1.  Born May 16, 1801, this U.S. Secretary of State under Lincoln died on October 10, 1872.

2.  He is today best known for “Seward’s Folly,” his championing of the purchase of Alaska from the Russians.  Ridiculed by many at the time, it has proven to be a wise investment.

3.  An ardent opponent of slavery, he nonetheless advocated a measured political approach to the issue, due to its divisiveness.

4.  A lawyer, Seward was one of the first to use the insanity defense in the case of a mentally disturbed African-American who had killed four white people and in the case of an unbalanced prisoner who had killed another prisoner.  Both were convicted, although the former’s conviction was overturned upon appeal to the NY Supreme Court.

5.  On the night of Lincoln’s assassination, a co-conspirator attacked Seward at home in his bed, stabbing him and injuring two of his sons, a nurse and a messenger.  (All survived.)

6.  Seward was criticized by many for staying on as Secretary of State under Andrew Johnson, a move seen by many as smacking of opportunism and vanity.  (If you can imagine a politician being described in such words.)

7.  Although born in Florida, Seward is more strongly associated with New York state, where he spent much of his adult life.

8.  Seward served as both Governor of New York and as a U.S. Senator from the state.  (No, not at the same time.)

9.  Seward is credited with helping to smooth over an incident early in the Civil War, said by one source to be comparable in importance to the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s, in which a British ship was captured by a Union supporter.  Seward’s tact and diplomacy averted what could have developed into full scale support of Britain for the Confederacy.  (I, on the other hand, have a hard time keeping my sisters from tearing out each others’ throats.)

10.  Starting out as  a Whig, Seward switched allegiance to the Republican Party in 1855; his loss of the Presidential nomination to Lincoln five years later was regarded as something of an upset.  (Which brings up the question – how old WAS the Republican Party when it earned the nickname Grand OLD Party?)

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