Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Alexander Hill Everett


"Alexander Hill Everett, one of the most learned and respectable of our public characters, is best known as a writer by his various, numerous and able productions in prose; but is entitled to notice in a revival of American poetry by the volume of original and translated 'Poems,' which he published in Boston in 1845. He was a son of the Reverend Oliver Everett, of Dorchester, and an older brother of Edward Everett, and was born on the nineteenth of March, 1790. He was graduated, with the highest honours, at Harvard College, at the early age of sixteen; the following year was a teacher in the Exeter Academy; and afterwards a student in the law office of John Quincy Adams, whom in 1809 he accompanied to Russia, as his private secretary. In St. Petersburgh he passed two years in the assiduous study of languages and politics, and returning to this country was appointed secretary of legation to the Netherlands, in 1813, and in 1818 became chargé d'affaires at that post, and in 1823 minister to Spain. He came home in 1829, and in the same year undertook the editorship of 'The North American Review.' He was subsequently an active but not a very successful politician, several years, and in 1845, after having for a short time been president of the University of Louisiana, was appointed minister plenipotentiary to China, and sailed for Canton in a national ship, but was compelled by ill health to return, after having proceeded as far as Rio Janeiro. The next year, however, he was able to attempt the voyage a second time, and he succeeded in reaching Canton, but to die there just after his arrival, the twenty-ninth of June, 1847."

[Rufus Wilmot Griswold, The Poets and Poetry of America 143 (New York: James Miller, Publisher, 1872)][Rufus Wilmot Griswold]

Political Portraits with Pen and Pencil. No. XXX. Alexander H. Everett, 10 (47) United States Democratic Review (May, 1842):

Alexander was the second of the sons, and was born in Boston on the 19th of March, 1790—receiving the name of his maternal grandfather, Alexander Hill.

His childhood was passed in Dorchester, at the free school of which place he was prepared for Cambridge, which he entered in the year 1802, a few months before the death of his father; being then in his thirteenth year, and the youngest member of his class—in which, however, he graduated with the highest honors in 1806. Among the other members of the same class, who have acquired distinction, were Judge Preble, some time Minister to the Netherlands, J. G. Cogswell, now Editor of the New York Review, and Dr. Bigelow, one of the most learned and accomplished physicians in Boston, we may indeed say in the country.

After leaving college, he passed a year as assistant in the Phillips Academy at Exeter, N. H., and in 1807 entered his name as a student for the bar in the office of John Quincy Adams at Boston. He had but little inclination, however, for the practice of the legal profession, and at this time took no interest in politics—his passion being entirely for letters. Soon after he came to Boston, he was invited to become a member of the Anthology Club, an association formed for the publication of a literary journal, called the Monthly Anthology. The association comprehended a number of the most distinguished literary men of the time, among whom may be mentioned the late lamented Buckminster, Judge Thacher, and his brother, the late Rev. S. C. Thacher, Dr. Gardiner, the Rev. Mr. Emerson, father of the present well-known Rev. R. W. Emerson, Dr. Bigelow, Prof. Ticknor, Mr. Savage, and others. They had a social meeting, with a supper, one evening in every week. Being mostly either mere tyros, or professional men in full employment, and too constantly occupied to give much time to letters, the published product of their labors was of no very great value; but the work, as a whole, was distinguished by a somewhat better taste than had previously prevailed in our periodical literature, and gave indications of a tendency toward improvement.

On the appointment of Mr. Adams as Minister Plenipotentiary to Russia, in 1809, Mr. Everett accompanied him to Europe, and resided at St. Petersburgh as a member of his family, and formally attached to the Legation, for about two years; employing this time in the study of the modern languages, public law, political economy, and history. In the summer of 1811 he left St. Petersburgh, and proceeded through Sweden to England, where he passed the following winter. In the spring of 1812 he made a short visit to Paris, and in the summer of the same year returned to the United States in a licensed vessel, which sailed after the declaration of war.

