Seward, William H.

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  • William Henry Seward (1801–72) ranks among diplomatic historians as one of the nation's greatest secretaries of state for his tenure from 1861 to 1869. As an antislavery politician, he helped shape the debate over the West in the Civil War era. As a diplomat during and after the war, he redrew the nation's map.

    Born on May 16, 1801, in the town of Florida, New York, Seward became a lawyer and entered politics, serving as a legislator and winning two terms as governor before becoming a U.S. senator in 1849. His public statements stamped him as a “Conscience Whig” and later, after the Whig Party's death, a “Radical Republican” who opposed slavery: in 1850, he proclaimed that a “higher law than the Constitution” opposed the institution's ...

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