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loans—that no man was permitted to pay him more than that interest—and that no man who paid his interest punctually was ever required to pay any part of the principal. He was a zealous advocate of republican principles, and exerted a leading influence in the affairs of the party. In 1804, he was elected to the legislature, and during the continuance of the republicans in power, he was never without one or more offices of public trust. Although not a member of the legal profession, he was appointed First Judge of Orange County, in 1815, which office he held for seventeen years. His exercise of the judicial functions was marked by discretion, impartiality, and promptness, and he is remembered to this day as one of the best judges the county ever had. After a visit to Europe, he lived in the enjoyment of universal respect until 1849, when he died in a ripe old age. Dr. Seward was the friend of religion, education, and public improvement. He founded the "S. S. Seward Institute," at Florida, an excellent high school for young persons of both sexes. He endowed this seminary with a permanent fund of $20,000, and continued its steadfast friend until the close of his life.
The wife of Dr. Seward was Mary Jennings, whose family had emigrated from Ireland at an early day. She was a woman of a clear and vigorous understanding, with singular cheerfulness of temper, and while devoted with untiring industry to the interests of her family, was a model of hospitality, charity, and self-forgetfulness. She died in 1843.
The subject of this memoir never forgot that he had Irish blood in his veins. This fact serves to explain, in part, the strong attachment he has always cherished for the Irish population of our country. While travelling through Ireland in 1833, his indignation was greatly aroused by the sight of the oppressions inflicted on the people by the British Government. He ascribed a large share of the miseries of that unhappy country to its political mismanagement, and especially to the annihilation of its parliament, by the act of union. In writing home from Ireland, he expresses himself in the following terms:
“But all this glory has departed. The very shadow (and for a long time the Irish Parliament was but the shadow) of independenee has vanished; Ireland has surrendered the individuality of her national existence, to share, like a younger sister, that of England. The walls of the parliament house remain in all their primitive grandeur, to reproach the degeneracy of her statesmen.
Whilst traversing its apartments, 1 reverted to the debate when the degenerate representatives surrendered their parliament; and I thought that had I occupied a place there, I would have seen English armies wade in blood over my country, before I would have assented to so disgraceful an union. Something might have been spared, after the deed was consummated, to the wounded pride of the Irish people. The parliament house ought to have been closed, and left in gloomy solitude, a monument to remind the people that they once had a country. But this was too great a concession for the economy of the English administration of affairs in Ireland. They who build palaces and monuments with a profuse hand, on the other side of the channel, sold the Irish Capitol, and it was forth with converted into a ball for money.changers. I confess that overleaping all the obstacles which are deemed by many well-wishers of Ireland insurmountable, I wish the repeal of the union. I will not believe that if re. lieved of that oppressive act, she does not possess the ability to govern herself.”
In a private letter, written by Mr. Seward in 1840, to a gentleman who had taken strong exceptions to his sentiments in relation to Irishmen, the following passage occurs, in regard to the Irish lineage of his mother. After defending the character of the Irish from some severe charges made by his correspondent, and alluding to their many virtues, he says:
“ If this confession of faith seems strange to you, permit me to explain that I could not believe otherwise, without doing dishonor to a mother eminent for many virtues, and to the memories of humble ancestors, whose names will not be saved from obscurity by the record of any extraordinary vices.”
WILLIAM HENRY SEWARD was born in Florida, May 16th, 1801. The house in which his parents then resided is still standing; but the old-fashioned village church and school-house, where his youthful feet were wont to tread, have given place to more modern structures. A venerable forest-tree on the ancienthomes tead still overshadows a clear, bubbling spring of water, which William was in the habit of frequenting in his school-boy days, with his books, for the purpose of reading and study in its cool and pleasant retirement. His boyhood is well remembered by the aged inhabitants of his native village. They love to recall their predictions of the future eminence of the studious lad, whose diligence and real had already attracted their attention. The colored servant, then a slave of his father's, who led him in infancy, and shared his juvenile sports, still lives to rejoice in the bounty of her young companion, who has given a comfortable home for her old age, in memory of their early attachment.
The subject of our narrative entered upon life amidst external circumstances adapted to cherish and develope the higher ele
ments of his nature. The local scenery of Florida is scarcely surpassed in the country for beauty and magnificence. On each side, mountains of impressive grandeur rear their blue summits into the skies, while the broad and fertile valleys, watered by numerous rivulets and miniature lakes, enriched by genial and appropriate culture, and smiling in joyous abundance, complete the majestic and lovely panorama. The people of Florida, unlike the inhabitants of most other towns in that part of the state, were originally emigrants from New England. They were accordingly imbued with much of the stern and lofty spirit of the Puritans, while their descendants still retained many of their habits and feelings. Brought up amidst such sublime and ennobling scenes of nature—inheriting from a worthy ancestry the purest sentiments of honor and patriotism-imbibing, with his mother's milk, the love of truth, freedom, and equality,--the mind of young Seward early received a powerful impulse towards the career of beneficent greatness, which has amply fulfilled the prophetic anticipations of his youthful associates and admirers.