Soon after his return from Europe, he was admitted to the bar, and opened an office in Boston. But the state of political affairs was at that time of so exciting a character as to render it almost impossible for any young man of ardent temperament and enlarged views to avoid taking part in them. The war had just been declared, and had exasperated almost to madness the hostile feelings that previously existed between the parties. Mr. Everett had naturally, while abroad, acquired the habit of looking at our foreign relations with an exclusively American eye; and though his personal friends and connexions were generally of the Federal school, he could not sympathize with them in their justification of Great Britain, and their attacks on our Government. In the year 1813, he wrote in the 'Patriot,' then the leading Democratic paper at Boston, a series of Essays upon the topics at issue between the parties, which were afterward published in a pamphlet, entitled 'Remarks on the Governors Speech.' This attracted much attention, and fixed his position among the friends of the administration. He continued, as long as the war lasted, to contribute articles, from time to time, to the 'Patriot,' and wrote, in particular, a series of essays in opposition to the Hartford Convention, about the time when that celebrated body was preparing to hold its meeting. The same year he was proposed as one of the Democratic candidates for the State Senate from the county of Suffolk; but, from the preponderating majority of the Federal party in the county, was, of course, not elected.

During this period, he wrote several articles for the literary journals, particularly a review of the Volksmaerchen of Musaeus, and of the Martyrs of M. de Châteaubriand, for the Cambridge Repository. He also, by request of those associations, delivered public addresses before the Massachusetts Charitable Fire Society, and the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard College. For the latter occasion, he selected the character of Burke, for whom he cherished a just admiration, though he did not, like some others, make him an object of blind and indiscriminating idolatry. After dwelling with enthusiasm upon his character as the philosopher, the statesman, the friend of freedom and America, he intimated with some distinctness his doubts whether his opposition to the French Revolution was not too bitter, and whether the regicide war which he urged upon his government was really of any advantage to the world. These intimations, though moderately expressed, and with no application to our own politics, gave dissatisfaction to the Federal portion of the audience, which comprised, probably, nine-tenths of the whole. The society, however, agreeably to usage, requested a copy of the performance for the press, and a committee was appointed to communicate the vote to the author; but the chairman, a strong Federal partisan, was so much scandalized by the heterodox character of the politics, that he abstained from performing his duty, and the address has consequently never been printed.

A little incident occurred at the public dinner of the society, on the day when this address was delivered, which we are tempted to insert here, as illustrative of the state of party feeling of that day and region. The society, which is now what it was intended to be, a purely literary institution, was then a mere political club. The toasts, songs, and speeches at the public meeting were of precisely the same character as at a professed party carousal. The meeting in question was held near the end of August, 1814, within a few weeks after the taking of Washington by the British, and this event was at that time the leading topic of political conversation. The proceedings at the dinner, after the cloth was removed, were an uninterrupted overflow of exultation at the success of the British troops, mingled with furious invectives and bitter sarcasms against the administration. At length a member, somewhat noted for wit and drollery, was called upon for a song, and began a sort of doggerel ballad upon the taking of Washington, in thirty or forty stanzas, to the tune of Yankee Doodle; in which he exercised his sportive vein entirely at the expense of poor Mr. Madison, and for the glorification of honest John Bull. The whole was received with bursts of applause; but when he had got about half way through, the president of the day considered that his duty required him to invite the minstrel to suspend his strains long enough to allow the company to drink a glass of wine, which was, of course, to be prefaced by a toast. Mr. Everett happened to be the next person, and was called upon to give it. He had been for some time bursting with patriotic zeal. It was necessary, however, to combine some discretion with valor, as the company were, almost to a man, against him. He luckily bethought himself at the moment of the sentiment given, we believe, by General Pinckney, on some public occasion during the quasi war with France, in the time of John Adams, and accordingly offered from his place, with a perfectly distinct enunciation, as a toast— 'The old Federal sentiment: millions for defence, not a cent for tribute.' It fell like a familiar sound upon the ears of the audience, and was received with a hearty round of applause, perhaps before they recollected the distinction implied between the old Federal sentiment and that of the actual occasion, together with its general bearing upon the politics of the day. The minstrel, however, with a more quick apprehension of the rebuke, took the matter in dudgeon, and declined to go on with his song, remarking, that if the company did not agree with him in opinion, he had no wish to disturb the harmony of the meeting. Satisfied with the effect of his well-timed and well-aimed shot, Mr. Everett readily joined with the others in urging him to proceed, but it was a long time before he could be brought into better humor.

A few months after, the treaty of Ghent terminated for a while these bitter dissensions. About the same time, Gov. Eustis of Massachusetts was appointed Minister to the Netherlands, and at his suggestion Mr. Everett received from Mr. Madison the commission of Secretary of Legation. After remaining a year or two in that situation he returned to the United States, and on the retirement of Mr. Eustis was appointed by Mr. Monroe to succeed him, with the rank of Chargé d'Affaires. He occupied this post from the close of 1818 till the spring of 1824. The commercial relations between the two countries, and the claims for spoliations during the French ascendancy, constituted here, as at most of the legations, the principal objects of attention. His correspondence with the government of the Netherlands on both these subjects was called for and communicated to Congress, and bears honorable record of the ability and zeal which he brought to the discharge of his public duties.

A good deal of leisure was at the same time afforded him for the indulgence of his favorite literary pursuits, a part of which he employed in preparing a work, which was published at London and Boston in 1821, under the title of "Europe, or a General Survey of the Political Situation of the principal Powers, with Conjectures on their future Prospects: by a Citizen of the United States." This work attracted some attention both in Europe and America. As at the same time a testimony to its merit, and a sample of the English criticism of American writing of the day, we may mention that the London Morning Chronicle remarked, that the designation assumed by the author on the title-page must be a mere cover, the language being not only in general too purely English, but too idiomatical, even in its occasional errors, to have proceeded from a foreign pen. The work was immediately translated into German, and published with a commentary by the celebrated Professor Jacobi, of the University of Halle. It has since been translated into French and Spanish. The tone throughout is decidedly though moderately liberal. The information contained in the chapters on France and Germany was in part new to the English and American public. In the chapter on the 'Balance of Power,' the effect of the recent growth of Russia on the condition of the political world is indicated with a distinctness which gave to this portion of the work an air of novelty. In a separate chapter on the British navy, the course pursued by Great Britain in regard to neutral rights, during the then recent war, is severely censured, and a total abstinence from the seizure of private property at sea is recommended as the only just and consistent plan of maritime warfare.

In the following year, he published at London and Boston a work entitled, "New Ideas on Population, with Remarks on the Theories of Godwin and Malthus." This is an essay on the relation naturally existing between the state of population and the supply of the means of subsistence. In studying the theory of government, with the feeling of a friend of liberty and social improvement, he had found himself compelled to encounter at the threshold of the subject the chilling and discouraging paradoxes of Malthus upon Population. This writer had undertaken to prove, that by a standing law of nature, there is everywhere a necessary disproportion between the demand for, and the supply of the means of subsistence; that this disproportion is the real cause of the misery of the great mass of the people throughout the world; and that as their misery does not result from bad government, so it cannot be prevented by good; and that the attempts to ameliorate the condition of society, by supposed political improvements, are, of course, perfectly useless. For the same reason any attempt to ameliorate the condition of individuals by charity, public or private, is entirely illusory; what is given to one, being in fact taken front the mouth of another claimant, who would otherwise have it, and is now left to starve. Marriage, the fatal fountain which is continually swelling this flood of population that threatens to overwhelm the world, though not entirely inadmissible among the rich, is to be discouraged in every imaginable way among the mass of the people, and regarded as the principle of every individual and social evil.

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During his residence in the Netherlands, he contributed frequently to the North American Review, which had taken the place of the Repository and Anthology, as the leading literary journal at Boston, and was then under the direction of his brother Edward, now our Minister at the Court of St. James. Not having very free access to recent English works, and living in the midst of the contemporary French publications, he commonly selected his subjects from the latter. They were as follows; French Dramatic Literature; Louis Bonaparte; Private Life of Voltaire; Literature of the Eighteenth Century; Dialogue on Representative Government, between Dr. Franklin and President Montesquieu; Bernardin de. St. Pierre; Madame de Staël; J. J. Rousseau; Mirabeau; Schiller; Chinese Grammar; Cicero on Government; Memoirs of Madame Campan; Degeandos History of Philosophy; Lord Byron.

In the year 1824 he returned to the United States, on leave of absence, and passed the following winter at home. In the spring of 1825 he was appointed by Mr. Adams, then recently elected President, Minister Plenipotentiary to Spain, the place having been vacated by the resignation of Mr. Nelson. This appointment was an entirely spontaneous act of Mr. Adams, performed without any solicitation on the part of Mr. Everett, or that of any of his friends. Soon after his election by the House of Representatives, he intimated to Mr. Everett his intention to offer it to him. Mr. Everett said to him in reply, with proper acknowledgments for so flattering a proposal, that if he thought the appointment of a known personal friend would be likely to injure him with the people, he hoped he would not think of it. This difficulty was treated very lightly by the President, and Mr. Everett consented to accept the place. Such was the only conversation or communication of any kind that passed on the subject.

