Old Battles

Reading about William Seward in 1840, I am struck by how modern his progressive views still seem and how familiar looking the battles of 160 years ago still are. As governor of New York he campaigned for better treatment of immigrants (Germans and Irish in those days), better public schools, against imprisonement for debt, and against slavery and for Negro rights. His enemies look familiar too: Southern slavery advocates, anti-immigrant nativists, and protestants who thought only their religion had rights.

I can't imagine any modern politician doing what he did though; representing an insane black defendant who had murdered a local family in court while his whole town screamed for a lynching.

I also find it interesting that the modern Republican party now stands for almost everything this founding father despised: racism, nativism, and religious prejudice. He probably would have been bothered more by their contempt for logic and truth, though.


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