February 29, 1860

I have missed, by a day, posting about Seward’s great speech of February 29, 1860, on February 29, 2012.  By early 1860, Seward was the presumptive Republican nominee.  If there had been Intrade odds in those days, Seward would have been trading at 80% with all other Republican candidates, including Lincoln, adding up to the remaining 20%.  But Seward needed to prove that he was not, as some thought, a radical.  This speech, given on leap day, stressed Seward’s love for and confidence in the Union.

A little more than a year later, on March 4, 1861, Lincoln gave his first inaugural address.  Seward provided Lincoln substantial help, especially on the conclusion.  The following section could be called the rough, long, first draft of Lincoln’s great conclusion:

You may refine as you please about the structure of the government, and say that it is a compact, and that a breach, by one of the states or by congress, of any one article, absolves all the members from allegiance, and that the states may separate when they have, or fancy they have, cause for war.  But once try to subvert it, and you will find that it is a government of the whole people–as individuals, as well as a compact of states; that every individual member of the body politic is conscious of his interest and power in it, and knows that he will be helpless, powerless, hopeless, when it shall have gone down.  Mankind have a natural right, a natural instinct, and a natural capacity for self-government; and when, as here, they are sufficiently ripened by culture, they will and must have self-government, and no other.  The framers of our constitution, with a wisdom that surpassed all previous understanding among men, adapted it to these inherent elements of human nature.  He strangely, blindly, misunderstands the anatomy of the great system who thinks that its only bonds, or even its strongest ligaments, are the written compact or even the multiplied and thoroughly ramified roads and thorough fares of trade, commerce, and social intercourse.  These are strong indeed; but its chiefest instruments of cohesion–those which render it inseparable and indivisible–are the millions of fibers of millions of contented, happy human hearts, binding by their affections, their ambitions and their best hopes, equally the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the wise and the unwise, the learned and the untutored, even the good and the bad, to a government, the first, the last, and the only such one that has ever existed, which takes equal heed always of their wants, their wishes and their opinions; and appeals to them all, individually, once in a year, or two years, or at least in four years, for their expressed consent and renewal, without which it must cease.  No; go where you will, and to what class you may, with commissions for your fatal service in one hand, and your bounty counted by the hundred or the thousand pieces of silver in the other, a thousand resisters will rise up for every recruit you can engage.  On the banks equally of the St. Lawrence and the Rio Grande, on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, and in the delves of the Rocky mountains, among the fishermen on the banks of Newfoundland, the weavers and spinners of Massachusetts, the stevedores of New York, the miners of Pennsylvania, Pike’s Peak and California, the wheat-growers of Indiana, the cotton and sugar planters on the Mississippi, among the voluntary citizens from eery other land, not less than the native born, the Christian and the Jew, among the Indians on the prairies, the contumacious Mormons in Deseret, the Africans free, the Africans in bondage, the inmates of hospitals and alms-houses, and even the criminals in the penitentiaries, rehearse the story of your wrongs and their own, never so eloquently and so mounfully, and appeal to them to rise [against the government.]  They will ask you “Is this all?” “Are you more just than Washington, wiser than Hamilton, more humane than Jefferson?” “What new form of government or of union have you the power to establish, or even the cunning to devise, that will be more just, more safe, more free, more gentle, more beneficent, or more glorious than this?” And by these simple interrogatories you will be silenced and confounded.”

A long paragraph with long sentences, but that is the way Seward thought and spoke.