On April 14, 1865 some sort of mayhem occurred in the house of William Seward (image above), Secretary of State under President Abraham Lincoln. Vaughan Shelton, in his book published in 1965 (Mask For Treason), says something other than the commonly accepted notion of Louis Paine and the knife attack occurred. Louis Paine, hung by the neck until dead on July 7, 1865, was, according to Shelton, the most innocent of the “conspirators” tried by Military Tribunal following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
I am using the spelling “Louis Paine”, which Shelton says was his correct name. (Background: “Louis Paine, an ‘Odd Fish'”, Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry of March 3, 2013) Others prefer to call him Lewis Powell, Lewis Payne, and variations of this.
Background on the Seward family peculiarities is found in the University Of Rochester Library Bulletin (Volume XXXI · Autumn 1978 · Number 1), in an article apparently written by Patricia C. Johnson.
In the Seward home, beneath the outward appearance of tranquility lay “an ambitious and usually absent husband, a querulous, lonesome, possibly neurotic wife, and children who were shuttled both physically and emotionally between the parents.”
William Seward’s wife, Frances Miller, “was the child of Seward’s employer, the wealthy and respected judge, Elijah Miller.” When the couple were married on October 20, 1824, Judge Miller consented to the marriage of his daughter provided that Frances continue to live with him until his death. So, in other words, “Yes, you can marry my daughter but she can’t leave my house.” Judge Miller did not die until 1851.
On Frances the effect of living in her father’s house was not good. “She had acquired a husband and in due course would acquire children, but the pattern of her days remained essentially unchanged. She made no sharp break with her girlhood and was not forced to accompany her husband or to adjust to new and different responsibilities. This probably set the pattern for her later problems.”
Among the children of William and Frances Seward were Augustus and Frederick. Augustus, the eldest boy, “exhibited behavior which could scarcely be characterized as ‘normal.’ He was silent, withdrawn, unreachable by any member of the family. The beginnings of his withdrawal were already manifest in his childhood.”
“In 1843, Augustus entered West Point; he remained in the army until his death in 1876. Frances saw nothing but ‘the evil consequences of a military life'” when she observed her eldest son. After her father had at last died and the couple were living in their own home, Frances tried “to ban liquor from the house without any permanent success…”
Frederick, the younger son, was his father’s favorite. He was studious and unlike his elder brother and his mother, Frederick exhibited no peculiarities. There were other children as well, but Augustus and Frederick are germane to understanding what may have really happened in the Seward house on the evening of April 14, 1865.
One other thing: Frances Seward, wife of William Seward, suffered “great anxiety” following the violent incident of April 14, 1865 at the Seward home. “She died on June 21, 1865, of a heart attack. The events of April 14 undoubtedly hastened her death.” (“Frances Adeline Seward”, Wikipedia, March 5, 2013)