William H. Seward (1801–1872) was
United States Secretary of State from 1861 to 1869, and earlier served as
Governor of New York and
United States Senator. A determined opponent of the spread of slavery in the years leading up to the
American Civil War, he was a dominant figure in the
Republican Party in its formative years, and was generally praised for his work on behalf of the Union as Secretary of State during the
American Civil War. His firm stance against foreign intervention in the Civil War helped deter Britain and France from entering the conflict, which might have led to the independence of the
Confederate States. 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."
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