Lincolns secretary of state

When Lincoln won the presidential election of 1860, he asked Seward to serve as his secretary of state. Seward accepted the position, which was the most important one in the entire cabinet (a group of advisors who guide various departments of government). Upon arriving in Washington, D.C., however, Seward acted as if he were the president. Skeptical about Lincoln's abilities to lead the country, he lectured the president about various policy issues and tried to dictate military strategy.

Secretary Seward Stabbed

Lewis Paine, the man who stabbed William Seward the night of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

(Reproduced by permission of the National Portrait Gallery.)

Lewis Paine, the man who stabbed William Seward the night of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

(Reproduced by permission of the National Portrait Gallery.)

Seward's actions angered Lincoln. But the president knew that the New York native was a bright legislator and a talented statesman. As a result, he skillfully neutralized Seward's maneuvers until mid-1861, when the secretary of state realized that Lincoln knew what he was doing. From that point on, Seward accepted his role and became an important member of the Lincoln administration.

As the Civil War progressed, Se-ward proved his value to Lincoln in many ways. For example, Lincoln recognized that if Great Britain or France declared support for the Confederate government, the Union might have to let the Southern states go or risk a disastrous trade war with Europe. Seward used his diplomatic skills to convince Great Britain and France to withhold recognition of the Confederacy's claim of independence. He also intervened to prevent foreign nations from providing the South with ships, weapons, and other supplies.

By the time the war ended in the spring of 1865, Seward had become a close friend and trusted advisor to Lincoln. After all, they had spent the previous four years laboring together to restore the Union and defending each other from critics who did not like their wartime policies. On April 14, 1865, however, their friendship and alliance came to a tragic end. That evening, fanatical Southern sympathizers attacked both men in separate incidents. Seward was attacked in the bedroom of his Washington, D.C., home, where he was recovering from a carriage accident. He suffered several stab wounds at the hands of Lewis Paine, but survived the assault. Lincoln was murdered by John Wilkes Booth while attending a play at Washington's Ford Theatre.

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