The Spanish mission, though not in all respects the most attractive, nor generally the most important, was, at that moment, perhaps, the most interesting of all the foreign legations. Independently of the superintendence of the commercial relations between the two countries—the claims for spoliations, and the negotiations for commercial treaties—which, with the communication of political information, form the regular business of our ministers abroad, the legation at Madrid was particularly charged with the affair of the independence of the Spanish colonies, the great European question of that day. Our government had taken the lead in acknowledging their independence; Great Britain was preparing to follow her example, but had not yet come to a decision; the Continental powers were all enlisted on the side of Spain. The Minister of the United States was, therefore, the only diplomatic agent at the Court of Madrid, representing a government which had acknowledged the new American powers; and Mr. Everett was particularly instructed to attend to their interest. By the effect of these circumstances, he became the virtual representative of the new Spanish American States, as well as of his own government. The immense addition of responsibility and labor which was thus thrown upon him, may easily be conceived. He was fully aware of the delicacy of his position, and determined, to the extent of his ability, to do justice to it. Soon after his arrival at Madrid, he prepared and presented to the Spanish government a long Memorial in behalf of the new states, detailing the reasons in favor of an immediate recognition of their independence. This memorial was transmitted to the other legations, to be used in their courts in persuading them to unite in the same policy. It has since been printed by order of Congress, and is a paper well worthy of its author and its object. During his residence at Madrid, the subject was renewed as frequently, and urged as strongly, as propriety would permit. His connexion with the affairs of the new American states also made it necessary for him to keep up a constant personal communication with the private agents of these states at Madrid, and by letter with those at the other courts of Europe. In addition to the voluminous correspondence required by these negotiations, Mr. Everett transmitted regularly to the government, as often as once or twice a month, full information respecting the political events that successively transpired in Spain, and to some extent in other parts of Europe. In this way it may be readily conceived how actively his time was occupied, though he cheerfully devoted the whole of it to the public business, never leaving his post for a single day, or the capital for any other purpose than necessarily to attend the court in its occasional excursions to the country; mixing very sparingly in merely fashionable society, and hardly allowing himself any recreation, excepting the devotion of a few leisure hours to literary studies.

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In the midst of the various and urgent official labors devolving on him at Madrid, Mr. Everett still found some leisure for literary pursuits, and employed a part of it is composing a work entitled 'America, or a General Survey of the Political Situation of the principal Powers of the Western Continent, with Conjectures on their future Prospects, by a Citizen of the United States.' This was intended as a complement to the similar work on Europe, which he had published while in the Netherlands, and finished the outline there commenced, of the political aspect of Christendom under the new state of things which had gradually grown up within the last century, and had become for the first time distinctly apparent since the fall of Napoleon. The extension of the European, or rather Christian political system over the whole world; the comparative decline of the great continental powers, Spain, France, Austria, and Prussia, which had successively been at the head of this system under its former more limited dimensions; the rise of England to the rank of a first-rate power; and the recent appearance of two new powers, the United States and Russia, forming, with England, the three leading powers of the Christian world; these, with a careful and able investigation of the political institutions and revolutionary history of the American republics, constituted the principal topics of the work. It was received with well-deserved favor by the leading journals at home; and, like its predecessor, was translated into the German, French, and Spanish languages. The general views, which were at the time in some degree new, and which were pronounced by some American critics as in part doubtful, have been fully confirmed by the developments of the subsequent ten years.

During this period, Mr. Everett also continued his contributions to the North American Review, which was now under the direction of Mr. Sparks. He wrote, while in Spain, articles on the following subjects: M'Cullochs Political Economy; Authorship of Gil Blas; Baron de Staëls Letters on England; Paraguay; The Art of being Happy; Politics of Europe; Chinese Manners; Irving's Columbus; Definitions in Political Economy by Malthus; Cousins Intellectual Philosophy; Canova.

In addition to these able and active efforts of his own pen in the cause of letters, Mr. Everett never failed to take pleasure in employing his official influence in aiding the efforts of others in kindred literary pursuits. He invited Washington Irving to come to Madrid, gave him the character of attaché to the Legation, to which he has recently proceeded as its head, and procured him access to the public archives from which he drew in part the materials for his beautiful and valuable works on Spanish subjects. He attached to the Legation, as interpreter, the late lamented George Washington Montgomery, one of the most accomplished scholars and elegant writers, both in Spanish and English, of the day. He also transmitted to Mr. Prescott a large portion of the materials for his work on Ferdinand and Isabella; and gave to Professor Longfellow and Mr. Slidell, now Capt. Mackenzie, who visited Madrid during his time, all the encouragement and aid in their literary pursuits which lay within his power.

