By Gary Randall, President, Florida Historical Society
For the first time in 30 years, due to the coronavirus, the Florida Historical Society has not been able to celebrate William Henry Seward Day with the community involved. Also, for the first time in quite a while, Seward Day fell on his actual birthday, May 16.
Missing was the public gathering at the monument and the fourth and seventh grade performances in the cafetorium of S.S. Seward Institute. This year, under the direction of Dr. Joan Kissinger, we were planning to have a Seward Day Parade with many Florida groups participating, floats, people in period clothing and many fun-filled events.
However, we were able to lay our traditional wreath at the Seward Monument again this year. For 30 years Alders Wholesale Florist, in Campbell Hall, has donated the beautiful wreaths.
Our native son, William Henry Seward, was born in Florida, New York, and won a seat in the State Senate in 1830, was Governor from 1838-1840 and was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he became a leading antislavery politician. Growing up in Florida, NY, he preferred spending time with the slaves in the kitchen rather than joining in the stuffy conversation going on in the “parlor.” This was the beginning of his abolitionist views.
Seward was the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860, but his antislavery speeches caused some party members to view him as too radical to win over swing voters in critical states. The party instead settled on the more moderate Abraham Lincoln. He was appointed Secretary of State by Abraham Lincoln on Mar. 5, 1861, and served until Mar. 4, 1869. Seward carefully managed international affairs during the Civil War and also negotiated the 1867 purchase of Alaska.