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BEFORE men can expect to supersede the terrific controversy of war by the pacific arbitration of wise counsel, they must consent to subordinate the rhetoric of passion to the logic of justice, and be accustomed, by the discipline of reason and the moralization of public opinion, to form accurate judgments founded on just principles. In the present age we are too prone to permit what we call “the inexorable logic of facts” to overrule and override the eternal verities of righteousness. Were it not so, the inevitable necessities of true reasoning would be the masters of events, and astute diplomacy would yield the management of the world's interests to acute ratiocination. On this account we look upon the education of public opinion as one of the noblest and most necessary tasks of our day. Only by that can we bring the desirable and the reasonable into union and harmony, and eliminate craft from statesmanship, church government, and social life.
The journalism of our age is now more aggressive and more suggestive than at any previous time. But it is also, perhaps, more thoroughly propagandist-sectarian and partizan—than it has ever previously been. The advocacy of opinions and interests is systematized, and has become a main aim of literary effort. The press is in bondage to parties and proprietories, whose purpose is fixed and whose aims are settled, and hence it exhorts rather than discusses, and pleads more earnestly than it proves. The opinions entertained and expressed are somewhat more reasonable, but not unfrequently less reasoned, than in bygone years, when the battles of principles were waged. Principles are often nowadays assumed as incontrovertible which are, indeed, but traditions; and the watchwords of factions in Church and State are frequently used as if they were “the bright consummate flower” of thought rather than of passion. It is taken for granted that they are rooted and grounded in truth, and that they have been diligently trained from the original seeds of experience by the disciplinary culture of reason. That this is far from being the true state of the case may be seen in the haste and hurry with which expediency is pursued, and how shifty the tactics are by which the purposes of parties are accomplished. The importance of the culture of thought, and of exercising the habit of reasoning, cannot be doubted, however much it may be decried.
We aim, not at the decision, but the discussion of questions,-at training to thoughtfulness, and refraining from dogmatism; and we offer a practical education in the consideration of arguments, the weighing of evidence, and the careful testing of assertions, opinions, and proposals. The debates contained in this volume are not, perhaps, so intensely exciting as some others which have been brought before our readers, but they have been considered from more varied points of view, and with greater care to reach a safe ground of principle, we think, than usual. The subjects though few are important, and they are such as are likely frequently to recur, so that thoroughness in these discussions has been carefully attempted. The Contributors merit the Conductors' thanks for their acquiescence in this matter, and the skill and earnestness they have displayed.