US Senator, Presidential Cabinet Secretary. Born in Florida, New York, his father a wealthy physician who later became a judge. Tutored at home with some formal education in the local school, he was admitted to Union College in Schenectady and upon graduation studied law under lawyers in Goshen and New York City which culminated in admittance to the state bar at the young age of 21. Seward entered into a law partnership with Judge Elijah Miller in Auburn, New York. The judge was destined to become his father-in-law after receiving permission to marry his daughter with condition the couple would have to share his home. He quickly developed an interest in politics winning election to the state senate then on the become governor of New York and finally a US Senator. William and his wife were devout abolitionists and even used their home to shelter fugitive slaves. He was instrumental in helping Harriet Tubman to settle in Auburn and secured property on his street where she lived until her death. Head of the Republican Party, William H. Seward was the leading candidate for the presidential nomination. However, it went to Abraham Lincoln and due to his support during the presidential campaign was named Secretary of State. His powerful leadership proved invaluable to the Union during the Civil War. He smooth over US-British tensions during the Trent Affair dissuading Britain from recognizing the Confederacy and was instrumental in getting France to withdraw from Mexico using the Monroe Doctrine as his authority. He helped to write the Emancipation Proclamation. Seward was wounded by a would-be assassin on the same night that Lincoln was murdered. After his recovery, he remained as Secretary of State under Andrew Johnson. He was an enthusiastic expansionist and negotiated the annexation of the Midway Islands and the purchase of Alaska from the Russians. He retired from politics at the end of Johnson's term. After touring the Pacific Northwest, he returned to Auburn New York remaining active by writing. His main work was a "Life of John Quincy Adams." He died in his office as he lay on his office couch with his family gathered around. His foresight was not generally acknowledged for the purchase of Alaska and his detractors tabbed the venture 'Seward's folly, Seward's Icebox and Johnson's polar bear garden.' The seaside town of Seward, Alaska, located on the Kenai Peninsula, is named in his honor. Seward's Day is a holiday in Alaska and is celebrated on the last Monday of March. The Seward House constructed by his father-in-law in Auburn is a popular tourist attraction. One of the workmen during construction was Brigham Young, a then sixteen year old apprentice painter and carpenter. It not only became the home of William Seward but four generations of the family until 1951. The house today is a National Historic Landmark. It houses intact the original collection of furniture, household items, decorative arts, documents and photographs of this remarkable family.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield