Letter from Horatio Seymour December 2, 1879, indicating his regrets at not being able to attend the “International Fair” and noting that “. . . we must depend upon agriculture to keep up the prosperity of our country.”
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Seymour, Horatio (b Pompey Hill, Onondaga Co, 31 May 1810; d Utica, 12 Feb 1886). Governor and presidential candidate.
Educated at Geneva Academy (now Hobart College), Seymour studied law in Utica, was admitted to the bar in 1832, and moved to Albany in 1833. He served as mayor of Utica (1842) and served three terms in the state assembly (1841, 1844, 1845), as Speaker in his last term. Seymour returned to private life until an unsuccessful run for governor in 1850 and a successful one in 1852. A conservative Democrat, Seymour, as governor, strongly opposed nativism and vetoed a prohibition bill, leading to his defeat for reelection in 1854, after which he moved to a farm in Deerfield (Oneida Co). He advocated popular sovereignty as a solution to the slavery question in the 1850s and gave only lukewarm support to the northern war effort.
Reelected governor in 1862, Seymour became an outspoken critic of the Lincoln administration, questioning the constitutionality of the Emancipation Proclamation and the wartime limits on press freedom and other civil liberties.
He supported voluntary enlistments but opposed federal conscription as a violation of states’ rights. His speech after the draft riots of July 1863, in which he addressed the rioters as “my friends,” was widely viewed as tantamount to treason and led to his defeat in 1864. After the war Seymour supported Andrew Johnson’s administration and opposed what he perceived as the excesses of the radical Republicans. In 1868 a deadlocked Democratic National Convention in New York City nominated Seymour as a compromise candidate. He ran an energetic campaign against Reconstruction. In many places the Democratic Party ran on a platform of what was very nearly white supremacy. Despite carrying New York State and drawing 47% of the popular vote, Seymour won only 80 electoral votes. After the defeat he became an elder Democratic Party statesman.
Mitchell, Stewart. Horatio Seymour of New York (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Univ Press, 1938)
Silbey, Joel. A Respectable Minority: The Democratic Party in the Civil War Era, 1860–1868 (New York: Norton, 1977)
Peter Eisenstadt, ed., The Encyclopedia of New York State
(Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005), [p. 1405].
© Syracuse University Press. Reproduced with permission from the publisher.