William Henry Seward: Lincolns Right Hand
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Compared to Mr. Lincoln, Seward was an urbane and occasionally profane man. An ambulance drawn by four mules was provided. When the party arrived on the Virginia side of the river, where the roads were rough and badly cut by artillery and army trains, the driver had so much difficulty with the team, in his efforts to prevent the wheels dropping into the ruts, that he lost his temper and began to swear; the worse the roads became, the greater his profanity. His training and habit were partisan, and his acts often impulsive; but, accustomed through his whole official life to consult a faithful friend, to whose judgment and guidance he deferred, he had not in great emergencies the self-reliance, energy, will, and force of character which are essential to a truly great and strong executive.
He sometimes acted rashly, not always wisely, But if he had not the will which is necessary for a chief, he had the sustaining qualities which are valuable in serving a capable leader with whom he might be identified. He was subordinate to Abraham Lincoln, and deferred to him as he had deferred to Thurlow Weed. According to Fred Seward, his father, searching for the president in the White House, once found him polishing his boots.
He made outrageous statements for effect and told outrageous stories for their humor. Comparing Mr. The President was greatly superior in intellectual strength and vigor, had the more solid and substantial qualities, more earnestness and sincerity, a great grasp and comprehension, a more intuitive and far-seeing sagacity, came almost instinctively to right conclusions, had more correct convictions, greater self-reliance, greater firmness of purpose, a stricter adherence to principles which he believed to be correct; points that were best understood by those who knew him best.
The people do not know and would hardly believe me if I told them their kindly feeling for each other, and the obligation of this nation to these two men for their great labors for the preservation of the Union. When it seems to divide we swerve for the moment in choosing the path. But it is clear enough now. So onward with cheer. After a period of self-reflection, Seward joined the campaign trail. Where his coming was known, large crowds gathered to see him.
Since he had become famous he had not been farther west than Cleveland and Detroit. Everywhere in the Northwest he was regarded as the greatest American statesman. In many places, even where his train or boat was to stop for merely a few minutes, thousands awaited his arrival and insisted upon his speaking to them. According to historian Emerson D. Every speech was fresh, without repetition of former utterances, and far outclassed the ordinary stump speech in fervency of utterance, literary quality, elevation of though, and great enthusiasm on the part of the auditors.
It was as the oracle of the party that Seward spoke. Lincoln, the orator scarcely mentioned, and when he did condescend to refer to the candidate. Far from it. There was no conversation. Finally, to relieve the situation, Seward made a short speech to the people and Lincoln found his way out of the car as best he could. His praise of Lincoln was generous and in perfect taste. His manner toward other candidates was above criticism, and one wonders, from the superior quality of his speeches, how they could have been delivered in an exciting public campaign.
His admirers often pointed to his bearing at this time as the best vindication of their efforts to nominate him. Neither Mr. Lincoln nor Seward often betrayed their private emotions. Like Mr. Lincoln on occasion, it was a virtual policy for Seward to be enigmatic. Seward was a master of intrigue — his positions and relationships in early was a bizarre — which apparently represented his attempt to forestall the inevitable. Seward seemed unreliable to those valued principle. Seward brought Mr. Lincoln on the Senate floor, of course on the Republican side; but soon Mr. Seward was busily running among Democrats, begging them to be introduced to Mr.
It was a saddening, humiliating and revolting sight for the galleries, where I was. Criminal as is Mason, for a minute I got reconciled to him for the scowl of horror and contempt with which he shook his head at Seward. Lincoln had early decided that Seward should be secretary of state but Seward was not so certain he wanted the job. The struggle on both these closely, linked fronts was to continue until the hour he entered the White House. After long announcement the Senate Chamber was crowded to hear what he would have to say on the political situation.
Political friends and political foes, the most conservative and the most ultra, the Abolitionist from Vermont and the fire-eater from Mississippi, all looked upon that pale, slight figure in a gray frock coat — so calm, so self-possessed, so good-natured — as the man who had but to speak the word and the country would be saved. In the Washington winter of , Seward represented compromise. Historian Ralph R. On every side the general impulse predominated to do nothing and say nothing in any manner likely to fan the flame of disunion.
Grinnell, were thoroughly alarmed by the anticipated loss of an extremely profitable Southern market. He was in the Senate in the last session of Congress wherein Jefferson Davis served — He was sure that Davis expected a peaceful dissolution of the Union. On the contrary, Seward was equally certain that if Lincoln foreshadowed his policy as expressed in his inaugural address that war would be commenced earlier, and the southern contingent in Congress would have forced some method to prevent the canvass of the electoral vote.
Seward about that time made a speech at the Astor House in New York.
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It was very conciliatory and persuasive. Lincoln was comforted by the assurances and predictions of his future minister then in the Senate, but he had apprehensions which no prophetic declarations could entirely put at rest. He had risked his good name on his conviction that Lincoln would follow his advice and surrender Sumter. Designed to reassure Northern conservatives and moderate Southerners that he was a man who could be trusted to hold the Union together, the speech was to be delivered on the Senate floor on February 29, The Republican Radicals did not like his soft tone, but the Secessionists claimed it destroyed the last hope of compromise.
Reporter Henry Stanton later recalled that Seward showed the manuscript to him before delivery and asked Stanton to write it up for the New York Tribune and to include a description of the Senate chamber while Seward was talking. Salmon P. Have you read or heard about his last speech? The mighty is fallen. He bows before the slave power.
He has trodden the way of compromise and concession, and I do not see where he can take his stand on this back track. This star also paled! That is hard. We believed in him so firmly and were so affectionately attached to him. Lincoln still stands like a stone wall. Every report from Springfield confirms my faith in him.
