William Seward

William Seward

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William Seward (1801-1872) was a politician who served as governor of New York, as a U.S. senator and as secretary of state during the Civil War (1861-65). Seward spent his early career as a lawyer before winning a seat in the New York State Senate in 1830. An ardent abolitionist, Seward later served as New York’s 12th governor and then as a member of the U.S. Senate, where he established himself as a leading antislavery activist. After failing in an 1860 bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Seward was appointed secretary of state in Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet. He would eventually become one of Lincoln’s closest advisers during the Civil War, helping to ensure that Europe did not recognize the Confederacy as a sovereign nation. Seward continued to serve as secretary of state under President Andrew Johnson and in 1867 negotiated the purchase of Alaska from the Russians. He died in 1872 at the age of 71.

William Seward: Early Life

William Henry Seward was born in Florida, New York, on May 16, 1801. Seward attended Union College in Schenectady, New York, starting in 1816, and in 1819 he spent a brief period as a schoolteacher in Georgia. He graduated from Union College in 1820 and studied law before being admitted to the bar in 1822. Seward moved to Auburn, New York, in 1822 and became a partner in the law practice of Judge Elijah Miller. In 1824 he married Miller’s daughter, Frances Adeline Miller. The two would later have five children and one adopted daughter.

Seward experienced success as a lawyer but found himself drawn toward politics. In 1830 he was elected to the New York State Senate as a member of the Anti-Masonic Party, a political faction that opposed the secretive Freemasons. Seward later became a leading member of the Whig Party but was soundly defeated when he ran for governor of New York in 1834. He then withdrew from politics and spent several years practicing law and working for the Holland Land Company, a syndicate of Dutch investors who had purchased vast expanses of land in western New York.

William Seward: Political Career

With the help of Thurlow Weed, a prominent journalist and close political ally, Seward later returned to politics. In 1838 he was elected governor of New York as a Whig. Seward served two terms in office and spent much of his administration engaged in prison reform, infrastructure improvements and enhancing the state’s education system. A staunch abolitionist, he also spoke out against slavery and caused a minor controversy in 1839 when he refused to extradite a group of black fugitives to Virginia.

After leaving office in 1842, Seward found himself deeply in debt and was forced to dedicate himself to his law practice. He returned to politics in 1849, when Whigs in the New York legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate. During his tenure in the Senate Seward became a leading antislavery activist. He was one of the foremost critics of the Compromise of 1850, a group of measures that tightened the fugitive slave law and maintained the slave trade in the South. During one speech on the Senate floor, Seward famously stated that slavery was an immoral practice and argued that there existed “a higher law than the Constitution.”

Seward was reelected to the Senate in 1855 and later joined the Republican Party after the dissolution of the Whigs. While he had ambitions for the presidency, Seward’s outspoken nature and lack of party loyalty often hindered his political progress. Throughout the late 1850s he continued to be vocal in his opposition to slavery, and he alarmed many of his allies when he described the coming Civil War as an “irrepressible conflict.” While he hoped to win the Republican nomination for president in 1860, Seward spent most of 1859 traveling through Europe and the Middle East. His support in the party dwindled, and he lost the nomination to Abraham Lincoln in May 1860.

William Seward: Secretary of State

In December 1860 Seward accepted an appointment to serve as secretary of state in the cabinet of President-elect Abraham Lincoln. While Seward was at first dubious about Lincoln’s political acumen, the two soon forged an effective partnership, and Lincoln later ignored radical Republican calls to remove Seward from office.

Seward spent the early months of his tenure in a desperate effort to preserve the Union and avoid civil war. Hoping to ensure that the precarious border states remained sympathetic to the Union, he cautioned Lincoln against using force during the siege at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. After the start of hostilities and Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, Seward took it upon himself to see that suspected Confederate sympathizers in the North were arrested and detained.

Seward’s primary concern during the war was ensuring that the nations of Europe offered no aid to the rebellion. During what became known as the Trent Affair, he was instrumental in smoothing over tensions with the United Kingdom after the U.S. Navy seized two Confederate envoys from a British ship. Seward later negotiated the Lyons-Seward Treaty of 1862 with British Ambassador Richard Lyons, which helped hinder the Atlantic slave trade by allowing the U.S. and British navies the right to search vessels that appeared to carry African slaves. Seward also had frequent dealings with French Emperor Napoleon III. While Seward narrowly prevented the French from recognizing the Confederacy, he was unable to stop the emperor from establishing a monarchy in Mexico in 1864.

Near the close of the Civil War, Seward was nearly killed as part of the plot that resulted in Lincoln’s assassination. On the night of April 14, 1865, a former Confederate soldier named Lewis Powell attacked Seward—who was in bed recovering from a carriage accident—and stabbed him multiple times with a bowie knife. Seward narrowly survived the attempt on his life and spent several weeks recovering from wounds to his neck and face.

William Seward: Johnson Administration and Later Life

In June 1865 Seward returned to duty as secretary of state under President Andrew Johnson. During this time he was instrumental in efforts to reintegrate the South into the United States. Seward’s eagerness to reunify the country earned him much criticism from his former Republican allies, who believed his stance on Reconstruction was too lenient.

In 1867 Seward pressured the French government into abandoning its occupation of Mexico and later busied himself with increasing American commercial activity abroad. Seward was dedicated to expanding America’s territorial holdings and made a series of abortive attempts to purchase land in the Pacific and the Caribbean. Seward’s only major success in this respect came in 1867, when he negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million in gold. While the acquisition of Alaska later proved a remarkable investment, at the time it was often derisively known as “Seward’s Folly.”

Seward left office in 1869 following the inauguration of President Ulysses S. Grant. He would spend his final years traveling, beginning with trips to the western United States, Alaska and Mexico. Seward then journeyed around the world, visiting the Far East and Europe before returning to New York in 1871. He died in 1872 at the age of 71.

