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COLLECTION Identifier: UAI 15.884

Papers of Edward Everett


Edward Everett (1794-1865) was President of Harvard University from February 5, 1846 to February 1, 1849. He was also a Unitarian clergyman, teacher, statesman, and a famous American orator.


  • Creation: 1807-1864


Researcher access

The Papers of Edward Everett are open for research.

Series Notebooks, 1817, 1820, 1846-1849 (UAI 15.844 Box 6) is closed to research due to their fragile condition. Please contact reference staff for more details.

Conditions on Use

Researchers are advised to use published versions of these papers, both because of the fragility of the originals and their nineteenth-century orthography, which may make them difficult to read for those who are unaccustomed to it. Please consult the reference staff for further details.


1.7 cubic feet (6 document boxes, 2 microfilm reels)

The largest part of the Papers of Edward Everett document Everett's administration of Harvard University. Additional materials touch on his interaction with friends, colleagues, associates, and peers regarding a variety of topics and subjects. These papers also include some of Everett's lecture notes as both a student and professor. There is very little in the way of biographical material about Everett in this collection, however, Everett's notes regarding the intellectual development of his son William are in the Notebooks series.

Edward Everett Chronology

Born in Dorchester on April 11.
Attends Webster School; first meets Daniel Webster.
Attends Boston Latin School.
Attends Phillips Exeter Academy.
Receives Harvard A.B. with highest honors.
Receives Harvard A.M. in divinity studies; installed as pastor, Brattle Street Church (Unitarian), Boston.
Appointed professor of Greek literature at Harvard.
Travels and studies in Europe.
Receives Göttingen Ph.D. (first doctorate awarded to an American).
Edits North American Review.
Professor of Greek literature at Harvard.
Marries Charlotte Gray Brooks.
United States Representative from Middlesex District.
Governor of Massachusetts.
Rest and travel.
United States Minister to the Court of Saint James's (Great Britain).
President of Harvard University
Drafts letter to Hülsemann for Secretary of State Daniel Webster.
Secretary of State.
United States Senator from Massachusetts.
Resigns from Senate after failure to vote on Kansas-Nebraska Act.
Career as orator: composes famous lecture on George Washington; works to save Mount Vernon as national shrine.
Constitutional Union Party nominee for Vice-President.
Oration at Gettysburg on November 19.
Presidential elector for Massachusetts.
Dies in Boston January 15.

Biographical note on Edward Everett

Edward Everett (1794-1865) was President of Harvard University from February 5, 1846 to February 1, 1849. He was also a Unitarianclergyman, teacher,statesman, and a renowned American orator.

Early Life

Edward Everett was born to the Reverend Oliver Everett and Lucy (Hill) Everett on April 11, 1794. As a boy, Everett read extensively in his father's large library, reading the works of Shakespeare, Hume, Tillotson, and Shaftesbury before he was eight years old. In 1804, Everett attended the Webster School and was taught by Daniel Webster. Everett was to maintain a personal and professional relationship with Webster for the rest of his life. From 1805 to 1807 Everett went to the Boston Latin School and the Phillips Exeter Academy. As a young student, Everett earned several medals for outstanding scholarship.

In 1807, Everett entered Harvard University at the age of thirteen, the youngest member of his class. During his college years, Everett was acknowledged by peers and faculty as a serious scholar. He spent his student years as a tutor giving Latin instruction (1812-1814) and studying theology,foreign languages, and writing for student publications. After graduation (A.B. 1811, A.M. 1814), Everett followed in his father's footsteps and became the pastor of the Brattle Street Church. He was quickly recognized as a powerful speaker and orator, but Everett soon abandoned the ministry for a teaching position at Harvard University. Later in life, Everett admitted that he had accepted the Brattle Street ministry at too early an age and without enough life experience to properly minister to his congregation.

Everett's teaching arrangement with Harvard University was unique. He was allowed to travel and study in Europe for two years, at full salary, before accepting his new duties. Everett studied 12 to14 hours a day at the University of Göttingen in Germany. He became well-read in Greek,Latin, French, German, and Italian. He explored Roman law and archaeology, and studied Cicero,Plato, and Greek art. Everett traveled to England and France, bought books for Thomas Jefferson, and became the first American to receive a German Ph.D.

Everett hoped to bring the fruits of German scholarship to Harvard University as a Professor of Greek Literature (1819-1825). Everett, however, was not as successful as he had envisioned and found himself very unhappy drilling college boys in the uses of grammar. Consequently, Everett resigned his professorship after only five years and decided to pursue a new interest that he had begun to cultivate, politics.

