William H. Seward

William H. Seward

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William Henry Seward, Sr. (May 16, 1801 October 10, 1872) was the 12th Governor of New York, United States Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 and the United States Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

 under Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 and Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States . As Vice-President of the United States in 1865, he succeeded Abraham Lincoln following the latter's assassination. Johnson then presided over the initial and contentious Reconstruction era of the United States following the American...

. A determined opponent of the spread of slavery in the years leading up to the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, he was a dominant figure in the Republican Party
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 in its formative years, and was widely regarded as the leading contender for the party's presidential
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 nomination in 1860
United States presidential election, 1860
The United States presidential election of 1860 was a quadrennial election, held on November 6, 1860, for the office of President of the United States and the immediate impetus for the outbreak of the American Civil War. The nation had been divided throughout the 1850s on questions surrounding the...

yet his very outspokenness may have cost him the nomination. Despite his loss, he became a loyal member of Lincoln's wartime cabinet, and played a role in preventing foreign intervention early in the war. On the night of Lincoln's assassination
Abraham Lincoln assassination
The assassination of United States President Abraham Lincoln took place on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, as the American Civil War was drawing to a close. The assassination occurred five days after the commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee, and his battered Army of...

, he survived an attempt on his life in the conspirators' effort to decapitate the Union
Union (American Civil War)
During the American Civil War, the Union was a name used to refer to the federal government of the United States, which was supported by the twenty free states and five border slave states. It was opposed by 11 southern slave states that had declared a secession to join together to form the...

 government. As Johnson's Secretary of State, he engineered the purchase of Alaska from Russia in an act that was ridiculed at the time as "Seward's Folly
Alaska purchase
The Alaska Purchase was the acquisition of the Alaska territory by the United States from Russia in 1867 by a treaty ratified by the Senate. The purchase, made at the initiative of United States Secretary of State William H. Seward, gained of new United States territory...

", but which somehow exemplified his character. His contemporary Carl Schurz
Carl Schurz
Carl Christian Schurz was a German revolutionary, American statesman and reformer, and Union Army General in the American Civil War. He was also an accomplished journalist, newspaper editor and orator, who in 1869 became the first German-born American elected to the United States Senate.His wife,...

 described Seward as "one of those spirits who sometimes will go ahead of public opinion instead of tamely following its footprints."

Early life and career


Seward was born in Florida, New York
Florida, Orange County, New York
Florida is a village in Orange County, New York, United States. The population was 2,757 at the 2007 census estimates. It is part of the Poughkeepsie–Newburgh–Middletown, NY Metropolitan Statistical Area as well as the larger New York–Newark–Bridgeport, NY-NJ-CT-PA Combined...

, on May 16, 1801, one of five children of Samuel Sweezy Seward and his wife Mary Jennings Seward. Samuel Seward, described as "a prosperous, domineering doctor and businessman," was the founder of the S. S. Seward Institute
S. S. Seward Institute
S. S. Seward Institute is the secondary school in the Florida Union Free School District in Orange County, New York, USA. It is located along Main Street in the village of Florida and referred to locally as just "Seward"....

, today a secondary school
Secondary education
Secondary education is the stage of education following primary education. Secondary education includes the final stage of compulsory education and in many countries it is entirely compulsory. The next stage of education is usually college or university...

 in the Florida Union Free School District.

Seward served as president of the S.S. Seward Institute after the death of his father, even while serving as Secretary of State during the Lincoln and Johnson administrations.

Seward studied law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 at Union College
Union College
Union College is a private, non-denominational liberal arts college located in Schenectady, New York, United States. Founded in 1795, it was the first institution of higher learning chartered by the New York State Board of Regents. In the 19th century, it became the "Mother of Fraternities", as...

, graduating in 1820 with highest honors, and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He was admitted to the New York State Bar
New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association , with 77,000 members, is the largest voluntary bar association in the United States.-History:The State Bar was founded with a constitution that dates to 1877...

 in 1821. In that same year, he met Frances Adeline Miller
Frances Adeline Seward
Frances Adeline Miller Seward was born in 1805, the daughter of Judge Elijah Miller and Hannah Foote Miller. She studied at the Troy Female Seminary . She married New York attorney William Henry Seward on October 20, 1824 after meeting through his sister, a classmate, in 1821...

, a classmate of his sister Cornelia at Emma Willard's
Emma Willard
Emma Hart Willard was an American women’s rights activist who dedicated her life to education. She worked in several schools and founded the first school for women’s higher education, the Troy Female Seminary in Troy, New York...

 Troy Female Seminary
Emma Willard School
The Emma Willard School, originally called Troy Female Seminary and often referred to simply as "Emma," is an independent university-preparatory day and boarding school for young women, located in Troy, New York on Mount Ida, offering grades 9-12 and postgraduate coursework...

 and the daughter of Judge Elijah Miller
Elijah Miller
Elijah Miller was a lawyer and judge in Auburn, New York. His daughter, Frances Adeline Miller Seward, married future U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward in 1824. Seward was a junior partner in Miller's law practice...

 of Auburn, New York
Auburn, New York
Auburn is a city in Cayuga County, New York, United States of America. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 27,687...

. In 1823, he moved to Auburn where he entered into law partnership with Judge Miller, and married Frances Miller on October 20, 1824. They raised five children:
  • Augustus Henry Seward (1826–1876)
  • Frederick William Seward (1830–1915)
  • Cornelia Seward (1836–1837)
  • William Henry Seward, Jr. (1839–1920)
  • Frances Adeline "Fanny" Seward
    Frances Adeline "Fanny" Seward
    Frances Adeline "Fanny" Seward was the only surviving daughter of United States Secretary of State, William H. Seward and his wife Frances Adeline Miller...

     (1844–1866)
  • Olive Risley Seward
    Olive Risley Seward
    Olive Risley Seward was the adopted daughter of William Henry Seward, United States Secretary of State under Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.-Life and career:...

     (1841–1908), adopted


Seward entered politics with the help of his friend Thurlow Weed
Thurlow Weed
Thurlow Weed was a New York newspaper publisher, politician, and party boss. He was the principal political advisor to the prominent New York politician William H...

, whom he had met by chance after a stagecoach accident. In 1830, Seward was elected to the state senate as an Anti-Masonic
Anti-Masonic Party
The Anti-Masonic Party was the first "third party" in the United States. It strongly opposed Freemasonry and was founded as a single-issue party aspiring to become a major party....

 candidate, and served for four years. In 1834, the 33-year-old Seward was named the Whig party
Whig Party (United States)
The Whig Party was a political party of the United States during the era of Jacksonian democracy. Considered integral to the Second Party System and operating from the early 1830s to the mid-1850s, the party was formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson and his Democratic...

 candidate for Governor of New York
Governor of New York
The Governor of the State of New York is the chief executive of the State of New York. The governor is the head of the executive branch of New York's state government and the commander-in-chief of the state's military and naval forces. The officeholder is afforded the courtesy title of His/Her...

, but lost to incumbent Democrat William Marcy who won 52% of the vote to Seward's 48%.

From 1836 to 1838, Seward served as agent for a group of investors who had purchased the over 3 million acres (12,140.6 km²) western New York holdings of the Holland Land Company
Holland Land Company
The Holland Land Company was a purchaser of the western two-thirds of the western New York land tract known as the Phelps and Gorham Purchase. This tract was known thereafter as The Holland Purchase...

. He moved the land office from Mayville, NY to Westfield, New York
Westfield (village), New York
Westfield is a village in Chautauqua County, New York, United States. USA. The population was 3,481 at the 2010 census.The Village of Westfield lies within the Town of Westfield in the northern part of the county...

, where he was successful in easing tensions between the investors and local landowners. On July 16, 1837, he delivered to the students and faculty of the newly formed Westfield Academy a Discourse on Education, in which he advocated for universal education.

In 1838, Seward again challenged Marcy, and was elected Governor of New York by a majority of 51.4% to Marcy's 48.6%. He was narrowly re-elected to a second two-year term in 1840. As a state senator and governor, Seward promoted progressive political policies including prison reform and increased spending on education. He supported state funding for schools for immigrants operated by their own clergy and taught in their native language. This support, which included Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 parochial school
Parochial school
A parochial school is a school that provides religious education in addition to conventional education. In a narrower sense, a parochial school is a Christian grammar school or high school which is part of, and run by, a parish.-United Kingdom:...

s, came back to haunt him in the 1850s, when anti-Catholic feelings were high, especially among ex-Whigs in the Republican Party.
Seward developed his views about slavery while still a boy. His parents, like other Hudson Valley residents of the early 19th century, owned several slaves. (Slavery was slowly abolished in New York from 1797 to 1827 through a gradual mandated process.) Seward recalled his preference as a child for the company and conversation of the slaves in his father’s kitchen to the 'severe decorum' in his family's front parlor. He discerned very quickly the inequality between races, writing in later years "I early came to the conclusion that something was wrong…and [that] determined me…to be an abolitionist." This belief would stay with Seward through his life and permeate his career.

