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Seward: Lincoln's Indispensable Man

4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  601 Ratings  ·  101 Reviews
From one of our most acclaimed new biographers—the first full life of the leader of Lincoln’s “team of rivals” to appear in more than forty years.

William Henry Seward was one of the most important Americans of the nineteenth century. Progressive governor of New York and outspoken US senator, he was the odds-on favorite to win the 1860 Republican nomination for president. A
Hardcover, 720 pages
Published September 18th 2012 by Simon & Schuster (first published September 11th 2012)
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Jeffrey Keeten
May 05, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it
”We must be content to lead when we can, and to follow when we cannot lead; and if we cannot at any time do for our country all the good that we would wish, we must be satisfied with doing for her all the good that we can.”
William Henry Seward

 photo William_H._Seward_portrait_zpsoazxwuha.jpg
The famous profile of William H. Seward with the macaw nose on prominent display.

William Seward was a man certainly qualified to be president. When the first ballots came in during the Republican primary in 1860, he was well in the lead with 172 votes to A
Diamond Cowboy
Sep 16, 2015 Diamond Cowboy rated it it was amazing
This was a great biography of Seward's political and private life as under the Lincoln administration. It tells of the terrible struggle between the Northern states, the Union, and the Southern States, the confederacy. Theree are many colorful charictors mentioned who worked closely with Seward such as MR. Weed and Abraham Lincoln.
This book gives a great glimpse at the precivil and Civil war era of the United States of America.
I recommend thisbook to all.
Enjoy and Be Blessed.
Oct 26, 2014 Louise rated it it was amazing
This is a very detailed biography of the political life of William Henry Seward. Taking the title a step further (although author Walter Stahr does not) from what is presented here, you could conclude that without Seward there would be no Lincoln.

Stahr shows how Seward took unpopular stands on behalf of free and enslaved Blacks: supporting the right of free Blacks to vote, defending a Black man tried for murder, helping Harriet Tubman buy a property for the underground RR, as a senator speaking
Steven Peterson
Nov 21, 2012 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing
This book represents a biography of one of Abraham Lincoln’s “ream of rivals.” An aspirant to become president, he ended up serving two presidents as a Cabinet member—Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. The book’s goal is straightforward (page 5): “. . .to bring to life for a new generation one of the great Americans of the Civil War generation.”

The book is organized chronologically—from his family background and his youth to the development of his career, concluding with the last years of his life. He
Mar 21, 2013 Jessica rated it liked it
I had high exceptions for this book, based on my experience with Team of Rivals. When it didn't have the powerful narrative of Rivals it immediately relegated itself to the three star category.

Seward was controversial in life and death. With the perspective of a 150 plus years I can say that Seward was a good man with honest intentions, if not always honest means. For a political figure Seward had every right to be angry and bitter, but he wasn't. Despite losing what looked to be a sure nominati
Dec 14, 2012 Socraticgadfly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography
Excellent read, especially in light of the new Lincoln movie

I had never read a full bio of Seward before, and this was great.