In the management of the public affairs, he placed in the hands of the Spanish government projects of conventions on the subject of indemnities and of reciprocity in tonnage duties; and pressed forward the negotiations on both these subjects with all the urgency that propriety would admit, as long as he remained at Madrid. At the time of his departure there was a good prospect of success, which has since been confirmed by the conclusion of arrangements in regard to both, substantially on the basis of his proposals. In the autumn of the year 1829, he returned to the United States desirous and determined to devote himself permanently and more fully than heretofore to literary pursuits.

From his long connexion with the North American Review as a contributor, he had become strongly interested in that journal, and soon after his return from Spain, by an arrangement with Mr. Sparks, who was desirous of devoting his time to the publication of the works of Washington, he became its proprietor and editor. He conducted the work with a tone of ability which needs no eulogy at our hands, for about five years, and made it during that time the principal object of his attention. Besides a large number of editorial notices with extracts, and other articles of less consequence, he prepared during this time elaborate papers on the following subjects: British Opinions on the Protecting System; Politics of Europe; Tone of British Criticism; Stewarts Moral Philosophy; The American System; Life of Henry Clay; Life and Writings of Sir James Mackintosh; Irving's Alhambra; Nullification; The Union and the States; Hamilton's Men and Manners in America; Early Literature of Modern Europe; Early Literature of France; Progress and Limits of Social Improvement; Origin and Character of the Old Parties; Character of Jefferson; Dr. Channing; Thomas Carlyle.

In the last of these articles, which terminated his long connexion with the Review, he introduced to the American public a wrier then almost unknown even in England, but who, in the short period of four or five years which have since elapsed, has risen so rapidly in reputation, as to have not only completely justified the high commendation which he bestowed upon him, but to have become, notwithstanding some eccentricities, perhaps the most conspicuous person in the whole compass of contemporary English literature.

Although he had determined on his return from Spain to devote himself chiefly to literature, he yet felt no repugnance to taking a part in political affairs, so far as his friends might desire his aid, and as he could give it consistently with the necessary attention to his principal object. He accordingly assented to the proposal, which was made to him soon after his return, to become a candidate for the State Senate. There was, at that time, an era of good feelings in Massachusetts, and the six Senators representing the county of Suffolk, in which he resided, were then in equal number from the two old parties. He was elected in 1830 as one of the three Democratic candidates, and was annually re-chosen to that or the other branch of the Legislature for the next five years.

As a member of the Legislature, he took an active and prominent part in the current business. He was the author of numerous able reports and valuable projects of law, upon which we cannot afford to dwell in detail. He attended the Tariff convention held at New York in the year 1833, and, as chairman of a committee of that body, prepared the memorial which was presented in their name to Congress at the next session, as a reply to the memorial prepared by Mr. Gallatin for the Free Trade convention previously held at Philadelphia. Mr. Everett was at this time a firm believer in the policy of encouraging domestic manufactures by protecting duties. Though not insensible to the truth and importance of the great principle of the Liberty of Trade, he considered it as a not less certain and important principle, that a country derives an immense advantage from possessing within itself manufactures of the most necessary articles, and indeed of all articles which it is fitted by situation, soil, and climate, to produce. Believing also that manufactures on their first establishment may require some positive encouragement to enable them to struggle with foreign competition, and that in this country a duty on the similar foreign article was the best mode of giving this encouragement, he considered the case as one of the few exceptions to the general doctrine of the perfect freedom of trade. These views were developed at considerable length in the memorial just mentioned, and in several articles in the North American Review, particularly those entitled 'British Opinions on the Protecting System,' and 'The American System.' Our own views on this subject are known to our readers. We are not aware that Mr. Everett has changed the views which he then entertained, excepting, perhaps, in regard to the last of the above stated principles, viz., that in this country a duty on the foreign article is the best mode of encouraging the manufacture of the domestic one. The full discussion of the Currency question, which has taken place within the last five years, has thrown a new light upon many points connected with that subject, and particularly upon the influence of the state of the currency on domestic industry, to which Mr. Everetts clear and discriminating intelligence has not been blind. A fluctuating currency holds out, in its periods of expansion, a bounty on the foreign article far more than equivalent to the encouragement given by protecting duties to the domestic one. In the great expansion of 1836, for example, our imports rose to nearly $200,000,000, against about $120,000,000 of exports. The specie all went to Europe to pay the balance; the banks exploded; and the industry of the country suffered a shock from which it has not yet recovered. The present tariff party are insisting, as a remedy for the evils occasioned by these fluctuations, the imposition of protecting duties; regarding these as tending to produce a sound stale of the currency, by preventing specie from being carried out of the country. It is clear, however, to common sense, that the protecting duty, which is added to the price, and paid by the consumer, in no way diminishes the advantage drawn by the foreigner from the unnatural prices occasioned by an expanded currency, and has little or no tendency to prevent him from taking out specie. The true and only remedy for the evils occasioned by these fluctuations, and the best protection which the domestic manufacturer can possibly have against foreign competition, is a steady and natural state of the currency, which can only be brought about by a reform of the abuses of the present banking system. The New England manufacturers, who, from some inconceivable blindness, are among the strongest opponents of this reform, have a deeper interest than any other class of persons in the community in seeing it realized. This view has, within two or three years, begun to attract a good deal of attention. It is developed at some length in two articles on the Currency, which he contributed to the Boston Quarterly Re- view for July, 1839, and January, 1840. The Whig leaders, and particularly Governor Davis of Massachusetts, perceiving the effect which the argument, if well understood, must inevitably produce, attempted to evade it by sophistically describing the proposed reform as intended to reduce wages, and thus diminish the reward of labor. It is hardly necessary to say that this mode of representing the subject was adopted ad captandum vulgus, and did no credit to the honesty of the persons who pretended to regard it as a just and correct one.