Seward’s wife Frances was deeply committed to the abolitionist movement. In the 1850s, the Seward family opened their Auburn home as a safehouse to fugitive slaves. Seward’s frequent travel and political work suggest that it was Frances who played the more active role in Auburn abolitionist activities. In the excitement following the rescue and safe transport of fugitive slave William "Jerry" Henry in Syracuse on October 1, 1851, Frances wrote to her husband, "two fugitives have gone to Canada—one of them our acquaintance John." Another time she wrote, "A man by the name of William Johnson will apply to you for assistance to purchase the freedom of his daughter. You will see that I have given him something by his book. I told him I thought you would give him more."

In 1846 Seward became the center of controversy in his hometown when he defended, in separate cases, two convicts accused of murder. Henry Wyatt, a white man, was charged in the stabbing death of a fellow prison inmate; William Freeman, of African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 and Native American
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 ancestry, was accused of breaking into a home and stabbing four people to death. In both cases the defendants were mentally ill and had been severely abused while in prison. Seward, having long been an advocate of prison reform and better treatment for the insane, sought to prevent both men from being executed by using a relatively new defense of insanity. In a case involving mental illness with heavy racial overtones Seward argued, "The color of the prisoner’s skin, and the form of his features, are not impressed upon the spiritual immortal mind which works beneath. In spite of human pride, he is still your brother, and mine, in form and color accepted and approved by his Father, and yours, and mine, and bears equally with us the proudest inheritance of our race—the image of our Maker. Hold him then to be a Man."

Later, Seward quoted Freeman’s brother-in-law, praising his eloquence: "They have made William Freeman what he is, a brute beast; they don’t make anything else of any of our people but brute beasts; but when we violate their laws, then they want to punish us as if we were men." In the end both men were convicted. Although Wyatt was executed, Freeman, whose conviction was reversed on Seward's successful appeal to the New York Supreme Court
New York Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of the State of New York is the trial-level court of general jurisdiction in thestate court system of New York, United States. There is a supreme court in each of New York State's 62 counties, although some smaller counties share judges with neighboring counties...

, died in his cell of tuberculosis.

United States Senator and Presidential Candidate



Seward supported the Whig candidate, General Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States and an American military leader. Initially uninterested in politics, Taylor nonetheless ran as a Whig in the 1848 presidential election, defeating Lewis Cass...

, in the presidential election of 1848. He said of Taylor, "He is the most gentle-looking and amiable of men." Taylor was a slaveholding plantation owner, but was friendly to Seward anyway.

William Seward was elected as U.S. Senator from New York as a Whig in 1849
United States Senate election in New York, 1849
The 1849 United States Senate election in New York was held on February 6, 1849, by the New York State Legislature to elect a U.S. Senator to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.-Background:...

, and emerged as the leader of the anti-slavery "Conscience Whigs". Seward opposed the Compromise of 1850
Compromise of 1850
The Compromise of 1850 was a package of five bills, passed in September 1850, which defused a four-year confrontation between the slave states of the South and the free states of the North regarding the status of territories acquired during the Mexican-American War...

, and was thought to have encouraged Taylor in his supposed opposition. More recent scholarship suggests that Taylor was not under Seward's influence and would have accepted the Compromise if he had not died.
Seward believed that slavery was morally wrong, and said so many times, outraging Southerners. He acknowledged that slavery was legal under the Constitution, but denied that the Constitution recognized or protected slavery. He famously remarked in 1850 that "there is a higher law than the Constitution". He continued to argue this point of view over the next ten years. He presented himself as the leading enemy of the Slave Power
Slave power
The Slave Power was a term used in the Northern United States to characterize the political power of the slaveholding class of the South....

that is, the perceived conspiracy of southern slaveowners to seize the government and defeat the progress of liberty.

Seward was an opponent of the Fugitive Slave Act, and he defended runaway slaves in court. He supported personal liberty laws
Personal liberty laws
.....The personal liberty laws were a series of laws passed by several U.S. states in the North in respone to the Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850.-Origins:...

.

In February 1855
United States Senate election in New York, 1855
The 1855 United States Senate election in New York was held on February 6, 1855, by the New York State Legislature to elect a U.S. Senator to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.-Background:William H...

