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should forever travel with the advancing column of our territorial progress.”
In March following, Mr. Read, at a public meeting, made an elaborate speech in favor of the immediate admission of California into the Union as a Free State, and responsive to the Pittsburg resolution. In that speech “there is the breathing of the same spirit, and a strong avowal of the same doctrine, that six years later found sympathy and accord in the ranks of the new party organized under Republican leaders, and laid down in the celebrated platform on which the contest of 1856 was waged.” Mr. Read, having disapproved of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise Aøt, took an active part in the animated contest of that year; and one of his speeches,-a calm and complete exposition of the claims of free white labor,—delivered in Philadelphia on the 30th of September, was printed and circulated as a campaign document.
In 1858, he consented to be a candidate for Judge of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and, under the united support, most willingly concentrated upon him, of all the branches of the Opposition, he was elected by a triumphant majority of about twenty-seven thousand votes. Of the character of John M. Read as a judge it may
properly said that his demeanor on the bench is highly satisfactory to the bar; and there can be soarcely the shadow of a doubt that his earnest desire to discharge honorably the duties of his high trust, aided by talents and acquirements of a superior order, will procure for him an enviable judicial reputation. He has fine health, a vigorous constitution, strong working powers, and, although about sixty years of age, has a fair prospect of full fifteen years of good service in any line of effort in which his mind may be employed.
Summing up Judge Read's position, a gentleman who has care fully studied the subject says,
His opinions on the Slavery question, though temperately expressed, have been long consistently and firmly maintained, and his views as to the policy and necessity of encouraging and protecting American industry are the result of profound reflection and careful observation upon every branch of political science. His character is unassailable ; there is no weak point in it that invites
attack or requires defence. His private and his public life have been, beyond suspicion, pure. Though he has never been in Congress, or served in the Cabinet, or represented the country in the Courts of Europe, he is better acquainted with the relative rights, duties, and interests of the nation, with our internal resources, our foreign and domestic commerce, with the mysteries of finance and the tidal movements of the currency, than many who have spent years in the halls of legislation or long worn the robes of office in high public positions. He possesses great discretion as well as firmness and courage, and caution in deciding as well as vigor in executing. He is not afraid to do right, nor can he be seduced to do wrong.
WILLIAM H. SEWARD,
OF NEW YORK.
WILLIAM HENRY SEWARD was born in the village of Florida, Orange County, New York, May 16, 1801. At the age of nine years he was sent to an academy in Goshen, which had numbered among its pupils Noah Webster and Aaron Burr. With a strong aptitude for knowledge, he rapidly advanced in his studies, so that before he was fifteen he was ready to enter college. In 1816, he was received into Union College, from which he was graduated with high honors. He studied law with John Anthon, in New York, and afterward with Ogden Hoffman and John Duer, at Goshen, and was admitted to the bar in 1822. In the following year he removed to Auburn, where he formed a partnership with Judge Miller, whose daughter he married in 1824. As a lawyer he soon became distinguished for originality of thought, independence of action, and an industrious devotion to his profession that brought him a large practice and a high reputation.
The attention of Mr. Seward was early called to political subjects. His father was an eminent Jeffersonian Republican, and the natural instincts as well as the early education of the son led him to adopt the same principles. In 1824, he was selected by a Republican county convention to prepare the usual address, although scarcely old enough at the time to be a voter. In several orations at this early period of his life we find the same fervent devotion to the cause of liberty that has ever since marked his public career. In 1827, he appeared as the champion of the struggling Greeks, and by his youthful eloquence secured large contributions to the fund raised in this country for their defence.
One of the largest political conventions that had ever assembled in the State of New York was held at Utica in 1828, composed of young men favorable to the election of John Quincy
Adams to the Presidency. Mr. Seward was called to preside over this convention; and the distinguished ability which he then manifested plainly indicated him as the future leader of the great party at that time rising into notice. The same year he was offered a nomination as a member of Congress, which he. declined. The Anti-Masonic party, professing, as it did, to be engaged in vindicating “the supremacy of the laws,” enlisted the sympathies and support of Mr. Seward at an early period. The repugnance he then imbibed against secret political action has never abated.
In 1830 he was elected a Senator of the State Legislature by a majority of two thousand, although his district had the preceding year given a large majority the other way. Not yet thirty years old, he entered the Senate, and, at the same time, became ex officio a judge in the highest court of the State, and the
peer of men venerable in years and distinguished for talent and experience. He was politically in a small minority in the Legislature, at a time when party lines were strongly marked. The record of his career as a Senator and a judge, nevertheless, compares favorably with that of any of his associates. The abolition of imprisonment for debt, the melioration of prison-discipline, reforms in the militia system, opposition to corporate monopolies, the extension of popular franchises, the great cause of education, and the work of internal improvement, received a cordial and effective support from him during his term of four years. In some of the reported opinions pronounced by him as a judge, we find that he did not hesitate to vindicate the claims of justice even when opposed by the arbitrary and time-honored rules of law.
Mr. Seward found time during the recess of the Senate to make a hurried visit to Europe in the summer of 1833. His letters, upward of eighty in number, written during his few weeks' travel in Great Britain and portions of the continent, were published at the time, adding much to his growing reputation.
In 1834, Mr. Seward was nominated for Governor, but was defeated by Governor Marcy,—although in every county he ran ahead of his ticket. Among the charges brought against him in this and the subsequent successful canvass was “the atrocious crime” of being “a young man.” But little over thirty, he had
dared to aspire to an office honored by such men as Clinton, Jay, Tompkins, and Lewis. He was, however, elected in 1838 over the veteran Marcy by more than ten thousand majority; and was re-elected in 1840,-an honor not conferred upon any of his successors of either party. The Administration of Governor Seward was, in
many respects, the most remarkable of any in the history of the Empire State, as well as the most important era in his public life; and mauy persons regard it as more influential in shaping the political issues which have since grown up in the country than any event of the last twenty-five years. But our limits will allow only a brief notice of some of its more important points.*
The untoward circumstances which met him at the entrance of his office—the unparalleled monetary pressure, the immense undertakings just assumed by the State in the enlargement and extension of the public works, the large number of applicants for office consequent alike upon the accession to power of a new party, and the revulsion of trade, which had thrown so many out of employment-altogether were enough to task the abilities of a much older and more experienced statesman.
Education, internal improvements, agriculture, the establishment and improvement of asylums, reforms in the courts and in the banking-laws and the militia system, the entire extinguishment of laws for imprisonment for debt, the settlement of the Anti-Rent troubles, the extension of political franchises to all classes of people, the encouragement of foreign emigration, and the repeal of several lingering statutes favoring slavery, as well as the enactment of new ones in opposition to it, were all subjects of Governor Seward's attention during his administration.
As early as 1820, during the discussion which arose on the “ Missouri question,” Mr. Seward, then yet in his “teens,” began to discover, as he thought, an undue subserviency in the dominant party to slavery, its interests, and its power. When he became Governor, it was reasonably to be expected that, as a leader of the opposition to that party, he would, as far as he was able, give effect to the views he had adopted on that subject. Besides his instrumentality in securing the repeal of all laws in
* See vol. ii. “Works of W. H. Seward, Edited by Geo. E. Baker."