During General Jackson's first term, Mr. Everett stood ranged—naturally enough under the circumstances—in the party of oppositions. Mr. Adams's accession, after the close of Monroe's no-party Presidency, had considerably divided the old parties. Having been himself one of the old war Republicans, he carried many of them with him at this period. It is not surprising that Mr. Everetts sectional position and personal relations with Mr. Adams made him one of these. He had been abroad nearly the whole of the time. On his return, he was not ungrateful or false to his friends. In the convention held at Baltimore at the close of the year 1831, for the purpose of nominating a candidate for the Presidency, he attended as one of the delegates from Massachusetts; and in that body, as chairman of a committee, wrote the address which was issued in their name, recommending Mr. Clay. The election which took place in the autumn of the following year, decided the question in favor of General Jackson. Immediately after, the Nullification troubles came to a crisis, and the famous proclamation was issued. The stand taken by the President on that occasion was much approved by all parties in Massachusetts, and there was a general disposition to terminate opposition, and support the administration. A public meeting was held at Faneuil Hall, at which Mr. Webster moved resolutions highly favorable to the policy of the general government. His friends in the Legislature introduced resolutions inviting the President to visit the State the following summer. This he accordingly did, and was received with an enthusiasm not inferior to that which attended the presence of Washington. The whole proceedings amounted to an adhesion on the part of Massachusetts to the administration. Mr. Everett had not taken a leading or active part in these proceedings, but cheerfully concurred in them, and thought them in part dictated by the true policy of the State. The original differences between Mr. Adams and General Jackson had been rather personal than political; and as neither of them would ever be again a candidate for the Presidency, there was no reason why their competition, which had now become a matter of history, should be permitted to disturb our present or future politics. The questions which had agitated the country during General Jackson's first term, were, in one way or another, disposed of. The removals, right or wrong, were made, and could not be unmade ;the friends of the Indians had acquiesced in the action of the government ;the Tariff question was settled by compromise, and all minor matters being absorbed in the immense question of the Union, on which the course of the administration gave universal satisfaction, there was nothing to prevent the existing opposition from rallying to the standard of the country, supporting the administration, and joining with its friends in electing Mr. Van Buren, who possessed qualifications equal to those of any candidate before the public, and was certainly the only person having the least chance of being elected by the people.

