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Horace Greeley

Horace Greeley

Editor and reformer Horace Greeley (1811-1872) changed the direction of American journalism and played an important role in the social and political movements surrounding the Civil War.

Horace Greeley was born on Feb. 3, 1811, in Amherst, N.H. At the age of 14 he became an apprentice on a newspaper in Vermont, where he learned the journalist's and printer's arts. He followed his trade in New York and Pennsylvania before moving to New York City in 1831. He worked on miscellaneous publications before founding a weekly literary and news magazine, the New Yorker, in 1834. Though not a lucrative undertaking, this established Greeley as one of the able young editors of popular journalism.

Greeley's political emergence as both a Whig and equalitarian caused him to seek out practical political solutions, while also encouraging debate and radical experimentation. In 1838 he edited a partisan publication, the Jeffersonian, for the New York Whigs. He also began an association with Whig leaders William H. Seward and Thurlow Weed that continued for 20 years.

Birth of the "New York Tribune"

In the election of 1840 Greeley edited the memorable Log Cabin for the Whigs. Meanwhile he was working on an organ of social and political news and discussion for the general reader: in 1841 he launched the New York Tribune.

The key to Greeley's editorial policy was his belief that progress demanded a serious effort to better society. He abhorred revolution or turbulence among the masses. Though one of his major interests was free land for settlers in the West and he approved of individual initiative, he also welcomed cooperative efforts and social planning. The Tribune published the theories of Albert Brisbane, who wanted society organized into cooperative communities. To the Tribune as literary editor came George Ripley, a founder of the radical commune Brook Farm. Charles A. Dana, who became Greeley's second-in-command, wrote articles in praise of French Socialist Pierre Proudhon, who believed that "property is theft." Greeley later published the foreign comment of Karl Marx.

Greeley's radicalism was qualified by his more general orthodoxy. He held rigid temperance principles and scorned woman suffragists and divorce reformers. He adhered to conventional political patterns. Moreover, his receptivity to social experiment enabled him for many years to avoid the slavery problem as being remote from immediate issues. As his paper's most influential commentator, Greeley produced a flow of articles and editorials, and the Tribune rapidly gained national importance.

Multifaceted Man

Greeley was often caricatured as absentminded, half bald, carelessly dressed, and with childish features fringed by whiskers. He was impetuous and impressionable, committing himself rashly to numerous, disparate ventures and fads. These included the Red Bank (N.J.) Phalanx, spiritualism, vegetarianism, phrenology, and a formidable list of investments and loans, of which almost none were profitable. Generous and improvident, he dissipated the fortune the Tribune's success had brought him.

Greeley's lecturing began as an adjunct of his political and social interests, but this took increasing portions of his time. He traveled throughout the East and in 1859 to San Francisco. He also lectured in Europe. Though his speaking engagements became lucrative, they did no more for his financial state than had his journalism. Hints toward Reforms (1853) includes some of his lectures.

Greeley's commitments interfered with his home life. He had married Mary Youngs Cheney in 1836. In youth his wife had been talented and enthusiastically reforminded, but she deteriorated into a hypochondriac. Though Greeley's Westchester County farm was known for its modern agricultural techniques, the house itself was randomly administered. The unhappy household was further upset by the fact that of their nine children only two survived to adulthood.

Equally unfortunate was Greeley's political career. He wanted to influence state and national politics and gain power for himself, but he was no match for adroit associates who used the Tribune's columns. Greeley's ambitions for Henry Clay were frustrated. He had to accept Zachary Taylor's Whig candidacy in 1848, though Taylor was a slave-holder and a hero of the Mexican War, which Greeley did not endorse. Greeley's own dreams of office brought him no more than a 90-day election to Congress in 1848.

Civil War and After

Nevertheless, Greeley's editorial voice grew with the increasing strength of the Free Soil party and abolitionism. He opposed the Compromise of 1850, with its notorious Fugitive Slave Law provision. In 1856 he became one of the founders of the Republican party and spoke out clearly against the extension of slavery.

Greeley's editorial policies during the Civil War swung erratically from appeals for peaceful separation to the all but fatal slogan "On to Richmond!" His most famous editorial, "The Prayer of Twenty Millions," in 1862, symbolized Northern determination to make the war sacrifices meaningful by abolishing slavery. In 1864 Greeley, with President Abraham Lincoln's sanction, probed peace possibilities in a meeting with Confederate agents. His efforts, though futile, helped make clear that Southern plans did not include preservation of the Union.

