James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

January 12

To William H. Seward

By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)

  • On Jan. 12, 1861, Mr. Seward made a speech in the Senate on “The State of The Union,” in which he urged the paramount duty of preserving the Union and went as far as it was possible to go, without surrender of principles, in concession to the Southern party.

  • STATESMAN, I thank thee! and, if yet dissent

    Mingles, reluctant, with my large content,

    I cannot censure what was nobly meant.

    But, while constrained to hold even Union less

    Than Liberty and Truth and Righteousness,

    I thank thee in the sweet and holy name

    Of peace, for wise calm words that put to shame

    Passion and party. Courage may be shown

    Not in defiance of the wrong alone;

    He may be bravest who, unweaponed, bears

    The olive-branch, and, strong in justice, spares

    The rash wrong-doer, giving widest scope

    To Christian charity and generous hope.

    If, without damage to the sacred cause

    Of Freedom and the safeguard of its laws—

    If, without yielding that for which alone

    We prize the Union, thou canst save it now

    From a baptism of blood, upon thy brow

    A wreath whose flowers no earthly soil have known,

    Woven of the beatitudes, shall rest,

    And the peacemaker be forever blest.