, he was re-elected as a Whig to the U.S. Senate, and joined the Republican Party when the New York Whigs merged with the Anti-Nebraskans
Anti-Nebraska Party
The Anti-Nebraska Party was an American political party formed in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Its founders, including Salmon P. Chase, held deep moral opposition to slavery, and were thus appalled by legislation that could lead to more slave-holding states...

 later the same year. Seward did not seriously compete for the presidential nomination (won by John C. Frémont
John C. Frémont
John Charles Frémont , was an American military officer, explorer, and the first candidate of the anti-slavery Republican Party for the office of President of the United States. During the 1840s, that era's penny press accorded Frémont the sobriquet The Pathfinder...

) in 1856, but sought and was expected to receive the nomination in 1860. In October 1858, he delivered a famous speech in which he argued that the political and economic systems of North and South were incompatible, and that, due to this "irrepressible conflict," the inevitable "collision" of the two systems would eventually result in the nation becoming "either entirely a slaveholding nation, or entirely a free-labor nation." Like Lincoln, he believed slavery could and should be extinguished by long-run historical forces rather than by coercion or war.

In 1859, confident of gaining the presidential nomination and advised by his political ally and friend Thurlow Weed that he would be better off avoiding political gatherings where his words might be misinterpreted by one faction or another, Seward left the country for an eight-month tour of Europe that included a visit to Syria, where Ayub Beg Tarabulsy gave him several Arabian horses. During that hiatus, his lesser-known rival Abraham Lincoln worked diligently to line up support in case Seward failed to win on the first ballot. After returning to the United States, Seward gave a conciliatory, pro-Union Senate speech that reassured moderates but alienated some radical Republicans. (Observing events from Europe, Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

, who was ideologically sympathetic to Frémont, contemptuously regarded Seward as a "Republican Richelieu" and the "Demosthenes
Demosthenes
Demosthenes was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by...

 of the Republican Party" who had sabotaged Frémont's presidential ambitions.) Around the same time, his friend Horace Greeley
Horace Greeley
Horace Greeley was an American newspaper editor, a founder of the Liberal Republican Party, a reformer, a politician, and an outspoken opponent of slavery...

 turned against him, opposing Seward on the grounds that his radical reputation made him unelectable. When Lincoln won the nomination, Seward loyally supported him and made a long speaking tour of the West in the autumn of 1860.

Secretary of State


"Our population is destined to roll its resistless waves to the icy barriers of the north, and to encounter oriental civilization on the shores of the Pacific." —William H. Seward, 1846

Abraham Lincoln appointed Seward his Secretary of State in 1861. Seward played an integral role in resolving the Trent Affair
Trent affair
The Trent Affair, also known as the Mason and Slidell Affair, was an international diplomatic incident that occurred during the American Civil War...

 and in negotiating the ensuing Lyons-Seward Treaty of 1862
Lyons-Seward Treaty of 1862
The Treaty between the United States and Great Britain for the Suppression of the Slave Trade, also known as the Lyons-Seward Treaty, was a treaty entered into between the United States and Great Britain. It was negotiated by U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward and British Ambassador to the...

, which set forth strong measures by which the United States and Great Britain agreed to enforce an end to the Atlantic slave trade
Atlantic slave trade
The Atlantic slave trade, also known as the trans-atlantic slave trade, refers to the trade in slaves that took place across the Atlantic ocean from the sixteenth through to the nineteenth centuries...

.

Seward pursued his vision of American expansion. "Give me only this assurance, that there never be an unlawful resistance by an armed force to the ... United States, and give me fifty, forty, thirty more years of life, and I will engage to give you the possession of the American continent and the control of the world." Having argued for taking American possession of vulnerable but useful places such as the Danish West Indies
Danish West Indies
The Danish West Indies or "Danish Antilles", were a colony of Denmark-Norway and later Denmark in the Caribbean. They were sold to the United States in 1916 in the Treaty of the Danish West Indies and became the United States Virgin Islands in 1917...

, Samaná
Samaná
Samaná is a province of the Dominican Republic. Its capital is Santa Bárbara de Samaná, usually known as Samaná.Samaná is located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in the northeastern part of the Dominican Republic. It is known for its mountains of which it is almost entirely formed...

, Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

, and Hawaii, Seward oversaw the annexation of only one, that of the Brook Islands
Midway Atoll
Midway Atoll is a atoll in the North Pacific Ocean, near the northwestern end of the Hawaiian archipelago, about one-third of the way between Honolulu, Hawaii, and Tokyo, Japan. Unique among the Hawaiian islands, Midway observes UTC-11 , eleven hours behind Coordinated Universal Time and one hour...

 in 1867. Despite minimal Congressional support, though, he developed American influence in the Hawaiian Islands
Hawaiian Islands
The Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and undersea seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 1,500 miles from the island of Hawaii in the south to northernmost Kure Atoll...

