Revisiting Edward Everett’s Antebellum Tightrope Act: Loyal Northern Unionist with Reluctant Southern Sympathies.

“The tension Edward Everett wrestled with as a Massachusetts Northerner to create cooperative ties with Southerners garnered him more distain than admiration in New England. Throughout his career first as a Unitarian minister which morphed progressively into positions in academia, politics and oratory, one constant thread was his devotion to preserve the Union.
This paper examines Edward Everett’s social-political relationship with the South and draws on previously unused primary sources that both sharpen and blur traditional perspectives about his Unionist devotion. Evidence will also qualify the, “ice cold water in his veins” public image not so evident in his private life.
From 1856 until Fort Sumter, Everett toured the country delivering a popular oration on the “Character of George Washington.” He had two goals in this endeavor. He wanted to tug the patriotic heartstrings of the country to not divide as it would be an affront to the memory of Washington. Everett’s other objective was to raise money to purchase and preserve Mount Vernon. While his first goal obviously failed, the latter effort raised a third of the funds used to purchase the estate and placed it perpetually in the stewardship of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association. His willingness to cooperate with MVLA’s founder Ann Pamela Cunningham, (”The Southern Matron”), was a prime example of Everett’s ability to cultivate strong Southern associations.
In abstention, Edward Everett, was nominated to the 1860 Constitutional Union Party ticket as vice president with Tennessee Congressional colleague John Bell. To paraphrase the Union party’s platform, “There is no problem so large it can’t be solved by ignoring it.” Everett chose not to withdraw his name from consideration because he believed in the cause of preserving the Union. Realistically, however, he was not hopeful of a victory or even serving in office if they did happen to win.
From the outset of hostilities in 1861, Edward Everett supported Lincoln to reunite the broken Union. This was evidenced in his two hour oration at the dedication of Gettysburg national cemetery in November, 1863. As a recent widower he curiously carried on a private correspondence with a younger woman named Emma M. Lynah in Philadelphia that had ties to South Carolina. Only eight months before his address at Gettysburg, Edward jovially, and flirtatiously, referred to Emma as “my sweet little rebel” providing her assurances that the 8,000 Confederate prisoners he observed in Chicago were being treated well or he “would have denounced it publicly.”
Edward Everett lived long enough to see the Union would be restored. When he died, Lincoln declared a national day of mourning. Mount Vernon survived the war unscathed and operates just as Everett intended…a lasting monument to Washington and national unity. Edward Everett’s is not well remembered, but his enduring landmark projects including; Mount Auburn Cemetery, Bunker Hill monument, Boston Public Library and Mount Vernon are visible tributes of his deeds. Less understood, however, was the tenuous tightrope act that balanced his loyalties between the North and South to preserve the Union.”