Papers of Edward Everett
- Everett, Edward, 1794-1865 (Person)
Conditions on Use and Access
Lecture notes on the Civil Law delivered before the Harvard University Law School (1820) in the Notebooks series (Box 6)is unavailable for research use at this time due to its fragile condition. Please contact reference staff for more details.
Extent1.7 cubic feet (6 document boxes, 2 microfilm reels)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Bartlett, Irving H.
Edward Everett Reconsidered.The New England Quarterly 69, (September 1996) : 426-460.
- Epstein, David.The Man Who Spoke at Gettysburg: The National Political Career of Edward Everett. Thesis (A.B., Honors)--Harvard University, 1957.
- Everett, Edward Franklin.Descendents of Richard Everett of Dedham, Mass.Boston: T.R. Marvin and Sons,1902.
- Frothingham, Paul Revere.Edward Everett, Orator and Statesman.Boston:Houghton Mifflin Company, 1925.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot. Three Centuries of Harvard, 1636-1936.Cambridge, Massachusetts:Harvard University Press,1936.
- Pearson, Henry G.
Edward Everett.In Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. VI, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933.
- 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
- ___College Letters
- ___Loose Harvard Letters
- ___Personal Letters
- Extracts from Edward Everett's diary relating to Harvard University
- 1936 The American Autograph Shop
- 1936 Philip Spaulding
- 1946 Robert Lowell Moore
- 1948 F.W.C. Hersey
- 1949 William Roelker
- 1953 Harvard Law School Library
- 1955 Frank W. Fetter
- 1970 Frank W. Fetter
- Accession number: 14280; 2001 February 27
- Accession number: 14440; 2001 November 7
- Accession number: 18381; 2011 September 8
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
- EAD ID
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.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA