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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be too readily followed ; and that liberty of speech, so laboriously gained by the toil and sufferings of many, may be withdrawn, to the detriment, as we believe, not only of the interests of truth, but the happiDess of man.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 4 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 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, ard reproduce the tyrannous days of conspiracies and treasons The healthiest interests of society demand that the formation and the publi
ation of opinions should be free, and that controversy should not be restrained any farther than is necessary for the assertion of the right of society to hold each man responsible for the direct consequences of opinions expressed with the design of effecting practical results, leading to an injury of the common rights of men. But the ability to argue—to state opinions so as to observe an exact equivalence between the assertion made and the reasons able tò be given for holding it to be true, and to feel and admit the force of an argument or an objection just for what it is worth and no more-conduces to the calm consideration of things affecting the welfare of society; and the power of engaging in controversy in such a way becomes of greater importance as questions of interest become more intricate and more dependent on the proper balancing of the forces of colliding facts or ideas. Such a style of controversy is only to be acquired by practice, and hence we think that our serial has an important place among social agencies, and fulfils a function not unrequired in a land of which free discussion is not only the safeguard but the boast.
The Debates carried on in this volume are interesting and spirited, as well as varied in matter and in style; and they show skill in the treatment of objections, as well as ability in the statement of theses. The conductors owe their thanks to the participators in these tournaments of thought for their able and honourable advocacy of the opinions they maintain. If our Essays have been fewer in number than usual, they have been more lengthy and more thorough. In Toiling Upward we have been able to embrace representative men in literature, art, and science. Our Topics have had practical adaptation to the times, and have been concisely and thoughtfully treated. The Inquirer has been more than ordinarily full and instructive, and the Societies' Section has improved somewhat in suggestive value and information. Our Collegiate Course has furnished much expository annotation, and has supplied brief literary sketches of eminent imaginative writers; while the Reviewer has brought before the reader some most interesting notices and abstracts of important books. The Poetic Critique continues to possess the favour of our contributors and readers, as an endeavour to combine true views of poetry with examples of instructive criticism and kirdly suggestion. The leading articles have concerned themselves with subjects of the highest importance, and embody the results of a reflective student's reading and thought, ex. pressed with modesty and adorned with the graces of a cultivated style. They increase our debt and the debt of our readers to the learned author, who has devoted so much time and special effort on the preparation of papers for the British Controversialist.
The conductors look upon the volume now placed in a completed form before the reader with considerable satisfaction, as a proof of the possibility of honest debate and friendly controversy, and of mutual aid in the attainment of truth and knowledge. This is pre-eminently a co-operative magazine, and on that account the conductors can speak more freely of the contents of their “store of knowledge” than if they were themselves the producers of its literature. It is a matter for congratulation that the young men of Great Britain, greatly by their own efforts, can produce and support a serial which has for its main object the promotion of a lovo of truth and the encouragement of self-culture. With the hope that their aid may be continued and extended, that the range of their constituency may be widened, and that their hearts may be knit together in the closer communion of future efforts, the conductors place this volume before the thoughtful young men of their country, as an inducement to endeavour and an encouragement to pursue with diligence the duties of their lives.
The Philosopby of Politics.
The philosophy of politics is a theme on which some of the mightiest thinkers of our race have expended the noblest efforts of their genius. One of the most earnest inquiries of the wise Pythagoras might be enunciated in these terms :-What are the capacities in man which lead him to civic association, national organization and the formation of states, which subordinate him to law, and which incline him to take part in the forms, arrangements, and responsibilities of society ? Socrates, in his search after the secret of the worthiest life, made citizenship one of the most frequent subjects of these discourses, in which he sought to prove the close union which exists between truth and progress, order and prosperity. Plato sought to discover the principles of life according to which civilized society was possible, developable, and might be healthily conditioned-and few monuments of ancient thought contain so much of important systematic discussion concerning practical and ideal politics as his " Laws” and “Republic.” For keenness of reflective insight, vigorous comprehensiveness, and thorough investigation into the nature of the state as a living organic entirety providing for a sufficient and perfect individual life in the midst of the fluctuations of human events, the eight books of Aristotle's “ Politic” would be difficult to match and impossible to surpassin so far as the possibilities of state life in ancient times are concerned. The theoretical elevation to which the speculations of the meditative spirits of antiquity attained, concerning the nature, tendencies, characteristics, and modes of legally-constituted communities is very wonderful, when we remember that they looked upon these questions in the dim light of nature, and sought the grounds of their treatises in consciousness and in experience. No little of the spirit of the Greek philosophers passed into the thoughts of the Roman statesmen, and the names of Cato, Scipio, and Cicero -if not that of Seneca as well-may be quoted as among those whose opinions on the conditions of social order, attainable by civi' government, possess a speculative as well as a historic value.
In modern times, many men of immense intellectual might and originality have endeavoured to discover the eternal principles of right and law, upon which the foundations of the State may be truly said to rest, and to which the orderly progress of society may be trusted. Tradition, experience, hypothesis, history, and reconstructive speculation, have all been tried as the sources of a trustworthy political science—a science of justice or of the rights of man-a knowledge of the means to be employed to promote and secure the safety, peace, prosperity, and happiness of the individuals who compose a nation, empire, or sovereign community.
Of these it would be impossible for us to name—and still more to characterize-a tithe. But it is of importance, as showing the intense interest the subject has had for the greatest intellects, to indicate the state of the question as it took hold of the thoughts of the successive master minds who have devoted their reflections to the consideration of those“ laws by which human actions ought to be regulated, in so far as men [can, may, or do] interfere with each other." Of Machiavelli's Prince"-inasmuch as its intent and aim is matter of dispute even yet-we need make no mention. Bacon, Buchanan, and Hooker, Poynet, Mariana, and Paruta are writers who helped to trace out the distinctions between morals and politics, and to excise the duties of citizens from the territories of modern casuistry: Bodin is perhaps the earliest witer on philosophical politics who deserves serious study. In his “Republic" the metaphysics of government and social life are intermingled with dissertations on the forms and law's most beneficial to states and subjects. In 1625 the celebrated Grotius produced the first great work on international relations, a work which, according to Sir G. C. Lewis, “constitutes an epoch in politics." His more celebrated and greater countryman Spinoza, (1632-77), in his “ Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670), and his posthumously published "Tractatus Politicus," sought to bring religion and politics into closer relationship, and to solve the interesting problem-What is the best government under which to pursue a true manly life. Shortly prior to this, Thomas Hobbes, first in his " De Cive," 1642, then in his “ De Corpore Politico," 1650, and afterwards in an enlarged form in "The Leviathian,” 1651, attempted to place the theory of government on a psychological basis, and to show that the state is a natural outgrowth of humanity. These works excited an extraordinary amount of controversial writing, and for nearly half a century after their publication, every young churchman militant would try his arms in thundering on Hobbes' steel cap.” Among his opponents were Clarendon, Cudworth, Cumberland, Bramhall, Tenison, Eachard, and in a ess di manner Har rington in his “ Oceana," and Henry More in his “ Psychozoia.”
After the stir of the Civil War and the brief glory of the Protectorate, which had called out the speculations of Algernon Sidney, the inquiries of Sir William Temple, and the magnificent defences and hortations of John Milton, uttered in