Charles Francis Adams.

An address on the life, character and services of William Henry Seward (Volume 1) online

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State of Keto ^orft :


January 22, 1873.
On motion of Mr. Perry :

Resolved, That a select committee of three be appointed;
on the part of the Senate, to meet with a committee on the part
of the Assembly, to report resolutions expressive of the sense
of the Legislature, relative to the decease of ex-Governor
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, and that, if the Assembly concur
therein, the Senate will meet at 12 o'clock noon, on Friday, the
24th instant, for hearing the report of said committee.

The President appointed as, such committee, on
the part of the Senate, Senators Perry, Woodin
and Johnson.

Legislative P



January 23, 1873.

Resolved, That the Assembly do concur in the resolution
adopted by the Senate, relative to the death of ex-Governor
SEWARD ; and that Messrs. Clapp, Van Cott, Blackie,
Beebe and McGuiRE be appointed as such committee on the
part of the Assembly.

The joint committee, to which the subject was
referred, reported the following preamble and resolu-
tions, which were unanimously adopted :

Whereas, after the adjournment of the Legislature, at its last
session, the country heard, with the deepest sorrow, of the death
of WILLIAM H. SEWARD, ex-Governor of the State of New
York ; therefore.

Resolved, That the Legislature of the State of New York is pro-
foundly sensible of the great loss which the State and the Nation
have thus sustained.

Resolved^ That while we lament such loss, we still experience
a mournful satisfaction and a lofty pride in recalling the varied
and invaluable services which he rendered to his country; the
acknowledged ability and patriotic zeal with which he, on all
occasions, maintained her rights and defended her honor ; the
purity of his character, the grandeur of his intellectual endow-
ments, the variety and extent of his learning, and the industry,
fearlessness and fidelity which ever marked his career, both in
public and private life.

Resolved, That the Legislature of this State tender to the family
of the deceased its sincere condolence upon the sad bereavement
which has removed from the domestic circle its affectionate and
illustrious head.

Legislative Proceedings.

Resolved, That the joint committee be and they hereby are
authorized and requested to make such arrangements as they
may deem proper for the commemoration of the solemn event,
by the delivery of an oration before the two Houses by some
distinguished citizen.

Resolved, That, as a testimony of respect, the two Houses of
the Legislature do now adjourn.

Commz'ttee on part of the Senate :


Committee on part of the Assetnblv .


In pursuance of the foregoing resolutions, the
joint committee reported that they had tendered to
the Hon. Charles Francis Adams an invitation
to deHver the memorial address, and that he had
accepted the invitation.

The following is the correspondence :

Legislative Proceedings.

Letter to Mr. Adams.
" state of new york :

" Senate Chamber, I

" Albany, February 8, 1873. 1
" Hon. Charles Francis Adams :

" Dear Sir — 1 have the honor herewith to transmit an authenticated copy of the
report of a select committee of our State Legislature, who were appointed under a
concurrent resolution of the Senate and Assembly, 'to report resolutions, etc.,
expressive of the sense of the Legislature relative to the decease of ex-Governor
William H. Seward,' which report has been unanimously adopted.

" At a meeting of the two committees, held pursuant to the resolution contained in
the report, it was unanimously resolved to invite you to deliver an address at some
convenient time during the session, suitable to the occasion ; and the undersigned
chairman of the joint committee was instructed to communicate such invitation.

" Aside from other considerations, the committee, in tendering this invitation, beg
leave to state that, inasmuch as the deceased, on the occasion of the death of your
honored father, delivered an oration to his memory before our State Legislature, the
committee feel that nothmg could be more appropriate, and nothing afford the friends
of the honored dead a greater degree of satisfaction than to have you, on this interest-
ing and solemn occasion, reciprocate the favor by accepting this invitation.

" Requesting the favor of an early reply,
" I am,

" Yours, very respectfully,

" Chairman of Joint Committee."

Mr. Adams' Reply.

