Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 71

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 71


This is the grave of Edward Everett.


Born in 1794 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Everett quickly rose into the ranks of the Boston elite. He was admitted to Harvard at the age of 13 and graduated as valedictorian at 17. He became a Unitarian minister and had his own church by 1813. He became known for his florid speeches, which some loved and some hated. He only lasted a year though before taking a job as a professor Greek literature at Harvard, a job which included a 2-year stint traveling around Europe. Unfortunately, professor jobs don’t come with such perks today. He spent a lot of that time in Germany, becoming one of the first Americans to want to transform American education on German lines, a trend that would continue until World War I made Germans the greatest enemies to civilization in known human history about three seconds after they were the heroes of men like Theodore Roosevelt. Anyway, Everett returned to the U.S. in 1819 and taught at Harvard. He also went on a lot of public speaking tours. He became close friends with Daniel Webster and they shared similar class and political interests.

In 1824, Everett moved into politics. He was elected to Congress as a National Republican associated with John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay. Harvard fired him when they found out he was elected to Congress. He served in Congress until 1835, where he was involved in the formation of the Whig Party and worked on foreign affairs. He had the typical political beliefs of a man like this–supportive of the national bank and high tariffs, opposed to Indian removal. However, in 1826, he gave a three-hour speech that digressed into justifying slavery. Many would never forgive him.

Still, in 1835, he was elected to be governor of Massachusetts. There he founded the state board of education, worked on expanding railroads and other industry, and played an active role in settling the boundary dispute between Maine and New Brunswick. However, he lost reelection in 1838 due to a combination of the Liberty Party drawing third party votes away from the Whigs and throwing the election to the Democrats (gee, I wonder if third party advocates learned from this?) and new temperance bill angering the public. Everett was named Ambassador to Britain after William Henry Harrison won the presidency in 1840. He stayed in the job until Polk took the Oval Office in 1845.

Everett then briefly became president of Harvard, hated it, and jumped at the chance to take over as Secretary of State after Daniel Webster’s death in 1852. It was only the last months of the Fillmore administration, but it was still a feather in his cap. He then was elected to the Senate in 1853. When he missed a critical vote on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, antislavery forces in Massachusetts were disgusted and Everett resigned in 1854.

Everett spent the rest of his life traveling around the country, giving his long-winded speeches. He was named the vice-presidential candidate of Constitutional Union candidate John Bell in 1860, but he basically didn’t care and didn’t do anything to campaign. Remaining a conservative Whig, he was deeply involved in the attempt to create the Crittenden Compromise, which Lincoln completely rejected.

Of course, what Everett is really known for his going on like Texas in the ceremony to commemorate the Gettysburg battlefield. In a 2-hour speech, he made all sorts of comparisons to ancient history and called for reconciliation. Then Abraham Lincoln walked up and blew him off the stage in 2 minutes. Everett himself was not bitter about this, knowing the greatness of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and he served as an elector for Lincoln in 1864. Everett died in 1865 after catching a cold giving yet another speech, not resting, and then testifying for 3 hours in a lawsuit about his property.

Everett has been portrayed in movies and TV more than you would think. He was played by Gordon Hart in a 1939 short called Lincoln in the White House. José Ferrer portrayed him in the 1991 TV movie about the Gettysburg Address titled The Perfect Tribute. David Francis played him in a 1999 TV movie about P.T. Barnum. In Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, a 2012 work of transcendent art, he was played by David Alexander. And Ed Asner was the voice of Everett in a new documentary on the Gettysburg Address that appeared last year.

Edward Everett is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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  • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

    I’m guessing that Edward Everett Horton, of the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show of my youth, was named in honor of him.

    • The Dark God of Time

      As was the author of A Man Without a Country.

    • Jeffrey Kramer

      Born 1886. Wikipedia says that the actor’s father was also named Edward Everett Horton, so the grandfather was presumably an admirer of the orator.

    • Taylor

      Edward Everett Horton who appeared in several Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers movies? I did not know of the Rocky & Bullwinkle link.