Political Career

Everett's political career began when he was elected to the United States Congress from Massachusetts in 1825. For the next ten years, Everett served the interests of the conservative wing of the Whig party, favoring the propertied classes and supporting a well-ordered and secure state. In Congress, Everett became a noted speaker and emphasized the virtues of a republican form of government and a strong union for the citizens of the new nation. Serving at a time when slavery was becoming an increasingly polarizing issue in national politics, Everett showed a deference to Southern interests. Although opposed to slavery, he recognized the political situation that prompted its recognition and believed that any premature attempts to abolish it would lead to war and disunion.

Everett returned to Massachusetts in 1836 and was elected to the governorship. During his three years of service, Everett made a significant contribution to educational reform. Believing that progress could only be achieved in society if the moral and cognitive capacities of the citizenry could be developed, Everett wanted to turn Massachusetts into a laboratory for public education. Among Everett's most important accomplishments was the creation of a state board of education to monitor schools and to encourage sound instructional practices. In addition, he supported the creation of normal schools to help train teachers, and he signed a law mandating three months of day school for all children under the age of fifteen years old.

After the completion of his final term of office, Everett and his family spent a year in Europe resting and traveling. At the urging of his longtime friend and associate, Daniel Webster, Everett was appointed Minister to the Court of Saint James's in 1841. Serving in Great Britain for four years, Everett became a well-liked and respected diplomat. He helped improve relations between the United States and Great Britain. He was involved in settling a border dispute between Canada and the United States and worked to ease tensions between the United States and Great Britain over the seizure of United States ships by Great Britain during the latter's attempts to eliminate the slave trade. Everett's successful stay in Great Britain came to an end with the Democratic Party's assumption of power in Washington D.C. Out of work, he looked again towards his old school, Harvard University.

Harvard University President

Everett assumed the presidency of Harvard University reluctantly and viewed the position as an opportunity to fill his time before reentering politics. Moreover, because he did not want to take time away from his writing and studies, he shied away from his administrative responsibilities.

Everett continually complained about the poor state of the school that he inherited from his predecessor. Attendance and student behavior in chapel were poor, student disruptions were endemic, drunkenness was commonplace, bonfires and the appearance of prostitutes in the Yard were a regular occurrence, and the buildings were in need of repair. Everett was bothered by student pranks and felt ill-prepared to deal with immature students and confrontational faculty members. He was named "Old Granny" by the students, hung in effigy in the Yard and found offensive graffiti on the fence outside his home.

Although Everett's short administration was difficult and personally unsatisfying, under his tenure the Lawrence Scientific School was opened. Under the direction of Louis Agassiz, it became a center of post-graduate study and research in the sciences. Furthermore, Everett was successful in enclosing sections of the Yard, increasing the school's endowment,codifying the duties of University librarians for the first time, and completing a thorough revision of the college laws.

Finding the duties and responsibilities of the presidency a burden, Everett resigned the presidency in 1849 when the Whig party returned to power in Washington D.C., and he resumed his political career.

A Return to Politics

In 1850, Everett came to the aid of his friend, Secretary of State Daniel Webster. He drafted a letter to the Austrian chargé d'affaires in Washington D.C. defending the presence of an American agent to report on the revolution in Hungary. Everett's letter became an important statement of American foreign policy, asserting the right of the United States to extend sympathy to another nation struggling to achieve a popular government. After the death of Webster in 1852, Everett was appointed Secretary of State. Although he served only one year, Everett gained momentary fame when he rejected French overtures to guarantee Spanish sovereignty over the island of Cuba and asserted American interests. He also dispatched CommodoreMatthew C. Perry to Japan and settled a dispute with Peru over the Lobos Islands.

Everett returned to electoral politics in 1853 when he was elected to the United States Senate from Massachusetts. His return to office, however, was short-lived and disappointing. He angered anti-slavery supporters by his failing to vote when the Kansas-Nebraska act came before the Senate. The Kansas-Nebraska act was Stephen A. Douglas's proposal to open up Kansas and Nebraska to slavery if the residents in those areas voted for it. Everett revealed that he was ill at the time the vote came before the Congress, but his timidity in the face of the growing anti-slavery controversy and his desire to compromise at all costs to save the Union led to his resignation.

Last Years

Free from political pursuits, Everett spent the last years of his life traveling the country and promoting the cause of the Union. In 1858, Everett embarked on a campaign to raise funds for the preservation of George Washington's home, Mount Vernon. He traveled the country delivering a lecture about Washington's character and promoting Washington's role in the establishment of the Union. Encouraging his listeners to preserve the Union in the highly charged times in which they lived, Everett spoke 129 times and ultimately turned over $69,064 to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union.