William H. Seward

William H. Seward was born on May 16, 1801, in the small community of Florida, New York, southwest of Newburgh. His father was a prominent physician and later a judge. Seward graduated from Union College in 1820, read law, was admitted to the bar and established a practice in Auburn, his home for the remainder of his life. Seward began his political rise as an opponent of the prevailing Jacksonian views of the day—first as a supporter of John Quincy Adams, then an active anti-Mason and later as a Whig. He served in the New York state assembly from 1830 to 1834, and later was elected governor for the first of two terms in 1838. Seward was initially a close ally of Thurlow Weed and an enthusiastic backer of Whig support for internal improvements. He also was a supporter of prison and education reforms, and the emerging antislavery movement. Seward failed to win a third term and returned to his law practice. In a speech in 1835, Seward outlined his reasons for supporting Public Education:

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William Seward

by Barbara Rimkunas
This "Historically Speaking" column appeared in the Exeter News-Letter on Friday, May 11, 2012.

In 1944, William Seward retired from a long career as a pharmacist in Exeter. For fifty-six years he’d run his drugstore on Water Street in the Merrill Block and it had become, not just a place to pick up prescriptions, but a gathering place for generations of Exeter’s youth.

The story of Seward’s Drugstore begins long before William Seward even lived in town. In the early 1800s there were no drugstores or apothecary shops in Exeter. Individual doctors would either concoct their own medicines or instruct patients on how to brew them in their own kitchens. Of course, medical treatment being what it was, most instructions to patients read like this gem from Culpepper’s Family Physician, published in 1824: “Decoctions made with wine last longer than such as are made with water and if you take your decoction to cleanse the passage of the urine, or open obstructions, your best way is to make it with white wine instead of water, because this is penetrating.”

By mid-century, however, there were some drugs that were proven to actually treat and occasionally cure health problems. In 1848, Charles Merrill, the son of hat-maker Abner Merrill, had purchased a general store with his brother. The busiest part of the shop proved to be the drug counter and the brothers decided to specialize in the new business of selling only medicines. Charles studied the latest in pharmacology and joined the American Pharmaceutical Association in 1858. After his brother retired, Charles became the sole owner. The business proved profitable and soon Merrill was able to erect one of the most impressive and massive storefront blocks on Water Street – the Merrill Block.

Among the many types of drugs and medicines sold at Merrill’s drugstore was a class of drink thought to improve health and increase energy. Although some carried high levels of caffeine or, even worse, cocaine, the flavors were bitter and improved with both sweetening and carbonation. Merrill, like most druggists at the time, installed a soda fountain in his shop to encourage people to imbibe in these seemingly healthy drinks.

In 1886, Merrill retired and sold the shop to Edward Cram. By that time, the medicinal qualities of soft drinks had fallen out of favor – probably because they were addictive. Druggists now assured the public that their soda fountains sold only wholesome drinks. Cram hired a young William Seward to manage the store. Within seven years, Seward had put himself through the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and bought out his employer.

Partnering up with Albert Weeks, the store became Weeks & Seward’s Drugstore, combining a full service pharmacy with a soda fountain. Phillips Exeter Academy students frequented the place, as did many local kids, to hang out and perhaps meet girls. The store’s publicity in 1910 boasted, “they carry an extensive stock of drugs, chemicals, proprietary medicines and remedies, choice imported and domestic cigars and tobacco, toilet accessories of all kinds, leather goods and stationery. At their soda fountain is served delicious soda, with pure fruit juices, and delectable ice cream.” The ice cream must have been a challenge, as the store wasn’t wired for electricity until 1919.

Albert Weeks retired in the 1920s, but William Seward continued the business and prospered well enough to purchase the entire Merrill Block in 1927. Prohibition increased his soda fountain sales but the store continued to function as a drugstore.

In 1941, the March of Times news reel production company came to Exeter to film New England’s Eight Million Yankees. The film was a propaganda piece intended to foster patriotism when World War II was on the horizon. Highlighting the small town appeal of New England, Exeter was chosen for its quaint main street appeal. The film, which can be viewed in short bits on YouTube, features many of Exeter’s local civic and business leaders. Chief among them is 68 year old William Seward shown filling prescriptions from an ancient log book. “More than any physician in town,” boasts the narrator, “he knows all the ailments of Exeter’s families.” Seward is then shown, somewhat woodenly, handing a pint sized bottle of medicine to a 10 year old boy with the instructions, “Son, you tell your father not to take this all at once, like before. The directions are on the bottle.” The scripted bit brings all manner of uncomfortable questions to mind – like what happened to the patient when he drank the whole bottle the first time and, more importantly to modern viewers, who would give a big bottle of medicine to a kid?

Seward retired in 1944, selling the store to his employee, Horace Grant. At the time of his death in 1950, Seward remained a respected member of Exeter society. He was a member of no less than nine fraternal organizations and had served terms as director of both the Exeter Banking Company and the Exeter Cooperative Bank. With three daughters, he was well equipped when he served on the board of trustees for the Robinson Female Seminary. But his greatest service to the town was his drugstore and the soda fountain that brought countless people together.

Tag Archives: William Seward

Think of your forefathers! Think of your posterity!

—John Quincy Adams—

So what would you make of the following scenario?

In a highly charged election year, the Republican Party faces a showdown at its impending national convention. The field of presidential contenders has been large, and no single candidate will come to the convention with a majority of the delegates behind him. Candidate A of New York is the clear front runner, and for months his rank-and-file supporters have considered him the presumptive nominee. But Republican elites are lukewarm about A. His reputation as an extremist gives them pause, and despite the enthusiasm of A’s followers, they worry that A will fare poorly in the general election. They fear that A is unelectable, and by nominating him they will not only sacrifice any chance at the presidency but harm Republican candidates for state and federal offices as well. The future of the party hangs in the balance.

As the opposition to A becomes ever more outspoken, a “Stop A” movement works frantically behind the scenes to rally behind a single alternative. The number of potential nominees makes this difficult, however, and the divisions within the “Stop A” movement look to be crippling. Candidate B is a southern conservative with tenuous links to party leaders. Candidate C is an economic and social conservative who has risen to prominence in the Senate but made too many enemies along the way. Candidate D is a northeasterner with a following in his own state but viewed elsewhere as a corrupt opportunist. Candidate E has none of these liabilities, but as the convention approaches this Midwesterner is the first choice of only one state: his own.

Although candidate A commands a sizable plurality of delegates when the convention opens, candidate E’s campaign team goes to the convention determined to deny A a first-ballot nomination and open the door for E. Unabashedly pragmatic, their message to delegate after delegate emphasizes expediency. E is electable. A is not. E lacks A’s negative baggage and is widely respected. He is a unifier who has been careful not to denigrate the other candidates. E’s promoters encourage A’s delegates to consider E as a good second choice if it becomes clear that A cannot win a majority on the convention floor. Where it promises to be helpful, E’s team makes thinly veiled offers of future political favors to delegations willing to switch their support to E after the initial ballot. A significant number of wavering delegates are even willing to shift their allegiance before the balloting begins.

In the end, the strategy works. On the first ballot, A takes 37% of the vote to E’s 22% (with candidates B, C, and D trailing even farther behind). But as delegates are released from their first-ballot pledge to support A, the momentum shifts decidedly toward E on the second ballot, and by the third ballot E claims the nomination over A. E’s margin of victory? A razor-thin 50.5% to 49.5 percent.

So how would you evaluate the outcome of this contested convention? Was it a miscarriage of justice? An assault on democracy? A “brokered” behind-the-scenes deal that bartered the wishes of the people? Or was it a politically prudent compromise that secured the best outcome realistically available?

If you say that you don’t have enough information to answer the question, you would be right. But in thinking through the scenario, it might be helpful to know that it isn’t hypothetical. It’s my best attempt to summarize the nomination of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Candidates A, B, C, and D were Republicans William Seward, Edward Bates, Salmon Chase, and Simon Cameron. We don’t know how this year’s Republican slugfest will play out, of course, but so far I’d say there are some pretty striking similarities to the 1860 Republican contest. And although Donald Trump has modestly proclaimed that he is as “presidential” as Abraham Lincoln, right now the person best approximating that role is probably John Kasich.

Abraham Lincoln took 22% of the votes on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in 1860.

So what does this analogy prove? Can it help us to predict how the race for the Republican nomination will come out? Can it teach us how it should come out?

Absolutely not. The point of listening to the past is not to get easy answers to contemporary problems. I cringe whenever I hear someone in the public opining ponderously about what “history proves.” We study the past not as a storehouse of simple lessons but as an aid to thinking more deeply, more self-consciously, and hopefully more wisely as we meet the future. History promotes wisdom, when it does, by expanding the range of our experiences to draw from. As C. S. Lewis put it figuratively in “Learning in Wartime,” the student of history has lived in many times and places, and that greater breadth of perspective aids us as we seek to think wisely and live faithfully in our own historical moment.

I suspect that much of the popular hyperventilating about the prospect of a contested Republican convention stems from the fact that the last multi-ballot nomination of a major-party candidate came in 1952, before the vast majority of Americans were born. And because we have no memory from before we were born—only people with historical knowledge can have that—we are vulnerable to all kinds of nonsense from those who would prey on our ignorance.

The reality is that the presidential primary model that we take for granted today has been dominant for less than a half century. The earliest presidential candidates were chosen without any popular involvement at all, hand-picked by party caucuses in Congress. Beginning in the 1830s (following the lead of a bizarre coalition known as the Anti-Masonic Party), the major parties established the pattern of choosing candidates in party conventions. And although some states began to hold presidential primaries as early as 1912, as late as the 1950s conventions still effectively made the final decision, and it was possible for a presidential candidate like Adlai Stevenson to win the nomination without running in a single state primary.

And unlike the conventions of the last half century—which are carefully choreographed, excruciatingly boring infomercials—the conventions between the 1830s and the 1950s were frequently contested. It wasn’t just Abraham Lincoln who was nominated after multiple ballots.

Future president James K. Polk was nominated on the ninth ballot at the Democratic Convention in 1844. In 1848 future Whig president Zachary Taylor was nominated on the fourth ballot. Future Democratic president Franklin Pierce was nominated on the forty-ninth ballot in 1852 (and received no votes at all for the first thirty-five ballots). Among other future presidents, James Buchanan was nominated on the seventeenth ballot in 1856, Rutherford Hayes on the seventh ballot in 1876, James Garfield on the thirty-sixth ballot in 1880, Benjamin Harrison on the eighth ballot in 1888, Woodrow Wilson on the forty-sixth ballot in 1912, and Warren G. Harding on the 10 th ballot in 1920. And although he lost in the general election, Democrat John W. Davis outdid them all, claiming his party’s nomination in 1924 on ballot number one hundred and three!

There was much that was broken about this system of selecting nominees. Political bargains in proverbial “smoke-filled rooms” were the norm, and I’m not recommending that we return to them. But these examples should give us pause and lead us to wrestle with some questions that might not otherwise occur to us about the current Republican contest. Why, for one, would we assume that a candidate with a plurality of popular support has earned his party’s nomination? Is it wrong to take “electability” into question in selecting a nominee? Why do we think that a contested nominating convention is automatically disastrous for the party in question? I have thoughts about all of these, but I’ll stop here and invite you to share what you think.

Later Life, Legacy and Lesser Known Facts

An attempt was made on Seward’s life by an ally of John Wilkes Booth the same night as Lincoln&aposs assassination.

Seward and wife Frances, who had five children together and adopted one daughter, were active abolitionists throughout their lives. There is evidence that they were involved in the Underground Railroad, and lent financial backing to Frederick Douglass&aposs North Star newspaper in Rochester, New York. Seward supported Harriet Tubman in the purchase of property in his hometown of Auburn, New York, where he died on October 10, 1872.

Seward&aposs disheveled appearance and ever-present cigar may conjure Columbo, but the clever and capable statesman’s legacy is one of accomplishment and vision. His most recent biographer, Walter Stahr, author of Seward: Lincoln&aposs Indispensable Man, asserts that Seward is considered an exemplary secretary of state, second only to John Quincy Adams.

William Seward is said to be the first New Yorker honored with a monument in the city: A statue of Seward by Randolph Rogers, located in Madison Square Park in New York City, was dedicated in 1876.

William H. Seward

William Henry Seward was born in Florida, New York on May 16, 1801. He was educated at the Farmers’ Hall Academy in Goshen, New York, and then attended Union College, from which he graduated in 1920 with highest honors. He studied law with John Anthon in New York and with John Duer and Ogden Hoffman in Goshen, New York and was admitted to the New York bar in Utica, New York in 1822. Seward commenced the practice of law as the junior partner of Elijah Miller, then first judge of Cayuga County.