      • Jeffrey Kramer

        Yep; he did the narration for “Fractured Fairy Tales.” I saw those as a kid, first saw Gay Divorcee as a teen and thought “this guy’s voice sounds really familiar…”

        • CrunchyFrog

          … and that was the tale of the frog. Which was not a true story, because frogs have no tails.

      • LosGatosCA

        Also Lost Horizon

    • Emily68

      I wonder why Edward Everett Horton isn’t among those who played Edward Everett in a movie. Seems like he’d be a shoo-in

      • mikeSchilling

        Nor did he play the Horton who hears a who. That was a different Bullwinkle Show voice, Hans Conried.

  • efgoldman

    Of this series (including future scheduled posts) how many are at Mt Auburn?

    • Tom in BK

      And how soon should we schedule the next Boston meet-up?

      Robert Rantoul deserves a visit, for Boston area folks. He could’ve been a contender, and his spot in Central Cemetery is pretty central.


    • Downpuppy

      The over/under on Mt Auburn is 50

      We can only hope for some wild turkey pictures

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Third parties helped doom the Whig Party and create the conditions for the rise of the Republican Party during the 1850s. And, of course, the Republican Party was itself a third party, I suppose one could construct an argument that this was a Bad Thing (especially if you think a house divided against itself over slavery could and should have continued to stand), but to me it still, on balance, looks like a Good Thing. So the mid-19th century seems to me one of those rare moments when the effects of third parties, even as spoilers, were positive.

    • Nepos

      If I may suggest a slight correction, it was slavery that helped doom the Whig party, or more specifically, the Whig’s inability to reconcile abolitionist and slave-supporting elements of their party. Any other issue could probably be solved by compromise, but on slavery there could be no compromise. So the Whigs fell apart, opening the way to third parties.

      So I would say that the third parties weren’t responsible for the downfall of the Whigs, they were a side effect of the Whig attempt to dodge the issue of slavery. If the Whigs had strongly rejected slavery, the pro-slavery elements would have left for the Democrats, the proto-Republicans would have joined the Whigs, and history might well have followed the same path but with the Whigs in place of the Republicans.

      • Dilan Esper

        Third parties are often as much effect as cause.

        Coalitions badly split over big issues produce strong third parties. This is inevitable and is not proof that third parties are horrible.

        • Nepos

          I disagree with the “strong third parties” bit. The collapse of the Whigs led to the creation of several weak parties, one of which rose to take the Whigs place in the two party system.

          The United States has never had a true multi-party system, and, barring massive structural changes, never will have one.

          Therefore, the only time a third party is actually useful is if one of the two main parties falls apart, opening up a slot.

          Otherwise, efforts are much better spent changing on the two parties. This is something the right understands quite well; the left, not so much.

          • Dilan Esper

            Strong third parties refers to third parties that significantly swing elections, as opposed to the 1 and 2 percent types that always exist.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks

            Just to be clear, I am not making an argument for third parties today. Neither major party is remotely close to collapsing. And structurally our system favors two parties.

            But retroactively writing as if the Liberty Party in the 1840s was just like the Green Party in 2016 is to miss the extraordinary role that slavery was beginning to play in American politics.

            Greens are wrong to think that neoliberalism! will doom the Democratic Party in the foreseeable future. The Liberty Party (and later the Free Soil Party and still later the Republican Party) were entirely correct that slavery was emerging as _the_ issue in American politics. And that neither of the two major parties was structurally capable of coming out against it. To the extent that these third party efforts helped hasten the collapse of the Whig Party along these lines, that was a good thing. But even if that collapse occured entirely independently of the efforts of the Liberty and Free Soil Parties, these efforts were right about American politics in a way that the Greens and Libertarians are not today.

          • Manny Kant

            There was sort of a brief period before the Civil War where you kind of had a three party system, but regionally: Democrats vs. Republicans in the North, Democrats vs. “Opposition” or “American” in the South. This was notably the pattern in both the 1856 and 1860 elections.

