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.