Seward’s brilliance was quickly recognized and, in 1830, he was elected to the New York State Senate. At that time, the Senate formed part of the Court for the Correction of Errors, the court of last resort, and Seward regularly authored opinions on cases before it — for example, Parks v. Jackson (11 Wend. 442).

Elected Governor of New York in 1838, Seward served two terms (1839-1843) and soon became recognized as the leader of the anti-slavery wing of the Whig party. Both as a State senator and as Governor, Seward promoted progressive political policies including prison reform and increased spending on education.

Returning to private practice, William Seward was involved in several high profile cases. In 1845, he represented the defendants in the New York Tribune libel case, J. Fenimore Cooper v. Greeley & McElrath, and in 1847, he courageously undertook the defense of William Freeman, a young black man who had confessed to randomly murdering a white family of four, including a two-year-old child (People v. Freeman).

Elected to the United States Senate in 1849, and reelected in 1855, Seward was a leading anti-slavery politician. He was the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860, but his anti-slavery speeches were considered too radical to win over the voters in critical swing states, and the nomination went to Abraham Lincoln. On March 5, 1861, President Lincoln appointed Seward to the office of Secretary of State. He was continued in that office by President Andrew Johnson, and served until March 4, 1869.

Statue of William Seward

As Secretary of State, Seward negotiated the Lyons-Seward Treaty of 1862, an international agreement to eradicate the Atlantic slave trade. During the Civil War, Seward undertook the vital tasks of ensuring that the British government stopped British shipyards from building war ships for the Confederacy and persuading the French and British not to recognize the Confederate states as an independent nation. In this, Seward succeeded so well that he became a target of the conspiracy that assassinated President Lincoln. Fortunately, Seward survived the attack, but endured poor health for the remainder of his life.

Seward was an advocate of the Monroe Doctrine and, in 1867, had the satisfaction of successfully concluding negotiations with Emperor Napoleon III for the withdrawal of French troops from Mexico, and with Russia for the purchase of Alaska.

Despite his ill health, Seward took a trip around the world in his retirement. He died in Auburn on October 10, 1872. A magnificent statue was installed in Madison Square Park, New York City in his honor.

“Legal Obituary.” 6 Albany Law Journal 279.

Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State. Biography of William Henry Seward.

U.S. Senator [ edit | edit source ]

First term [ edit | edit source ]

William Seward was sworn in as senator from New York on March 5, 1849, during the brief special session called to confirm President Taylor's cabinet nominees. Seward was seen as having influence over Taylor: taking advantage of an acquaintance with Taylor's brother. Seward met with the former general several times before Inauguration Day (March 4), and was friendly with Cabinet officers. Taylor hoped to gain the admission of California to the Union, and Seward worked to advance his agenda in the Senate. ⏄]

The regular session of Congress that began in December 1849 was dominated by the issue of slavery. Senator Clay advanced a series of resolutions, which became known as the Compromise of 1850, giving victories to both North and South. Seward opposed the pro-slavery elements of the Compromise, and in a speech on the Senate floor on March 11, 1850 invoked a "higher law than the Constitution". The speech was widely reprinted, and made Seward the leading anti-slavery advocate in the Senate. ⏅] President Taylor took a stance sympathetic to the North, but his death in July 1850 caused the accession of the pro-Compromise Fillmore and ended Seward's influence over patronage. The Compromise passed, and many Seward adherents in federal office in New York were replaced by Fillmore appointees. ⏆]

Although Clay had hoped the Compromise would be a final settlement on the matter of slavery that could unite the nation, it divided his Whig Party, especially when the 1852 Whig National Convention endorsed it to the anger of liberal northerners like Seward. The major candidates for the presidential nomination were President Fillmore, Senator Daniel Webster, and General Scott. Seward supported Scott, who he hoped like Harrison could unite enough voters behind a military hero to win the election. Scott gained the nomination, and Seward campaigned for him. With the Whigs unable to reconcile over slavery, whereas the Democrats could unite behind the Compromise, the Whigs won only four states, and former New Hampshire senator Franklin Pierce was elected president. Other events, such as the 1852 publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin and Northern anger over the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act (an element of the Compromise), widened the divide between North and South. ⏇]

Seward's wife Frances was deeply committed to the abolitionist movement. In the 1850s, the Seward family opened their Auburn home as a safehouse to fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad. Seward's frequent travel and political work suggest that it was Frances who played the more active role in Auburn abolitionist activities. In the excitement following the rescue and safe transport of fugitive slave William "Jerry" Henry in Syracuse on October 1, 1851, Frances wrote to her husband, "two fugitives have gone to Canada—one of them our acquaintance John." ⏈] Another time she wrote, "A man by the name of William Johnson will apply to you for assistance to purchase the freedom of his daughter. You will see that I have given him something by his book. I told him I thought you would give him more." ⏉]

In January 1854, Democratic Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas introduced his Kansas–Nebraska Bill. This would permit territories to choose whether to join the Union as free or slave states, and effectively repeal the Missouri Compromise forbidding slavery in new states north of 36° 30′ North latitude. ⏊] Seward was determined to defeat what he called "this infamous Nebraska Bill", and worked to ensure the final version of the bill would be unpalatable to enough senators, North and South, to defeat it. Seward spoke against the bill both on initial consideration in the Senate and when the bill returned after reconciliation with the House. ⏋] The bill passed into law, but northerners felt they had found a standard around which they could rally. Those in the South defended the new law, arguing that they should have an equal stake through slavery in the territories their blood and money had helped secure. ⏌]

Second term [ edit | edit source ]

The political turmoil engendered by the North-South divide not only split both major parties, but led to the founding of new ones. The American Party (better known as the Know Nothings) contained many nativists, and pursued an anti-immigrant agenda. The Know Nothings did not publicly discuss party deliberations (thus, they knew nothing). They disliked Seward, and an uncertain number of Know Nothings sought the Whig nomination to legislative seats. Some made clear their stance by pledging to vote against Seward's re-election, but others did not. Although the Whigs won a majority in both houses of the state legislature, the extent of their support for Seward as US senator was unclear. When the election was held by the legislature in February 1855, Seward won a narrow majority in each house. The opposition was scattered, and a Know Nothing party organ denounced two dozen legislators as "traitors". ⏍]

