William Seward 1844 Autograph Letter Signed

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American statesman (1801-1872) who served as secretary of state in the Lincoln administration and who was severely injured in an attack that was part of the assassination conspiracy. His greatest political achievement was the purchase of Alaska from Russia, derided by contemporary skeptics as ‘Seward’s Folly.’

Autograph letter signed “William H Seward”, October 7, 1844, Auburn, New York, to James Allen of Dartmouth College.

A modest refusal to an invitation asking Seward to address two of Dartmouth College’s oldest social fraternities, written in the years between Seward’s terms as Governor of New York and US Senator, and 17 years before his appointment as United States Secretary of State in the Lincoln Administration. Reading in part: “I am very grateful to the “Social Friends” and the “Social Fraternity” for the consideration manifested by them in their joint invitation. But I am quite unable to perform the duty to which it calls me. Neither my habits of study nor my customary avocations permit me to hope that I could qualify myself as one ought who addresses the educated youth of our country on Collegiate occasions.”

Established in 1783, the Society of Social Friends was the first social fraternity at Dartmouth College. Seward’s gratitude in our letter addressed to the “Social Fraternity,” is likely a reference to the rival, United Fraternity, an organization that split off from the Social Friends and was founded in 1786.

Small hole at bottom right, some foxing, minor staining affecting last letter of signature, else good.