, as well as in Japan and China to some extent.

Despite his endorsement of expansionist policies, Seward also strongly advocated non-interventionism
Non-interventionism
Nonintervention or non-interventionism is a foreign policy which holds that political rulers should avoid alliances with other nations, but still retain diplomacy, and avoid all wars not related to direct self-defense...

. After Tsar Alexander II
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II , also known as Alexander the Liberator was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881...

 put down the 1863 January Uprising
January Uprising
The January Uprising was an uprising in the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth against the Russian Empire...

 in Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, French Emperor Napoleon III asked the United States to "join in a protest to the Tsar." Seward declined, "defending 'our policy of non-intervention
United States non-interventionism
Non-interventionism, the diplomatic policy whereby a nation seeks to avoid alliances with other nations in order to avoid being drawn into wars not related to direct territorial self-defense, has had a long history in the United States...

 — straight, absolute, and peculiar as it may seem to other nations,'" and insisted that "[t]he American people must be content to recommend the cause of human progress by the wisdom with which they should exercise the powers of self-government, forbearing at all times, and in every way, from foreign alliances, intervention, and interference."

Assassination attempt



On April 14, 1865, Lewis Powell
Lewis Powell (assassin)
Lewis Thornton Powell , also known as Lewis Paine or Payne, attempted unsuccessfully to assassinate United States Secretary of State William H...

, an associate of John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth was an American stage actor who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865. Booth was a member of the prominent 19th century Booth theatrical family from Maryland and, by the 1860s, was a well-known actor...

, attempted to assassinate Seward, the same night that Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 was shot. Powell gained access to Seward's home by telling a servant, William H. Bell, that he was delivering medicine for Seward, who was recovering from a recent carriage accident on April 5, 1865. Powell started up the stairs when then confronted by one of Seward's sons, Frederick. He told the intruder that his father was asleep and Powell began to start down the stairs, but suddenly swung around and pointed a gun at Frederick's head. After the gun jammed, Powell panicked, then repeatedly struck Frederick over the head with the pistol, leaving Frederick in critical condition on the floor.


Powell then burst into William Seward's bedroom with a knife and stabbed him several times in the face and neck. Powell also attacked and injured another son (Augustus), a soldier and nurse (Sgt. George Robinson) who had been assigned to stay with Seward, and a messenger (Emerick Hansell) who arrived just as Powell was escaping. Luckily all five men that were injured that night survived, although Seward Sr. would carry the facial scars from the attack through his remaining life. The events of that night took their toll on his wife, Frances, who died June 1865. His daughter Fanny died of tuberculosis in October 1866.

Powell was captured the next day and was executed on July 7, 1865, along with David Herold
David Herold
David Edgar Herold was an accomplice of John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. After guiding fellow conspirator Lewis Powell to the home of Secretary of State William H. Seward, whom Powell intended to kill, Herold fled and rendezvoused outside of Washington, D.C., with Booth...

, George Atzerodt
George Atzerodt
George Andreas Atzerodt was a conspirator, with John Wilkes Booth, in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Assigned to assassinate Vice-President Andrew Johnson, he lost his nerve and did not make an attempt. He was executed along with three other conspirators by hanging.-Early life:Atzerodt...

, and Mary Surratt
Mary Surratt
Mary Elizabeth Jenkins Surratt was an American boarding house owner who was convicted of taking part in the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Sentenced to death, she was hanged, becoming the first woman executed by the United States federal government. She was the mother of John H...

, the three others convicted as conspirators in the Lincoln assassination.

Although it took Seward several months to recover from his wounds, he emerged as a major force in the administration of the new president, Andrew Johnson, frequently defending his more moderate reconciliation policies towards the South, to the point of enraging Radical Republicans who had once regarded Seward as their ally.

In the fall of 1866, Seward joined Johnson, as well as Ulysses S. Grant and the young General George Armstrong Custer, along with several other administration figures, on the president's ill-fated "Swing Around the Circle" campaign trip.

At one point Seward became so ill, probably from cholera, that he was sent back to Washington in a special car. Both Johnson and Grant, as well as several members of the Seward family, thought the Secretary was near death. But as with his April 1865 stabbing, Seward surprised many by making a good recovery.

