Edward Everett, the most renowned American orator of his generation (captured as a young man in a portrait by Gilbert Stuart), was a highly popular speaker for the Union cause during the Civil War, and for many years before had aligned himself against every movement that threatened disruption of the Federal Union. So widespread was his fame that Everett was the logical choice to deliver the address at the consecration of the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863. His two-hour oration, excruciatingly long by present-day standards, was considered the appropriate length for a patriotic speech in that era. It is ironic that Abraham Lincoln's eloquent remarks, barely two minutes in length, have completely eclipsed the crowning occasion of Everett's career. Indeed, in his diary account of what occurred at Gettysburg that day, Everett discussed his own speech but took no notice of Lincoln's address. The next day, however, he wrote to the President praising his speech: "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." The same day Lincoln replied, "In our respective parts yesterday, you could not have been excused to make a short address, nor I a long one. I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely a failure."
This letter is part of a much larger collection of Edward Everett papers at the Historical Society which include the correspondence, letterbooks, and diaries of Edward Everett.