When the Civil War began, Everett was a strong supporter of the Union cause. He traveled the North giving numerous speeches and lectures, calling on his listeners to support the war effort. Sometimes Everett spoke twice or more a week. As the most prominent orator of his day, Everett was invited to give the keynote address at the dedication of a national cemetery after the Battle of Gettysburg in November 1863. In his address, Everett connected the heroic struggle for freedom in the classical and modern worlds with the valor and sacrifice demonstrated on America's battlefields. He justified the Union cause and predicted that the North and South would eventually reconcile leading to a restored and stronger Union. Everett's speech lasted two hours, but was eclipsed in history by President Lincoln's three minute, 272-word address.

Everett was a strong supporter of Abraham Lincoln and traveled the country speaking in support of the Union cause in hundreds of venues. In 1864, at the climax of the presidential campaign, Everett was honored at Faneuil Hall in Boston by thousands of people for his efforts. At this event, Everett made his last public address.

Worn out by his activities and travel, Everett's health began to fail and he died on January 15, 1865 of pneumonia.


Edward Everett married Charlotte Gray Brooks, a daughter of a leading Boston businessman, in 1822. They had six children: Anne Gorham (1823), Charlotte Brooks (1825), Grace Webster (1827), Edward Brooks (1830), Henry Sidney (1834), and William (1839).


After Everett's death, the church bells throughout Boston were sounded in his honor. He was remembered as a productive scholar and a spirited public servant and citizen. Known at home and abroad for his intellectual brilliance and abilities, Everett became a champion of public education, the creation of lyceums, literary societies,scientific associations, and self-instruction. Serving as chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Boston Public Library until his death, Everett was a central figure in the Library's establishment. He belonged to several historical and philosophical societies and received many honorary degrees. Finally, Everett's dramatic sense, use of graceful language, and personal magnetism, along with his passionate defense of the Union cause during the Civil War, made him one of the most famous of America's orators.


  1. Bartlett, Irving H.Edward Everett Reconsidered.The New England Quarterly 69, (September 1996) : 426-460.
  2. Epstein, David.The Man Who Spoke at Gettysburg: The National Political Career of Edward Everett. Thesis (A.B., Honors)--Harvard University, 1957.
  3. Everett, Edward Franklin.Descendents of Richard Everett of Dedham, Mass.Boston: T.R. Marvin and Sons,1902.
  4. Frothingham, Paul Revere.Edward Everett, Orator and Statesman.Boston:Houghton Mifflin Company, 1925.
  5. Morison, Samuel Eliot. Three Centuries of Harvard, 1636-1936.Cambridge, Massachusetts:Harvard University Press,1936.
  6. Pearson, Henry G.Edward Everett. In Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. VI, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933.
  7. Yanikoski, Richard Alan.Edward Everett and the Advancement of Higher Education and Adult Learning in Antebellum Massachusetts. Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Chicago, 1987.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. Correspondence
  2. ___College Letters
  3. ___Loose Harvard Letters
  4. ___Personal Letters
  1. Extracts from Edward Everett's diary relating to Harvard University
  2. Notebooks

Acquisition Information

The Papers of Edward Everett were acquired by the Harvard University Archives through donation and purchase. Whenever possible the archivist noted the terms of acquisition in the folder list below. The acquisitions are as follows:

  1. 1936 The American Autograph Shop
  2. 1936 Philip Spaulding
  3. 1946 Robert Lowell Moore
  4. 1948 F.W.C. Hersey
  5. 1949 William Roelker
  6. 1953 Harvard Law School Library
  7. 1955 Frank W. Fetter
  8. 1970 Frank W. Fetter
  9. Accession number: 14280; 2001 February 27
  10. Accession number: 14440; 2001 November 7
  11. Accession number: 18381; 2011 September 8

Related Materials

  1. Records of the Harvard Corporation.

Search HOLLIS (Harvard's online library system) for works by and about Edward Everett.

Citations to published versions of the documents in this collection are noted in the folder lists.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2024 March 05.

Processing Information

Most of this material was first classified and described in the Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. In 2005, Dominic P. Grandinetti re-processed these papers. Re-processing included the integration of outstanding accessions, the rearrangement and rehousing of the material in appropriate containers, and the establishment of this finding aid.

In the folder list below, wording such as "in Everett's handwriting" or "handwritten" have been used instead of the terminology "autograph" or "holograph."

Published versions of the documents in this collection are noted in the folder lists.

Everett, Edward, 1794-1865. Papers of Edward Everett : an inventory
Harvard University Archives
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

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