President Lincoln’s wartime Cabinet included many of his opponents from the Republican National Convention where each had the goal of becoming President of the United States. His Secretary of State was William H. Seward, who actually went into the convention as the prohibitive favorite. And in fact, Seward thought as Secretary of State he would actually act as president due to Lincoln’s lack of experience. Seward was disappointed when that did not happen.
Seward was born on May 16, 1801 in Florida, New York the son of a wealthy slave owner. He graduated with a law degree from Union College. He served in the state senate of New York. He became the Governor of New York (1839-1842) as a Whig and a then served in United States Senate (1849 – 1861).
It was Seward’s explanation of “the irrepressible conflict” of slavery in the country, saying in 1858 that “the United States must, and will sooner or later become, either entirely a slave holding nation or a free labor nation.” Mr. Lincoln put forward the same notion saying “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this country cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.”
Seward was seriously injured the night of Lincoln’s assassination when conspirator Lewis Payne stabbed him in his home in Washington, D. C. Seward survived the injury.
After the war, it was Seward who helped negotiate the purchase of the area which became the state of Alaska. That acquisition of purchasing over 586,000 square miles from Russia for $7.2 million (approximately 2 cents per acre) was Seward’s most famous achievement.
Seward died on October 10, 1872.
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