The Republican Party had been founded in 1854, in reaction to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Its anti-slavery stance was attractive to Seward, but he needed the Whig structure in New York to get re-elected. ⏎] In September 1855, the New York Whig and Republican parties held simultaneous conventions that quickly merged into one. Seward was the most prominent figure to join the new party, and was spoken of as a possible presidential candidate in 1856. Weed, however, did not feel that the new party was strong enough on a national level to secure the presidency, and advised Seward to wait until 1860. ⏏] When Seward's name was mentioned at the 1856 Republican National Convention, a huge ovation broke out. ⏐] In the 1856 presidential election, the Democratic candidate, former Pennsylvania senator James Buchanan, defeated the Republican, former California senator John C. Frémont, and the Know Nothing candidate, former president Fillmore. ⏑]

The 1856 campaign played out against the backdrop of "Bleeding Kansas", the violent efforts of pro- and anti-slavery forces to control the government in Kansas Territory and determine whether it would be admitted as a slave or free state. ⏒] This violence spilled over into the Senate chamber itself after Republican Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner delivered an incendiary speech against slavery, making personal comments against South Carolina Senator Andrew P. Butler. Sumner had read a draft of the speech to Seward, who had advised him to omit the personal references. Two days after the speech, Butler's nephew, Congressman Preston Brooks entered the chamber and beat Sumner with a cane, injuring him severely. Although some southerners feared the propaganda value of the incident in the North, most lionized Brooks as a hero. Many northerners were outraged, though some, including Seward, felt that Sumner's words against Butler had unnecessarily provoked the attack. ⏓] ⏔] Some Southern newspapers felt that the Sumner precedent might usefully be applied to Seward the Petersburg Intelligencer, a Virginia periodical, suggested that "it will be very well to give Seward a double dose at least every other day". ⏕]

In a message to Congress in December 1857, President Buchanan advocated the admission of Kansas as a slave state under the Lecompton Constitution, passed under dubious circumstances. This split the Democrats: the administration wanted Kansas admitted Senator Douglas demanded a fair ratification vote. ⏖] The Senate debated the matter through much of early 1858, though few Republicans spoke at first, content to watch the Democrats tear their party to shreds over the issue of slavery. ⏗] The issue was complicated by the Supreme Court's ruling the previous year in Dred Scott v. Sandford that neither Congress nor a local government could ban slavery in the territories. ⏘]

In a speech on March 3 in the Senate, Seward "delighted Republican ears and utterly appalled administration Democrats, especially the Southerners". ⏙] Discussing Dred Scott, Seward accused Buchanan and Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of conspiring to gain the result, and threatened to reform the courts to eliminate Southern power. ⏙] Taney later told a friend that if Seward had been elected in 1860, he would have refused to administer the oath of office. Buchanan reportedly denied the senator access to the White House. ⏚] Seward predicted slavery was doomed:

The interest of the white races demands the ultimate emancipation of all men. Whether that consummation shall be allowed to take effect, with needful and wise precautions against sudden change and disaster, or be hurried on by violence, is all that remains for you to decide. ⏛]

Southerners saw this as a threat, by the man deemed the likely Republican nominee in 1860, to force change on the South whether it liked it or not. ⏜] Statehood for Kansas failed for the time being, ⏝] but Seward's words were repeatedly cited by Southern senators as the secession crisis grew. ⏞] Nevertheless, Seward remained on excellent personal terms with individual southerners such as Mississippi's Jefferson Davis. His dinner parties, where those from both sides of the sectional divide mixed and mingled, were a Washington legend. ⏟]

With an eye to a presidential bid in 1860, Seward tried to appear a statesman who could be trusted by both North and South. ⏠] Seward did not believe the federal government could mandate emancipation but that it would develop by action of the slave states as the nation urbanized and slavery became uneconomical, as it had in New York. Southerners still believed that he was threatening the forced end of slavery. ⏡] While campaigning for Republicans in the 1858 midterm elections, Seward gave a speech at Rochester that proved divisive and quotable, alleging that the U.S. had two "antagonistic system [that] are continually coming into closer contact, and collision results. … It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become entirely either a slave-holding nation, or entirely a free-labor nation." ⏢] White southerners saw the "irrepressible conflict" speech as a declaration of war, and Seward's vehemence ultimately damaged his chances of gaining the presidential nomination. ⏣]

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About William Henry Seward, Gov., Sen., Sec. of State

William Henry Seward, Sr. (May 16, 1801 – October 10, 1872) was the 12th Governor of New York, United States Senator and the United States Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. An outspoken opponent of the spread of slavery in the years leading up to the American Civil War, he was a dominant figure in the Republican Party in its formative years, and was widely regarded as the leading contender for the party's presidential nomination in 1860 – yet his very outspokenness may have cost him the nomination. Despite his loss, he became a loyal member of Lincoln's wartime cabinet, and played a role in preventing foreign intervention early in the war. On the night of Lincoln's assassination, he survived an attempt on his life in the conspirators' effort to decapitate the Union government.

As President Andrew Johnson's Secretary of State, he engineered the purchase of Alaska from Russia in an act that was ridiculed at the time as "Seward's Folly", but which somehow exemplified his character. His contemporary Carl Schurz described Seward as "one of those spirits who sometimes will go ahead of public opinion instead of tamely following its footprints."

Seward's most famous achievement as Secretary of State was his successful acquisition of Alaska from Russia. On March 30, 1867, he completed negotiations for the territory, which involved the purchase of 586,412 square miles (1,518,800 km²) of territory (more than twice the size of Texas) for $7,200,000, or approximately 2 cents per acre (equivalent to US$95 million in 2005). The purchase of this frontier land was alternately mocked by the public as Seward's Folly, "Seward's Icebox," and Andrew Johnson's "polar bear garden." Alaska celebrates the purchase on Seward's Day, the last Monday of March. When asked what he considered his greatest achievement as Secretary of State, Seward replied "The purchase of Alaska-but it will take the people of the United States a century before they realize it."

