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BRITISH CONTROVERSIALIST, ,
MAQXA EST VERITAS, ET PRÆVALEBIT.
HOULSTON AND WRIGHT,
65, PATERNOSTER ROW,
The right of free discussion has been of late not a little imperilled by several circumstances, notable enough of themselves, but to which in a preface we can only allude. Momentous questions have been brought before the public, and have been treated of with the intense bitterness of partisanship, not with the sober calmness of the love of truth. The passions do not reason, and hence such a mode of advocacy bas aroused bitter animosities and excited religious rancour. In consequence of the mischievous ferocity" to which this has given rise a call has been made, in the seeming interests of peace, by many of the influential organs of public opinion for some sort of legal machinery” by which restraints might be put upon controversy. This prompting, in our day of unrest and uncertainty, amid the threatenings of change which everywhere abound when “legislation by panic” is so prevalent, might be too readily followed ; and that liberty of speech, so laboriously gained by the toil and sufferings of many, may be withdrawn, to the detriment, as we believe, not only of the interests of truth, but the happiDess of man. Yet, were this to happen, it would be the result of a profound mistake regarding controversy and its uses. To confound controversy with a faction fight, and thence to advocate the application of laws similar to those which are used for the repression of rioting, for the suppression of public discussion, now happily enjoyed among us, is, we apprehend, a most fallacious proceeding-one probably not without a foregone end in view ; for serious debates “loom in the distance," not only in Parliament, but also "out of door."
Our pages have now for upwards of eighteen years been set apart for "the impartial discussion of important questions" and the employment of controversy as an educational agent; and we cannot look upon any movement for the legal suppression of full, free, and frank debate with any favour or good feeling. Our convictions regarding the advantages of controversy have been often expressed, and these advantages, we may venture to say, have been exemplified in the successive volumes of controversy which we have placed before our readers. ' Controversy, as we regard it, is an investigative effort of mind; is the weighing, valuing, and estimating of arguments as an aid to the forming of right conclusions concerning the matters under discussion; is an exertion of the intellectual faculties in reasoning, and hence we emphatically affirm that wherever "unseemly licence” or “ruffianly violence," “riotous disturbance" or "desperate fights” occur, there is no controversy, but rather a contravention of the first principles of free thought and impartial speech. It is the duty of controversy to show the force of arguments and to test their soundness, to balance thought with thought, and to place
the results of honest examination before the mind, that it may see the results I of deliberation ; but it is no part of controversy to settle questions or to force
beliefs upon unconvinced minds. It would be to perpetuate a misnomer in the statute-book to enact laws against controversy, as if it were the synonym of riot, confusion, fanaticism, and disorder.
So far is the repression of controversy from being the right way of deal. ing with the difficulties of our day, that it would only aggravate the evils it Vas meant to cure. It would drive the discussion of questions into secret societies, and reproduce the tyrannous days of conspiracies and treasons. The healthiest interests of society demand that the formation and the publi