William Henry Seward: Lincoln's Right Hand

William Henry Seward: Lincoln's Right Hand

by John M. Taylor

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Overview


From Kirkus Reviews: A friendly yet not uncritical biography of the secretary of state in the Lincoln and Andrew Johnson Cabinets. Taylor--who chronicled his father's life in General Maxwell Taylor (1987)- -offers neither much original scholarship nor a fresh approach, but writes smoothly and with balance. Why did Seward, front-runner for the 1860 GOP presidential nomination, lose his party's nod to the relatively unknown Lincoln, and why has he been so completely eclipsed by him since? Taylor depicts a politico whose manifold talents were often undermined by his own ambiguity (even Seward admitted that he "found myself an enigma to myself''). Intellectual, shrewd, diligent, convivial, and even charitable toward enemies, Seward was also willing to trim his sails in pursuit of political objectives. Linking up with Albany political boss Thurlow Weed, he worked ably for liberal causes as New York's governor and, later, in the Senate, where he became leader of the antislavery faction. Losing his bid for the Presidency because of his alliance with Weed and his statements about a "higher law'' and "irrepressible conflict'' with the South, Seward later undercut his political base still further by meddling with other Cabinet members' business and clashing with Radical Republicans during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Taylor does not fully explain why Seward muted his opposition to slavery during the secession crisis in the hope of reconciling the South, and fails to criticize Seward's mistakes adequately (e.g., saber-rattling gestures toward England and France that Lincoln rightly rejected). Yet Taylor correctly praises him for keeping the South in diplomatic isolation, bucking up the melancholy Lincoln's spirits, and having the vision to push through the initially scorned Alaska purchase ("Seward's Icebox''). An orthodox but sensible treatment of a dedicated politician-statesman who was sometimes too clever and complex for his own good.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781574881196
Publisher: Potomac Books
Publication date: 10/01/1996
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 795,928
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author


John M. Taylor is the author a number of history books, including Duty Faithfully Performed: Robert E. Lee and His Critics (Brassey's, Inc., 1999). He is also a contributor to many popular history magazines including American Heritage, Military History Quarterly, and Civil War Times. He lives in McLean, Virginia.

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William Henry Seward: Lincoln's Right Hand 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
JBD1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The best recent bio of Seward; quite comprehensive and useful.
Schneider on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am surprised. One would think that a biography about William H. Seward, a lifelong leader in state and national politics in one of the most controversial periods of our time, would have some depth and life to it. This has neither.Though it is a little over 300 pages, the author John Taylor has just skimmed the surface of his subject. There are countless examples throughout the title where the author spends enough time on a topic to allow the read to know what happened and what WHS¿s role was. This is a book with larger type and spacing, so there is some really glairing issues with the research. It is the quantity of the research, not the quality. Most of his sources are primary source materials right from the subjects own hand in many cases. Each section and /or major event in his life could be fleshed out a little more which would have given it much for life and some depth. What is here is not bad, it is just that there is so much missing from a man that casts such a huge political shadow that one cannot help but dwell on it.The more I read this book the more I though it to be hagiographic. For every negative that Seward had done or said was followed by some sort of justifier or excuse by the author. That style, for me, took away from who the real Seward was and propped up an ivory statue in its place. Here was a man who outside of politics he was affable and outgoing, and when `at work¿ was as multiplicitous as a politician could be. It is understandable why he stayed in Lincoln¿s shadow.The book as a whole is very readable and does include all of the important events in the life of the former Statesman. I would not recommend this unless you go into it knowing that the author treated WHS with kid gloves. For as active as Seward was as a state and national politician and being the beau ideal of the Thurlow Weed machine and a lightning rod of controversy where ever he went, one would think it would be hard to keep the book under 500 pages and not the 300 page cliff notes of the man¿s life. I am quite surprised indeed.