          • To be fair, there are some political scientists who think that a strong third party in a two-party system can lead to electoral reform that will accommodate more than two parties. There is actually some (albeit weak) evidence for this, including recently: after two straight gubernatorial elections where a third-party candidate played spoiler, Maine passed an amendment switching to ranked-choice voting (which isn’t great for third parties, but still less horrible than the first-past-the-post system most of the rest of the country uses. I tend to support the 1-2-3 method Gregor usually advocates as the best of all possible reforms; I’d also settle for approval voting or possibly something Condorcet-compliant, though the latter is difficult to explain).

            That said, I see no reason for a third party to exist in this country, because on every issue that matters, the Democrats are so much better than the Republicans that there is literally no reason whatsoever to wish for a third party to keep fucking up our election results enough for eliminating FPTP to be a serious possibility. I’d like to see FPTP eliminated, mind you, but the threat of the shitgibbon and more Republicans like him greatly outweighs that.

            • Dilan Esper

              The argument you make depends entirely on devaluing issues that are important to third party voters.

              There are plenty of issues, such as pacifism, on which neither party provides any representation. Until 2016, protectionism was such an issue.

              A HUGE part of the condemnation of third parties is pure unexamined privilege: people who are served, more or less, by one of the two parties ordering voters whose positions are NOT served to capitulate.

              • The Democrats may not be perfect on pacifism, but they’re still vastly superior to the Republicans. Obama’s opponent sang, “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”, and the shitgibbon outright endorsed war crimes during his campaign. Obama was overall much less interventionist than most of his predecessors since Roosevelt, with the possible exceptions of Carter and Clinton. As for trade, I still consider the Democrats to have a sizable advantage there as well, because Clinton’s arguments in 2016 were based on facts, and her opponent’s… weren’t. I don’t see how anything you’ve said addresses anything I said. Just because the Democrats aren’t perfect on some issues doesn’t eliminate the fact that they’re still vastly better than the alternative on those issues. Third parties don’t provide a constructive solution here; the constructive solution is, where they’re not perfect, to push the Democrats as far in the correct direction as one can without rendering them unable to win elections, not to push third parties in a system where doing so is mathematically destructive to one’s own political coalition.

              • Hogan

                Pacifism is a position, not an issue.

    • Hogan

      And, of course, the Republican Party was itself a third party

      Not really. The Republican party was founded after the Whigs had split over the Kansas-Nebraska Act. At that point there was no second party. The Republicans got there by absorbing ex-Liberty party folks and the Know-Nothing party.

  • Nepos

    I’d heard about Everett’s sermon at Gettysburg, but it never occurred to me to wonder what he thought about Lincoln’s address. Nice to know that he appreciated the magnificence of it, I could easily see a lesser man feeling insulted or diminished (as unreasonable as that would be.)

    Americans sudden turn against Germany wasn’t quite as hypocritical as it might seem–from the very beginning of WWI, the Germans really went out of their way to appear as the bad guys, whereas before that they hadn’t really done anything to make Americans think badly of them.

    Love these posts!

    • Taylor

      The reaction of others to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was disgust at the nothingburger that he dropped. Some thought he was just getting warmed up, when he sat down.

      Horton, after bloviating for a couple of hours, recognized its oratorical brilliance at once.

      • Dilan Esper

        It’s actually a disputed what the reaction was on the scene (and by Lincoln himself). There were conflicting reports in newspapers, which were much more ideological and less committed to reporting facts back then.

        But Everett definitely loved it. He wrote Lincoln a letter saying he wished he had come so close to the central purpose of the occasion in 2 hours as Lincoln did in 2 minutes.

        • Colin Day

          There were conflicting reports in newspapers, which were much more ideological and less committed to reporting facts back then.

          Less committed to reporting facts then when? Though to be fair, today’s “reporting” doesn’t even rise to the level of ideology.

          • Dilan Esper

            Than now.

