Seward, William H.

1866 LS as Secretary of State referring a letter on emigrant passenger ship ventilation to Congress

Price: $250.00

Description:
(1801-1872) New York Governor 1839-43, Senator 1849-61, a founder of the Republican Party (1855). Elected governor in 1838 as a Whig, he won a 2nd 2-year term in 1840. He was elected to the US Senate by the legislature in 1849. His strong stances and provocative words against slavery earned him hatred in the South. He was re-elected in 1855, and joined the new Republican Party, becoming one of its leading figures. As the 1860 presidential election neared, he was regarded as the leading candidate for the Republican nomination. Several factors, including his vocal opposition to slavery, his support for immigrants and Catholics, and his association with editor and NY political boss Thurlow Weed, combined to defeat him. Although devastated by his loss, he campaigned for Lincoln, who appointed him Secretary of State, serving 1861-69. In the Lincoln Cabinet, he prevented European recognition of CSA. He was severely wounded in an attack on the night Lincoln was assassinated. In the Johnson administration, he secured the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. 10 x 8 LS as Andrew Johnson’s Secretary of State, Washington, April 30 1866, to W. L. Gilroy, Esq., of Philadelphia. The likely Irish-American Gilroy had written the President concerning the difficult conditions of (likely Irish) immigrants sailing to America. Secretary Seward has been directed by the President to acknowledge receipt of Gilroy’s letter “in regard to the ventilation of emigrant passenger ships” and to inform Gilroy that his letter has been referred to the Chairman of the Commerce Committee of the House of Representatives (Elihu B. Washburne). 19th-century steamships were "warriors for the working day," carrying the privileged in 1st class, the masses in steerage. "Steerage" (3rd class) passengers traveled in crowded, often unsanitary conditions near the bottom of steamships with few amenities, often spending up to 2 weeks seasick in their bunks during rough Atlantic crossings. Irish immigrants in the 1860’s were often signed up at the dock to serve in the Union Army in the Civil War, and, later, built the Union Pacific Railroad in the west. In his Dec. 8, 1863 Annual Message to Congress, President Lincoln called for “establishing a system for the encouragement of immigration”. A week later, a bill to encourage and protect foreign immigrants was presented in the Senate. Two weeks later Lincoln’s words were referred to a special House committee on immigration, chaired by Elihu B. Washburne of Illinois, chairman of the Commerce Committee. A bill to establish a Bureau of Immigration was introduced in Jan. 1865. Lincoln’s law then moved forward by Ohio Senator John Sherman. A bill passed March 2, 1864 to provide for a Commissioner of Immigration in the State Department, who, in part, was to see that the Passenger Act of 1855 was enforced to ensure the well-being of travelers to America. By April, Washburne reported a bill in the House which proposed a Commissioner of Immigration under the State Department; Lincoln signed it into law July 4, 1864. Sec. 4 provided for an Emigrant Office at New York City, under a Superintendent of Immigration, who, in part, would enforce the Passenger Act thru a Commissioner of Immigration. The Republican Party’s 1864 convention platform stated: “foreign immigration, which in the past has added so much to the wealth, development of resources, and increase of nations, should be fostered and encouraged by a liberal and just policy.” The State Department under Secretary Seward created the Bureau of Immigration; in its 3-year lifetime, it had 4 Commissioners. It worked to increase immigration but considered importation of Chinese laborers to violate California’s “Anti-Coolie Act of 1862”. The Bureau’s difficulties in enforcing passenger laws, dissatisfactions of private companies with the law’s contract provisions, and frauds upon immigrants led to action. On Jan. 23, 1865, a bill to amend the 1864 Act and the 1855 Passenger Act was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce; no action was taken by the Senate in the 38th Congress. In the 1st session of the 39th Congress, both houses acted. Frustration and political pressure was apparent when the Senate considered the House version on July 23, 1865. The Senate Committee on Commerce surprised all by repealing the 1864 Act. Lincoln’s plan to welcome and embrace immigrants was finally repealed in the Diplomatic and Consular Bill in 1868. No other action was ever taken by Congress to encourage immigration.

Condition: Very good, mail folds
Type:Letter






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