quotes on Seward
- These are from Dean B. Mahin's "One War At A Time: The
International Dimensions Of The Civil War"
European diplomats in Washington thought that U.S.
diplomacy was totally masterminded by Secretary of
State William H. Seward. He had been a Whig governor
of New York in the 1840s and a U.S. senator in the
1850s. Prior to the war with Mexico that began in
1846, Seward had supported westward expansion if it
was peaceful and added no new slave territory.
Although he thought the war with Mexico was "odious"
and "a bastard war," his opposition to it was much
less intense and public than that of Congressman
Abraham Lincoln. In the 1850s, Senator Seward was
considered an expansionist. He made several statements
indicating his belief that Canada would ultimately be
peacefully annexed by the United States. As governor
and senator, Seward had given British leaders many
reasons for considering him hostile toward Britain and
other monarchies in Europe. Seward was always on the
side of those abroad - in Canada, Ireland, Hungary,
and elsewhere - who were seeking to overthrow
governments imposed by European monarchies.
In the later 1850s Seward became the most prominent
leader of the new Republican Party. He spent seven
months in Europe in 1859, meeting prominent leaders in
England, France, Italy, Egypt, and the Holy Land.
Although Seward recieved 173 and a half votes for the
presidential nomination on the first ballot at the
Republican convention in Chicago and Abraham Lincolm
recieved only 102 votes on that ballot, the convention
ultimately chose Lincoln as the Republican candidate.
After Lincoln's election, Seward accepted the
appointment as secretary of state in the belief that
he could dominate an administration headed by a man
who had limited experience with national government
and foreign affairs.
During the five weeks between the inauguration and the
firing on Fort Sumter by Confederates on April 12,
Seward continued to flirt with the idea of a "foreign
war panacea" to reunite North and South although there
is no evidence that he thought seriously of a war with
England. On April 1, Seward wrote a ramblind memo
titled "Thoughts for the President's consideration."
Lincoln's ability as chief executive had not yet been
demonstrated, and the memo reflected Seward's lack of
confidence at that time in his leadership. He wrote
that "I would demand explanations from Spain and
France," apparently referring to Spain's current
attempt to re-annex Santo Domingo and France's moves
toward the occupation of neighboring Haiti. If
satisfactory explanations were not recieved, he "would
convene Congress and declare war against them." Seward
biographer Glyndon G. Van Deusen wrote that the
"Thoughts" memo was based on the "assumption that
Seward should take over the direction of government
policy - a suggestion that no self-respecting
president could possibly assent... The president ...
served notice, kindly but firmly, that he was master
in his house."
After the war began, Seward understood as clearly as
Lincoln that the North could only fight "one war at a
time." But by then it was neccessary to convince
England and France that war with the United States was
a very real danger if either country recognized
Confederate independence. The belligerant image Seward
had created by indiscreet talk prior to Fort Sumter
was deliberately perpetuated for some time thereafter
by calculated actions taken with the concurrence of
the president. On the whole, the strategy was
successful, although it contributed to unfounded
apprehensions in Britain regarding U.S. intentions
during the Trent crisis, at the end of 1861.
- I'm not sure (because I've only read about half the book) but I think
that may be the only part that mentions Seward's presidential
ambitions. It's really a fascinating book, and gives a great deal of
insight into Lincoln. The book focuses on Union and Confederate
diplomacy with Britain, France, and Mexico. There was one occasion
when there was a very real possibility of war with Britain, during the
Trent crisis at the end of 1861. But Lincoln and Seward managed to
smooth that over.