March 19, 2012

Birth of Everett: God,—the Country,—Liberty!

Alexander Hill Everett was born in Boston on March 19, 1790 (his more well-known younger brother, Edward Everett, was born a few years later and became known as the "other" speaker at Gettysburg). He was 16 years old when he graduated from Harvard; three years later, he joined John Quincy Adams in St. Petersburg, Russia, as secretary to the legation. He continued in a similar role in the Netherlands until he became the ambassador at Madrid, Spain.

When Everett finally returned to the United States, he took on the role of editor and principal proprietor at the North American Review, to which he had contributed articles over the years. Among his critical reviews was an 1829 article on Washington Irving's biography of Christopher Columbus, which he called "the delight of readers and the despair of critics" because of its near-perfection. Everett also published two major books, Europe and America, on the respective political histories of both. He rapidly became a leading man of letters in the emerging world of early American literature.

One of his most interesting contributions was an essay on "Claims of Literature in America." In the article, he says that our role is to preserve the liberty which our forefathers established but, more importantly, we are left with "the easier task of enriching, with arts and letters, the proud fabric of our national glory." He writes that the American population, and its wealth of scholarship, is rapidly growing — enough that it will soon overtake England: "It will then belong to your position to take the lead in arts and letters... and to give the tone to the literature of the language." Not to be a hypocrite, Everett added his own contribution in 1845 with a book of poems, including "The Young American":

   Scion of a mighty stock!
Hands of iron,—hearts of oak,—
Follow with unflinching tread
Where the noble fathers led.

   Craft and subtle treachery,
Gallant youth! are not for thee;
Follow thou in word and deeds
Where the God within thee leads.

   Honesty with steady eye,
Truth and pure simplicity,
Love that gently winneth hearts,
These shall be thy only arts.

   Prudent in the council train,
Dauntless on the battle plain,
Ready at thy country's need
For her glorious cause to bleed.

   Where the dews of night distil
Upon Vernon's holy hill;
Where above it, gleaming far,
Freedom lights her guiding star,—

   Thither turn the steady eye,
Flashing with a purpose high;
Thither with devotion meet
Often turn the pilgrim feet.

   Let thy noble motto be
God,—the Country,—Liberty!
Planted on Religion's rock,
Thou shalt stand in every shock.

   Laugh at danger far or near;
Spurn at baseness, spurn at fear;
Still, with persevering might,
Speak the truth and do the right.

   So shall peace, a charming guest,
Dovelike in thy bosom rest;
So shall honor's steady blaze
Beam upon thy closing days.

   Happy if celestial favor
Smile upon the high endeavor;
Happy if it be thy call
In the holy cause to fall.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.