Seward and Lincoln were the two most important leaders spawned by the intersection of antebellum idealism and partisan politics. Lincoln, of course, will always overshadow Seward. Before 1860, however, Seward eclipsed Lincoln. Seward was governor of New York while Lincoln toiled in the Illinois legislature; Seward was the most prominent antislavery leader in the U.S. Senate when Lincoln's national stature, such as it was, resulted from a strong but losing Senate race. The war that Seward did his utmost to prevent bound together the oddly juxtaposed duo. At once fulfilling the most explosive promise of the liberal reform agenda and at the same time shattering hopes that moral suasion and enlightened amelioration could propel the engines of political change, war taught Lincoln and Seward that all ultimately depended on having stronger, more durable armies. The would-be "peacemaker," memorably celebrated during the secession crisis by the Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier, had to protect from foreign interference a Union war effort that employed unlimited violence to destroy the slave system. Perhaps fittingly, Seward remained ambivalent about his legacy.
Daniel W. Crofts, "Seward, William Henry," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-00898.html.
SEWARD, William Henry, a Senator from New York; born in Florida, Orange County, N.Y., on May 16, 1801; after preparatory studies, graduated from Union College in 1820; studied law; admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Auburn, N.Y., 1823; member, State senate 1830-1834; unsuccessful Whig candidate for governor in 1834; Governor of New York 1838-1842; elected as a Whig to the United States Senate in 1849; reelected as a Republican in 1855 and served from March 4, 1849, to March 3, 1861; unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 1860; Secretary of State in the Cabinets of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson 1861-1869; while Secretary of State concluded the convention with Great Britain for the settlement of the Alabama claims and the treaty with Russia for the purchase of Alaska; died in Auburn, Cayuga County, N.Y., October 10, 1872; interment in Fort Hill Cemetery.
"Seward, William Henry," Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=S000261.
William Henry Seward was one of the most powerful men in the federal government, second only to [President Abraham] Lincoln and perhaps [Secretary of War] Edwin Stanton. His three-story town home across from the White House on Lafayette Park was symbolic of his important station. Seward reportedly once boasted that if he rang a bell on his right hand, a man from Illinois would be arrested; a ring on his left, and a man in New York would be dead. Whether he said such words or not didn’t matter; people believed he said them, and, more important, many people believed he had used such dread power.
And yet, the small, slight, secretary of state could be at once both courteous and gracious. He was even wont to bow politely to everyone he met, including strangers. Seward was also in the habit of hiding his true emotions. One need not look to the secretary’s face for a display of happiness or joy, of sorrow or sadness, or…of shock or anger.
Thomas Goodrich, The Darkest Dawn: Lincoln, Booth, and the Great American Tragedy (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005), 54-55.