Seward, William Henry

Life Span
    Full name
    William Henry Seward
    Place of Birth
    Birth Date Certainty
    Death Date Certainty
    Sectional choice
    Free State
    No. of Spouses
    No. of Children
    Samuel Sweezy Seward (father), Mary Jennings (mother), Frances Adeline Miller (wife, 1824), Frederick William Seward (son), William Henry Seward, Jr. (son), Olive Risley Seward (adopted daughter)
    Other Education
    Union College
    Attorney or Judge
    Relation to Slavery
    White non-slaveholder
    Other Political Party
    Antimasonic party

    William Henry Seward (American National Biography)

    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,

    William Henry Seward (Congressional Biographical Directory)

    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,

    William Henry Seward, Secretary of State (Goodrich, 2005)

    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.
    Date Event
    William Seward is born in Florida, New York
    Senator Seward gives his famous "irrepressible conflict" speech in Rochester, New York
    Senator Seward sails for Europe on a mission to "recruit his health" and study "Old World" institutions
    Senator Seward of New York returns to the United States from Europe
    The returned Senator Seward meets his New York City contituents
    Cassius Clay speaks for more than three hours from the Capitol steps in Frankfort, Kentucky
    Wisconsin Republicans support William Seward for President
    Massachusetts Republicans make William H. Seward their first choice for President
    New York State Republican Convention selects William H. Seward as its choice for President
    - Republican National Convention meets in Chicago, Illinois
    Senator W.H. Seward speaks in Detroit on a campaign swing for Republicans in Michigan
    Senator Seward campaigns for the Republican Party in St. Joseph, Missouri
    Campaigning in Kansas, Senator Seward receives a hero's welcome at Lawrence
    William H. Seward continues his stumping tour for Republicans in Cleveland, Ohio
    W.H. Seward arrives home in Auburn, New York after his Midwestern electioneering tour
    Abraham Lincoln writes to offer William Henry Seward the post of Secretary of State in his new cabinet
    In New York City, William H. Seward says in a speech that disunion will be avoided
    New York Republicans elect Ira Harris to replace W.H. Seward in the United States Senate
    Abraham Lincoln secretly heads directly to Washington arriving in the early morning hours
    The U.S. Senate, sitting in extraordinary session, confirms all of President Lincoln's cabinet choices
    Confederate diplomats arrive in Washington DC
    In Washington, DC, Confederate diplomats request a meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State
    Secretary of State Seward refuses to recognize the Confederate diplomats sent to Washington DC
    In New York City, prominent Catholic editor James A. McMaster arrested and his journal suspended
    Secretary of State Seward urges Great Lakes governors to fortify their lakeside ports against foreign threats
    At his Washington D.C. home, General George McClellan snubs the President and Secretary of State
    Former Iowa Senator George W. Jones arrested in New York and imprisoned for suspected disloyalty
    President Lincoln, with great ceremony, visits aboard a French frigate at the Washington Navy Yard
    Secretary of State Seward tells all foreign diplomats New Orleans will soon again be open for business
    Senatorial caucus meets to discuss Cabinet crisis
    President Lincoln leaves Washington for Gettysburg and the dedication of the new National Cemetery
    The Governor of Pennsylvania misses his connection with the President at Hanover Junction
    Visitors and townsfolk serenade President Lincoln on a warm and clear Gettysburg evening
    Abraham Lincoln, on horseback, leads the procession to the new Gettysburg cemetery
    Former Vice-President George Mifflin Dallas dies of a heart attack at his home in Philadelphia
    In Philadelphia, former U. S. Vice-President George M. Dallas is buried at St. Peter's Episcopal Church
    In Washington, Secretary of State Seward is injured quite badly when thrown from his carriage
    Lewis Powell attempts to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward in Washington, DC
    George Atzerodt, failed assassin in the John Wilkes Booth conspiracy, is captured in Maryland
    Francis Adeline Seward, wife of the Secretary of State William Seward, dies of a heart attack
    In Auburn, New York, Francis Adeline Seward, wife of the Secretary of State William Seward, is laid to rest
    The Thirteenth Amendment outlawing slavery is announced as now the law of the land.
    U.S. Secretary of State William Seward meets with the president of the Dominican Republic in Santo Domingo.
    Mexican Ambassador Matias Romero meets with President Johnson seeking assistance for Mexico
    President Andrew Johnson's "Swing Around the Circle" speaking tour travels across New Jersey to New York City.
