I’m moving to a new house, so blogging will be sporadic this month. A recent New Yorker article discussed a new biography of William Seward. Seward was famously one of Lincoln’s “Team of Rivals” following the 1860 election where he lost the Republican nomination. After a long career as an antislavery Senator, Seward served as Lincoln’s Secretary of State and was a close advisor during the war.
The mystery about Seward’s career, which I hope the new biography will answer, is that he continued to serve as Secretary of State under Andrew Johnson until Johnson retired in 1869. In that role, Seward was largely supportive of Johnson’s policies on Reconstruction, which were not at all favorable to African-American equality. At Cabinet meetings during the Johnson Administration, only Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War, backed the initiatives coming out of Congress. Now it’s true that Seward was responsible for foreign policy rather than domestic affairs, but this is still a curious posture for someone who was considered more radical than Lincoln in 1860.