In 1860 William Henry Seward - one-time progressive governor of New York and an outspoken U.S. senator - was the odds-on favorite to become the Republican nominee for president.
But instead the nomination went to a rangy lawyer from the west - Abraham Lincoln - and Seward swallowed his pride in order to become a key member of Lincoln's "team of rivals" cabinet.
Historian Walter Stahr -- speaking on Lincoln's birthday -- examines the life and career of this fascinating figure in a discussion of his new book Seward: Lincoln's Indispensable Man on Tuesday, February 12, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
As secretary of state and Lincoln's closest adviser during the Civil War (he's played in the current movie hit Lincoln by actor David Strathairn), Seward not only managed foreign affairs but had a substantial role in military, political, and personnel matters.
Some of Lincoln's critics even saw Seward, erroneously, as the power behind the throne; this is why John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators attempted to kill Seward simultaneously with Lincoln. Surviving the attack, Seward continued as secretary of state and became a staunch supporter of President Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's controversial successor.
Through his purchase of Alaska ("Seward's Folly") and his groundwork for the purchase of the Canal Zone and other territory, Seward set America on course to become a world empire.
Drawing on hundreds of sources not available to, or neglected by, previous biographers, Stahr sheds new light on this complex and central figure, as well as on pivotal events of the Civil War and its aftermath.
Walter Stahr spent 25 years as a lawyer, then returned to his first love, American history. He is the author of John Jay: Founding Father.
Major funding for programs at the Kansas City Public Library is provided by a generous grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available in the Library District Parking Garage at 10th & Baltimore.