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One remark on William Seward - to keep his cabinet position under Johnson, he had to have been an adept political operative.

I submit I don't know anything about his Johnson-era career, but let me expand on what I meant with my characterisation as "a talented yet carefree, ageing dandy without strong convictions".

  • It appears that politics was like an aristocratic sport for him: he enjoyed drawing a crowd with public speeches, liked to fight rhetorical battles on the Senate floor, and most of all liked to be at the centre of a social gathering, whatever the subject of discussion. But often his spoken words came back to haunt him when written down and read by other audiences.

  • Another pillar of a 19th-century American political career was to have loyal foot-soldiers who do the groundwork. Lincoln created this on his own, Chase totally ignored this, while Seward left it all in the hands of his friend and mentor Thurlow Weed. Seward would have been nobody without Weed.

  • The third ingredient was (is) to network with other powerful people. In this field, Chase's deficit was to be contended with superficial friendships and change parties (and thus "betray" networks) too many times, while Seward (and Weed) neglected relationships, most prominently Horace Greeley (a New York newspaper editor with political ambitions ignored for too long).

  • Further on the aristocratic sport point, Seward was something of an opportunist, he doesn't seem to have had any real ideological causes or strong loyalty to a group with special interests. This in sharp contrast to his wife Francis, who was a perhaps even more committed abolitionist than Chase (the effect of a visit to the South when the couple was young).


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 20th, 2014 at 07:34:19 PM EST
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