    The submarine cable between Punta Rassa and Key West completes the Washington to Havana telegraph line.
    William Seward dies in Auburn, New York
    Date Title
    Boston (MA) Advertiser, "Extradition of Fugitive Slaves," March 23, 1850
    New York Herald, "The Boston Fugitive Case," June 3, 1854
    New York Herald, “The Kansas Question and the Anti-Slavery Disorganizers,” May 15, 1855
    Abraham Lincoln to Lyman Trumbull, June 7, 1856
    Abraham Lincoln's Speech at Springfield, Illinois, June 10, 1856
    Lyman Trumbull to Abraham Lincoln, January 3, 1858
    Israel Washburn to James Shepard Pike, March 16, 1858
    Israel Washburn to James Shepard Pike, March 20, 1858
    John Wentworth to Abraham Lincoln, April 19, 1858
    Charleston (SC) Mercury, "The Rejection of Kansas," April 26, 1858
    New York Herald, “The Hon. Joshua R. Giddings vs. the Administration and the Slave Power,” June 27, 1858
    Richmond (VA) Dispatch, “A Crumb of Comfort for Mr. Seward,” June 26, 1858
    Recollection by Lew Wallace, Senator Stephen A. Douglas
    New York Times, "Presidential Candidates," July 14, 1858
    New York Herald, “The Illinois Campaign,” August 13, 1858
    New York Times, “Mr. Buchanan’s Troubles,” October 1, 1858
    Chester P. Dewey to Abraham Lincoln, October 30, 1858
    (St. Louis) Missouri Republican, “The Antagonism Between Slave and Free States,” November 4, 1858
    New York Times, "The Illinois Election," November 5, 1858
    New York Herald, “Douglas for the Presidency,” November 7, 1858
    David Davis to Abraham Lincoln, November 7, 1858
    (St. Louis) Missouri Republican, “General Blair,” November 9, 1858
    New York Herald, “The Union of the Opposition Factions,” December 10, 1858
    Recollection of Jesse W. Fell, Conversation with Abraham Lincoln in early 1859
    Charleston (SC) Mercury, “Presidential Aspirants,” January 10, 1859
    New York Herald, “The Present Congress and the Next President,” January 17, 1859
    New York Herald, “The Presidential Question,” January 24, 1859
    Bangor (ME) Whig and Courier, “A Candid Southern Opinion,” January 31, 1859
    New York Times, “The Political Future,” February 26, 1859
    Charleston (SC) Mercury, “The Union of the South,” March 9, 1859
    New York Herald, “The Anti-Slavery Tactics,” March 10, 1859
    New York Herald, “A Foreigner View of Black Republicanism,” May 1, 1859
    Boston (MA) Advertiser, “Democratic Movements,” May 10, 1859
    New York Times, “Making Too Much Haste,” May 21, 1859
    Charleston (SC) Mercury, “An Episode in the Southern Tour of Douglas,” June 10, 1859
    Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, “William H. Seward,” June 18, 1859
    Fayetteville (NC) Observer, “Folly,” July 25, 1859
    New York Herald, “The Morals of Politics,” August 7, 1859
    Charleston (SC) Mercury, “Open Declaration of Hostilities,” August 31, 1859
    New York Herald, “Stump Candidates for the Presidency,” September 11, 1859
    Carlisle (PA) American Volunteer, "Bleeding Kansas," October 27, 1859
    Fayetteville (NC) Observer, "Good Out of Evil," October 27, 1859
    Baltimore (MD) Sun, "More Harper's Ferry Disclosures," October 28, 1859
    New York Herald, “Political Excitement on the Rise,” October 30, 1859
    Fayetteville (NC) Observer, "Political Effect," October 31, 1859
    New York Herald, "Runaway Slaves in Canada," November 1, 1859
    Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, "They Have Overdone It!," November 2, 1859
    Charleston (SC) Mercury, “Mr. Douglas’ New Book,” November 4, 1859
    Boston (MA) Liberator, "Bad News for the Abolitionists," November 11, 1859
    William E. Frazer to Abraham Lincoln, November 12, 1859
    Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, "A Recoil of the Gun," November 18, 1859
    Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, "The Other Brown," December 1, 1859
    New York Herald, “The South and Southern Safety,” December 4, 1859
    Fayetteville (NC) Observer, "Gov. Seward and Harpers Ferry," December 8, 1859
    New York Herald, "The Slavery Agitation," December 10, 1859
    New York Herald, “Seward Nominated for the Presidency by the Abolitionists,” December 25, 1859
    New York Herald, "The Underground Railroad and Its Victims," January 5, 1860
    Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, “Another Grievance for Virginia,” January 11, 1860
    New York Herald, “The Senate and Messrs Hyatt and Howe,” February 25, 1860
    New York Herald, “Trouble among the Republican President Makers,” February 28, 1860
    Newark (OH) Advocate, “The Chicago Convention,” March 2, 1860
    Cleveland (OH) Herald, “Mr. Seward’s Speech,” March 3, 1860
    Bangor (ME) Whig and Courier, “Mr. Douglas’s Bid,” March 5, 1860
    Carlisle (PA) American Volunteer, "Helperism," March 15, 1860
    Robert Toombs to Alexander H. Stephens, March 16, 1860
    James A. Briggs to Salmon Portland Chase, March 17, 1860