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A great majority of the Senate are with him, and between eight and eighty-four members of the House. Still, Seward wanted to be in control. If he could not be President, he wanted to control the President.
He worried that too many former Democrats like Salmon P. Dayton as his second choice for the State Department. On the following day Seward withdrew his resignation. Lincoln knew how entirely the hopes of the whole country are resting on yourself he would open his eyes.
War was on the way. It was bound to result from either the Sumter or the Pickens undertaking, he was sure, but he believed there would be a great difference between the Sumter and the Pickens consequences. He was particularly concerned, as always, about the probable reaction of the non-seceded slaves states. He was positive that a Sumter clash would throw most of those states, if not all of them, into seceding and joining the Confederacy. He was sanguine, however, that a Pickens clash would not have nearly so disastrous an effect. The President, never a presuming man and without much administrative experience, deferred greatly to Mr.
Seward whose characteristics were in some respects the opposite of his. Without hesitation the secretary of state was ready to direct the movements of other branches of government sometimes without even consulting with the heads of the Departments interested and in this matter, was until checked, involving the Administration in confusion. Seward sought to impose his will on the rest of the cabinet. His actions ranged well beyond his portfolio in foreign relations and undermined the decided goals of President Lincoln as well as the authority of the secretaries of war and navy.
Historian Roy F. Seward officiously undertook to manage this over the heads of the Secretaries of the War and the Navy. It was while the question of the surrender of Fort Sumter was undecided; but at a time when it was believed the fort would be surrendered, and after the way had been prepared for it by statements in the Press that the fort was untenable. Seward had overshot the mark this time. The Cabinet generally had been convinced that Fort Sumter was untenable, and acquiesced in its surrender, submitting to the inevitable.
But there was no apprehension felt about Fort Pickens. The fort was well supplied, and was actually impregnable while we commanded the sea, and we then had a large naval force there. Seward had induced General Scott to recommend him to do, he immediately telegraphed Governor Pickens, by the hands of Mr. Harvey, his Portugese minister, that an attempt was to be made to reinforce Sumter. General Anderson had made no preparations to defend it, but left his barracks standing, to be fired at the first shot, instead of pulling them down and taking to his casemates, as he certainly would have done if he had not been authoritatively told that the fort was to be evacuated as soon as the small supply of provisions on hand had been consumed.
But for this negligence for which he was never chided, the fort was impregnable, as events proved, for we could never take it from the Confederates. To make sure of defeating the relief, however the Powhatan, on whose seamen and guns the success of this expedition wholly depended, was secretly detached, by an order surreptitiously obtained from the President, on the pretext of relieving Fort Pickens, which was in no danger, for the defence of which ample provision had already been made, and to whose relief the Powhatan was wholly unnecessary and in no way contributed.
William H. Seward
Seward had his own plan. Historian Timothy D. Montgomery C. They did as Seward requested, tabulated troop, shipping, and supply requirements, consulted with Lincoln, and only after the fact informed Scott of their actions. When he realized what these junior officers had done without his knowledge or approval, he sat in a silent but obvious display of emotion. Administration officials, along with subordinate officers, had circumvented his authority and disregarded his counsel.
His influence was waning, and there was nothing he could do to regain it. Welsh, could not be trusted.
Anything sent to Welles would pass through the hands of Welsh, a secret secessionist whom Welles refused to dismiss. These officers were placed in charge of operations that would divert critical resources from the rescue of Fort Sumter to reenforcing Fort Pickens in Florida. Aspinwall and other gentlemen informed me that when Captain Meigs applied to them for assistance and submitted the letters of the President and Secretary of State, clothing him and Porter with unlimited authority over the military and naval service — confessedly without the knowledge of the Secretary of War or the Secretary of the Navy, — they were alarmed for the safety and welfare of the Government.
It betrayed the weakness in the executive head. Meanwhile, Seward wrote President Lincoln a controversial letter suggested that the government lacked a policy for handling the crisis and he was willing to fill the leadership vacuum.
Union Man | The New Yorker
Frederick W. Lincoln, to aid him in thinking over topics which would come up at succeeding interviews. The only known copy is in his papers, not in those of Seward. Historian Norman B. Lincoln had little interest in foreign policy and many other problems with which to deal. The Cabinet, consisting of long-time political rivals, was not cohesive.
In meeting the threat from abroad, haste was requisite. Continued indications of weakness and indecisiveness on the part of the administration would tempt foreign adventurers. New copy - Usually dispatched within 2 working days. Seller Inventory B Paperback or Softback. Seller Inventory BBS Never used! This item is printed on demand. Publisher: Potomac Books , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:. About the Author : John M. From Publishers Weekly : Seward , Abraham Lincoln's secretary of State and best-known cabinet member, was a state senator and governor of New York before emerging as a leading anti-slavery spokesman in the U.
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William Henry Seward John Taylor author. Published by Potomac Books , Washington, D. Henry spent time in the kitchen listening to the slaves tell stories and thought of them as people rather than slaves. He also saw a neighbors slave being abused and at a young age decided to be an Abolitionist. William was a sickly child and his poor health caused the family to plan to send him to college. William started school in a one room school a half mile from his home. When he was fifteen he attended Union College, a liberal arts college in Schnectady and feeling that his clothing marked him as coming from a small village he ordered expensive clothing from a local tailor.
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His father refused to pay the bill and William rebelled, left college and travelled to Georgia where he found a job teaching in a small town. When his parents located him his father was angry and his mother distraught. William Henry does not fit our picture of the well behaved child of the early 19th century and 21 century parents can identify with Williams moody, resentful behavior.
After nine weeks he returned home and completed his college education at Union College where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was admitted to the New York State Bar in