.D. is going on a different course. On March 13th, 1903, the board proposed to the other ten members, seven of whom were present, not only to include the development of the legal aptitude of the members as part of the objective of the company, but also to promote the interests of students in the Faculty of Law.

This cannot be done without a struggle. Isn’t this rude and “hackneyed” towards the Student Corps, the professors and the directors of the association from which the VU is based? The decision will be postponed for further consultation and assessment. At the next meeting (October 8th, 1903) the time had come and Q.B.D. also becomes a faculty association.

Both meetings took place in the legal “faculty hall” on Keizersgracht. What is surprising: at the previous meeting it was decided to stay together “in a room”, in the homes of the members. In the meantime, the discussion of propositions continues as usual, on a dispute evening not more than one, often with topicality value propositions, are discussed: ‘Oath or promise’, alcohol abuse, divorce by mutual consent, animal abuse (including vivisection) and criminal law, and suspended sentence.

The new course that has been preached is actually being taken, although it is being done carefully. On October 30th, 1903, the proposal was discussed by means of a missive to Directors of the Association to urge the appointment of “lecturers at least”. Everyone agrees that all education can no longer be provided by just one professor (Fabius). Because of “the late hour” and the resulting “impossibility of calm reasoning”, it was decided to consider a draft statement at the next meeting. This will happen on November 13th. There will then be a lot of confusion of speech, but no decision. On December 4th, when there were already rumors that an appointment had already taken place, a final decision was made to send out. What is the answer, was the question at one of the following meetings (May 6th, 1904)? At the next meeting, October 26th of that year, the board announced that an interview on the petition would be held shortly. Too little too late, because in the next paragraph it is proposed to compliment the newly appointed Prof. Anema “at his inauguration” (October 28th: “The position of private law in our time”). In addition to that of Anema, the professorship of Q.B.D.’s former chairman P.A. Diepenhorst starts at the end of 1904.


The first minutes book is now full. If one has already started with a new copy, it probably will not have been for long. In the back of the first one can find a loose leaflet with minutes of a special meeting on March 22, 1907, devoted to the preparation of a meeting by the members of Q.B.D. process to step up.

Sometime after 1907, Q.B.D. has died. In any case, that is the vision presented at the beginning of the other Minutes book that has surfaced. These “Minutes and Fata Memorabilia of the Legal Faculty Association at the Free University”, which start in 1926 under the motto: “Qui Bene Distinguit Bene Docet” – founded on November 14th, 1892, are first of all provided with a historical explanation: before 1926, Q.B.D. was officially a legal debating society and also faculty association. At the meeting of October 29th, 1926, this was reversed: faculty meeting, also fraternity group. ‘This. .. is only formal beauty and serves to Q.B. etc. not to violate too much formally, and not to break with the past bluntly “. What happened according to abactis M.J.C. van Meetelen who writes this: Q.B.D. was “stranded at the time”, because it became increasingly difficult to find people willing to invest time in disputing the old rules.

In order to prevent a new stranding, they now want to ‘pre-dominate’ the element of the Legal Faculty Association. “The inscription on the front page will now be considered to be sufficiently explained and sufficiently justified, all the more so where Q.B. etc. always also Jurid. Facult. Vereen. has been “. There is something to be said about the latter. The initiative for the “restoration” came from J.F. van Leeuwen, the aforementioned van Meetelen and O.G. Juice. Seven other members were involved in the amendment of the regulations, including Gesina (Gee) van der Molen, the later one is one of the few female professors known to the VU law faculty to date.

Shortly afterwards, the celebration of the 34th Dies takes place, with the professors, including the newly appointed Dooyeweerd, also present. Although the festivities have been given an intimate character and the professors have been requested not to wear evening attire, it takes a long time to break the ice. In the end, it succeeds. Prof. P.A. Diepenhorst even says “openly to the confession that he had not imagined much of it, but that it was not that bad”. Anema contributed by stating that as a young professor he used to work a lot at Q.B.D. For example, he relates that he completely lost problems with giving an “impossible” lecture on exchange law “when on the occasion of a Q.B. evening Mr. Willem van Loon gave such a witty speech that even Fabius, who otherwise wouldn’t come out of the fold easily, tears rolled down his cheeks. ” Finally, he regrets that there are no more girls students present and brings a drink to the “only present ladies student Ms. G.H.J. van der Molen ‘.

The chairman of Q.B.D. must have taken courage from this. “How naughty” he remarks in a dinner speech that he sometimes saw the professors as “dried stockfish”, but he is now cured of that opinion. Immediately upon this Diepenhorst jumps up, ‘as was to be expected’, and recalls a fact that he recently communicated in college, namely that in England in the last century, when problems arose as to how mummies of Egyptian kings were Import duties were to be classified, but it was decided to stock them as dried fish. “And as for coals of fire on (or in) the head of the wicked praeses of Q.B. the professors poured their champagne into the students’ glasses. ” After the “deluge of toasts and speeches” there is “a cup of coffee … and they talked a bit, while enjoying a cigar or cigarette”. Until about a quarter to twelve.


There is no time to go into the further contents of this second (third?) minutes book in depth. It is sufficient to give a short characteristic and a few handles which will hopefully form trendsetters for a sequel, in which new names and new generations of Verdam, Gerbrandy, Diepenhorst and De Gaay Fortman can get the attention they deserve.

After the party at the end of 1926, it remains silent for a long time. On March 8th, 1928, “Q.B. (revives) for the umpteenth time since its inception ”. It is on the initiative of N. Okma. on November 7th, 1929, that a criminal hearing was attended in the Court of Amsterdam. “If something special happened, Prof. Diepenhorst was there immediately and made his law booklet, illustrated with pencil marks, circulate.” The report concludes with an excerpt from “Het Volk”, which mentions attending the session “by way of a lecture in criminal law”. In that year they tried in vain to “regain control of the old archive, see the archive documents 61,62,63,64”. “A subsequent board” should look further into it.

On August 22, 1932, the president, C. Abraham, promised to make efforts to “claim” the pre-1926 archive from a graduate described as “probable owner” thereof. According to a later annual report, “thanks to directions from former members” the very first minutes book returned to Q.B.D. Not the final one, as we now know. Various (attempts at) regulation changes are not discussed here. At the regular meetings, most of the speakers performing were from outside, graduated from the VU or from abroad (Hans Kelsen for example on May 25, 1937).

Speaking of foreign countries, Prof. Vrij from Groningen had to speak at the Dies meeting of the 14th of November 1938 about the “moral nature of the debt in law”. However, he had to cancel just before the start of the meeting from Groningen. His plane – an unexpected special feature – was unable to reach Schiphol due to dense fog and returned to Groningen. His place was then taken by the in-house professor Rutgers, who presented an “extensive improvisation” on the subject. Vrij appeared on February 3rd, 1939.

The records of these meetings in the 1930s are remarkably serious and thorough. Some meetings were organized together with UvA students. There is also contact with other faculties. Conditions changed and so did Q.B.D. Like his predecessors, praeses A.M. Donner mentions in the 1938-1939 annual report that the number of legal students has now doubled (compared to the three or four per year 50 years earlier).

The self-motivation of the members has declined sharply, they are now limited to hearing important speakers. This is also possible because the professors now carry out the old tasks of Q.B.D. by giving thesis and case lectures. Can Q.B.D. continue like this? There is doubt, as also evidenced by the fact that a legal dispute group has recently been set up. He notes diplomatically: “It is certainly advisable to get in touch with this, even where there might be doubts about sustainability.”

Q.B.D. has survived the competition. Even after the first fifty years. To find out how exactly, it is needed to find even more archive material.