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WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
WILLIAM H. SEWARD was born in Orange County, New York, in 1801. At nineteen years of age he was graduated from Union College. At twenty-three he began the practice of law. After filling the positions of Senator and Governor of his own State, in 1849 he entered the United States Senate. There he found Webster, Calhoun, and Clay, those giants of the elder time, whose sands of life were nearly run.
The dawn of the newer time was indeed already discerned, though its troubled light was destined to fade out in darkness and tempest before the day could be fully ushered in. For twelve years, while the forces were mustering for the deadly conflict, he kept his post, alert and watchful, in the Senate. For four years, while the conflict lasted, he stood by Lincoln's side as his faithful Secretary of State. Stricken almost unto death at the same time with Lincoln, he nevertheless recovered, and stood by Lincoln's successor to the end of his term. Three years of rest from the burdens of public service - of enjoyment of well-earned honors - were left to round out his life. He died Oct. 10, 1872.
The speech on the Irrepressible Conflict was a political address delivered at Rochester, New York, in Mr. Seward's canvass of that State in behalf of the newly formed Republican party. It made a profound impression. Though separated by a considerable interval from Calhoun's stern arraignment of the spirit of the North as the spirit of disunion, this is, perhaps, the most direct answer to that speech in its counter-arraignment of the spirit of the South. In simplicity, in directness, and in determined concentration upon the one point at issue, the two speeches are strikingly alike. As compared with the genial largeness and range of Webster's view, these qualities mark a much later stage of the struggle between the opposing ideas a stage in which all acces
sories and complications are impatiently brushed aside, and the naked issue is confronted. One feels, as he hears such challenge and defiance, that the sword-strokes are not long to wait.
PAGE 298, 7. The young student, of course, will not make the mistake of supposing that what is said in this speech is to be understood of political parties now calling themselves Democratic and Republican. Names often outlast the ideas they once stood for. As a matter of fact, Democrat and Republican in early American politics were synonymous terms, applied alike to the party opposed to the Federal Union, — the party originally made up, as Mr. Hayne put it, of “ those who wanted no union of the States, and [those] who disliked the proposed form of union.” Their opponents were the Federalists. After 1808 the name Republican was gradually dropped, and was not heard of again until, in 1856, it was taken up by the new party formed to oppose the Democrats. See pages 207 and 310, 1. 4 ff.
PAGE 303, 24. For the ordinance of 1787, see Webster's Speech, p. 191, and consult U. S. History s. v.
PAGE 305, 15. Dred Scott was a negro who brought suit for his freedom on the ground that his master had taken him to a State where slavery was prohibited, and that he had thereby become free. The case was taken up to the Supreme Court, which rendered in 1857 the famous decision declaring not only that free colored persons whose ancestors were imported into this country and sold as slaves, « had no rights which the white man is bound to respect," but furthermore that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in the Territories, and that the Missouri Compromise Act was null and void.
PAGE 310, 6 ff. The party was organized for the first time in February, 1856. Its first convention met in June of the same year, and nominated Colonel Frémont for the presidency. In the election which followed, Colonel Frémont secured one hundred and fourteen electoral votes, as against Mr. Buchanan's one hundred and seventy-four. In thirteen of the sixteen free States the Republicans elected their State tickets, and gave Frémont a majority over Buchanan, all told, of two hundred thousand votes. See Seward's Works, iv., p. 43.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN - Born February 12, 1809; died April 15, 1865. The story of his early life, the discipline in which his powers were trained, the part he played in the tremendous drama of our Civil War, his steadfastness, his gentleness, the greatness of his heart, and the pathos of his death in the very hour of victory, — are known unto all men.
After the battle of Gettysburg, in July, 1863, it was proposed to set apart a portion of the battle-ground as a perpetual memorial of those who had there laid down their lives at their country's need. The suggestion was carried out; and on November 19 of that year the National Cemetery was solemnly consecrated.
The words spoken by President Lincoln on that day have been chosen as a fitting conclusion to this collection of speeches. A fac-simile of the original manuscript may be seen in The Century Magazine for February, 1894.