Horatio Seymour: Wikis


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Horatio Seymour

In office
January 1, 1853 – December 31, 1854
Lieutenant Sanford E. Church
Preceded by Washington Hunt
Succeeded by Myron H. Clark
In office
January 1, 1863 – December 31, 1864
Lieutenant David R. Floyd-Jones
Preceded by Edwin D. Morgan
Succeeded by Reuben Fenton

Born May 31, 1810(1810-05-31)
Pompey Hill, New York, U.S.
Died February 12, 1886 (aged 75)
New York City, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Bleecker Seymour
Profession Politician, Lawyer
Religion Protestant

Horatio Seymour (May 31, 1810 – February 12, 1886) was an American politician. He was the 18th Governor of New York from 1853 to 1854 and from 1863 to 1864. He was the Democratic Party nominee for president of the United States in the presidential election of 1868, but lost the election to Republican Ulysses S. Grant.


Early life and education

Horatio Seymour was born in Pompey Hill, Onondaga County, New York. His father was Henry Seymour, a merchant and politician; his mother, Mary Ledyard Forman (1785 - 1859), of Matawan, New Jersey, was the daughter of General Johnathan Forman and Mary Ledyard.[1] At the age of 10 he moved with the rest of his family to Utica, where he attended a number of local schools, including Geneva College (later Hobart College). In the autumn of 1824 he was sent to the American Literary, Scientific & Military Academy. Upon his return to Utica in 1827, Seymour read for the law in the offices of Greene Bronson and Samuel Beardsley. Though admitted to the bar in 1832, he did not enjoy work as an attorney and way primarily preoccupied with politics and managing his family's business interests.[2]

Political career


Entry into politics

Seymour's first role in politics came in 1833, when he was named military secretary to the state's newly elected Democratic governor, William L. Marcy. The six years in that position gave Seymour an invaluable education in the politics of the state, and established a firm friendship between the two men. In 1839 he returned to Utica to take over the management of his family's estate in the aftermath of his father's suicide two years earlier, investing in both real estate and in financial stocks. In 1841 he won election to the New York State Assembly, and he served simultaneously as mayor of Utica from 1842 to 1843. He won reelection in 1842, and again from 1844 to 1846, and thanks in part to massive turnover in the ranks of the Democratic caucus was elected speaker in 1845.[3]

When, in the late 1840s, the New York Democratic Party split between the two factions of Hunkers and Barnburners, Seymour was among those identified with the more conservative Hunker faction, led by Marcy and Senator Daniel S. Dickinson. After this split led to disaster in the elections of 1848, when the division between the Hunkers, who supported Lewis Cass, and the Barnburners, who supported their leader, former President Martin Van Buren, Seymour became identified with Marcy's faction within the Hunkers, the so-called "Softshell Hunkers," who hoped to reunite with the Barnburners so as to be able to bring back Democratic dominance within the state.

First term as governor

In 1850, Seymour was the gubernatorial candidate of the reunited Democratic Party, but he narrowly lost to the Whig candidate, Washington Hunt. Seymour and the Softs supported the candidacy of their leader, Marcy, for the presidency in 1852, but when he was defeated, enthusiastically supported the candidacy of Franklin Pierce in 1852. That year proved a good one for the Softs, as Seymour, again supported by a unified Democratic Party, narrowly defeated Hunt in a gubernatorial rematch, while Pierce, overwhelmingly elected president, appointed Marcy as his Secretary of State.

Horatio Seymour at home

Seymour's first term as governor of New York proved turbulent. He won approval of a measure to finance the enlargement of the Erie Canal via a $10.5 million loan in a special election in February 1854. But much of his tenure was plagued by factional chaos within the state Democratic Party. The Pierce administration's use of the patronage power alienated the Hards, who determined to run their own gubernatorial candidate against Seymour in 1854. Furthermore, the administration's support of the unpopular Kansas-Nebraska Act with which Seward was associated indirectly through his friendship with Marcy (who was Pierce's Secretary of State), cost him many votes. Whigs controlling the state legislature also sought to injure him further politically by responding to his call for action on the problem of alcohol abuse with a bill establishing a state-wide prohibition, which Seymour vetoed as unconstitutional. Yet for all his troubles Seymour's prospects for reelection looked promising, as the divisions of the Democrats' opponents between the regular Whig candidate, Myron H. Clark, and the Know-Nothing Daniel Ullman appeared to be more dangerous to the Democrats' opponents than the candidacy of the Hard Greene C. Bronson looked to Democratic unity. In the end, however, the anti-Democratic tide was too strong, and in the four-way race Clark, who received only one-third of the vote, defeated Seymour by 309 votes.


