December 14, 2012

So how much was Seward Lincoln's eminence grise?

Seward: Lincoln's Indispensable ManSeward: Lincoln's Indispensable Man by Walter Stahr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent read, especially in light of the new Lincoln movie

I had never read a full bio of Seward before, and this was great.

First, looking near the end of his life, I did not know he was such a conservative on Reconstruction. Indeed, while not a racist like Andrew Johnson, he fully supported the generally conservative nature of his approach. He appears not to care much for the fate of post-war Southern blacks, and also, ironically at least, fretted about too much federal intervention in states' rights. It made me wonder if he would have tried to influence Lincoln that way, had Lincoln lived.

Oh, and other things that kind of connect to the Lincoln movie?

Apparently, a fair amount of bribery was used to get the treaty of purchasing Alaska approved by the Senate; shades of 13th Amendment passage. (And, speaking of, which the movie doesn't tell us, Kentucky's Rep. Yeaman? Was named minister to Denmark for his vote swap; that's a pretty big payoff.)

Anyway, beyond that, it's stuff like this, and other stuff by Seward's "Karl Rove," Thurlow Weed, that make this a very good read.

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Meanwhile, related to my posts about the Lincoln movie, some of its issues with historical nuance and depth, and Lincoln's claw-like attachment to colonization, makes one further wonder just how much different Lincoln would have been from Andrew Johnson on Reconstruction. Maybe he, like Seward, would have found the Freedman's Bureau too much government meddling. Would have rejected Reconstruction military districts.

I don't know. We do know that he pocket-vetoed the Wade-Davis bill, which called for stringent Reconstruction.

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