"As secretary of state under President Abraham Lincoln. he was alert and active, although his famous memorandum, 'Some Thoughts for the President's Consideration, April 1st, 1861' advocating immediate war with Europe as a means of unifying the nation, was reprehensible." - Myers, Children of Pride, p. 1673

Seward developed his views about slavery while still a boy. His parents, like other Hudson Valley residents of the early 1800s, owned several slaves. (Slavery was slowly abolished in New York from 1797-1827 through a gradual mandated process.) Seward recalled his preference as a child for the company and conversation of the slaves in his father’s kitchen to the 'severe decorum' in his family's front parlor. He discerned very quickly the inequality between races, writing in later years "I early came to the conclusion that something was wrong𠉪nd [that] determined me…to be an abolitionist." This belief would stay with Seward through his life and permeate his career.

William Seward was elected a U.S. Senator from New York as a Whig in 1849, and emerged as the leader of the anti-slavery "Conscience Whigs". Seward opposed the Compromise of 1850, and was thought to have encouraged Taylor in his supposed opposition. Seward believed that slavery was morally wrong, and said so many times, outraging Southerners. He acknowledged that slavery was legal under the Constitution, but denied that the Constitution recognized or protected slavery. He famously remarked in 1850 that "there is a higher law than the Constitution". He continued to argue this point of view over the next ten years. He presented himself as the leading enemy of the Slave Power – that is, the perceived conspiracy of southern slaveowners to seize the government and defeat the progress of liberty.

Seward was an opponent of the Fugitive Slave Act, and he defended runaway slaves in court. He supported personal liberty laws.

Seward was born in Florida, Orange County, New York, on May 16, 1801, one of five children of Samuel Sweezy Seward and his wife Mary Jennings Seward. Samuel Seward, described as "a prosperous, domineering doctor and businessman," was the founder of the S. S. Seward Institute, today a secondary school in the Florida Union Free School District.

Seward served as president of the S.S. Seward Institute after the death of his father, even while serving as Secretary of State during the Lincoln and Johnson administrations.

Seward studied law at Union College, graduating in 1820 with highest honors, and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.[5] He was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1821.[6] In that same year, he met Frances Adeline Miller, a classmate of his sister Cornelia at Emma Willard's Troy Female Seminary and the daughter of Judge Elijah Miller of Auburn, New York. In 1823, he moved to Auburn where he entered into law partnership with Judge Miller, and married Frances Miller on October 20, 1824. They raised five children:

Augustus Henry Seward (1826�)

Frederick William Seward (1830�)

William Henry Seward, Jr. (1839�)

Frances Adeline "Fanny" Seward (1844�)

Olive Risley Seward (1841�), adopted

Seward entered politics with the help of his friend Thurlow Weed, whom he had met by chance after a stagecoach accident.[7] In 1830, Seward was elected to the state senate as an Anti-Masonic candidate, and served for four years. In 1834, the 33-year-old Seward was named the Whig party candidate for Governor of New York, but lost to incumbent Democrat William Marcy who won 52% of the vote to Seward's 48%.

From 1836 to 1838, Seward served as agent for the Holland Land Company in Westfield, New York, where he was successful in easing tensions between the company and local landowners. On July 16, 1837, he delivered to the students and faculty of the newly-formed Westfield Academy a Discourse on Education, in which he advocated for universal education.

In 1838, Seward again challenged Marcy, and was elected Governor of New York by a majority of 51.4% to Marcy's 48.6%. He was narrowly re-elected to a second two-year term in 1840. As a state senator and governor, Seward promoted progressive political policies including prison reform and increased spending on education. He supported state funding for schools for immigrants operated by their own clergy and taught in their native language. This support, which included Catholic parochial schools, came back to haunt him in the 1850s, when anti-Catholic feelings were high, especially among ex-Whigs in the Republican Party.

Seward developed his views about slavery while still a boy. His parents, like other Hudson Valley residents of the early 1800s, owned several slaves. (Slavery was slowly abolished in New York from 1797-1827 through a gradual mandated process.) Seward recalled his preference as a child for the company and conversation of the slaves in his father’s kitchen to the 'severe decorum' in his family's front parlor. He discerned very quickly the inequality between races, writing in later years "I early came to the conclusion that something was wrong𠉪nd [that] determined me…to be an abolitionist." This belief would stay with Seward through his life and permeate his career.

Seward’s wife Frances was deeply committed to the abolitionist movement. In the 1850s, the Seward family opened their Auburn home as a safehouse to fugitive slaves. Seward’s frequent travel and political work suggest that it was Frances who played the more active role in Auburn abolitionist activities. In the excitement following the rescue and safe transport of fugitive slave William "Jerry" Henry in Syracuse on October 1, 1851, Frances wrote to her husband, "two fugitives have gone to Canada—one of them our acquaintance John."[10] Another time she wrote, "A man by the name of William Johnson will apply to you for assistance to purchase the freedom of his daughter. You will see that I have given him something by his book. I told him I thought you would give him more."

In 1846, Seward became the center of controversy in his hometown when he defended, in separate cases, two convicts accused of murder. Henry Wyatt, a white man, was charged in the stabbing death of a fellow prison inmate William Freeman, of African American and Native American ancestry, was accused of breaking into a home and stabbing four people to death. In both cases the defendants were mentally ill and had been severely abused while in prison. Seward, having long been an advocate of prison reform and better treatment for the insane, sought to prevent both men from being executed by using a relatively new defense of insanity. In a case involving mental illness with heavy racial overtones Seward argued, "The color of the prisoner’s skin, and the form of his features, are not impressed upon the spiritual immortal mind which works beneath. In spite of human pride, he is still your brother, and mine, in form and color accepted and approved by his Father, and yours, and mine, and bears equally with us the proudest inheritance of our race—the image of our Maker. Hold him then to be a Man."[12]

Later, Seward quoted Freeman’s brother-in-law, praising his eloquence: "They have made William Freeman what he is, a brute beast they don’t make anything else of any of our people but brute beasts but when we violate their laws, then they want to punish us as if we were men." In the end both men were convicted. Although Wyatt was executed, Freeman, whose conviction was reversed on Seward's successful appeal to the New York Supreme Court, died in his cell of tuberculosis.

United States Senator and Presidential Candidate

William H. Seward (c. 1850)Seward supported the Whig candidate, General Zachary Taylor, in the presidential election of 1848. He said of Taylor, "He is the most gentle-looking and amiable of men." Taylor was a slaveholding plantation owner, but was friendly to Seward anyway.