The purchase of Alaska



Seward's most famous achievement as Secretary of State was his successful acquisition of Alaska
Alaska purchase
The Alaska Purchase was the acquisition of the Alaska territory by the United States from Russia in 1867 by a treaty ratified by the Senate. The purchase, made at the initiative of United States Secretary of State William H. Seward, gained of new United States territory...

 from Russia. On March 30, 1867, he completed negotiations for the territory, which involved the purchase of 586,412 square miles (1,518,800 km²) of territory (more than twice the area of Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

) for $7,200,000, or approximately 2 cents per acre (equivalent to US$95 million in 2005). The purchase of this frontier land was variously mocked by the public as Seward's Folly, "Seward's Icebox," and Andrew Johnson's "polar bear garden." Alaska celebrates the purchase on Seward's Day
Seward's Day
Seward's Day is a legal holiday in the U.S. state of Alaska. It falls on the last Monday in March and commemorates the signing of the Alaska Purchase treaty on March 30, 1867. It is named for then-Secretary of State William H...

, the last Monday of March. When asked what he considered to be his greatest achievement as Secretary of State, Seward replied "The purchase of Alaska—but it will take the people a generation to find it out".

Later life


Seward retired as Secretary of State after Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

 took office as president. During his last years, Seward traveled and wrote prolifically. Most notably, he traveled around the world in fourteen months and two days from August, 1870 to October, 1871. On October 10, 1872, Seward died in his office in his home
William H. Seward House
The William H. Seward House was the home of William H. Seward, who was a state senator, governor of New York, U.S. senator, presidential candidate, and then Secretary of State under presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson...

 in Auburn, New York
Auburn, New York
Auburn is a city in Cayuga County, New York, United States of America. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 27,687...

, after having difficulty breathing. His last words were to his children saying, "Love one another." He was buried in Fort Hill Cemetery
Fort Hill Cemetery
Fort Hill Cemetery, founded in 1851, is a cemetery located in downtown Auburn, New York. It features headstones of such notable people as William H. Seward with his son, William H. Seward, Jr....

 in Auburn, New York, with his wife and two children, Cornelia and Fanny. His headstone reads, "He was faithful."
His son, Frederick, edited and published his memoirs in three volumes.

In 1967, a century after the Alaska Purchase, the actor
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

, Joseph Cotten
Joseph Cotten
Joseph Cheshire Cotten was an American actor of stage and film. Cotten achieved prominence on Broadway, starring in the original productions of The Philadelphia Story and Sabrina Fair...

, portrayed Seward in "The Freeman Story", a part of his NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

 anthology series, The Joseph Cotten Show
The Joseph Cotten Show
The Joseph Cotten Show is an American anthology series series hosted by and occasionally starring Joseph Cotten. The series, which first aired on NBC, aired 31 episodes from September 14, 1956, to September 13, 1957...

. Virginia Gregg
Virginia Gregg
Virginia Gregg Burket was an American actress best known for her many roles in radio dramas.Born in Harrisburg, Illinois, Virginia Gregg was the daughter of musician Dewey Alphaleta and businessman Edward William Gregg.-Radio:Gregg was a prolific radio actor, heard on such programs as The...

 played Fanny Seward. Popular actor, Richard Mulligan
Richard Mulligan
Richard Mulligan was an American television and film actor best known for his role as Burt Campbell in the 1970s sitcom Soap and later as Dr. Harry Weston on The Golden Girls and its spin-off Empty Nest.-Early life:He was born in New York City, the younger brother of director Robert Mulligan...

, portrayed William Seward in the 1988 Lincoln mini-series, "Random Letters".

Seward's homes in Auburn and Florida, New York


Seward and his family owned a home in Auburn, New York
Auburn, New York
Auburn is a city in Cayuga County, New York, United States of America. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 27,687...

 which is now a museum; it was built in 1816 by Seward's father-in-law, Judge Elijah Miller. Seward married the Judge's daughter, Frances, in 1824 on the condition that they would live with Miller in his Auburn home. Seward made many changes to the home, adding an addition in the late 1840s and another one in 1866. When he died, Seward left the home to his son, William Seward, Jr.; it passed on to his grandson, William Henry Seward III, in 1920. At his death in 1951, it became a museum that opened to the public in 1955. Four generations of the family's artifacts are contained within the museum, located at 33 South Street in Auburn. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm.
Meanwhile, Seward's birthplace in Florida, New York
Florida, New York
Florida is the name of some places in the U.S. state of New York:*Florida, Montgomery County, New York, a town*Florida, Orange County, New York, a village...

 was bought by the village in 2010, with the purpose of refurbishing it. (The property actually contains two houses: one in back—Seward's actual birthplace—which was converted into a barn; and one in front, built in the 1890s, used by the family that lived there for many years.) The property (after spending an estimated $200,000, to be raised by private donations) is expected to be turned into a museum and opened to the public by 2013.

