Theodore Parker on its platform; more from a debate whether the anti-slavery cause should be so far countenanced as to invite one of its advocates to lecture; from Sumner and Emerson, George William Curtis, and Edwin Whipple, refusing to speak unless a negro could buy his way into their halls as freely as any other,—New England has learned more from these lessons than she has or could have done from all the treatises on free printing from Milton and Roger Williams, through Locke, down to Stuart Mill.
Selden, the profoundest scholar of his day, affirmed, "No man is wiser for his learning;" and that was only an echo of the Saxon proverb, "No fool is a perfect fool until he learns Latin." Bancroft says of our fathers, that "the wildest theories of the human reason were reduced to practice by a community so humble that no statesman condescended to notice it, and a legislation without precedent was produced off-hand by the instincts of the people." And Wordsworth testifies, that, while German schools might well blush for their subserviency,—
"A few strong instincts and a few plain rules,
Among the herdsmen of the Alps, have wrought
More for mankind at this unhappy day
Than all the pride of intellect and thought."
Wycliffe was, no doubt, a learned man. But the learning of his day would have burned him, had it dared, as it did burn his dead body afterwards. Luther and Melanchthon were scholars, but were repudiated by the scholarship of their time, which followed Erasmus, trying "all his life to tread on eggs without breaking them;" he who proclaimed that "peaceful error was better than tempestuous truth." What would college-graduate Seward weigh, in any scale, against Lincoln bred in affairs?
Hence I do not think the greatest things have been