In the postwar era Greeley cooperated with the Radical Republicans, opposing President Andrew Johnson and appealing for African American rights. A meeting of disillusioned party members in 1872 sought alternatives to the era's corruption and political incompetence. As a result, the Republican Liberal party was formed, and Greeley became its presidential candidate.

His qualities of reason and compassion expressed themselves during Greeley's campaign. But the Radical Republican attack was fierce and effective, and he was overwhelmingly rejected at the polls. The strain of the election and his sense of personal humiliation, together with his wife's death a week before the election, unbalanced Greeley's mind. He died in a private mental hospital on Nov. 29, 1872.

Further Reading

Greeley's own writings, including Recollections of a Busy Life (1868), provide important information. There are many biographies about him. An account by Greeley's contemporary James Parton, The Life of Horace Greeley, Editor of the New York Tribune (1855), is still useful. A recent study is G. G. Van Deusen, Horace Greeley: Nineteenth-Century Crusader (1953). William Harlan Hale, Horace Greeley: Voice of the People (1950), successfully captures the tone of the man and his times. See also Jeter A. Isely, Horace Greeley and the Republican Party, 1853-61: A Study of the New York Tribune (1947); Harlan H. Horner, Lincoln and Greeley (1953); and Ralph Ray Fahrney, Horace Greeley and the Tribune in the Civil War (1936).

Additional Sources

Linn, William Alexander, Horace Greeley, founder of the New York tribun, New York, Beekman Publishers, 1974.

Schulze, Suzanne, Horace Greeley: a bio-bibliography, New York: Greenwood Press, 1992. □

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Greeley, Horace

Horace Greeley, 1811–72, American newspaper editor, founder of the New York Tribune, b. Amherst, N.H.

Early Life

His irregular schooling, ending at 15, was followed by a four-year apprenticeship (1826–30) on a country weekly at East Poultney, Vt. When the paper failed, he went briefly to Erie co., Pa., where his impoverished farming family had moved. In Aug., 1831, he went to New York City, worked as a newspaper compositor, and in Jan., 1833, opened a job printing office in partnership with another printer. Greeley's interest in public questions led him to found (1834), with a new partner, the New Yorker, a weekly journal "devoted to literature, the arts and sciences," which he edited ably but unprofitably for seven years. He supplemented his income by writing regularly for the Daily Whig and by editing Whig campaign sheets.

The Founding of the Tribune

His success in political journalism cemented Greeley's friendship with Whig leaders in New York state, and with their encouragement he issued the first number of the New York Tribune on Apr. 10, 1841. He edited this paper for over 30 years; during much of that time it was the greatest single journalistic influence in the country. From the first, Greeley's object was to provide for the poor a paper that was as cheap as those of his rivals but less sensational and more probing than the "penny press." Therefore, sensational police news and objectionable medical advertising were eliminated from the Tribune.

Greeley's chief editorial assistant for 15 years after 1846 was Charles A. Dana. Beginning in 1849, George Ripley conducted for 30 years the first regular literary and book review department in a U.S. newspaper. Other talented men joined Greeley's staff (he was the first editor to allow by-lines), but his own clear, timely, vigorous editorials were the feature that made the Tribune known throughout the nation.

Social Reformer

Although Greeley styled both himself and his paper Whig, they were conservative only in so far as they thundered for a protective tariff. Other causes that Greeley promoted were hardly Whig-inspired. He advocated the organization of labor and led the way by organizing Tribune printers; New York printers elected (1850) him the first president of their chapel, the first in the nation. He also believed that a successful business should share its profits and ownership with its employees; this practice was observed at the Tribune.

Among other social reforms advocated by Greeley were temperance, a homestead law, and women's rights. He opposed monopoly and disapproved of land grants to railroads, which he felt would lead to monopoly. He gave space in his paper to Fourierism when that movement was at its height and sponsored several experiments in cooperative living, including, later, the colony named for him at Greeley, Colo. Even Karl Marx contributed to the Tribune from London. "Greeley's isms," as scoffers contemptuously called his plans for social reform, annoyed many Tribune readers, but he never apologized for them, and the paper continued to grow.