This was the view which Mr. Everett took of the subject, and upon which he acted. It would probably have been taken universally in Massachusetts, and indeed throughout the country, had it not been for the Bank question, which became at that time and has been ever since the main point of controversy between the parties. As General Jackson, on entering upon his second term, manifested the determination to adhere to his policy of not assisting in the recharter of a National Bank, the portion of the then existing opposition party, who considered this question as paramount to all other considerations, persisted in opposing his administration, and reorganized the party under the new name of Whigs. Another portion, with which Mr. Everett acted, and which consisted chiefly of the democratic members of the party, who naturally took the old democratic view of the bank question, concurred with the administration on this subject, and having no motive to oppose it on any other, fell at once into the ranks of its supporters. As respects the subject of this memoir, he had, before his return from Europe, paid less attention to the bank question than to some others in political economy, considering it as settled by the practice of the country; and, though fully aware of the danger of abuse, had been rather disposed to take a favorable view of the existing system. But the conduct of the United States Bank toward the close of its charter, and under its new name, with the disastrous events of the year 1837, completely satisfied him of the demoralizing character of this system, and its utter inconsistency with the principles of a republican government. Indeed, the full discussion of the currency question, which has taken place within the last five years, and the practical illustration which it has received from the events of that period, have brought it, for the first time, distinctly before the public mind in its true character. In the midst of the full flood of light which has thus been thrown upon the subject, it has always, we know, been to Mr. Everett a matter of unmingled astonishment, that so many men of superior talents, and, it must be presumed, good intentions, should be found willing to perpetuate a system so ruinous to the wealth, morals, and happiness of the community.

In the year 1836, he removed from Boston to the neighboring village of Roxbury, which is within the precincts of the County of Norfolk, and the ninth Congressional district, lie was invited soon after by the Democracy of that district to be their candidate for the seat in Congress which had just become vacant by the retirement of Mr. William Jackson. Consenting to this proposal, he received the vote of the party at the elections of that year and of 1838 and 1840. With a strong Federal majority in the district, and in the highly excited state of parties which then existed, there could, of course, be very little expectation of success; but he regarded it as a duty not to refuse, when requested, his aid, in whatever mode it might be demanded, to principles which he thought so important. During the administration of Mr. Van Buren, he took an active part in the political movements of his friends in Massachusetts and New England. On the fourth of July following the explosion of the banks in 1837, a meeting was held on Bunker Hill, for the purpose of expressing an opinion upon that proceeding. The chair was occupied by the Hon. W. Foster, of Boston, one of the soundest republicans and most enlightened political economists of the country. Mr. Everett made the draft of the resolutions adopted on that occasion, which contain a lucid and summary exposition of the theory of banking and the currency, and addressed the meeting with great force in support of them. This was one of the earliest demonstrations that took place after the explosion of the banks, and at least as much as any other public document of the day, had its influence in giving to public opinion the direction which it afterwards took, and into which it is now rapidly and conclusively settling down, in regard to this subject.

During all this period, he was also frequently called upon to deliver addresses at political meetings, and also on occasions of a literary and philanthropic character. These were always received with the admiration due to the chaste eloquence of style in which they conveyed the enlightened views and liberal sentiments of the mind and heart from which they proceeded. A number of them have been published at the request of the hearers. Among the subjects which have been thus treated of by Mr. Everett, we may specify the following: —The Progress and Limits of the Improvement of Society; The French Revolution; The Constitution of the United States; State of Polite Literature in England and the United States; Moral Character of the Literature of the last and present century; Literary Character of the Scriptures; Progress of Moral Science; Discovery of America, by the Northmen; German Literature; Battle of New Orleans; Battle of Bunker Hill.

In the winter of 1840, it was thought necessary by the government to send a confidential commissioner to the Island of Cuba, for the purpose of exercising a general superintendence over the consulate during the absence of the Consul, and of investigating the truth of charges that had been made against him for sanctioning the abuse of the American flag, for the purpose of covering the slave trade. At the urgent request of the President, Mr. Everett accepted this commission, and passed two months at the Havana in the execution of it. In the autumn of the same year (1840) he returned to Havana on private business, and, while there, received a letter from the Governor of Louisiana, requesting him, in the name of the board of directors of Jefferson College, in that State, to accept the presidency of that institution. After some consideration, and a personal visit to the college, he accepted the proposal, and entered on the duties of the office on the first of June; and the last of his publications we have met, is the address delivered on his first public appearance as President, which is well befitting that extended and established reputation, as an accomplished scholar, an elegant writer, and a correct and liberal thinker, which pro- cured for him the unusual honor of such an invitation from so distant a section of the Union. We congratulate the institution and the State upon the acquisition they have thus secured. And as Mr. Everett, still in the full vigor of his powers, is now placed in a position so congenial to his tastes, habits, and pursuits, we trust that in addition to those labors, of which the immediate benefits are to be confined to the students under his administration of the college, he will be able to adorn the literature of his country with many a future contribution, not less valuable to it and worthy of himself, than those of his past career, up to the point at which we have now to suspend the task of the biographers pen. The engraving accompanying this slight sketch of one in regard to whom, as both a personal friend and a contributor to the pages of this work, we have felt under some restraints which all can appreciate, upon the freedom of even just praise, is taken from a very fine portrait painted a number of years ago in Paris, by the celebrated Girard, now in the possession of Ex-President Adams. Though the progress of time may have made some change in its original, his friends will not fail to recognise in it a resemblance which will give it an interest and value second to none of the former numbers of this series.