Despite his defeat, as a former governor of the largest state of the union Seymour emerged as a prominent figure in party politics at the national level. In 1856 he was considered a possible compromise presidential candidate in the event of a deadlock between Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan until Seymour wrote a letter definitively ruling himself out from consideration. He supported the candidacy of Stephen Douglas for the presidency in both 1858 and 1860. In 1861, he accepted nomination as the Democratic candidate to the United States Senate, which was largely an empty honor as the Republican majorities in the state legislature rendered his defeat a foregone conclusion. [4]

In the secession crisis following Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860 Seymour strongly endorsed the proposed Crittenden Compromise. After the start of the American Civil War, Seymour took a cautious middle position within his party, supporting the war effort but criticizing Lincoln's conduct of the war. Seymour was especially critical of Lincoln's wartime centralization of power and restrictions on civil liberties, as well as his support for emancipation.

Second term as governor

Campaign rally celebrating Seymour's election

In 1862, the sitting governor, Republican Edwin D. Morgan, announced that he would not run for an additional term. Recognizing the symbolic importance of a victory in the Empire State, the Democratic Party nominated Seymour as the strongest candidate available. Though Seymour accepted the nomination with reluctance he threw himself into the election, campaigning across the state in the hope that a Democratic victory would restrain the actions of the Radical Republicans in Washington. He won a close race against the Republican candidate James S. Wadsworth, one of a series of victories by the Democratic ticket in the state that year.[5]

Seymour's second term proved to be even more tumultuous than his first one. As governor of the largest state in the union from 1863 to 1864, Seymour was one of the most prominent Democratic opponents of the President. He opposed the Lincoln administration's institution of the military draft in 1863 on constitutional grounds, an act which led many to question his support for the war. He also opposed a bill giving votes to the soldiers on legal grounds, vetoing the bill when it reached his desk. While not opposed to the goal he preferred to establish voting provisions through a constitutional amendment that was working its way simultaneously through the state legislature; nonetheless, his veto was portrayed by opponents as hostility to the soldiers. His decision to pay the state's foreign creditors using gold rather than greenbacks alienated "easy money" supporters, while his veto of a bill granting traction rights on Broadway in Manhattan earned him the opposition of Tammany Hall. Finally, his efforts to conciliate the rioters during the New York Draft Riots of July 1863 was used against him by the Republicans, who accused him of treason and support for the Confederacy.[6]

The growing accumulation of problems steadily eroded Seymour's position as governor. In what was regarded as a rebuke of his policies, Republicans swept the 1863 midterm elections, winning all of the major offices and taking control of the State Assembly. In the state elections the following year, Seymour himself was defeated for reelection in a close race by Republican Reuben Fenton.[7]

Prominent Democrat

Seymour continued as a prominent figure in national Democratic politics both during and immediately after his second term as governor. In 1864, he served as permanent chairman at the Democratic National Convention, where the opposition of many delegates to the nomination of General George B. McClellan led many to seek out Seymour as an alternative before the governor made it clear that he would not be a candidate. In the aftermath of the war Seymour joined other Democrats in supporting President Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction policies, and was a strong opponent of Radical Reconstruction, with its emphasis on guaranteeing civil and political rights for freed slaves.[8]

