Apostle of Union: A Political Biography of Edward Everett

Apostle of Union: A Political Biography of Edward Everett

Apostle of Union: A Political Biography of Edward Everett

Apostle of Union: A Political Biography of Edward Everett

Synopsis

Known today as "the other speaker at Gettysburg," Edward Everett had a distinguished and illustrative career at every level of American politics from the 1820s through the Civil War. In this new biography, Matthew Mason argues that Everett's extraordinarily well-documented career reveals a complex man whose shifting political opinions, especially on the topic of slavery, illuminate the nuances of Northern Unionism. In the case of Everett--who once pledged to march south to aid slaveholders in putting down slave insurrections--Mason explores just how complex the question of slavery was for most Northerners, who considered slavery within a larger context of competing priorities that alternately furthered or hindered antislavery actions.

By charting Everett's changing stance toward slavery over time, Mason sheds new light on antebellum conservative politics, the complexities of slavery and its related issues for reform-minded Americans, and the ways in which secession turned into civil war. As Mason demonstrates, Everett's political and cultural efforts to preserve the Union, and the response to his work from citizens and politicians, help us see the coming of the Civil War as a three-sided, not just two-sided, contest.

Excerpt

In December 1859, with John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry having shaken his beloved Union once again to its core, Edward Everett rose to address a mass meeting in his hometown of Boston. This audience knew Everett not only for his long career as a scholar and politician but also for his most recent career as a traveling orator for the Union. Throughout the late 1850s, Everett had journeyed to every section of the nation delivering an oration titled “The Character of Washington” to packed houses, donating the proceeds to save the first president’s Mount Vernon estate as a shrine to the Union. Thus when he stepped to the podium of this meeting called to demonstrate Bostonians’ attachment to the Union, the throng paid him “every demonstration of respect and enthusiasm.” Everett’s predominant purpose that day, as with his Mount Vernon activities, was “to inculcate the blessings of the Union,” consecrated as they were by “the memory of our Fathers” who gave it to us: “Precious legacy of our fathers, it shall go down, honored and cherished to our children. Generations unborn shall enjoy its privileges as we have done, and if we leave them poor in all besides, we will transmit to them the boundless wealth of its blessings!” Such filial appeals had an electric effect. a newspaper reporter present remarked on “the close attention, the earnest feeling, which this vast crowd manifested,” including “the frequent tears in the eyes and on the faces of multitudes touched by a common sympathy, as some patriotic emotion was awakened by the sentiments of the several speakers.” Indeed, attendees’ “hearts were swelling with pent-up emotions, longing to find adequate expression.”

A year and a half previous, he had taken this Unionist gospel into the belly of the secessionist beast, Charleston, South Carolina, and had received a similarly rapturous response. Reports of his performance of the oration in Augusta, Georgia, beat Everett to Charleston, and they described how his auditors in that town had “not yet recovered from the spell which was thrown around us by this mighty magician.” Indeed, words failed when one attempted to convey “the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.