« PreviousContinue »
EDWARD EVERETT was born at Dorchester, Mass., April 11, 1794. At the age of eight he was, for a short time, a pupil of Daniel Webster, who was twelve years his senior. The acquaintance then begun between these embryo orators ripened into a lasting friendship.
His son, Dr. William Everett, says in a speech made at the Harvard Commencement Dinner of 1891: "My father's connection with Harvard College began eighty-seven years ago, when he was a child of ten. His older brother was in college, living in the south entry of Hollis. The child was to begin the study of Greek in the winter vacation. The family were too poor to afford two Greek grammars; and little Edward had to walk in the depth of winter from the corner of Essex and Washington streets in Boston over the then most lonely road to the college and secure the prized volume. From that day his connection with Harvard College was scarcely broken till his death. He was four years an undergraduate, two years a tutor, nine years a professor, three years president, and at two different times an overseer; at his death he held an appointment as college lecturer."
The older brother referred to above was Alexander Hill Everett, who was graduated with the highest honors at the age of fourteen. Five years later (in 1811) Edward was graduated with the highest honors at the age of seventeen; he was regarded in college as a prodigy of youthful genius.
In 1812 he became a tutor at Harvard, and at the same time a student of theology. On February 9, 1814, at the youthful age of nineteen, he was ordained as pastor of the Brattle Street Church, at Boston, where he immediately rose to distinction as an eloquent and impressive pulpit
In March, 1815, he accepted the Eliot Professorship of Greek at Harvard College. In order to become better prepared for the duties of the position he travelled and studied in Europe until 1819. While abroad he pursued an extensive range of study at the principal centres of learning, and he took the degree of Ph. D. at the University of Göttingen. His return to Cambridge was hailed with delight, and gave a wonderful impulse to American scholarship. In addition to his duties as professor he took charge of the North American Review, which he conducted for five years.
In 1824 he delivered his celebrated Phi Beta Kappa oration at Cambridge, Mass., to an immense audience, including General Lafayette, in which he portrayed in eloquent and patriotic terms the political, social, and literary future of our country. In the same year he was elected a member of the National House of Representatives; after four reelections and a valuable service of ten years as Congressman he was chosen Governor of Massachusetts. He was annually reëlected Governor until 1839, when he was defeated by a majority of one vote.
In 1841, after nearly a year's sojourn in Europe, he was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain, under General Harrison as President and his friend Daniel Webster as Secretary of State. In 1845 he returned to America and became for three years President of Harvard College. In 1850 he published his speeches and orations in two volumes, and at about the same time edited Daniel Webster's works in six volumes, for which he prepared an elaborate memoir. Upon the death of Webster in 1852, Everett took his place as Secretary of State under President Fillmore.
From March, 1853, to May, 1854, he was in the United States Senate.
On February 22, 1856, he delivered in Boston an address, on the Character of Washington, which he repeated in different cities and towns nearly one hundred and fifty times. He gave the entire proceeds of this address toward the purchase of Mt. Vernon, the home of Washington, for the general government. He also gave for the same purpose $10,000 received for articles written for the New York Ledger, thus raising the entire amount contributed by him to over $100,000. In 1857 and 1858 he gave to different charitable associations the proceeds of other addresses, amounting to nearly $20,000.
In 1860 he was nominated for the Vice-Presidency on the ticket with John Bell, of Tennessee, but was defeated. Though anxious for peace while there was a chance to avoid war, he threw the whole weight of his powers into a support of the Union after the War of Secession began, and won the gratitude of his countrymen by the fervent, patriotic eloquence of his speeches in all the principal cities of the North. His death occurred on January 15, 1865, and resulted from a cold caught on the evening of January 9, while delivering an address in aid of the suffering inhabitants of Savannah, which had just been captured by Gen. Sherman.
Edward Everett's life of seventy-one years spanned a large portion of the youth of our nation. Born in the administration of Washington, he lived to see the War of Secession practically ended under Lincoln. Although thirty-six years old before the first locomotive engine made its appearance in the United States, he lived to see our country covered with a network of over thirty-five thousand miles of railways. During his life the population of the United States increased from about four to thirty millions, and the number of States from fifteen to thirty-six.
It is not to be wondered at that he was fired with an in