SEWARD, WILLIAM HENRY (1801-72). An eminent American statesman, born in Florida, Orange County, N. Y., May 16, 1801. He attend ed an academy at Goshen, N. Y., graduated at Union College in 1820. studied law in New York City and also at Goshen, was admitted to the bar at Utica in 1822. and in 1823 settled in Au burn for the practice of his profession. A short time afterwards he married the daughter of his partner, Judge Elijah Miller. In 1830 lie was elected to the State Senate by the Anti-Ma sonic Party, to whose first national conven tion he had been sent as a delegate. As a Sena tor be won distinction by the industry and ability with which he advocated internal improvements, support of the common schools, and political re forms of various kinds. As the agent of the Hol land Land Company, he laid the foundation of a eomfortable fortune. In 1538 he was elected Gov ernor of York as a Whig. His administra tion was signalized by notable improvements of the common school system. reform of prison dis eipline, judicial reforms, and internal improve ments, while he gave mneh attention also to the extension of the franchise, the reform of the banking laws, the geological survey of the State, and the improvement of the militia. His term was marked by the anti-rent troubles (see ANTI BENTLSM) and the controversy over the McLeod affair. (See CAROLINE, THE.) In 1840 he was reelected. For several years after the expiration of the term he gave his whole time to the practice of his profession, at Auburn, and ap peared as counsel in a number of important criminal oases. In 1349 he was elected to the United States Senate, and at once took a promi nent place among the leaders of the Whig Party and became the most intimate Senatorial coun selor of President Taylor. In the debate on the Compromise Measures of 1850 (q.v.) he deliv ered, on March 11th of that year, an able speech in which be vigorously denounced slavery, and startled the opposition by declaring that "there is a higher law than the Constitution." Ile sup ported the French Spoliation Bill and a protec tive tariff, spoke on the American fisheries, the Texas debt, the Ilunga Dan Revolution, and other subjects, and vigorously opposed the Kansas-Ne braska Bill (q.v.). In 1S55 he was reelected to the Senate, in spite of the opposition of Know Nothings and of Southern sympathies. He was an influential factor in the organization of the Republican Party, and for the first few years was generally regarded throughout the Union as preeminently its leader. In October, 1858, he made a notable speech at Rochester. in which he spoke
of the antagonism between freedom and slavery as an 'irrepressible conflict,' which could only terminate by the United States becoming entirely a slave-holding nation or entirely free. Prior to the National Republican Nominating Conven tion at Chicago he was the most conspicuous candidate for the Republican nomination for President in 1860, and on the first ballot re ceived votes, but was finally defeated by Abraham Lincoln. After Lincoln's election Seward became Secretary of State, and in this capacity rendered services of almost inestimable value to the nation, holding the office during the Civil War and the four years of Johnson's administra tion. He negotiated a large number of treaties with foreign governments and conducted the for eign relations of the United States during these critical times with remarkable tact and suc cess. Notable instances of this were the ease of the Trent affair (q.v.), the question aris ing out of the French intervention in Mexico, the negotiations concerning Great Britain's obligations as a neutral nation. (See ALABAMA CLAIMS.) He also negotiated with Russia, in 1867, the treaty for the purchase of Alaska. His State papers are models of clear and vigorous style. During the war he supported President Lincoln in all his efforts to raise and equip the armies, and gave his approval to the emancipation proclamations. On the evening of April 14, 1865, the same day on which President Lincoln was assassinated, an assassin named Paine en tered Seward's room and inflicted dangerous wounds upon him as well as upon his son Fred erick. He gradually recovered, however, and continued as Secretary of State in the Cabinet of President Johnson until the end of his term. He entertained moderate views of reconstruction and supported the plan of President Johnson, thus alienating from himself the more radical wing of his party. Upon his retirement from office in 1S69, he made a journey to Alaska. and in the following year set out upon a tour of the world, visiting the principal countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and being received everywhere with great honor. He died at Auburn on Octo ber 10, 1872. His speeches and orations appeared in five volumes, and his official correspondence was published by order of Congress. For his life, consult: Baker, (New York, 1855) ; Freder ick W. Seward ( ib., 1877) ; and especially Fred erick Bancroft (ih., 1900) ; also William II. Sew ard's Travels Around the World (New York, 1873), by his adopted daughter, Olive Seward.