1868 Presidential election

Seymour/Blair campaign poster

The nomination

As the 1868 presidential election approached, there was no clear candidate for the Democratic nomination. Of the numerous candidates in contention, George H. Pendleton enjoyed considerable support but alienated the fiscal conservatives in the party with his plan to pay off federal debt using greenbacks. Though Seymour was approached about running for the nomination, he demurred again, preferring that either Senator Thomas A. Hendricks or Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase receive the nomination instead. At the convention, Seymour once again served as permanent chairman. Balloting began on June 7; on the fourth ballot, the chairman of the North Carolina delegation cast his state's votes for Seymour, whereupon the former governor again restated his refusal to accept the nomination. Two days later, as the twenty-second ballot was being taken, it appeared that Hendricks was in the process of winning the nomination until the leader of the Ohio delegation suddenly switched his delegation's votes for Seymour. Though Seymour reiterated his unwillingness to be the nominee, the delegations revised their votes and gave the nomination to him unanimously.[9]

The campaign

With the nomination forced upon him, Seymour committed himself to the campaign. He faced considerable challenges; his opponent, General Ulysses S. Grant, enjoyed the support of a unified Republican party and most of the nation's press. While he generally adhered to the tradition that presidential nominees did not actively campaign, Seymour did undertake a tour of the Midwest and the mid-Atlantic states in mid-October. In his campaign Seymour advocated a policy of conservative, limited government, and he opposed the Reconstruction policies of the Republicans in Congress. The Republican campaign, by contrast, was the first in which they "waved the bloody shirt", accusing Seymour and the Democrats of treason. Though Seymour ran fairly close to Grant in the popular vote, he was defeated decisively in the electoral vote by a count of 214 to 80.[10]

Later Years

After the presidential election, Seymour remained involved in state politics, though primarily as an elder statesman rather than an active politician. He received a number of honors during this period, including the chancellorship of Union College in 1873. In 1874 he turned down almost certain election to the United States Senate, urging the nomination instead of the eventual choice Francis Kernan. He refused two additional efforts to nominate him for the New York governorship, in 1876 and 1879, as well as a final attempt to select him as the Democratic presidential nominee in 1880.[11]

Never enjoying robust health, Seymour suffered a permanent decline beginning in 1876. He made a final political effort in 1884 by campaigning for Grover Cleveland's election as president, but deteriorated physically the following year. In January 1886 his wife Mary suffered an illness. Seymour's own health worsened further. Seymour died in February 1886 and was interred in Forest Hill Cemetery in Utica, New York; Mary died a month later and is buried next to him.[12]


In his book about the defeated presidential candidates, They Also Ran, Irving Stone mentioned how Horatio Seymour was one of America's greatest statesmen. Stone theorized that Seymour would have been "one of the most farsighted and creative of American presidents." He also believed that Seymour's gentle character made him the "most logical figure in the country to bind the wounds of the war and wipe out the bitterness..."

Electoral history

Gubernatorial elections

New York Gubernatorial Election 1850
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Horatio Seymour 214,352 49.57% +22.87
Whig Washington Hunt 214,614 49.64%
Liberty William Lawrence Chaplin 3,416 0.79%
Whig hold Swing
New York Gubernatorial Election 1852
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Horatio Seymour 264,121 50.31% +.74
Whig Washington Hunt (Incumbent) 241,525 46.01%
Free Soil Minthorne Tompkins 19,296 3.68%
Democratic gain from Whig Swing
New York Gubernatorial Election 1854
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Horatio Seymour (Incumbent) 156,495 33.32% -16.99
Whig Myron H. Clark 156,804 33.38%
Know Nothing Daniel Ullman 122,282 26.03%
Democratic Greene C. Bronson 33,850 7.21%
Whig gain from Democratic Swing
New York Gubernatorial Election 1862
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Horatio Seymour 306,649 50.89% +7.08
Republican James S. Wadsworth 295,897 49.11%
Democratic gain from Republican Swing
New York Gubernatorial Election 1864
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Horatio Seymour (Incumbent) 361,264 49.43% -1.46
Republican Reuben Fenton 368,557 50.57%
Republican gain from Democratic Swing

1868 Presidential election

Presidential candidate Party Home state Popular vote(a) Electoral
Running mate Running mate's
home state
Running mate's
electoral vote(a)
Count Pct
Ulysses S. Grant Republican Illinois 3,013,650 52.7% 214 Schuyler Colfax Indiana 214
Horatio Seymour Democratic New York 2,708,744 47.3% 80 Francis Preston Blair, Jr. Missouri 80
Other 46 0.0% Other
Total 5,722,440 100% 294 294
Needed to win 148 148


