Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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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,        5
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        10
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—        15
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,        20
And the peacemaker be forever blest.
 
 
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