What Impact Did William Seward Have on American History?

William Seward was a prominent figure in American history, known for his political contributions and achievements that made a significant impact on the country. Born on May 16, 1801, in Florida, New York, he was a lawyer by profession and served as the Governor of New York from 1838 to 1842.

Later on, he became a senator and secretary of state under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson’s presidencies. In this article, we will explore the impact William Seward had on American history.

Early Life and Political Career

Seward began his political career in the early 1830s as an anti-Masonic politician in New York. He was elected to the State Senate in 1830 and served two terms.

In 1838, he became the youngest governor of New York at the age of 37. During his tenure as governor, he implemented reforms such as expanding public education, improving prisons and mental institutions, and advocating for women’s rights.

The Alaska Purchase

One of Seward’s most notable achievements was the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. At that time, many Americans criticized the purchase because they believed it was a useless frozen wasteland with no resources or value. However, Seward saw its potential for expansion and resources such as gold and timber.

The purchase of Alaska is considered one of Seward’s greatest accomplishments because it secured America’s presence in the Pacific Northwest region.

Foreign Policy

Seward also played a crucial role in shaping America’s foreign policy during his tenure as Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. He believed that America should expand its influence globally by establishing strong diplomatic relations with other countries.

He negotiated treaties with various countries such as China and Japan that helped to open up trade opportunities for America.

Abolition of Slavery

Seward was an ardent abolitionist and played a significant role in the abolition of slavery in America. He worked closely with Abraham Lincoln to pass the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all slaves in Confederate territory to be free. He also supported the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery throughout the country.

Seward’s contribution to the abolition of slavery was crucial in shaping America’s future as a more egalitarian society.


William Seward’s contributions to American history were significant and far-reaching. From his political reforms as governor of New York to his role in foreign policy and the abolition of slavery, Seward’s impact on America cannot be overstated. His vision for expansion and diplomatic relations helped to establish America as a world power, while his commitment to social justice helped to create a more equitable society for all.