William H. Seward

(1801-1872)

WHO S/HE WAS:

William H. Seward was Governor of New York, United States Senator and the United States Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. On the night of Lincoln's assassination, he survived an attempt on his life in the conspirators' effort to decapitate the Union government. 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."

WHAT S/HE SAID:

The circumstances of the world are so variable that an irrevocable purpose or opinion is almost synonymous with a foolish one.

WHY S/HE MATTERED:

As Andrew 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.”

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