In one of those glowing, and as yet unequalled pictures which Everett
drew for us, here and elsewhere, of Revolutionary scenes, I remember his saying, that the independence we then won, if taken in its literal and narrow sense, was of no interest and little value; but, construed in the fulness of its real meaning, it bound us to a distinctive American character and purpose, to a keen sense of large responsibility, and to a generous self-devotion.
It is under the shadow of such unquestioned authority that I use the term “American scholarship.”
Our society was, no doubt, to some extent, a protest against the sombre theology of New England
, where, a hundred years ago, the atmosphere was black with sermons, and where religious speculation beat uselessly against the narrowest limits.
The first generation of Puritans — though Lowell
does let Cromwell
call them “a small colony of pinched fanatics” --included some men, indeed not a few, worthy to walk close to Roger Williams
and Sir Harry Vane
,--the two men deepest in thought and bravest in speech of all who spoke English in their day, and equal to any in practical statesmanship.
Sir Harry Vane
, in my judgment the noblest human being who ever walked the streets of yonder city,--I do not forget Franklin
or Sam Adams
or John Brown
, -but Vane
dwells an arrow's flight above them all, and his touch consecrated the continent to measureless toleration of opinion and entire equality of rights.
We are told we can find in Plato
“all the intellectual life of Europe
for two thousand years;” so you can find in Vane
the pure gold of two hundred and fifty years of American civilization, with no particle of its dross.
would have welcomed him to the Academy, and Fenelon kneeled with him at the altar.
He made Somers
and John Marshall
possible; like Carnot
, he organized victory;