Edward Everett was a leader in Massachusetts in the fields of both education and politics. Born at Dorchester on April 11, 1794, he attended Harvard, from which he graduated in 1811, subsequently receiving a masters degree in 1814. As the son of a minister, he moved easily into a position as pastor of a Unitarian church in Boston before the age of 20.
Everett studied in Europe between 1815 and 1819, earning the first Ph.D. degree ever granted to an American from Gottingen. When he returned to Boston and took up teaching at Harvard in 1819, he brought back ideas from the new methods of German universities.
Everett made a widely heard speech to an audience the included the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824, and as a result was propelled into politics. He was elected to the U.S. House, in which he served from 1825 to 1835, generally supporting a tolerant view towards slavery in the South. He then was elected to four one-year terms as governor of Massachusetts. Subsequently, he was the American minister in London for four years under Tyler, and then president of Harvard for a few years. He returned to a cabinet position under Millard Fillmore as secretary of state, but served only four months before taking a seat in the U.S. Senate.
His moderate views on slavery were out of tune with the tide of opinion in Massachusetts, and he resigned his seat after 15 months. This was his last public office. Back in private life, he lectured extensively on the life of George Washington and donated his fees to the maintenance of Mount Vernon.
In the election of 1860, Edward Everett was the candidate of the Constitutional Union Party, a group advocating nothing more specific than the maintenance of the constitution and the union. This was the rump of the Whig Party that was unwilling to adopt the aggressive positions of the Republican Party which nominated Abraham Lincoln. They finished last in the popular voting and third in the Electoral College.
During the war, Everett supposed the union cause and in 1864, supported Lincoln for re-election. His speech at the dedication of the Gettysburg memorial was supposed to be the primary oration. In length it was, running two hours, but it was completely overshadowed by Lincoln`s immortal Gettysburg Address.
Everett did not live to see the Civil War end, dying in Boston on January 15, 1865.
---- Selected Quotes ----
Quotes by Edward Everett.
Regarding Gettysburg Address
I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.
Letter to Abraham Lincoln, following Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
Regarding Public Education
Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army. If we retrench the wages of the schoolmaster, we must raise those of the recruiting sergeant.
The Common School Journal and Educational Reformer, 1852
Regarding Harvard University
The admission to Harvard College depends upon examinations; and if this boy passes the examinations, he will be admitted; and if the white students choose to withdraw, all the income of the college will be devoted to his education.
Admitting the first black student to Harvard
Quotes regarding Edward Everett.
By President Lincoln
In our respective parts yesterday, you could not have been excused to make a short address, nor I a long one. I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely a failure.
Reply to Everett following Gettysburg Address
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