" 57 Mount Vernon street, t
" Boston, February 12, 1873. )
" Hon. J. C. Perrv,

" Chairman, etc.. Senate 0/ New York, Aibany :

" Dear Sir — I have to acknowledge the reception, this morning, of your letter ot
the 8th instant, and of a copy of the resolutions adopted by the Legislature of New
Vork, on the occasion of the decease of their eminent statesman, the late \V. H.

" On behalf of the joint committee authorized to act under one of those resolu-
tions, you, as their chairman, have been pleased to signify to me their wish that I
should deliver the address contemplated.

" Profoundly sensible of the honor conferred upon me, I feel as if I could not decline
the task, however unworthy to perform it.

" In accepting it, however, it becomes of some importance to me to know what
period of time can be allotted to me within which to accomplish the work. As much
of the material which I should wish to gather for the purpose must be found scattered

Legislative Proceedings.

far and wide, and the sessions of the Legislature are already considerably advanced,
this becomes a question upon which my absolute decision must turn. I should be
sorry to do a hurried or hasty thing upon so great an occasion.
" I am, very truly,

" Your obedient servant,

" charles francis adams."
Second Letter to Mr. Adams.


JATE Chamber, ■!

Albany, February 13, 1873./


" Senate Chamber,

" Hon. Charles Francis Adams,

Boston, Mass. :

" Dear Sir — Your letter of the 12th accepting the invitation contained in my com-
munication of the 8th instant, to deliver an address on the late Wiluam H.Seward,
before the New York Legislature, was received this morning, and laid before the
joint committee.

" In reply, I beg leave to state that the committee have instructed me to tender
their very sincere thanks for your prompt and cordial acceptance of their invitation,
and to inform you that it is their opinion that the session of the Legislature will not
terminate before the 20th of April.

" The committee, therefore, will set apart for the memorial occasion any day prior
to that time, which you may be pleased to designate.

" Very respectfully and obediently yours,

" Chairman of Joint Committee^

The day finally fixed upon for the memorial pro-
ceedings was Friday, the i8th day of April — the
exercises to be held in the North Reformed Church.

On the day designated, the Legislature and invited
guests assembled at the Capitol, and, headed by his
Excellency, Governor John A. Dix, and staff, pro-
ceeded in a body to the church, where the follow-
ing exercises took place, his Excellency presiding,
assisted by Lieutenant-Governor John C. Robinson,
President of the Senate, and the Hon. A. B.
Cornell, Speaker of the Assembly.

Wxercises at the ^Iiurtlt*


Q UARTETTE. — " How Sleep the Brave," - Rooke.

Arranged by J. R, Thomas.

PRAYER.— By Rev. Rufus W. Clark, D.D.

Almighty Father, we adore Thee as the Sovereign of the
Universe, the source of our being, and the arbiter of our
destiny. We worship Thee as our King, and render thanks
to Thee for all the advantages and blessings of life. We
realize our entire dependence upon Thee, for every faculty
of our nature, and gifts of Thy providence ; and we seek Thy
guidance in our daily duties. We thank Thee for the gifts
of Thy Son, who brought with Him to earth, a heart that
beat in sympathy with every form of human sorrow. We
rejoice, that standing at the grave. He announced Himself
as the Resurrection and the Life, to all who believe. May
we have faith in Him, and in the power and fruits of the
Resurrection. May Thy Holy Spirit descend and rest upon
this vast assemblage ; illuminating every heart, and making
of every soul a temple of the living God. Do Thou guide in
the services of this interesting and solemn occasion. While
we mourn the departure of Thy servant, whose death has
summoned us here to-day, we sorrow not as those who have
no hope. We thank Thee for His pure and elevated char-
acter; for the rigid integrity associated with his eminent
natural abilities ; for his devotion to human rights, and the
force and eloquence with which he defended them. We


bless Thee for his noble contributions to the cause of
national liberty, and that in the conflict which his prophetic
eye saw was " irrepressible," he was always found on the
side of justice, humanity, and God. Standing on the plat-
form of human rights and civil freedom, he publicly declared
that if necessary, he would stand alone ; and we thank Thee
that Thou didst stand with him, to sustain him. We are
grateful to Thee for his reverence for religion ; for his faith
in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour ; for his interest in
the church, in Christian education, and in all enterprises
that contribute to the extension of the Redeemer's King-
dom. We thank Thee that Thou didst comfort him in his
last hours, and that the hope of immortality dawned upon
his spirit, as he departed from earth to Heaven,

We commend to Thee the bereaved relatives 'and friends,
beseeching Thee that they may ever trust in Thee, and
exercise that faith in Christ, that will secure a reunion with
the departed, in the realms of the blessed.

We invoke Thy blessing upon all gathered here to-day,
that Thou wouldst aid them in the faithful discharge of
the duties of their several spheres. Grant that our rulers
may be enriched with divine grace, inspired with pure
patriotism, and be qualified to administer government for
the best good of the people and the honor of God. Bless
Thy servant, the President of the United States, and those
associated with him in authority ; our national Senators
and Representatives, and all holding positions of public
responsibility and trust. May our Government reflect the
principles of Thy divine government, that law and justice
may be maintained, liberty preserved, and the prosperity of
the nation secured. Bless Thy servant, the Governor of
this Commonwealth, and those connected with him in the


administration of public affairs. We render thanks to Thee
for their disposition and ability, to maintain the laws against
crime; and that while they would gladly extend mercy to the
penitent, they have revealed the strength of the Government
to protect the property, rights and lives of its loyal citizens.
Let Thy blessing rest upon our State Senators and
Representatives, that they may be inspired with the prin-
ciples of integrity and a pure, lofty patriotism. May all
realize that any advantage or gain, secured by the sacrifice
of principle, ceases to be an advantage. May they possess
the wealth of conscious uprightness, and the satisfaction of
having faithfully met and discharged every duty.

Bless Thy servant, providentially called to address us to-
day. We thank Thee for his sympathy with the principles
and character of the illustrious dead, and for his eminent
services rendered to the Nation. We bless Thee that, while
enabled to secure the rights of the American people, he
aided in promoting peace between two nations bound
together by the same language and religion, and by mutual
desires to advance civilization, and extend the Kingdom of
our Lord Jesus Christ.

We pray for Thy richest blessings to descend upon the
American Republic. We thank Thee for our free institu-
tions ; our pure religion ; our system of popular education ;
our social and domestic advantages, and the prosperity we
have received from Thee. Thou didst preserve the ship of
State in the tempest that threatened her destruction, and we
pray that divine wisdom may continue to guide us, and
Almighty Power continue to bless us.

And now we seek preparation to follow our departed
friend, whose virtues and services we are assembled to
commemorate. Help us so to live that death may be life.

[2] 9

May the music of angelic hosts and songs of the redeemed
welcome us to the Heavenly home. May we gaze with
delight upon celestial cities, and temples of divine beauty,
and meeting in the city of God, with a great multitude that
no man can number, we will ascribe blessing and honor and
glory and power unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and
unto the Lamb, forever and ever. Amen.

ORGAN SOLO.^'' Dead March in Saul," - Handel.

READING of the Memorial Resolutions of the Legislature.
By Charles R. Dayton, Clerk of the Senate.

RECITATIVE and ARIA.— "-TYiQ Trumpet shall Sound."
Handel. J. R. Thomas.


By Gov. John A. Dix, as follows :

A quarter of a century ago, this very month, and within
these walls, WILLIAM H. SEWARD delivered a memorial
discourse on the character and public services of John
Quincy Adams. And to-day the son of Mr. Adams is here
to pronounce a similar discourse on Mr. Seward. Thus,
with these two kindred ceremonies are associated the names
of three eminent statesmen, who have shared largely in the
confidence and respect of their countrymen, and who, by
their distinguished talents and the purity of their lives,
have contributed as largely to their country's welfare and
reputation. I present to you the Hon. Charles Francis

the following Address :



OF I^EW York:

You have honored me by an invitation to perform
a duty, from the difficulty of which I shrink, the
closer I approach it. I undertake it only with an
assurance that, were my powers equal to my will, I
should erect a monument more durable than marble
or brass.

