Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man

Walter Stahr, Author
Walter Stahr. Simon & Schuster, $32.50 (704p) ISBN 978-1-4391-2116-0
Paperback - 703 pages - 978-1-4391-2118-4
Ebook - 720 pages - 978-1-4391-2794-0
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Many readers will be acquainted with William Henry Seward from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. Stahr gives us a first-rate biography of that team’s major figure, Lincoln’s secretary of state. It’s the first full one in decades and, if over-stuffed, by far the best. Stahr, whose biographic skills were in full display in his study of John Jay, has his hands full: Seward was New York governor and senator, then a rival for Lincoln’s place on the 1860 presidential ticket, finally senior cabinet officer—a long, complex life and career. Seward proved among the most accomplished secretaries of state in American history. Among other things, he kept Britain out of the Civil War, then negotiated the acquisition of Alaska for the U.S. Stahr struggles, mostly successfully, to keep the details of all this under control. While calling Seward “the foremost American statesman of the nineteenth century” (though most historians would agree that John Quincy Adams surpasses Seward even among secretaries of state), Stahr’s biography is no whitewash. He records the man’s shortcomings and the enmities he made among other notable people. But there’s no doubting that this formidable figure has finally gained the biographer he’s long deserved. 16 pages of b&w photos, 3 maps. Agent: Scott Waxman, Waxman Literary Agency. (Sept.)
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