            Read some 19th Century newspapers sometime. It’s much closer to the “Rush Limbaugh Show” than any newspaper today.

            • Colin Day

              But were 19th century newspapers worse than Fox News? Also, were there enough such papers that they cancelled each other?

              • Dilan Esper

                1. Yes, they were. As I said, think talk radio, not Fox News. Fox News can be bad but they still report a fair amount of actual facts.

                2. Yes, there were, but it still means that when people try to due historical research, newspaper accounts are often very unreliable.

        • Davis X. Machina
    • Breadbaker

      Indeed, Kaiser Wilhelm I arbitrated the “Pig War” dispute between the U.S. and Britain over the San Juan and Gulf Island boundary.

  • troll

    troll comment

    • The Dark God of Time

      Thanks for sharing, Mr. Miller.

      • troll

        troll comment

        • The Dark God of Time

          Just an exemplar of why white supremacy is an oxymoron.

          Must be rough, cowering from anyone without the right skin tone, Jenny.

        • Jeffrey Kramer

          Draco, you weak little fool, “Mudblood” is one word; keep getting that wrong and Vulgarmort will put you under the Douchiatus.

    • Colin Day

      What, no threats against atheists? I feel insulted. Maybe the theocrats will start pressuring Pence for some action ther.

    • No Longer Middle Aged Man

      How apt that this should come in a discussion addressing, among other things, the Gettysburg Address.

  • Denverite

    Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, a 2012 work of transcendent art

    Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. And while not “transcendent,” I did think it was pretty fun.

    • Taylor

      Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies was a straight-to-video “mockbuster” of AL:VH. I assume “transcendental” is tongue in cheek.

      I loved the idea of AL:VH, and I prefer the serious tone that critics didn’t like because there was a serious political allegory there, but the execution was a bit of a “hot mess,” particularly the CGI-fest at the end. Would have been better with the constraints of a much smaller budget.

    • Colin Day

      Perhaps Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies just transcended reality by not existing in the first place.

      • Manny Kant

        It apparently does exist, and its plot summary at Wikipedia is amazing.

        • Colin Day

          I’m obviously not keeping up with Zombie cinema.

  • JohnT

    Yet again I am amazed at the sheer breadth of activity that some 18th/19th century Americans were capable of. I mean, just to recap, in his 70 years Everett

    Founded a church
    Was a Professor at Harvard
    Was President of Harvard
    Elected to Congress
    Helped found major political party
    Was a Senator
    Served as Ambassador to Britain (practically a Cabinet post at the time)
    Was a Secretary of State
    Was a vice-presidential candidate
    Delivered the warm-up to one of the most famous speeches of all time.

    Say what you like about him, he can’t have been lazy! (he must have been relatively annoying though – surely even in the 19th Century a man like that should have been an obvious Presidential candidate).

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      Impressive, yes, but imagine how much less he would have accomplished if he’d had access to FaceBook and Twitter. . .

  • cleter

    Is the text of the long-winded Gettysburg speech online somewhere?

  • Troll Comment Deleted

    Troll comment deleted

  • sigaba

    a job which included a 2-year stint traveling around Europe. Unfortunately, professor jobs don’t come with such perks today.

    I assume Harvard didn’t pay for his Grand Tour. There were ways you ensured that only the Right Sort may teach the humanities at Dear Old University.

  • Downpuppy

    Oddly enough, Jeff Jacoby wrote something readable for the first time in 30 years today – about the Fillmore Administration.

    • Breadbaker

      The Fillmore analogy is in some ways depressing. In an era where it was considered perfectly legitimate to say the quiet parts out loud, he only becomes President on the coattails of a running mate who was an immensely popular war hero and no politician at all (I believe Taylor never voted in an election, at least not before his own), and then can’t even win renomination from his own party as the incumbent President.

      • Colin Day

        and then can’t even win renomination from his own party as the incumbent President.

        Did Tyler get renominated? Polk? Pierce? Buchanan? It was a tough era.

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