I'm in the third chapter of Team of Rivals about Lincoln and his cabinet team of Republican rivals.
1. Lead up to election
2. Family background of Lincoln and rivals
3a. Lure of Politics for Edward Bates
Again, the third chapter talks about the entrance of the four men of the book into politics. This week I read the section of the chapter on William Seward. I also saw the movie Lincoln by Spielberg this past weekend. Seward's character in the movie was not as I imagined him, so I'll bracket that image as I continue reading in this book by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Seward, if you remember, was the governor of New York for 2 terms (1838-42). He was a Whig, the precursor to the Republican party. It is quite interesting to me that so many of the values of the Republican party back then are more the values of the Democratic party right now. I resonate strongly with the values of the original Republican party and am one of the many lifetime Republicans who is quite alienated by the party's emphases right now.
For example, the Whigs/Republicans stood for things like
- unionism (versus excessive state's rights),
- internal improvements (roads, bridges, infrastructure--things that helped markets back then),
- anti-slavery (and thus pro-the rights of disempowered groups that today would translate into civil rights, immigration rights, and the pro-life movement as long as it takes seriously the lives of the women having the babies as well)
- better public schools
Seward seemed to wrestle significantly with balancing his political ambitions with his devotion to family. His wife did not travel with him to the state house in New York and their relationship seemed to falter as an ambiguous friend of Seward (Tracy) was at first smothered Seward himself and then got too friendly with his wife Francis.
Seward was a principled man. He was strongly against slavery and in fact hurt New York's trade with Virginia by refusing to turn over two freed slaves who had tried to smuggle a runaway slave out of Virginia. He did allow the runaway to be returned, following the Constitution.
He got into problems with strong anti-catholics by trying to provide education for Irish and German catholic immigrants. This made him an enemy of the "nativists" and possibly lost him the Republican nomination won by Lincoln.
Horace Greeley wrote of his second election as governor that he would "henceforth be honored more for the three thousand votes he has lost, considering the causes, than for all he has received in his life" (84). Seward lost those votes for his stand against slavery and for providing education to all, even dirty, no good immigrants.