Edward Everett

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Edward Everett

Edward Everett (1794-1865), American statesman and orator, was renowned for his elegant speeches, the most famous of which was his address at Gettysburg, overshadowed by President Lincoln's remarks from the same platform.

On Apr. 11, 1794, Edward Everett was born in Dorchester, Mass. He obtained a bachelor of arts degree with highest honors from Harvard in 1811 and a master of arts in divinity in 1814. Appointed to the newly created chair in Greek at Harvard, he prepared for the post by obtaining a doctor's degree from the University of Göttingen in 1817. His marriage to Charlotte Gray Brooks in 1822 allied him to Boston's social elite.

More interested in politics than in an academic career, Everett entered the U.S. House of Representatives in 1824, serving until 1835. A spokesman of the conservative Whig party, he was closely associated with Daniel Webster, the Whig senator from Massachusetts. Everett labored to preserve the Bank of the United States and adopted pro-Southern views on issues relating to slavery. In 1835 he was elected governor of Massachusetts by a coalition of Whigs and Anti-Masons; he served until 1839. During this time he aided in creating a state board of education and in establishing the first normal schools.

Appointed minister to Great Britain by President William Henry Harrison, Everett did much to improve diplomatic relations between the two countries. The British admired this elegant, cultured, and charming ambassador. Recalled by President James Polk in 1845, Everett became president of Harvard the next year, but he disliked the post and resigned in 1849. During the last 4 months of President Millard Fillmore's administration, Everett was secretary of state and gained momentary fame for his sharp note rejecting a proposal that France and the United States jointly guarantee Spain's possession of Cuba. In 1853 he entered the Senate but resigned 15 months later in the face of public protest over his failure (he was ill at the time) to vote against the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. This ended his political career, for many New Englanders doubted his integrity.

Everett began to lecture widely, raising $70,000 for the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, which sought to preserve George Washington's home. In 1860 he was vice-presidential candidate on the Constitutional Union ticket. During the Civil War he spoke extensively in support of the Union cause. His most famous wartime address, delivered at the dedication of the Gettysburg Cemetery on Nov. 19, 1863, was much admired but has been overshadowed by Lincoln's simpler and more moving phrases. Worn out by his activities in behalf of the Union, Everett died on Jan. 15, 1865.

Further Reading

A full-length biography of Everett is Paul Revere Frothingham, Edward Everett: Orator and Statesman (1925). See also Claude Moore Fuess, Daniel Webster (2 vols., 1930).

Additional Sources

Reid, Ronald F. (Ronald Forrest), Edward Everett: Unionist orator, New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

Varg, Paul A., Edward Everett: the intellectual in the turmoil of politics, Selinsgrove Pa.: Susquehanna University Press; London; Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Press, 1992. □

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Edward Everett (ĕv´rĬt, ĕv´ərĬt), 1794–1865, American orator and statesman, b. Dorchester, Mass., grad. Harvard (B.A., 1811; M.A., 1814). In 1814 he became a Unitarian minister in Boston, but, appointed (1815) professor of Greek literature at Harvard, he went abroad to study at the Univ. of Göttingen (Ph.D., 1817) and to travel. During his professorship (1819–25) he also edited (1820–23) the North American Review. He was a U.S. Representative (1825–35), governor of Massachusetts (1836–39), minister to England (1841–45), president of Harvard (1846–49), and secretary of state in the last four months of President Fillmore's administration (1852–53). Massachusetts elected him U.S. senator, but he resigned in the second year of the term (1854), embarrassed by his old-line Whig attitude of compromise on slavery. In the Civil War he traveled throughout the North speaking for the Union cause and drawing immense audiences. His most famous address, now almost forgotten, was the principal oration delivered at Gettysburg on the same occasion that called forth Abraham Lincoln's enduring Gettysburg Address.