THE HIGHER LAW
William H. Seward
William H. Seward ( 1801- 1872), a central figure in Whig history, came from western New York. He joined the Whigs from the Antimasonic party, a populistic movement that swept his region in the late 1820s and early 1830s. Together with Thurlow Weed and Horace Greeley he built a strong Whig organization. Seward compiled a progressive record as governor of New York from 1839 to 1843, promoting prison reform and state-financed intenal improvements. Unlike many leaders of his party, Seward enjoyed good relations with the Roman Catholic hierarchy and supported (vainly) state aid for parochial schools. He did not succeed, however, in breaking the Democratic hold on Catholic immigrant voters.
The following was Seward's maiden speech on the floor of the United States Senate. It was delivered against the proposed Compromise of 1850, opening the territory acquired from Mexico to slavery. Webster and Clay were backing the Compromise, but Seward, in company with most northern Whigs, had become unalterably opposed to any further extension of slavery. The Compromise passed, revealing a severe split between the Conscience Whigs like Seward and the temporizing, harmonizing "Cotton" Whigs who composed most of the party leadership. In 1854 and 1855, realizing that the division could not be healed, Seward led his antislavery Whigs into the new Republican party.
It is insisted that the admission of California shall be attended by a COMPROMISE of questions which have arisen out of SLAVERY!
I AM OPPOSED TO ANY SUCH COMPROMISE, IN ANY AND ALL THE FORMS IN WHICH IT HAS BEEN PROPOSED; because, while admitting the purity and the patriotism of all from whom it is my misfortune to differ, I think all legislative compromises, which are not absolutely____________________