First, looking near the end of his life, I did not know he was such a conservative on Reconstruction. Indeed, while not a racist like Andrew Johnson, he fully supported the generally conservative nature of his approach. He appears not to care much for the fate of post-war Southern blacks, and also, ironically at least, fretted about too much federal intervention in states'
Aug 10, 2015 Jerome rated it really liked it
A thorough, engaging and well-researched biography of Seward, mainly focused on his public life and political career. Stahr does not go into much detail regarding Seward’s private life; he addresses Seward’s complicated marriage but does not go into much detail, and one often feels like the book lacks insight at times, especially on his character and motivations. Still, the book is far from dull, and the narrative is clear and readable (if a little clinical at times). Stahr’s treatment of the ma ...more
Douglas Graney
Nov 03, 2012 Douglas Graney rated it really liked it
This is an exceptional biography. Usually I scan through the early years and then focus on the subjects rise to prominence. One of the attributes of this book is that Walter Stahr makes Seward's formative years as interesting as his time as Secretary of State. This also has a great history of New York state politics prior to the civil war. Another eye-opening aspect of this book was how much of an effect Seward had on domestic affairs while Sec of State. I could not imagine Hillary Clinton (or a ...more
Dec 31, 2015 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
William Henry Seward was, after serving as a progressive governor of New York and an outspoken Senator, was the Secretary of State in the Lincoln/Johnson administrations. During the Civil War, Seward managed foreign affairs exceptionally well, keeping the European powers from interfering in the war or recognizing the Confederacy, which would have been a catastrophe. He also played a role in various military, political and personal matters that Lincoln's cabinet dealt with. His most famous accomp ...more
I have just finished reading SEWARD: LINCOLN'S INDISPENSABLE MAN by Walter Stahr, and I will recommend it to history buffs, but only to history buffs. It doesn't have the narrative arc to satisfy everyone; a few days ago The New York Times Book Review called it occasionally plodding. It is indeed slow in parts, but it is also a solid biography of Abraham Lincoln's and Andrew Johnson's secretary of state, who, more than anyone else, was responsible for Lincoln's election as president, for the pea ...more
Dec 31, 2012 Michele rated it liked it
I found out about this book after seeing Lincoln, and the portrayal of Seward. He has accomplished quite a bit professionally and personally. I struggled a bit with finishing this but it was surprising to learn that Seward was one of the targets in the Lincoln assassination. John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices not only attacked Lincoln, but also Seward (Andrew Johnson was to be hit as well but his attacker chickened out). Seward survived his assault with permanent physical damage but got to se ...more
Nov 25, 2015 Patrick rated it liked it
Shelves: history-politics
Interesting book about Lincoln's rival turned Secretary of State who probably single-handedly prevented foreign intervention in the Civil War. Suffers a bit from bad editing, the timeline and subject matter change jarringly at points. Also, we never really learn that much about Seward's apparently fascinating personality, only glimpses. Anti-slavery but not abolitionist, intellectual, imperialist, conniving politician and raconteur; I would've loved to get to know him better.
Oct 18, 2012 Eliz rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. We hear about Seward's Folly but not much is taught about him today. Th is book not only shows Seward, but also the times he lived through, which were some of the most turbulent the US has known. There is so much history in that era, that we only skim the surface, it was good to find more and details to full out some of the actions that lead to the Civil War and occurred during and after.
Oct 22, 2012 Daniel rated it really liked it
Stahr's biography of William Henry Seward, the secretary of state from 1861 to 1869, is always solidly researched and often quite compelling, particularly in his discussion of the complex power struggle between Lincoln and Seward during the secession winter of 1860-61. However, insofar as Stahr hopes to defend Seward as a great statesman of the Civil War era, his argument is frequently unconvincing. While I finished this book feeling as if I understood Seward much better than I had before, it wa ...more
Andy Miller
Mar 06, 2013 Andy Miller rated it it was amazing
A thoroughly researched, balanced view of a complex man central to a compelling time in our history

Walter Stahr outlines Seward's career as a lawyer attracted to politics. Seward is ahead of his time in opposition to slavery and for civil rights for Blacks and he aligns himself against the Democratic party's opposition to a federal government role in internal improvements and economic policy. He sets himself apart from fellow Whigs in his openness to immigration. His beliefs in civil rights and
Jan 29, 2013 Petrea rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-on-kindle
After reading about Lincoln and seeing the movie I was curious to learn more about those times and the other people. This book is about William Seward who was Secretary of State under Lincoln and later, Johnson. He was a fascinating man! He had been governor of New York and a senator from New York. One of the creators of the Republican party he as Lincoln's rival for the presidential nomination--then he became Secretary of State. He was a lively man with great abilities. It was interesting to me ...more
Graham Elvis
Nov 15, 2012 Graham Elvis rated it really liked it
This is the first book I read by Walter Stahr, I saw Ron Chernow wrote a nice forward about it so I thought it must be good as Chernow is SO good. I really enjoyed the book as it's the only one I've read on Seward. I'm not sure if Stahr is a bit of a "only the facts mam " writer or if Steward while having a long and successful career in politic's wasn't rather dull as a person. One can't do everything Seward did and be totally boring but it seems that way in this book. The thing I think stuck me ...more
Jean Poulos
Oct 09, 2013 Jean Poulos rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013-audio, biography
Walter Stahr’s biography of William Henry Seward is well researched and well written. Stahr has gone into detail about Seward’s life and he has done a good job presenting an unbiased view. He has pointed out common reports and proves they are false or true. Stahr also has gone into detail about opposing viewpoints about Seward, tells us what he can prove and what he cannot thereby allowing the reader to make up their own minds on the issue. Seward was an interesting man. He was a successful lawy ...more
Dec 14, 2012 Stefan rated it it was amazing
A detailed and splendid book on one of America's most important non-Presidents. Not just a history of Seward, but of American Politics from Andrew Jackson to US Grant.

Like many people I knew Seward mainly for his purchase of Alaska, learning of his small town upbringing, his start as an Anti-Mason, Whig Governorship, Senator and Secretary of State. His proud pronouncement of Immigrants, American Expansionism and Unionism, made him a premier statesmen in my eyes. Although his defense of states ri
Don Dennis
Apr 20, 2013 Don Dennis rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Don by: Kepler's Bookstore
Shelves: history, biography
Enjoying this tremendously. Very engaging especially once you get to the Civil War years. One annoying improper use of the word "insurgents" which the editors should have amended, but otherwise very well written. Fascinating times and a fascinating man.