    William Wilkins to James Watson Webb, March 26, 1860
    New York Herald, “Seward’s Opinion on the Mexican Business,” April 1, 1860
    San Francisco (CA) Evening Bulletin, “Seward the Republican Nominee,” April 25, 1860
    Newark (OH) Advocate, “‘Old Judge McLean’,” April 27, 1860
    Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, “The Coming Conventions,” May 9, 1860
    - Recollection by Henry C. Whitney, Republican National Convention, May 16-18, 1860
    Abraham Lincoln's Endorsement on the Margin of the Missouri Democrat, May 17, 1860
    Richmond (VA) Dispatch, “The Chicago Convention,” May 21, 1860
    Fayetteville (NC) Observer, "The Black Republican Nominees," May 21, 1860
    Raleigh (NC) Standard, “The Chicago Convention,” May 23, 1860
    Newark (OH) Advocate, “Lincoln and Hamlin,” May 25, 1860
    Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune,“The Fillmore Men,” May 25, 1860
    Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, “Stop Quarreling,” May 30, 1860
    Newark (OH) Advocate, “Abraham Lincoln,” June 1, 1860
    Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, “Getting Their Eyes Open,” June 11, 1860
    New York Herald, “Commencement of Republican Cabinet Making,” June 12, 1860
    New York Herald, “Trouble Among the Republicans,” August 5, 1860
    New York Herald, “'Honest Old Abe' and His Cabinet,” August 14, 1860
    New York Times, "Gov. Seward and John Brown," August 18, 1860
    New York Times, “Senator Seward in Michigan,” September 5, 1860
    New York Herald, “Massachusetts Thoroughly Abolitionized,” September 7, 1860
    New York Herald, “The Reign of Terror in Texas,” September 16, 1860
    (Montpelier) Vermont Patriot, “Don't Care,” November 3, 1860
    New York Times, "The Republicans and Slavery," November 5, 1860
    New York Times, "From the Home of Mr. Lincoln," November 8, 1860
    New York Herald, “The Meeting of Congress,” November 28, 1860
    Joseph Medill to Charles H. Ray and John Locke Scripps, January 6, 1861
    Richmond (VA) Dispatch, “The One Man Power,” January 11, 1861
    Alexander K. McClure to Abraham Lincoln, January 15, 1861
    Newark (OH) Advocate, “Obtaining Votes Under False Pretences,” January 18, 1861
    Israel Washburn Jr. to Abraham Lincoln, January 21, 1861
    New York Herald, “Greeley for Senator, Why Not?,” February 3, 1861
    Chicago (IL) Tribune, “How are the Mighty Fallen!,” February 4, 1861
    New York Herald, “More Trouble About Old Abe’s Cabinet,” February 10, 1861
    New York Herald, “Should Mr. Chase Go Into the Cabinet?,” February 27, 1861
    Atchison (KS) Freedom’s Champion, “Mr. Lincoln at Washington,” March 2, 1861
    Lydia Sayer Hasbrouck to Abraham Lincoln, March 8, 1861
    Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Prepare to Howl!,” April 10, 1861
    Entry by George Templeton Strong, April 15, 1861
    Richmond (VA) Dispatch, “Retaliation,” April 15, 1861
    Abraham Lincoln, Presidential Proclamation, April 15, 1861, Washington , DC
    John P. Crawford to Abraham Lincoln, August 10, 1861
    Alexander Galt to Amy Galt, Washington DC, December 5, 1861
    Raleigh (NC) Register, “Mr. Vallandingham’s Speech,” January 18, 1862
    Abraham Lincoln, Speech to Indians, March 27, 1863
    Charles Sumner to Abraham Lincoln, August 7, 1863
    Diary Entry by John Hay, November 11, 1864, Washington, D.C.
    Theodore M. Pomeroy to Elizabeth L.W. Pomeroy, February 1, 1865
    Edwin M. Stanton to Major General William T. Sherman, April 15, 1865
    Entry by Kate Stone, April 28, 1865
    Charges and specifications against the Lincoln Conspirators on trial in Washington, D.C., May 8, 1865
    Andrew Johnson, Amnesty Proclamation, Washington D.C., May 29, 1865
    "The Culprits," Chicago Tribune, February 23, 1866
    Chicago Style Entry Link
    Crofts, Daniel W. "A Reluctant Unionist: John A. Gilmer and Lincoln's Cabinet." Civil War History 24, no. 3 (1978): 225-249. view record
    Donald, David Herbert. "We Are Lincoln Men:" Abraham Lincoln and His Friends. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003. view record
    Forness, Norman O. “The Seward-Fillmore Feud and the U.S. Patent Office.” Historian 54, no. 2 (Winter 1992): 255-268. view record
    Hardy, William E. “South of the Border: Ulysses S. Grant and the French Intervention.” Civil War History 54, no. 1 (2008): 63-86. view record
    Sharrow, Walter G. “William Henry Seward: A Study in Nineteenth Century Politics and Nationalism, 1855-1861.” Ph.D. thesis, University of Rochester, 1964. view record
    Stegmaier, Mark J. "Intensifying the Sectional Conflict: William Seward Versus James Hammond in the Lecompton Debate of 1858." Civil War History 31, no. 3 (1985): 197-221. view record
    Valone, Stephen J. “William Henry Seward, the Virginia Controversy, and the Anti-Slavery Movement, 1839-1841.” Afro-Americans in New York Life & History 31, no. 1 (2007): 65-80. view record
    How to Cite This Page: "Seward, William Henry," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,