Study Guide

Edward Everett in Gettysburg Address

By Abraham Lincoln

Edward Everett

Edward Everett was an accomplished and prominent Renaissance man who unfortunately is known more for his blustering speech before the Gettysburg Address than any of his other endeavors.

Moral of this story: never try to be the opener for the Gettysburg Address.

Hailing from Dorchester, Massachusetts, Everett's early life was dominated by religion. Due in large part to his already eloquent speaking skills, he followed his father and became a minister.

Proving that speeches really can change lives, a particularly awesome one he gave got him elected to Congress, launching his political career. After serving in the House of Representatives for several terms, he was elected governor of Massachusetts but lost a second term by one vote. (Source)

That can not feel good.

Perhaps to clear his head from politics, he served for a brief spell as president of Harvard University. If he thought that campus life was for him, the realities of managing a prestigious institution quickly changed his mind. He didn't like dealing with tedious tasks, budget issues, and worst of all, college students. Who can blame him for abandoning Harvard for greener pastures after three short years? Too many Hasty Pudding shows would leave anyone feeling a little green around the gills.

Next up for Edward Everett was a spell as ambassador to Great Britain after he was recommended for the gig by his friend and new Secretary of State Daniel Webster. (It pays to have successful friends.) Eventually, he became Webster's assistant secretary and even filled the position following Webster's death.

It wasn't until he'd retired from office altogether that his most famous speech occurred.

As one of America's foremost orators, Everett was asked to deliver the keynote address at Gettysburg. His two-hour epic referenced classical battles and medieval conflicts but was still shown up by Lincoln's short speech.

Even he could see how excellent Lincoln's address had been, writing to the president:

I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes. (Source)

Unfortunately, like President Lincoln, Edward Everett didn't live to see the end of the war. He died in January 1865.