Quoted from the author's "Dedication and Preface."
"Many valued friends in America and Europe, and even several journals, have also called for my reminiscences, and I have felt it a fair demand on the closing years of a surviving witness to developments and events which have made momentous chapters of history. The wisdom or unwisdom of a new generation must largely depend on its knowledge and interpretation of the facts and forces that operated in the generations preceding, from which are bequeathed influences that become increasingly potent when shaped in accepted history. The eventualities of life brought me into close connection with some large movements of my time, and also with incidents little noticed when they occurred, which time has proved of more far-reaching effect than the immediately imposing events. I have been brought into personal relations with leading minds and characters which already are becoming quasi-classic figures to the youth around me, and already show the usual tendency of such figures to invest themselves with mythology. But, as the psalmist asks, who can understand his own errors? Perhaps none of us completely; but when, as life draws to a close, a man reviews closely the road he has travelled, he can understand many of his errors; and if they were not due to any bias of official position or of any ambition for such, his impressions of events and of men, however erroneous, become part of his testimony, if given with the same independence and sincerity.
I might, perhaps, have sufficiently met the general interest in a narrative of this kind by writing a history of my own times, instead of an autobiography. This would have saved me from the distress of using the personal pronoun "I" so much, and the implication of Quorum magna pars lea. But a public teacher who understands his errors must try and correct them as far as he can. In my ministry of a half century I have placed myself, or been placed, on record in advocacy of contrarious beliefs and ideas. A pilgrimage from proslavery to antislavery enthusiasm, from Methodism to Freethought, implies a career of contradictions. One who
starts out at twenty to think for himself and pursue truth is likely to discover at seventy that one third of his life was given to error, another third to exchanging it for other error, and the last third to efforts to unsay the errors and undo the mistakes of the other two thirds. One' s opinions may indeed be of interest or importance to only a small circle, but out of this circle may arise one or another whose influence may become large. If one has published works that may be quoted on opposite sides of serious issues, he is under obigation tion to point out the steps by which he was led from one to the other, even though he may know of none that his silence would mislead.
I know well that my work is unsatisfactory. It could not possibly be either chronological or complete. To master thoroughly and report rightly the memories distributed in thousands of papers accumulated in two eventful generations by a participant in their storm and stress would require another lifetime. Among innumerable statements some inaccuracies can hardly be escaped, especially when most of those whose scrutiny was needed are in their graves. Nevertheless, I have through nearly four years assiduously sat at my task, sparing no pains to be exact and just; and I now send forth my work with the solemn feeling natural to an old author uttering his last word to mankind."