Some of Seward's bio:
The 12th Governor of New York, United States Senator and the United States Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. An outspoken opponent of the spread of slavery in the years leading up to the American Civil War, he was a dominant figure in the Republican party in its formative years...
On the night of Lincoln's assassination, he survived an attempt on his life in the conspirators' effort to decapitate the Union government. As Johnson's Secretary of State, he engineered the purchase of Alaska from Russia in an act that was ridiculed at the time as "Seward's Folly", but which somehow exemplified his character.
His contemporary Carl Schurz described Seward as "one of those spirits who sometimes will go ahead of public opinion instead of tamely following its footprints."
Did you know that on the night Booth shot Lincoln, an associate of Booth's broke into Seward's bedroom and stabbed him multiple times? I didn't. Governor Palin made a trip to Seward's home town of Auburn, NY last year to celebrate Seward's Day.
I was flipping through a book of speeches this morning, and this one caught my eye, "The Irrepressible Conflict," by William Henry Seward. It was given in 1858.
Remember, the Republican Party was in its infancy. Fun fact: pro-slavery politicians (and even some who tended to be a tad more moderate, such as Stephen Douglas) referred to Republicans as "Black Republicans" because the party was anti-slavery:
The Democratic party, or, to speak more accurately, the party which wears that attractive name-is in possession of the federal government. The Republicans propose to dislodge that party, and dismiss it from its high trust...The main subject, then, is whether the Democratic party deserves to retain the confidence of the American people....
I have learned, by some experience, that virtue and patriotism, vice and selfishness, are found in all parties, and that they differ less in their motives than in the policies they pursue.
Our country is a theatre, which exhibits, in full operation, two radically different political systems; the one resting on the basis of servile or slave labor, the other on voluntary labor of freemen. The laborers who are enslaved are all negroes, or persons more or less purely of African derivation. But this is only accidental.
The principle of the system is, that labor in every society, by whomsoever performed, is necessarily unintellectual, grovelling and base; and that the laborer, equally for his own good and for the welfare of the State, ought to be enslaved. The white laboring man, whether native or foreigner, is not enslaved, only because he cannot, as yet, be reduced to bondage...[He goes on to provide a fascinating historical narrative and the reasons why slavery is so abominable.]
Having spent my manhood, though not my whole life, in a free State, no aristocracy of any kind, much less an aristocracy of slaveholders, shall ever make the laws of the land in which I shall be content to live...I shall never be a denizen of a State where men and women are reared as cattle, and bought and sold as merchandise.
When that evil day shall come, and all further effort at resistance shall be impossible, then, if there shall be no better hope for redemption than I can now foresee, I shall say with Franklin, while looking abroad over the whole earth for a new and more congenial home, "Where liberty dwells, there is my country."
You will tell me that these fears are extravagant and chimerical. I answer, they are so; but they are so only because the designs of the slaveholders must and can be defeated. But it is only the possibility of defeat that renders them so. They cannot be defeated by inactivity. There is no escape from them compatible with non-resistance. How, then, and in what way, shall the necessary resistance be made,? There is only one way.
The Democratic party must be permanently dislodged from the government. The reason is, that the Democratic party is inextricably committed to the designs of the slaveholders, which I have described.
Let me be well understood...Candidates may, and generally do, mean to act justly, wisely, and patriotically, when they shall be elected; but they become the ministers and servants, not the dictators, of the power which elects them....The motives of men, whether acting as electors or in any other capacity, are generally pure. Nevertheless, it is not more true that " hell is paved with good intentions," than it is that earth is covered with wrecks resulting from innocent and amiable motives.
The very constitution of the Democratic party commits it to execute all the designs of the slaveholders, whatever they may be...
To expect the Democratic party to resist slavery and favor freedom is as unreasonable as to look for Protestant missionaries to the Catholic propaganda of Rome. The history of the Democratic party commits it to the policy of slavery. It has been the Democratic party, and no other agency, which has carried that policy up to its present alarming culmination...
We may concede its claim to date from the era of good feeling which occurred under the administration of President Monroe. At that time, in this State, and about that time in many others of the free States, the Democratic party deliberately disfranchised the free colored or African citizen, and it has pertinaciously continued this disfranchisement ever since. This was an effective aid to slavery; for, while the slaveholder votes for his slaves against freedom, the freed slave in the free States is prohibited from voting against slavery.
