C.N. Douglas, comp. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. 1917.


Where violence reigns, reason is weak.


Fierceness makes error a fault and truth discourtesy.

George Herbert.

He who is not open to conviction is not qualified for discussion.


Wise men argue causes, and fools decide them.


All disputation makes the mind deaf; and when people are deaf, I am dumb.


To think everything disputable is a proof of a weak mind and captious temper.


Controversy, though always an evil in itself, is sometimes a necessary evil.


No great advance has ever been made in science, politics, or religion, without controversy.

Lyman Beecher.

When men differ in any matter of belief, let them meet each other manfully.

F. Wayland.

Doubtless there are times when controversy becomes a necessary evil. But let us remember that it is an evil.

Dean Stanley.

Disputation carries away the mind from that calm and sedate temper which is so necessary to contemplate truth.

Dr. Watts.

The precipitancy of disputation, and the stir and noise of passions that usually attend it, must needs be prejudicial to verity.


There is no dispute managed without passion, and yet there is scarce a dispute worth a passion.


It is very unfair in any writer to employ ignorance and malice together, because it gives his answerer double work.


If a cause be good, the most violent attack of its enemies will not injure it so much as an injudicious defence of it by its friends.


It is humbling to mankind to contemplate men capable of grasping eternal truths, fencing and debating in trivialities, like gladiators fighting with flies.

M. Nisard.

Suspense of judgment and exercise of charity were safer and seemlier for Christian men than the hot pursuit of these controversies.


However some may affect to dislike controversy, it can never be of ultimate disadvantage to the interests of truth or the happiness of mankind.

Robert Hall.

It is almost always the unhappiness of a victorious disputant to destroy his own authority by claiming too many consequences, or diffusing his proposition to an indefensible extent.

Dr. Johnson.

  • He could raise scruples dark and nice,
  • And after solve ’em in a trice;
  • As if divinity had catch’d
  • The itch on purpose to be scratch’d.
  • Butler.

    Men of many words sometimes argue for the sake of talking; men of ready tongues frequently dispute for the sake of victory; men in public life often debate for the sake of opposing the ruling party, or from any other motive than the love of truth.


  • When civil dudgeon first grew high,
  • And men fell out, they knew not why;
  • When hard words, jealousies, and fears
  • Set folk together by the ears,
  • And made them fight, like mad or drunk,
  • For dame Religion, as for punk.
  • Butler.

    What Tully said of war may be applied to disputing: “It should be always so managed as to remember that the only true end of it is peace.” But generally true disputants are like true sportsmen,—their whole delight is in the pursuit; and the disputant no more cares for the truth than the sportsman for the hare.


    There is no learned man but will confess he hath much profited by reading controversies,—his senses awakened, his judgment sharpened, and the truth which he holds firmly established. If then it be profitable for him to read, why should it not at least be tolerable and free for his adversary to write? In logic they teach that contraries laid together, more evidently appear; it follows then, that all controversy being permitted, falsehood will appear more false, and truth the more true; which must needs conduce much to the general confirmation of an implicit truth.


    We are more inclined to hate one another for points on which we differ, than to love one another for points on which we agree. The reason perhaps is this; when we find others that agree with us, we seldom trouble ourselves to confirm that agreement; but when we chance on those who differ from us, we are zealous both to convince and to convert them. Our pride is hurt by the failure, and disappointed pride engenders hatred.