Albany in Lincoln

NYT has an interesting bit about Albany's brief mention in Spielberg's Lincoln -- a scene in which William Seward tells Lincoln he'll get in touch with a friend from Albany to help supply arm twisting muscle for passage of the 13th Amendment. Says Harold Holzer to NYT: "It's a nice inside message to the days when Albany was fully functional, if barely legal."


William H. Seward is one of the greatest statesmen to ever live. Most people only know him for engineering the purchase of Alaska, but he was the driving force behind many of the liberties and justice we take for granted in modern America.

He graduated Union College in 1820. And as a student there I noticed there was next to nothing honoring him. So I spent five years of my life erecting a monument to him, which stands today on the corner of Seward Place and Nott St. I hope this movie will generate more interest in this "local" hero. The monument is a boulder (from Alaska) with a bronze plaque). I was told that a drunk driver (student?) crashed her car into the monument recently. But I hope that scuttlebutt isn't true.

P.S. I was also the driving force behind naming the student shuttle "Seward's Trolley" in reference to "Seward's Folly."

P.P.S. Seward was a ginger!

Functional? Oh, very. Who put Seward into power? Thurlow Weed, who was called "the ablest spoilsman who had thus far appeared in the state whose politics, in the words of Seward's other guardian angel, John Quincy Adams, were 'the devil's own incomprehensibles.'"

Lincoln came to Albany in 1848 to meet with Weed. He also chatted up Millard Fillmore, who was then the Whig candidate for vice president.


It was partially the stink of Weed (pun intended) that cost Seward his rightful spot as president, for he was WAY more qualified than Lincoln to serve as chief (and Lincoln knew that). I would encourage you to read more about Seward or visit his house in Auburn to take a second look at the greatest statesman in our history.

There are two names on the Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln, and Seward. Seward was an outspoken abolitionist (his family owned slaves in NYS by the way) and his unabashed views about the institution are also in large part what cost him the party nomination. "It is an irrepressible conflict" is one of the lines on the plaque I created for him in Schenectady.

Women's rights. Native American rights. The idea that prisons should be places of reform, not strictly for punishment, etc. etc. He even tried to end the feudal practices that were keeping Hudson Valley farmers in a state of medieval peasantry (before he crashed his carriage and botched that). These are all modern rights that we take for granted today. They are "self evident" now. But they weren't in Seward's time and he fought his whole life to make them so.

As an attorney he was the first in the state to use the insanity plea to defend a former slave in Auburn who went nuts and killed his former master. They were just going to hang the guy without a trial. And you better believe people wanted to do in Seward for standing up for the justice system there, when no one else would.

There's a reason why Harriet Tubman and Seward were friends and neighbors. Enough of the Thurlow Weed stuff, I say.

There's a new biography on Seward that's supposed to be very good - Seward: Lincoln's Indispensable Man.

I should have added - Inaugural AOA Group Read anyone?

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