Lincoln's Indispensable Man
Seward: Lincoln's Indispensable Man. S. & S. Sept. 2012. c.704p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781439121160. $32.50. BIOG
William Henry Seward, lawyer, governor, senator, and secretary of state under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, was a tremendously influential mid-19th-century politician—a front runner for the 1860 presidential nomination. Drawing exhaustively from letters and other documents relating to him as well as his family, friends, and enemies, Stahr (John Jay: Founding Father) argues that Seward was a preeminent, dutiful, and indefatigable statesman to be remembered for much more than his oversight of the purchase of Alaska. While acknowledging Seward's flaws, he focuses, for example, on his efforts to end slavery, promote commerce, avoid the Civil War, collaborate with Lincoln, block foreign intervention during the war, save the Union, push France out of Mexico, and establish the process of U.S. expansion.
VERDICT Written in an unembellished style, this is a detailed yet largely uncritical biography of a remarkable, complex, and controversial political figure. Though Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals covers much of the same historical territory, Stahr completes Seward's life and demonstrates his enormous impact on American history before, during, and long after the 1860s. It will be of interest to general readers and useful to academics.
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