Horatio Seymour

Infobox Governor
name=Horatio Seymour

office=Governor of New York
term_start=January 1, 1853
term_end=December 31, 1854
lieutenant=Sanford E. Church
predecessor=Washington Hunt
successor=Myron H. Clark
term_start2 = January 1, 1863
term_end2 = December 31, 1864
lieutenant2 =David R. Floyd-Jones
predecessor2 = Edwin D. Morgan
successor2 = Reuben Fenton
birth_date=birth date|1810|5|31|mf=y
birth_place=Pompey Hill, New York, U.S.
death_date=death date and age|1886|2|12|1810|5|31|mf=y
death_place=New York City, U.S.
spouse=Mary Bleecker Seymour
profession=Politician, Lawyer

Horatio Seymour (May 31, 1810ndash February 12, 1886) was an American politician. He was 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.


Horatio Seymour was born in Pompey Hill, Onondaga County, New York. He was the son of Henry Seymour (1780 - 1837) and his wife Mary Ledyard Forman (1785 - 1859). Henry was a member of the New York State Senate from 1815 to 1819, served in the New York State Assembly from 1819 to 1820. He returned to the State Senate from 1821 to 1822. Henry was a younger brother of Horatio Seymour (1778 - 1857), United State Senator from Vermont. [ [http://politicalgraveyard.com/families/10341.html Lawrence Kestenbaum, "Seymour-Conkling family of New York"] ] Mary Ledyard Forman was from Matawan, New Jersey. Her own parents were General Johnathan Forman and Mary Ledyard. [ [http://www.conovergenealogy.com/conover-p/p867.htm#i291880 David Kipp Conover, "Mary Ledyard Forman"] ]


He was educated at Geneva College (later Hobart College) and at the American Literary, Scientific & Military Academy, studied law at Utica, and in 1832 was admitted to the bar. He entered politics as a Democrat and served as mayor of Utica, New York from 1842 to 1843. He was a member of the New York State Assembly in 1842, and from 1844 to 1846, being its speaker in 1845.

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 Senator Daniel S. Dickinson and former Governor William L. Marcy. 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. In 1850, Seymour was the gubernatorial candidate of the reunited Democratic Party, but 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.

Seymour served as governor of New York from 1853 to 1854. His tenure saw the Democratic Party in New York once again fall into factional chaos, as 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 Marcy, as Secretary of State, and thus his ally Seymour was associated, made victory seem unlikely. Seymour hoped to distract attention away from both the divisions within his own party and the unpopularity of the Kansas-Nebraska Act through the issue of prohibition, of which he was a strong opponent. Seymour vetoed a prohibition bill passed by the legislature, and hoped to win re-election by attracting the support of anti-prohibition Whigs. Furthermore, the divisions of the Democrats opponents between the regular Whig candidate, Myron H. Clark, and the Know Nothing Daniel Ullman looked more dangerous to the Democrats' opponents than the candidacy of the Hard Bronson Green 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.

In the years after his governorship, Seymour returned to private life but continued to be one of the most prominent leaders of New York's Democrats. He served as a delegate to the 1856 Democratic National Convention, and in both 1856 and 1860 supported the candidacy of Stephen Douglas for the presidency. When the American Civil War began, Seymour took a cautious middle position within his party, supporting the war effort but criticizing the conduct of the war by Republican President Abraham Lincoln. Seymour was especially critical of Lincoln's wartime centralization of power and restrictions on civil liberties, as well as his support of emancipation.

In 1862, with the Republican war effort seeming mired in stalemate, Seymour returned to electoral politics and was again elected Governor, defeating Republican candidate James Wadsworth. As Governor of the largest state in the union from 1863 to 1864, Seymour was the most prominent Democratic opponent of the President. Seymour opposed the Lincoln administration's institution of the military draft in 1863. When the draft finally was instituted, however, it led to the infamous New York Draft Riots of July 1863. Seymour's policy during the riots, when he was seen as trying to conciliate the rioters, was used against him by the Republicans, who accused him of treason and support for the Confederacy. This helped lead to his narrow defeat for re-election in 1864 by Republican Reuben Fenton.

Seymour remained, nonetheless, a powerful and important senior figure within the Democratic Party. He served as permanent chairman at the 1864 Democratic National Convention. The postwar years saw Seymour, like many other northern Democrats, identifying himself with 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.

In 1868, Seymour once again served as the chairman of the Democratic National Convention. After the Convention deadlocked for 21 ballots between other characters, Seymour was unanimously chosen by the convention as a compromise candidate on the 22nd ballot. The campaign that followed saw Seymour and the Democrats advocate a policy of conservative, limited government, and opposing the Reconstruction policies of the Republicans in Congress. The Republicans, who nominated General Ulysses S. Grant, ran the first campaign at which they "waved the bloody shirt", accusing Seymour and the Democrats of treason. Seymour ran fairly close to Grant in the popular vote, but was decisively defeated in the electoral vote, 214 to 80.

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..."

After the presidential election, Seymour remained involved in politics, but largely as an elder statesman rather than an active politician. He was a mentor to the new generation of Democratic politicians in New York, particularly Samuel J. Tilden. The state Democratic convention once again nominated Seymour for the governorship in 1876, but he turned it down.

Seymour died in 1886 and was interred in Forest Hill Cemetery in Utica, New York with his wife Mary Bleecker Seymour.

State Engineer and Surveyor Horatio Seymour, Jr. was his nephew.


* Croly, David Goodman. "Seymour and Blair: Their lives and Services", (New York, 1868)
* Hartley, "Horatio Seymour", (Utica, 1886)
* McCabe, James Dabney. "The Life and Public Services of Horatio Seymour" (1868) [http://books.google.com/books?id=lZTrZBsXzIAC&vid=LCCN22024438&dq=%22horatio+seymour%22&pg=PR9&lpg=PR9&q=white+men+rule online edition]

External links

* [http://www.mrlincolnandnewyork.org/inside.asp?ID=77&subjectID=3 Mr. Lincoln and New York: Horatio Seymour]
*First Edition 1862 Report on [http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1862/horatio-seymour.htm Horatio Seymour] Winning New York Governor's Race.
* [http://www.archive.org/details/speechhoratio00seymrich "Speeches of Hon. Horatio Seymour : at the conventions held at Albany, January 31, 1861 and September 10, 1862"]
* [http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/seymour.html] Political Graveyard

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