Legacy

  • The purchase of Alaska
    Alaska purchase
    The Alaska Purchase was the acquisition of the Alaska territory by the United States from Russia in 1867 by a treaty ratified by the Senate. The purchase, made at the initiative of United States Secretary of State William H. Seward, gained of new United States territory...

    .
  • The Guano Islands Act of 1856
    Guano Islands Act
    The Guano Islands Act is federal legislation passed by the U.S. Congress, on August 18, 1856. It enables citizens of the U.S. to take possession of islands containing guano deposits. The islands can be located anywhere, so long as they are not occupied and not within the jurisdiction of other...

  • The $50-dollar Treasury note, also called the Coin note, of the Series 1891, features a portrait of Seward on the obverse. Examples of this note are very rare and would likely sell for about $50,000 at auction.
  • His house
    William H. Seward House
    The William H. Seward House was the home of William H. Seward, who was a state senator, governor of New York, U.S. senator, presidential candidate, and then Secretary of State under presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson...

     in Auburn, New York
    Auburn, New York
    Auburn is a city in Cayuga County, New York, United States of America. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 27,687...

     is open as a public museum.
  • The house in which he lived in Westfield, New York
    Westfield (village), New York
    Westfield is a village in Chautauqua County, New York, United States. USA. The population was 3,481 at the 2010 census.The Village of Westfield lies within the Town of Westfield in the northern part of the county...

     is now home to a bed and breakfast.
  • He was a name partner of the law firm of Blatchford, Seward & Griswold, today known as Cravath, Swaine & Moore
    Cravath, Swaine & Moore
    Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP is a prominent American law firm based in New York City, with an additional office in London. The second oldest firm in the country, Cravath was founded in 1819 and consistently ranks first among the world's most prestigious law firms according to a survey of partners,...

    .
  • Was famous in his lifetime for his red hair and energetic way of walking. Henry Adams described him as "wonderfully resembling" a parrot in "manner and profile".

Memorials




  • Seward Avenue in Auburn. Also in Auburn, Frances Street, Augustus Street, and Frederick Street are named for members of his family. The four streets form a block.
  • Seward Elementary School in Auburn.
  • Seward Place in Schenectady, New York
    Schenectady, New York
    Schenectady is a city in Schenectady County, New York, United States, of which it is the county seat. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 66,135...

    , on the west side of the Union College campus.
  • Seward Park in Auburn, New York.
  • Seward Park
    Seward Park (Manhattan)
    Seward Park is a public park and playground in the Lower East Side of the New York City borough of Manhattan, north of East Broadway, east of Essex Street...

     in the Lower East Side
    Lower East Side
    The Lower East Side, LES, is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is roughly bounded by Allen Street, East Houston Street, Essex Street, Canal Street, Eldridge Street, East Broadway, and Grand Street....

     of Manhattan
    Manhattan
    Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

    .
  • Seward Park
    Seward Park (Seattle)
    Seward Park is a 300 acre park in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A., that occupies all of Bailey Peninsula, a forested peninsula off south Seattle that juts into Lake Washington....

     in Seattle, Washington
    Seattle, Washington
    Seattle is the county seat of King County, Washington. With 608,660 residents as of the 2010 Census, Seattle is the largest city in the Northwestern United States. The Seattle metropolitan area of about 3.4 million inhabitants is the 15th largest metropolitan area in the country...

    .
  • Seward Square park in Washington, D.C.
    Washington, D.C.
    Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

    .
  • The Seward Peninsula
    Seward Peninsula
    The Seward Peninsula is a large peninsula on the western coast of the U.S. state of Alaska. It projects about into the Bering Sea between Norton Sound, the Bering Strait, the Chukchi Sea, and Kotzebue Sound, just below the Arctic Circle...

     in Alaska.
  • City of Seward, on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula
  • Seward, Illinois
    Seward, Illinois
    Seward is an unincorporated community in Winnebago County, Illinois, and is located west of Rockford. It is part of the Rockford, Illinois Metropolitan Statistical Area....

    ; Seward, Kansas
    Seward, Kansas
    Seward is a city in Stafford County, Kansas, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 64.The city should not be confused with the Seward County.-Geography:Seward is located at...

    ; Seward, New York
    Seward, New York
    Seward is a town in Schoharie County, New York, United States. The population was 1,637 at the 2000 census. The town is named after senator, governor, and secretary of state William H...