One of the first acts remembered by the friends of liam Henry, was in no small degree significant of his juvenile tendencies. He ran away to school-most truants run in the opposite direction. His taste for books was displayed at an early age. They were his favorite companions, and he was seldom seen without a volume in his hands. His thirst for knowledge, once nearly cost him his life.
When about twelve years of age, returning near nightfall from a pasture on his father's farm, driving home the cows, he read a book as he walked, giving an occasional look to his charge, that was travelling quietly before him. A party of boys espied the abstracted herdsman, and disturbed his studious reveries with a volley of small stones. Resolved not to be disturbed in his reading by the missiles of his thoughtless companions, he turned his back towards them, and walked backwards with his eye intently fixed upon his book. In a short time, he insensibly diverged from the path, and missing the bridge over a small creek, was thrown into the water. An elder brother, who had witnessed the accident, drew him from the stream in a state of unconsciousness, and he was fortunately restored without serious injury.
His precocious intellect, and his docile, cheerful disposition, led his parents to decide on giving him a superior education to that
received by the other members of the family. The common school system had not yet been established in the state of New York, and he attended several different schools in the vicinity of his father's residence, until the age of nine years. At this period, he was sent to Farmers' Hall Academy, at Goshen, which then boasted of having had the celebrated Aaron Burr and Noah Webster among its pupils. He pursued his studies at this seminary, and at an academy afterwards established in Florida, until the year 1816. He was now but fifteen
when he was presented for admission to Union College, Schenectady. The thin, pale, sandy-visaged boy was found qualified for the junior class, but on account of his extreme youth was persuaded to enter the sophomore.
The college career of young Seward, as related by his contemporaries, gave brilliant indication of the rare qualities for which he has since become distinguished. The traits of the future legislator and statesman were foreshadowed in the character of the modest youth during his period of academic retirement. Even then he displayed the manly originality of conception—the sturdy independence of purpose—the firm adherence to his convictions of right—the intrepid assertion of high moral principles—the careful examination of a cause before appearing in its defence the sympathy with the weak and oppressed—and the intellectual vigilance and assiduity in the pursuit of truth,—which have formed such conspicuous and admirable features in his public career.
His favorite studies in college were rhetoric, moral philosophy, and the ancient classics. It was his custom to rise at four o'clock in the morning, and prepare all the lessons of the day. At night, while the other students were engaged in getting ready the exercises of the next morning, he devoted his leisure to general reading, and literary compositions for class declamation or debates in society meetings.
In the year 1819, Seward, who was then in the senior class, and in the eighteenth year of his age, withdrew from college for about a year, passing six months of the time as a teacher at the south. The spectacle of slavery could not fail to make a deep impression on his mind. He witnessed scenes which aroused him to reflection on the subject, and produced the hostility to every form of oppression, which has since become ingrained in his character.
One of the many incidents which occurred to him may be related in this place.
While travelling in the interior of the state, he approached a stream spanned by a dilapidated bridge, that had become almost impassable. He forded the river with no little difficulty, and met on the opposite side a negro woman with an old blind and worn-out horse, bearing a bag of corn to mill. The poor slave was in tears, and manifested great distress of mind. She was afraid to venture on the bridge, and the stream seemed too rapid and violent for the strength of her horse. She was reluctant te return to her master, without fulfilling her errand, being fearfu. of punishment. The heart of the young northerner was moved, He went to her assistance, and attempted to lead the horse across the bridge.
But the wretched beast was not equal to the effort He made a false step, and falling partly through, became wedged in among the plank and timbers. Seward tried in vain to extricate him. Despairing of success, he mounted his own horse, rode to the master's residence, and informed him of the accident, and attempted to excuse the slave. In return for his kindness, he was met with a volley of imprecations on himself, the slave, the horse, the bridge, and all parties and things concerned. His disgust at this adventure taught him a lesson of wisdom, which he never forgot.
Returning to college in 1820, he found the students in a state of great excitement. They had hitherto been divided into two literary societies, the Philomathean and the Adelphic, between which an earnest, but not unfriendly rivalry subsisted. The former was the most popular with the students, while the latter claimed the most diligent scholars. Young Seward was a member of the Adelphic, and entered into the interests of the society with characteristic zeal. During his absence, some twenty or thirty students from the southern states had left Princeton College and entered Union. These attached themselves to the Philomathean Society, giving it a great superiority in numbers over its rival. Questions soon arose in the society, on which the members divided geographically. The southern students were left in a mi nority, and obtaining a charter from the college faculty, organized a third society called the Delphian Institute. Their secession weakened the Philomathean, and was generally regarded by the older members of the rival society as a triumph on their side.