The subject is fascinating, from the wide views
which it opens of the noblest career of human life,
and the highest aspirations of mortal ambition.
Whatever may be the value of the modern specula-
tions touching the origin of man, it seems quite clear
that his intellectual stature has not essentially
changed since the era when we find, in Greece, the
most difficult social problems discussed with a pro-
foundness never since surpassed. It is in one of the
familiar dialogues reported by the philosopher Plato
as having been held by Socrates, with his disciples,
that the question is gravely presented whether such


a union be possible, in one and the same individual,
as that of a philosopher and a statesman. What
this combination means is admirably rendered by the
latest translator in these words : " A man in whom
the power of thought and action is perfectly balanced,
equal to the present, reaching forward to the future."
The conclusion drawn from that conversation was
that such a person, ruling in a constitutional state,
had not yet been seen. More than two thousand
years have elapsed since this testimony was recorded,
and the solution of the problem, with the added
experience of an historic record, embracing the lives
of sixty generations of the race, far more widely
observed over the globe, is still to seek.


Without attempting to enter upon such a topic,
demanding a life-time of research, it may, perhaps, be
permitted to me to observe that, from what we may
learn of the career of all those who have since been
competitors in this noblest of human pursuits, it is
possible for us to deduce some general laws of human
action valuable to bear in mind. Praying your
pardon for my boldness, I would, then, venture to
suggest that, by a comparison of the multitude of
examples, we may readily reduce them all to a classi-
fication consisting of three forms.

The first and lowest of these embraces all those


The Address.

lives in which power has been exercised mainly for
personal ends, with little regard to the public good.
If called to give an example of this class, I should
name the noted Cleon, of Athens, as delineated so
forcibly by his contemporaries, Thucydides, the
historian, and Aristophanes, the dramatist. But
this type of a public man, called a demagogue in a
democracy, does not change its essence by transfer
to more absolute forms of government. The inter-
ested flatterer of the people simply puts on a laced
coat and becomes the courtier of a monarch or any
other sovereign power, one or many. Cleon, stimu-
lating the passions of the Athenians to the massacre
of the male population of Mitylene, was only work-
ing for his own influence, just as Ashley Cooper,
Lord Shaftesbury, stimulating the treacherous policy
of the Second Charles in Great Britain,

"The pillars of the public safety shook ;"

and just as Manuel Godoy, the Prince of Peace, by
his selfish counsels precipitated the fall of the pitiful
Charles of Spain.

This, then, is the class which works the injury of

The next, and second division, includes those who
with pure motives and equal capacity address them-
selves to the work of maintaining the existing state
of things as it is. Their aim is to reenforce estab-



The Address.

lished ideas, and confirm ancient institutions. Of
this type I would specify as examples, Cicero in
antiquity, Sir Robert Walpole, Cardinal Mazarin,
Prince Kaunitz, in later times.

2. This is the class which sustains nations.

The third and last division consists of those who,
possessing a creative force, labor to advance the con-
dition of their fellow-men. Of such I find a type
in Pericles, in Gregory I, and in Cardinal Richelieu.

3. This is the class which develops nations.
Measuring the life of William Henry Seward

by this scale, I have no scruple in enrolling his name
in the third and highest class. In my mind his case
bears analogy to that of Pericles,* with this difference,
that the sphere of his action was one by the side of
which that of the other dwindles into nothing.

On this occasion it is not my design to follow the
common course of a purely chronological narrative.
It would absorb too much time ; besides which, that
work has been already well done by others who have
preceded me. It will suffice to state that Mr.
Seward was born with the century, and issued from
the college at Schenectady at the age of nineteen.
Three years passed in the customary probation of a
lawyer's office gave him his profession, and one year

* Any reader curious to know more of the grounds for this opinion is
referred to the character given of this statesman by Grote. History of
Greece, volume v, pp. 435-9.