In 1824 the democracy resisted the election of John Quincy Adams-himself before that time an acceptable Democrat and in 1828 it expelled him from the presidency and put a slaveholder in his place, although the office had been filled by slaveholders thirty-two out of forty years. [John Quincy Adams was outspokenly anti-slavery]
In 1836, Martin Van Buren-the first non-slaveholding citizen of a free State to whose election the Democratic party ever consented-signalized his inauguration into the presidency by a gratuitous announcement that under no circumstances would he ever approve a bill for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.
From 1838 to 1844 the subject of abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia and in the national dockyards and arsenals, was brought before Congress by repeated popular appeals. The Democratic party thereupon promptly denied the right of petition, and effectually suppressed the freedom of speech in Congress, so far as the institution of slavery was concerned.
From 1840 to 1843 good and wise men counselled that Texas should remain outside the Union until she should consent to relinquish her self-instituted slavery; but the Democratic party precipitated her admission into the Union, not only without that condition, but even with a covenant that the State might be divided and reorganized so as to constitute four slave States instead of one.
In 1846, when the United States became involved in a war with Mexico, and it was apparent that the struggle would end in the dismemberment of that republic, which was a non-slaveholding power, the Democratic party rejected a declaration that slavery should not be established within the territory to be acquired.
When, in 1850, governments were to be instituted in the territories of California and New Mexico, the fruits of that war, the Democratic party refused to admit New Mexico as a free State, and only consented to admit California as a free State on the condition, as it has since explained the transaction, of leaving all of New Mexico and Utah open to slavery, to which was also added the concession of perpetual slavery in the District of Columbia, and the passage of an unconstitutional, cruel, and humiliating law, for the recapture of fugitive slaves, with a further stipulation that the subject of slavery should never again be agitated in either chamber of Congress.
When, in 1854, the slaveholders were contentedly reposing on these great advantages, then so recently won, the Democratic party unnecessarily, officiously, and with super-serviceable liberality, awakened them from their slumber, to offer and force on their acceptance the abrogation of the law which declared that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude should ever exist within that part of the ancient territory of Louisiana which lay outside of the State of Missouri, and north of the parallel of 36' 30' of north latitudes law which, with the exception of one other, was the only statute of freedom then remaining in the federal code.
In 1856, when the people of Kansas had organized a new State within the region thus abandoned to slavery, and applied to be admitted as a free State into the Union, the Democratic party contemptuously rejected their petition, and drove them with menaces and intimidations from the halls of Congress, and armed the President with military power to enforce their submission to a slave code, established over them by fraud and usurpation.
At every subsequent stage of a long contest which has since raged in Kansas, the Democratic party- has lent its sympathies, its aid, and all the powers of the government which it controlled, to enforce slavery upon that unwilling and injured people. And now, even at this day, while it mocks us with the assurance that Kansas is free, the Democratic party keeps the State excluded from her just and proper place in the Union, under the hope that she may be dragooned into the acceptance of slavery.
The Democratic party, finally, has procured from a supreme judiciary, fixed in its interest, a decree that slavery exists by force of the constitution in every territory of the United States, paramount to all legislative authority, either within the territory or residing in Congress.
Such is the Democratic party. It has no policy, state or federal, for finance, or trade, or manufacture, or commerce, or education, or internal improvements, or for the protection or even the security of civil or religious liberty. It is positive and uncompromising in the interest of slavery-negative, compromising, and vacillating, in regard to everything else. It boasts its love of equality, and wastes its strength, and even its life, in fortifying the only aristocracy known in the land. It professes fraternity, and, so often as slavery requires, allies itself with proscription. It magnifies itself for conquests in foreign lands, but it sends the national eagle forth always with chains, and not the olive branch, in his fangs....
At last, the Republican party has appeared. It avows, now, as the Republican party of 1800 did, in one word, its faith and its works, "Equal and exact justice to all men..."
I know, and you know, that a revolution has begun. I know, and all the world knows, that revolutions never go backward...
While the government of the United States, under the conduct of the Democratic party, has been all that time surrendering one plain and castle after another to slavery, the people of the United States have been no less steadily and perseveringly gathering together the forces with which to recover back again all the fields and all the castles which have been lost, and to confound and overthrow, by one decisive blow, the betrayers of the constitution and freedom forever.
From one form of slavery to another. Today we battle, among other things, "debt slavery."Read the whole speech here. Not saying the Republicans of today are guiltless on things like budget deficits, but things certainly haven't gotten better with a Democrat in the White House, that's for sure.