  1. ^ David Kipp Conover, "Mary Ledyard Forman"
  2. ^ Stewart Mitchell, Horatio Seymour of New York (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1938), p. 33.
  3. ^ Ibid, pgs. 33-86.
  4. ^ Ibid, pgs. 171-173, 215-216, 231.
  5. ^ Ibid, pgs. 244-255.
  6. ^ Ibid, pgs. 283-336.
  7. ^ Ibid, pgs. 350-359, 381
  8. ^ Ibid, pgs. 359-370, 383-391.
  9. ^ Ibid, pgs. 411-431.
  10. ^ Ibid, pgs. 443-484.
  11. ^ Ibid, pgs. 512, 521-526, 535-539, 571.
  12. ^ Ibid, pgs. 570-574.


  • Croly, David Goodman (1868). Seymour and Blair: Their Lives and Services.  
  • McCabe, James Dabney (1868). The Life and Public Services of Horatio Seymour.   online edition
  • Mitchell, Stewart (1938). Horatio Seymour of New York. Harvard University Press.  

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Elisha Litchfield
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
Succeeded by
William C. Crain
Preceded by
Washington Hunt
Governor of New York
1853 – 1854
Succeeded by
Myron H. Clark
Preceded by
Edwin D. Morgan
Governor of New York
1863 – 1864
Succeeded by
Reuben E. Fenton
Party political offices
Preceded by
George B. McClellan
Democratic Party presidential candidate
Succeeded by
Horace Greeley

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

HORATIO SEYMOUR (1810-1886), American statesman, was born at Pompey, Onondaga county, New York, on the 31st of May 1810. His ancestor, Richard Seymour, a Protestant Episcopal ` clergyman, was an early settler at Hartford, Connecticut, and his father, Henry Seymour, who removed from Connecticut to New York, was prominent in the Democratic party in the state, being a member of the "Albany Regency" and serving as state senator in1816-1819and in 1822, and as canal commissioner in 1819-1831. The son was brought up in Utica, studied in1824-1825at Geneva Academy (afterwards Hobart College), and then at a military school in Middletown, Conn., and was admitted to the bar in 1832. He was military secretary to Governor W. L. Marcy in 1833-1839, was a member of the New York Assembly in 1842, in 1844 and in 1845, being speaker in 1845; mayor of Utica in 1843, and in 1852 was elected governor of the state over Washington Hunt (1811-1867), the Whig candidate, who had defeated him in 1850. He vetoed in 1854 a bill prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors (which was declared unconstitutional almost immediately after its reenactment in 1855), and in consequence he was defeated in 1854 for re-election as governor by Myron Holley Clark (1806-1892), the Whig and temperance candidate. Seymour was a conservative on national issues and supported the administrations of Pierce and Buchanan; he advocated compromise to avoid secession in 1860-1861; but when war broke out he supported the maintenance of the Union. In1863-1865he was again governor of New York state. His opposition to President Lincoln's policy was mainly in respect to emancipation, military arrests and conscription. The president tried to win him over early in 1863, but Seymour disapproved of the arrest of C. S. Vallandigham in May, and, although he responded immediately to the call for militia in June, he thought the Conscription Act unnecessary and unconstitutional and urged the president to postpone the draft until its legality could be tested. During the draft riots in July he proclaimed the city and county of New York in a state of insurrection, but in a speech to the rioters adopted a tone of conciliation - a political error which injured his career. He was defeated as Democratic candidate for governor in 1864. In 1868 he was nominated presidential candidate by the National Democratic Convention, Francis P. Blair, Jr., being nominated for the vice-presidency; but Seymour and Blair carried only eight states (including New York, New Jersey and Oregon), and received only 80 electoral votes to 214 for Grant and Colfax. Seymour did not re-enter political life, refusing to be considered for the United States senatorship from New York in 1876. He died on the 12th of February 1886 in Utica, at the home of his sister, who was the wife of Roscoe Conkling.

The Public Record of Horatio Seymour (New York, 1868) includes his speeches and official papers between 1856 and 1868.

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