William Seward was elected a U.S. Senator from New York as a Whig in 1849, and emerged as the leader of the anti-slavery "Conscience Whigs". Seward opposed the Compromise of 1850, and was thought to have encouraged Taylor in his supposed opposition. More recent scholarship suggests that Taylor was not under Seward's influence and would have accepted the Compromise if he had not died. Seward believed that slavery was morally wrong, and said so many times, outraging Southerners. He acknowledged that slavery was legal under the Constitution, but denied that the Constitution recognized or protected slavery. He famously remarked in 1850 that "there is a higher law than the Constitution". He continued to argue this point of view over the next ten years. He presented himself as the leading enemy of the Slave Power – that is, the perceived conspiracy of southern slaveowners to seize the government and defeat the progress of liberty.

Seward was an opponent of the Fugitive Slave Act, and he defended runaway slaves in court. He supported personal liberty laws.

In February 1855, he was re-elected as a Whig to the U.S. Senate, and joined the Republican Party when the New York Whigs merged with the Anti-Nebraskans later the same year. Seward did not seriously compete for the presidential nomination (won by John C. Frémont) in 1856, but sought and was expected to receive the nomination in 1860. In October 1858, he delivered a famous speech in which he argued that the political and economic systems of North and South were incompatible, and that, due to this "irrepressible conflict," the inevitable "collision" of the two systems would eventually result in the nation becoming "either entirely a slaveholding nation, or entirely a free-labor nation." Yet, Seward was not an abolitionist. Like Lincoln, he believed slavery could and should be extinguished by long-run historical forces rather than by coercion or war.

In 1859, confident of gaining the presidential nomination and advised by his political ally and friend Thurlow Weed that he would be better off avoiding political gatherings where his words might be misinterpreted by one faction or another, Seward left the country for an eight-month tour of Europe. During that hiatus, his lesser-known rival Abraham Lincoln worked diligently to line up support in case Seward failed to win on the first ballot. After returning to the United States, Seward gave a conciliatory, pro-Union Senate speech that reassured moderates but alienated some radical Republicans. (Observing events from Europe, Karl Marx, who was ideologically sympathetic to Frémont, contemptuously regarded Seward as a "Republican Richelieu" and the "Demosthenes of the Republican Party" who had sabotaged Frémont's presidential ambitions.) Around the same time, his friend Horace Greeley turned against him, opposing Seward on the grounds that his radical reputation made him unelectable. When Lincoln won the nomination, Seward loyally supported him and made a long speaking tour of the West in the autumn of 1860.

Abraham Lincoln appointed him Secretary of State in 1861 and he served until 1869. As Secretary of State, he argued that the United States must move westward. Proposing American possession of the Danish West Indies, Samaná, Panama, and Hawaii, only the Brook Islands were annexed. Despite a minimal degree of Congressional support however, by the end of his term, Seward had established a realm of informal influence which, nonetheless included the Hawaiian Islands, Japan, and even, China. Seward also played an integral role in resolving the Trent Affair, and in negotiating the Lyons-Seward Treaty of 1862, which set forth aggressive measures by which the United States and Great Britain agreed to end the Atlantic slave trade.

Seward's most famous achievement as Secretary of State was his successful acquisition of Alaska from Russia.

On April 14, 1865, Lewis Powell, an associate of John Wilkes Booth, attempted to assassinate Seward, the same night that Abraham Lincoln was shot. Powell gained access to Seward's home by telling a servant, William Bell, that he was delivering medicine for Seward, who was recovering from a recent carriage accident on April 5, 1865. Powell started up the stairs when then confronted by one of Seward's sons, Frederick. He told the intruder that his father was asleep and Powell began to start down the stairs, but suddenly swung around and pointed a gun at Frederick's head. After the gun jammed, Powell panicked, then repeatedly struck Frederick over the head with the pistol, leaving Frederick in critical condition on the floor.

Powell then burst into William Seward's bedroom with a knife and stabbed him several times in the face and neck. Powell also attacked and injured another son (Augustus), a soldier and nurse (Sgt. George Robinson) who had been assigned to stay with Seward, and a messenger (Emerick Hansell) who arrived just as Powell was escaping. Luckily all five men that were injured that night survived, although Seward Sr. would carry the facial scars from the attack through his remaining life. The events of that night took their toll on his wife, Frances, who died June 1865 from the stress of almost losing her husband.Then his daughter Fanny died of tuberculosis in October 1866.

Powell was captured the next day and was executed on July 7, 1865, along with David Herold, George Atzerodt, and Mary Surratt, three other conspirators in the Lincoln assassination.

Although it took Seward several months to recover from his wounds, he emerged as a major force in the administration of the new president, Andrew Johnson, frequently defending his more moderate reconciliation policies towards the South, to the point of enraging Radical Republicans who once regarded Seward as their friend but now attacked him.

In the fall of 1866, Seward joined Johnson, as well as Ulysses S. Grant and the young General George Armstrong Custer, along with several other administration figures, on the president's ill-fated "Swing Around the Circle" campaign trip.

At one point Seward became so ill on the trip, probably from cholera, that he was sent back to Washington in a special car. Both Johnson and Grant, as well as several members of the Seward family, thought the Secretary was near death. But as with his April 1865 stabbing, Seward surprised many by his rapid recovery.

Seward retired as Secretary of State after Ulysses S. Grant took office as president. During his last years, Seward traveled and wrote prolifically. Most notably, he traveled around the world in fourteen months and two days from July, 1869 to September, 1871. On October 10, 1872, Seward died in his office in his home in Auburn, New York, after having difficulty breathing. His last words were to his children saying, "Love one another." He was buried in Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York, with his wife and two children, Cornelia and Fanny. His headstone reads, "He was faithful."

His son, Frederick, edited and published his memoirs in three volumes.

In 1957, a century after the Alaska Purchase, the actor Joseph Cotten portrayed Seward in "The Freeman Story" of his NBC anthology series, The Joseph Cotten Show. Virginia Gregg played Fanny Seward. Popular actor Richard Mulligan portrayed William Seward in the 1988 Lincoln mini-series.

