William Henry Seward was born in Florida on May 16, 1801. At the age of 15, he began his studies at Union College. In 1818, he had a serious disagreement with his father and left his home for Georgia. He taught school and learned what he could about slavery and the South, but it wasn't until 1820 that he finally graduated from Union College.
His beginning in politics
In 1822, Seward began to practice law in New York. He began his law work as a junior for the local judge. Later, he was fortunate to marry the judge's daughter.
In 1830, he was elected State Senator of New York, but lost that position in 1833 when he was defeated in the election. He changed to the Whig party, and by 1837 became Governor of New York. He was reelected for a second term
His position on slavery
As Governor of New York, Seward was in a continual battle with the southern governors over the need to return slaves who had run away. Because of his position on slavery, he was one of the forerunners of the Liberty party. He felt that slave owners should be recompensed for their property, and that former slaves should be shown compassion.
In 1846, Seward became known far and wide for his defense of two African Americans. Both men were very obviously mentally ill, but had been charged with murder. His defense of the men was written up in four law editions during that year.
Secretary of State
After being elected to the US Senate in 1849, he built a record for his stand against slavery. During his two terms in the Senate, he fought to bar slavery from any territory acquired from Mexico. He opposed every bill that left the issue of slavery unsettled.
When President Lincoln was voted into office, he chose William Henry Seward as his Secretary of State. Interestingly, Seward felt that President Lincoln didn't have the abilities and the experience that he did and that he, himself, would be the one actually running the country. In the end, Seward became a loyal defender of President Lincoln and an excellent Secretary of State.
The night President Lincoln was shot
The night that President Lincoln was shot, Lewis Powell went to Seward's home. Seward was at home recovering from a carriage accident when Powell attacked him. Steward was stabbed several times in the neck and face with a knife. This incident left him scarred for the rest of his life.
His greatest accomplishments
William Henry Seward was known for purchasing Alaska from the Russians in 1867. This piece of land later became known as "Seward's Folly." He was also known for being the Secretary of State for both President Lincoln and President Johnson. The way he handled foreign affairs was often highly praised.
In his fight against slavery, he helped Harriet Tubman acquire land in New York for her home. His own home became a stopping point for the Underground Railroad. He was also known President Lincoln's greatest ally in the war against slavery.