The Address.

more found him married. In the words of the
sagacious Lord of Verulam, he had " given hostages
to fortune," and very early "assumed impediments to
great enterprises, whether of virtue or mischief."
From that moment he could hope to enlarge the
basis of his imperfect education only by snatching
what he might out of the intervals of rest in a busy life.
Hence it becomes proper to assume that, in the just
sense of the word, Mr. Seward was never a learned
man. In the ardor with which he rushed into affairs,
the wonder is that he acquired what he did. To his
faculty of rapid digestion of what he could read, he
was indebted for the attainments he actually mastered.

For it should be further remarked that, though
he faithfully appHed himself to his profession, it was
not an occupation congenial to his taste. On the
contrary, he held it in aversion. He felt in himself
a capacity to play a noble part on the more spacious
theater of State affairs. His aspiration was for the
fame of a statesman, and, in indulging this propensity,
he committed no mistake.

The chief characteristic of his mind was its breadth
of view. In this sense he was a philosopher study-
ing pohtics. He began by forming for himself a
general idea of government, by which all questions
of a practical nature that came up for consideration
were to be tested. This naturally led him to prefer
the field of legislation to that of administration.

The Address.

though he proved equally skillful in both. Almost
simultaneously with his marriage, he appeared ready
to launch into the political conflicts of the hour.
Commencing in his small way, he rose by easy
degrees into the atmosphere of statesmanship. I
distinguish between these conditions, not to derogate
from either. In our past experience there have been
many politicians who have not become statesmen.
So, also, there have been many statesmen who were
never politicians. Mr. Seward was equally at home
in both positions.

But, inasmuch as this made up the true career
which he followed, I am driven to the necessity of
considering it almost exclusively. And, while so
doing, I am also constrained to plunge more or less
deeply into the Serbonian bog of obsolete party
politics. I am not insensible to the nature of the
difficulties under which I labor in an exposition of
this kind. On the one side I run a risk of trying
your patience by tedious reference to stale excite-
ments ; and on the other, of raking over the ashes
of fires still holding heat enough to burn. All I can
say in excuse is that, in my belief, no correct delinea-
tion of the course of this eminent leader can be
made without it. Permit me only to add a promise
that, in whatever I feel it my duty to say, it will be
my endeavor to be guided by as calm and impartial
a spirit as the lot of humanity will admit. Happily,




my purpose is facilitated at this moment, by the fact
that the passions which so fiercely raged during the
period I am to review are in a measure laid asleep
by the removal of the chief causes which set them
in motion.

The political history of the country under its
present form of government naturally divides itself
into two periods of nearly equal length. The first
embraces the administration of the first five presi-
dents, and the settlement of the principles upon which
a policy was guided, as well at home as abroad. But
by reason of the almost continuous embarrassments
occasioned by the violent conflicts then raging over
the entire Continent of Europe, the agitation of
parties had its chief source in conflicting views of
foreign rather than domestic questions. Hence it
came to a natural end with the reestablishment of
a general peace. The foundation of parties having
failed, there foUowed an interval of harmony, which,
at the time, was known by the name of the " era of
good feelings."

Suddenly there sprang up a contest, wholly new
in its nature, the first sound of which the veteran
Jefferson, in his retreat at Monticeflo, hkened to that
of a fire-bell at night. The territory of Missouri
wished to be organized, and admitted into the Union
as a State. An effort was made to affix a condition
that negro slavery should not be permitted there.

[3] 17

The f^


The line of division between the free and the slave-
holding States was at once defined, and, for a time,
the battle was fought in the halls of Congress with
the greatest pertinacity. With equal suddenness the
quarrel was appeased by the adoption of a proposal
denominated " a compromise," and matters seemed
again to settle down in the old way.

The general election for the presidency followed.
The evidence of the complete disorganization of
parties was made visible in the multiplication of the
candidates. Five aspirants were brought forward by
their respective friends, four out of the five from the
slave-holding States. In this state of distraction, it

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Online LibraryCharles Francis AdamsAn address on the life, character and services of William Henry Seward (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 5)