His Home in Auburn, New York

Seward and his family owned a home in Auburn, New York which is now a museum. The home was built in 1816 by his father-in-law Judge Elijah Miller. Seward married the Judge's daughter, Frances, in 1824 on the condition that they would live with Miller in his Auburn home. Seward made many changes to the home, adding one additions in the late 1840s and a second in 1866. When he died Seward left the home to his son William Seward Jr and then to his grandson William Henry Seward III in 1920. At Seward III's death in 1951 he willed it to become a museum and it opened to the public in 1955. Four generations of the family's artifacts are contained within the museum. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10-5. Tours begin on the hour and the last tour begins at 4. The home is located at 33 South Street Auburn, NY 13021.

The Guano Islands Act of 1856

The $50-dollar Treasury note, also called the Coin note, of the Series 1891, features a portrait of Seward on the obverse. Examples of this note are very rare and would likely sell for about $50,000.00 at auction.

His house in Auburn, New York is open as a public museum.

The house in which he lived in Westfield, New York is now home to the Chautauqua County Historical Society and a public museum.

He was a name partner of the law firm of Blatchford, Seward & Griswold, today known as Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

Was famous in his lifetime for his red hair and energetic way of walking. Henry Adams described him as "wonderfully resembling" a parrot in "manner and profile".[17]

Statue of Seward in Volunteer Park, Seattle, Washington.

Bust depicting William H. Seward in Seward, AlaskaSeward Avenue in Auburn. Also in Auburn, Frances Street, Augustus Street, and Frederick Street are named for members of his family. The four streets form a block.

Seward Elementary School in Auburn.

Seward Place in Schenectady, New York, on the west side of the Union College campus.

Seward Park in Auburn, New York.

Seward Park in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Seward Park in Seattle, Washington.

Seward Square park in Washington, D.C..

The Seward Peninsula in Alaska.

City of Seward, on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula

Seward, Kansas Seward, New York Seward, Nebraska and Seward, Alaska.

Seward's Success, Alaska, an unbuilt community to be enclosed by a dome.

The Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota

Seward Mountain (4,361 feet, 1,329 m), one of the Adirondack High Peaks, the highest point in Franklin County.

At Union College, the campus bus is known as Seward's Trolley, a pun on Seward's Folly.

Seward High School in his hometown of Florida is named for his father, Dr. Samuel Seward.

Statues of him in Seward Park in Auburn, in Madison Square Park in New York City, and in Volunteer Park in Seattle (not facing towards Alaska).

The William Henry Seward Memorial in Florida, with a bust sculpted by Daniel Chester French.

Seward Park Housing Corporation, a housing cooperative in the Lower East Side of Manhattan

Seward Mansion in Mount Olive, NJ

Frederick William Seward. Autobiography of William H. Seward from 1801 to 1834: With a memoir of his life, and selections from his letters from 1831 to 1840 (1877)

Life and Public Services of John Quincy Adams, Sixth President of the United States (1849)

Commerce in the Pacific ocean. Speech of William H. Seward, in the Senate of the United States, July 29, 1852 (1852 Digitized page images & text)

The continental rights and relations of our country. Speech of William Henry Seward, in Senate of the United States, January 26, 1853 (1853 Digitized page images & text)

The destiny of America. Speech of William H. Seward, at the dedication of Capital University, at Columbus, Ohio, September 14, 1853 (1853 Digitized page images & text)

Certificate of Exchange (1867 Digitized page images & text)

Alaska. Speech of William H. Seward at Sitka, August 12, 1869 (1869 Digitized page images & text)

The Works of William H. Seward. Edited by George E. Baker. Volume I of III (1853) online edition

The Works of William H. Seward. Edited by George E. Baker. Volume II of III (1853) online edition

The Works of William H. Seward: Vol. 5: The diplomatic history of the war for the union.. Edited by George E. Baker. Volume 5 (1890)

William Seward Burroughs

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William Seward Burroughs, (born January 28, 1855, Auburn, New York, U.S.—died September 15, 1898, Citronelle, Alabama), American inventor of the first recording adding machine and pioneer of its manufacture.

After a brief education, Burroughs supported himself from the age of 15. In 1880 he began working in his father’s shop in St. Louis, Missouri, constructing models for castings and working on new inventions. At that time he decided to construct a machine for solving arithmetical problems and, with financial help from an acquaintance, Thomas B. Metcalfe, completed his first calculating machine (1885), which, however, proved to be commercially impractical. But, with Metcalfe and two other St. Louis businessmen, he organized the American Arithmometer Company in 1888 after much trial and error he patented a practical model in 1892. Although the machine was a commercial success, he died before receiving much money from it. A year before his death he received the John Scott Medal of the Franklin Institute as an award for his invention. In 1905 the Burroughs Adding Machine Company was organized in Michigan as successor to the American Arithmometer Company. His grandson, American author William S. Burroughs, was named after him.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Erik Gregersen, Senior Editor.

10. There's a long-standing myth about Seward and the Alaska Purchase.

Atzerodt (who was also executed for his involvement with Booth's scheme) never even tried to assassinate Andrew Johnson. With Lincoln gone, Johnson became America's 17th president. Under the new administration, Seward remained Secretary of State—and it was during these years that he negotiated America's acquisition of Alaska.

In March 1867, Seward discussed the terms with Edouard de Stoeckl, Russia's Minister to the United States. By the end of the month, they'd agreed on a $7.2 million price tag—which works out to roughly two cents per acre. Not a bad deal.

Today, it's often claimed that the decision to purchase Alaska was deeply unpopular. Moreover, the American press is said to have immediately balked at Russia's multimillion-dollar fee and nicknamed the territory "Seward's Folly," or "Seward's Ice Box."

But that's a myth. According to Seward biographer Walter Stahr, most newspapers praised the decision. "[It] is of the highest importance to the whole country," declared the Daily Alta California, "… that the territory should be consolidated as soon as possible." The New York Times and Chicago Tribune concurred, as did the National Republican, which called Alaska's purchase "the greatest diplomatic achievement of the age.'

Seward himself got to see the future state in all its glory during the summer of 1869. By then, he'd retired from politics altogether and dedicated his remaining years to travel and family. On October 10, 1872, he passed away in his Auburn home.