Faneuil Hall

William & Robert Chambers EncyclopaediaA Dictionary of Universal Knowledge for the People (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1881) [Used with permission of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology]

Alexander Hill Everett

Political Portrait with Pen and Pencil: Alexander H. Everett
United States Democratic Review

Alexander Hill Everett
William Thomas Davis, Bench and Bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts 125 (Boston: Boston History Co., 1895)(vol.1)


The Young American
United States Democratic Review

Mrs. Sigourney
United States Democratic Review

Greenough's Statue of Washington
United States Democratic Review
(June 1844)


Alexander H. Everett, Poems (Boston: James Munroe & Co., 1845)(George Coolidge, printer) [online text]

________________, Critical and Miscellaneous Essays. To Which are Added a Few Poems (Boston: J. Monroe & Company, 1845-46)(2 vols.) [vol.2 :: online]


Elizabeth Evans (ed.), Prose Pieces and Correspondence: Alexander Hill Everett (St. Paul, Minnesota: John Colet Press, 1975)


The Texas Question: A Letter from Alexander H. Everett
United States Democratic Review
Vol. 15, Issue 75, September 1844, at pp. 250-270

Alexander H. Everett, An Address delivered before the Massachusetts Charitable Fire Society at their annual meeting, May 28, 1813 (Boston: Charles Callender, 1813)

________________, America, or, A General Survey of the Political Situation of the Several Powers of the Western Continent, with Conjectures on Future Prospects (Boston: O. Everett, 1822)(London, 2nd ed., 1823)(Philadelphia: H.C. Carey & I. Lea, 1827)(Paris: Renouard, 1826)(reprint, 1970)

_______________, New Ideas on Population: With Remarks on the Theories of Malthus and Godwin (Boston: O. Everett, 1823)(London: J. Miller, 1823)(Boston: Cummings, Hilliard, 2nd ed., 1826)

________________, British Opinions on the Protecting System, Being a Reply to Strictures on that System, Which Have Appeared in Several Recent British Publications (Boston: Nathan Hale, 1830)(2nd ed., 1830)

________________, The Conduct of the Administration (Boston: Stimpson & Clapp, 1832)

________________, An address delivered before the Massachusetts Horticultural Society on the celebration of its fifth annual festival, September 18, 1833 (Boston: Printed by J.T. Buckingham, 1832)

________________, The Life of Patrick Henry (Boston: Hilliard, Gray; London, R.J. Kennett, 1834-48)(Jared Sparks ed.)(2 vols.)(Signal Mountain, Tennessee: Mountain Press, 1997)

________________, A Defence of the Character and Principles of Mr. Jefferson (Boston: Beals and Greene, 1836)("being an address delivered at Weymouth, Mass. at the request of the anti-Masonic and Democratic citizens of that place, on the 4th of July, 1836")(76 pgs.)

________________, An Address to the Philermenian Society of Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island: Knowles, Vose & Co., 1837)

________________, An Address delivered before the Philorhetorian and Peithologian Societies of the Wesleyan University on the literary character of the Scriptures (New York: Printed by Jared W. Bell, 1838)

________________, Address Delivered at Jefferson College, St. James's Parish, La (New Orleans: J C De St Romes, 1841)(36 pgs.)

________________, Critical and Miscellaneous Essays: Second Series (Boston: James Munroe & Co., 1846)

________________, The History of the World (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1847)(4 vols.)

Writings: Periodicals

Harro Harring. A Biographical Sketch
United States Democratic Review
(Volume 15, Issue 76, October 1844)

Contemporary Spanish Poetry
United States Democratic Review
(Volume 14, Issue 70, April 1844)

The French Revolution
The New-England Magazine
(Volume 1, Issue 2, August 1831)