    ; Seward, Nebraska
    Seward, Nebraska
    Seward is a city in Seward County, Nebraska, United States. It is part of the Lincoln, Nebraska Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 6,133 at the 2000 census...

    ; and Seward, Alaska
    Seward, Alaska
    Seward is a city in Kenai Peninsula Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. According to 2005 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city is 3,016....

    .
  • A hamburger is called "Seward's Folly" at West Rib Deli & Pub in Talkeetna, Alaska
    Talkeetna, Alaska
    Talkeetna is a census-designated place in Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska, United States. It is part of the Anchorage, Alaska Metropolitan Statistical Area. At the 2000 census the population was 772.-Geography:...

     is named for him.
  • Seward County, Nebraska
    Seward County, Nebraska
    -Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 16,496 people, 6,013 households, and 4,215 families residing in the county. The population density was 29 people per square mile . There were 6,428 housing units at an average density of 11 per square mile...

  • Seward's Success, Alaska
    Seward's Success, Alaska
    Seward's Success was an unbuilt planned community proposed for construction in Point MacKenzie, north of Anchorage, Alaska, United States. To be built across the Knik Arm, the megaproject gained a degree of international notoriety as it was to have been climate-controlled, completely enclosed with...

    , an unbuilt community to be enclosed by a dome.
  • The Seward
    Seward, Minneapolis
    The Seward neighborhood in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., is geographically southeast of downtown and defined by the triangle of land bordered by Hiawatha Avenue to the west, Minneapolis Midtown Greenway to the south, the Mississippi River to the east, and Interstate 94 to the north...

     neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota
    Minneapolis, Minnesota
    Minneapolis , nicknamed "City of Lakes" and the "Mill City," is the county seat of Hennepin County, the largest city in the U.S. state of Minnesota, and the 48th largest in the United States...

  • Seward Mountain (4,361 feet, 1,329 m), one of the Adirondack High Peaks, the highest point in Franklin County
    Franklin County, New York
    Franklin County is a county located in the U.S. state of New York. As of the 2010 census, the population was 51,599. It is named in honor of American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin...

    .
  • At Union College, the campus bus is known as Seward's Trolley, a pun on Seward's Folly.
  • Seward High School in his hometown of Florida is named for his father, Dr. Samuel Seward.
  • Statues of him in Seward Park in Auburn, in Madison Square Park in New York City, on the grounds of the Z. J. Loussac Public Library in Anchorage, Alaska
    Anchorage, Alaska
    Anchorage is a unified home rule municipality in the southcentral part of the U.S. state of Alaska. It is the northernmost major city in the United States...

    , and in Volunteer Park
    Volunteer Park (Seattle)
    Volunteer Park is a 48.3 acre park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, USA.-History:Volunteer Park was acquired by the city of Seattle for $2,000 in 1876 from J.M. Colman...

     in Seattle (not facing towards Alaska).
  • The William Henry Seward Memorial
    William Henry Seward Memorial
    The William Henry Seward Memorial is located along Main Street in downtown Florida, New York, United States. It commemorates the life of Seward, a Florida native whose career in public service culminated with his tenure as Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln, in which capacity he negotiated...

     in Florida, with a bust sculpted by Daniel Chester French
    Daniel Chester French
    Daniel Chester French was an American sculptor. His best-known work is the sculpture of a seated Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.-Life and career:...

    .
  • Seward Park Housing Corporation, a housing cooperative
    Housing cooperative
    A housing cooperative is a legal entity—usually a corporation—that owns real estate, consisting of one or more residential buildings. Each shareholder in the legal entity is granted the right to occupy one housing unit, sometimes subject to an occupancy agreement, which is similar to a lease. ...

     in the Lower East Side
    Lower East Side
    The Lower East Side, LES, is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is roughly bounded by Allen Street, East Houston Street, Essex Street, Canal Street, Eldridge Street, East Broadway, and Grand Street....

     of Manhattan
    Manhattan
    Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

  • Seward Mansion in Mount Olive, NJ
  • The Auburn Doubledays
    Auburn Doubledays
    The Auburn Doubledays are a minor league baseball team in Auburn, New York, USA, that is owned and operated by Auburn Community Baseball. They are a member of the Short-Season Class A New York-Penn League and have been a farm team of the Houston Astros , the Toronto Blue Jays , and Washington...

     minor league baseball team gave away William Seward bobble-head dolls as a promotion in 2010.

Works




Further reading


[information about Seward's accident and jaw splint, in particular]

External links


Retrieved on 2009-04-30