Finished now, and I have to say it is a book, and a man, that one comes to enjoy more and more as the pages pass. By the time Seward's death is described, one feels a sense of affection and gratitude to this imperfect but impressive statesman. And
Mar 28, 2013 Carolyn rated it it was amazing
I took my time getting through this one because it had so much good information I wanted to be sure I digested each part thoroughly before moving on. The author obviously did an enormous amount of research, and though at the end he states his personal conclusions on Seward's impact as Secretary of State under Lincoln and Johnson, his recounting of events and personalities in the bulk of the book is refreshingly objective: Even if you conclude that Seward was a great man, you understand why so ma ...more
Aaron Cooper
Jul 03, 2013 Aaron Cooper rated it liked it
Good, not great. I think this book did a good job illuminating the decisive role Seward played within the Lincoln administration. He is a massively overlooked figure in American history and deserves credit for his role in preserving and expanding the "American Empire."

I suppose my biggest criticism was that the book was pretty dry for the most part. The Civil War era was one of the quickest-moving and most exciting (from a historian's perspective) in U.S. history, yet this book didn't really cap
Jul 11, 2013 Joan rated it it was amazing
This was a very interesting and well written book. Yes, it took a while for me to finish but I'll just chalk that up to ADD. My appreciation for Seward is greater and his influence before, during and after the American Civil War was fascinating. Not to diminish Lincoln in anyway as he chose his advisors well, but Seward's influence was powerful. He understood Washington politics and how to get things done. Got to admire that.This book is much more interesting that Henry Adams book that I only ha ...more
Jess Dollar
Jun 03, 2013 Jess Dollar rated it really liked it
It took awhile to get through this book of over 500 pages, but I am happy to have read it. I learned quite a bit more about the Civil War and about my hometown hero (I grew up in Seward's home town). I really enjoyed learning more about my home town as it was in it's more glorious and important past. I don't ever remember visiting the Seward House a a child, but I did go there about 10 years ago. I am eager to go again so I can visit it with a fuller knowledge of the man that lived there and eve ...more
John Findlay
Apr 24, 2014 John Findlay rated it really liked it
Most people only know Seward from his purchase of Alaska, but he was the foremost statesman of the 19th century. He was Governor of NY, Senator from NY, and Secretary of State for both Lincoln and Johnson. His hometown was Auburn, NY, near our cottage, so we have visited his home and learned general facts about him. But this book points out his myriad of accomplishments, and the unpopular decisions that he had to make. He was the favorite to get the 1860 Republican nomination, but lost largely b ...more
Feb 20, 2014 Carl rated it it was amazing
This is a biography of William Henry Seward, who was one of the most influential figures in the American Civil War era, but nowadays is only vaguely remembered as the guy who bought Alaska for the U.S. He actually had quite a rich life besides the Alaska thing: governor of New York, senator from New York, nearly nominated for President by the Republican Party, and secretary of state for eight years under Lincoln and Johnson.

Seward and Lincoln became good friends, and Lincoln often followed Sewar
Chris Schultz
Nov 23, 2012 Chris Schultz rated it it was amazing
This book was an excellent follow up to Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals. Seward was not only Lincoln's indispensable man throughout the Civil War he was one of our greatest statesmen and non-presidents of all time, and one of the most influential figures in shaping America into a world power. This book is a must read for anyone who has enjoyed Team of Rivals and I highly recommend reading Team of Rivals prior to this effort by Walter Staher if you haven't already done do.
Jan 30, 2013 Martin rated it liked it
Biography is not my favorite genre, but I was interested in learning more about Steward after reading about his famous 1850 "higher law" speech and then watching the movie 'Lincoln' in an effort to understand his role in anti-slavery politics.

This book was very well-researched and even handed; I did not feel as if the author, Walter Stahr, fell in love with his subject and saw no faults. However, I was somewhat disappointed.

Full review to come.
Oct 11, 2013 Jeff rated it liked it
This was a pretty good bio, although the title was a little misleading. It was an objective look at Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State. however, Stahr somehow managed to cover the Civil War in a surprisingly short number of pages (in comparison to the length of the whole book).

That said, it was very informative, but the writing lacked a certain verve.
Aug 08, 2015 Todd rated it it was amazing
You will learn a lot. Seward was probably the greatest Secretary of State in US history, and a great deal why is because of who he was willing to work with, and what issues mattered to him. Areas he couldn't accomplish were indeed done by future diplomats. The book was well written and among the best researched I've ever read. His name may not be among the most well recognized statesmen in history anymore, but he deserves a second look. Surprisingly, Stahr also makes a good case for the reevalua ...more
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“The duty of Republicans in the current crisis, he told them, was “simply that of magnanimity. We have learned, heretofore, the practice of patience under political defeat. It now remains to show the greater virtue of moderation in triumph.” Americans of different parties, he said, “are not, never can be, never must be, enemies, or even adversaries. We are all fellow-citizens, Americans, brethren.”3” 0 likes
“Political parties were new and still slightly suspect, and some people disliked their constant conflict. One of the Auburn papers lamented, after the close of a campaign, that “politics are the only species of warfare that admits of no cessation of hostilities. There is reason to fear that the frequency of elections in this country, connected with the bitterness and asperity with which they are conducted, have produced a belligerent state of feeling.” 0 likes
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