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“What is the Presidency of the United States, compared with the fame of a patriot statesman who triumphs over popular injustice and establishes his country on the sure foundations of freedom and empire ?”

To a delegation of friends, in 1854, who urged him to adopt the Know-Nothing policy as a sure road to the Presidency, he exclaimed, with emphasis, “Good God, gentlemen! is there nothing worthy of a man's ambition but the Presidency ?"




The public life of Mr. Seymour is identified with the stormiest period in the history of the New York Democracy. To record it will necessarily involve some reference to the troubles and dissensions which marked those unhappy days and entailed disaster on the party in local and national affairs: this, however, shall be as brief as the importar of the matter and its relevancy to our subject will permit.

Horatio Seymour was born in Pompey, Onondaga County, New York, in the year 1811. His family-originally from Con

, necticut-extend far back into the Colonial days. His grandfather, Major Moses Seymour, served in the War of the Revolution, and afterward for a number of years in the Legislature of Connecticut, as the representative of the town of Litchfield. His father was for some years a member of the New York Legislature; and other members of the family have occupied distinguished positions in the service of the nation.

Mr. Seymour commenced at an early age the practice of the law in the city of Utica; but other duties soon compelled him to abandon the profession. At the age of thirty he was chosen Mayor of Utica. He had been an active Democrat from youth; and his election to the chief office of a Whig city is a marked instance of the personal popularity which he has at all times of his career enjoyed wherever known. In 1841, he was elected to the Legislature of the State; and his career from this date is one of much interest and uninterrupted usefulness. Liberally educated, an accomplished speaker, a ready debater, and a courteous gentleman, he won at once the confidence and respect of his compeers, and took an active part in all the important legislation of the day. Many in the Assembly were men of the first rank in ability and reputation; and the measures at that time dis


cussed and enacted were of the highest importance in their character and consequences. With the former Mr. Seymour, though young in years and legislative life, associated as an equal; and in the discussion of the latter his voice was ever potent and respected. His influence, thus speedily and strongly manifested, continued undiminished during Democratic ascendency in the State. And at a later period, when schism appeared in the party and power departed to the enemy, when the Democracy, untaught by the past, seemed bent upon its own ruin, and those upon

whom its favors had been unsparingly bestowed appeared to forget their gratitude in the exhibition of unworthier feelings, he passed from the chamber of the Assembly, and was from that day forth the untiring advocate of union, and afterward the leader of a united party to victory. During the early part of his legislative career, dissension first appeared in the ranks, and the bitter controversy soon to arise was already foreshadowed in the debates in the Assembly.

William C. Bouck and Daniel S. Dickinson had been respectively re-elected Governor and Lieutenant-Governor of the State. This, however, had not been effected without opposition, which, though silent while the ticket was before the people, was bitter and outspoken in the Assembly when success had removed that restraint which party discipline had previously compelled. Of this opposition Michael Hoffman was the able and imperious leader; while Horatio Seymour was known as the champion of the men and measures of the Democratic administration. Mr. Hoffman-says a sketcher of those days—was a powerful antagonist, and had been universally regarded as the most formidable man in debate in the Legislature. Though he was dignified and chivalrous in his manner, he was excessively dogmatical and dictatorial in the expression of his views. Such, however, was the charm of Mr. Seymour's manner, and the manliness and frankness of his general course, that he secured from Mr. Hoffman the most respectful consideration.*

The courtesy of Mr. Seymour in these bouts with the domineering dictator of the House, and his deportment throughout the sharp and exciting discussions of those days, attracted high commendation and gave him a front rank. His tact and affability were never at fault; and the deference he soon won and at all times afterward elicited from the formidable and experienced chief of the opposition is ample evidence of the singular ability with which he sustained his position as the leader of the executive party. It was at this session that he submitted his famous report from the committee charged with the consideration of that part of the Governor's message which related to the canals. That the principles then recommended by him were worthy of the State is fully evinced by the fact that they were subsequently adopted by a constitutional convention and, receiving the sanction of the people, became part of the organic law.

* See “ Democratic Review,” Oct. 1851, edited by Thomas P. Kettell.

Of this document the author of the “Political History of New York” writes as follows:

On the 23d of April, Mr. Seymour, from the Committee on Canals in the Assembly, made a report on that part of the Governor's message which related to canals. That committee consisted of Messrs. Seymour, M. L. Harris, Linn, S. Cole, and Dickinson. This report was drawn up by Mr. Seymour, and occupies seventy-one large octavo pages. We do not hesitate to pronounce it one of the ablest and best-written documents ever presented to a legislative body. We should do injustice to the author of it were we to pretend to give a skeleton of it. From the able and masterly review that it takes of our system of internal improvements, the great mass of well-arranged facts it contains, its lucid, candid, liberal, and able reasoning, and the brief but intelligent picture it presents of the finances of the State, it will amply reward any person for the time which the perusal of it would occupy. It ought to be read by every statesman and legislator who desires to be acquainted with the situation of the public works and the financial condition of the State in the year 1844. It will be found in vol. vii. of the Assembly Documents of that year, No. 177."*

The bill introduced by Mr. Seymour, in accordance with the views of his report, passed both Houses.

The election of Silas Wright to succeed Governor Bouck worked no change in the affairs of the party. Faction was still busy among the leaders, and but little harmony prevailed either in the Senate or Assembly. Of the latter body Mr. Seymour had been chosen Speaker,-a position which he had declined in the previous session,—and presided with distinguished ability.

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* See Judge Hammond's “Political History of New York.”

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One of the most important events—as history since testifiesof this session was the election of Daniel S. Dickinson to the United States Senate; and Mr. Seymour deserves exceeding credit for the influential and unresting part he played to secure it. There was a bitter feeling of opposition on the part of a few *members of the nominating caucus. The ballot stood, Dickinson, 54, to 17 scattering, and 4 blanks. A motion to nominate unanimously was opposed by one member, which drew out Mr. Seymour in a powerful argument to the minority, appealing to them by the recollection of the recent common victory,-Polk's election,—and by the determination which then actuated the whole party as one man, under the feeling that they were contending for common principles and in a common cause. Mr. Seymour's eulogists agree that he accomplished a most effective service not only for his State, but for the country, when he so strenuously aided to place in the United States Senate “the bold and eloquent exponent of the nation's will,' who on the floor of that body upheld so nobly the credit of his State and achieved for himself such immortal honor."

To this period also belongs Mr. Seymour's famous debate with John Young, the Whig leader, on the bill for the convention for a revision of the Constitution. The Democracy desired some emendation of the Constitution, but proposed to accomplish it under the provision of the instrument itself. The Whigs desired a convention, hoping thereby to effect a total disorganization of their opponents.

In the debate the party leaders acquitted themselves with power.

As an illustration of the temperate force with which Mr. Seymour presented his views, not as a party man but as patriot, the conclusion of his share in the debate may be given :

“ If a bill,” he said, “ can be passed which shall be in accordance with the principles of our Government,—which shall recognise the doctrine that a majority of the people shall govern, that sovereignty resides with the people,—which shall, in a fair, manly, and open manner, indicate the objects of those who contend for it, --I shall be willing to give it my support. I have reflected on the subject with anxiety, feeling the importance of this measure to the well-being of our State. God knows I have endeavored to act on it solely with a view to the best interests and highest happiness of our common constituents. And to those who differ with me I accord an equal degree of consideration,-an equally honest

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