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WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
We do not attempt a pen-portrait of Mr. Seward because he is a man of splendid intellect and acquirements; it is not because he is in the fullest sense of the word a statesman; nor yet because he has throughout the whole of his career thus far, shown himself to be possessed of humane and christian principles. We can say with truth that he is one of the first agitators of the age. It may be without design upon his part, but it is no less a fact. The higher law agitation was begotten by him. For he, in the United States senate, opposed the enactment of the abominable fugitive slave law --God's “higher law.”
Daniel Webster, that giant intellect which held New England in thrall for a quarter of a century, is known throughout this country, and perhaps the world, as the defender of the constitution, but long after Seward the advocate, or Seward the politician, shall have been forgotten, the memory of Seward the defender of the higher law will be fresh in the hearts of a nation of freemen. That was a sublime scene, when he, surrounded by men of eminent abilities, but
abilities devoted to the perpetration of injustice, ventured almost alone, and certainly with a mighty array of both talent and power against him, to thunder in the ears of listening senators the sentiment that there is a law higher than any they could makehigher than even the constitution itself — the law written upon the hearts of men by the finger of God.
The agitation which this simple, gospel truth created, in a country professedly christian, is truly astonishing, and we think it astonished no one more than Mr. Seward. He certainly could not have anticipated that not only politicians, but the professed expounders of God's word, would join the chorus against him, and against one of the profoundest and most self-evident truths contained in holy writ.
William H. Seward was born in Florida, N. Y., May 16th, 1801, and is consequently nearly fifty-four years old. His ancestors were of Welsh extraction upon his father's side, and Irish upon the side of his mother. His father was a physician in the state of New York, of good character and respectable abilities, while his mother was a woman of clear intellect and warm heart. The inhabitants of the little town of Florida were principally emigrants from Connecticut and other New England states, and the tone of society was puritanic-using the word in its noblest
It was a quiet village, and the influences
which surrounded the boy were excellent. He was noted for a studious turn of mind, a precocious development of his intellect, and a frank and gentle disposition. When nine years old he was sent to school at an academy in Goshen. At fifteen years of age the pale, thin, studious lad entered Union College, where he soon distinguished himself by his severe studies, his brilliant talents, and a manly and generous character. His favorite studies were rhetoric, moral philosophy, and the ancient classics. He rose at four in the morning and sat up late. It was in college, perhaps, that he acquired those habits of continuous mental toil which distinguish him now.
He graduated with distinguished honors. Among his fellow-graduates were William Kent, Dr. Hickok, and Professor Lewis. Mr. Seward shortly after entered the law-office of John Anthon, of the city of New York, where his thorough devotion to his studies, as before while in college, attracted the attention of his teachers. He completed his legal studies with Judge Duer and Ogden Hoffman, in Goshen, and was admitted to the bar of the supreme court at Utica, in 1822. The year following he took up his residence in the beautiful village of Auburn, which contains his “household gods” at the present day. He became the law partner of Judge Miller, of Auburn, and in 1824 married his youngest daughter, Frances Adeline Miller. The fruits of this union were five
children, one of whom died young; one is in the United States army; another follows the profession of his father, while the remaining two are quite young
Mr. Seward's personal appearance can scarcely be said to be prepossessing. At least we never knew a person who had, through the medium of the journals, become acquainted with his master-pieces of eloquence, afterward see him without an expression of disappointment. And yet there are many noble points in his personal appearance. He is scarcely average-sized, is modest in his ways, and often wears upon his face a sleepy look, which gives no indication of the powerful intellect behind that dreamy front. The first time we saw him he was at home among
the charming scenery of Auburn, and beneath the roof of a mutual friend. His face struck us at first unpleasantly; it seemed too expressionless for so great a man; but in a moment the dreamy cloud furled off, and the eyes grew bright, and we felt the fascination of his voice, look, manner, and brilliant conversation - a fascination which thousands of others have experienced who have met him in conversation, or have listened to his speeches. His whole appearance seemed to have suddenly changed. The compact brow expressed power, the eyes genius, the lips force, the whole body graoe mingled with stateliness, unassumin as it really was. An air of pleasant