After 1850 slavery overshadowed all other questions, and Greeley's antislavery views became more intense as the Civil War approached. Some of his best editorials were directed against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. In this period the circulation (which reached 200,000 by 1860) of the weekly edition of the Tribune became so extensive in the rural districts of the West that Bayard Taylor could declare that it "comes next to the Bible." Everyone had heard and thousands had acted on his advice, "Go West, young man, go West."

Republican Leader

One of the first members of the new Republican party, he was a delegate to the national organizing convention in Feb., 1856. Barred as a New York delegate to the 1860 Republican convention, because of strained relations with the state leaders, he attended as a representative of Oregon. He was a leader in the successful fight to prevent Seward's nomination; and although at first favoring Edward Bates, he eventually threw his support to Abraham Lincoln. Seward had his revenge later by helping to block Greeley's election to the U.S. Senate (Greeley had served in the House of Representatives from Dec., 1848, to Mar., 1849).

Greeley's course in the Civil War lost him many admirers. At first disposed to let the "erring sisters go in peace," he soon came around to vigorous support of the war. However, he persistently denounced Lincoln's policy of conciliating the border slave states. On Aug. 19, 1862, he published over his signature in the Tribune an open letter to the President, which he titled "The Prayer of Twenty Millions," demanding that Lincoln commit himself definitely to emancipation. Lincoln's reply (Aug. 22) "to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right" was masterly (see Emancipation Proclamation). Only reluctantly and belatedly did Greeley support Lincoln for reelection in 1864.

The editor's humanitarian hatred of war led him to advocate peace negotiations of any sort, often to the embarrassment of the administration. In 1864, Lincoln sent him on what turned out to be a futile mission to Canada to meet with Confederate emissaries. After the war Greeley favored black suffrage and advocated amnesty for all Southerners. He was one of those who signed the bail bond to release Jefferson Davis from prison, and this magnanimous act cost him half the subscriptions to the Weekly Tribune.

Presidential Candidate

Greeley supported Ulysses S. Grant during the first years of his administration but came to resent what he considered Grant's subservience to that wing of the Republican party in New York state dominated by Roscoe Conkling. In 1871 he began to encourage the movement that grew into the Liberal Republican party and avidly sought the nomination for President in 1872. Although the Democrats also endorsed him, many of them refused to support a man who had spent his life opposing the principles for which they had stood, especially that of a tariff for revenue only. During the campaign all Greeley's shortcomings were caricatured, and he was denounced as a traitor and a crank. Despite his strenuous campaign he was overwhelmingly defeated by Grant. His disappointment at the result and his sorrow at the death of his wife a few days before the election unbalanced his mind, and he died insane on Nov. 29, 1872.

Bibliography

Greeley wrote The American Conflict (1866), a history of the Civil War, and the autobiographic Recollections of a Busy Life (1868, repr. 1968). His other books were journalistic in character.

See also biographies by W. H. Hale (1950) and G. G. Van Deusen (1953, repr. 1964); D. C. Seitz, Horace Greeley, Founder of the New York Tribune (1926, repr. 1970); R. R. Fahrney, Horace Greeley and the Tribune in the Civil War (1936, repr. 1970); J. A. Isley, Horace Greeley and the Republican Party, 1853–1861: A Study of the New York Tribune (1947, repr. 1965).

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Greeley, Horace (1811-1872)

Horace Greeley (1811-1872)

Sources

Newspapr editor and poliyician

The Written Word. Horace Greeley was born into a poor family in Amherst, New Hampshire, in 1811. Greeleys father always struggled and could not provide his son with much in the way of an education, but Greeley took advantage of the familys few William Shakespeare works, and his early apprenticeship as a printer with the Northern Spectator of East Poultney, Vermont, gave him exposure to the news of the day. Not long after the Nothern Spectator failed in 1830, Greeley stuffed his possessions into a bandana and walked to New York, determined to make a living as a newspaper newspaperman. Living in a boardinghouse for $2.50 a week, Greeley scraped by as a typesetter but continued to feed his appetite for politics and writing by regularly contributing articles to the Daily Whig, one of the many newspapers run by the Whig Party. In 1840 Thurlow Weed and other prominent Whigs tagged Greeley for the editorship of the Log Cabin, the Whig Party newspaper organized to promote the hugely successful William Henry Harrison presidential campaign.

New York Tribune. Greeley had long wanted to get in to New York Citys exploding newspaper business. With the reputation and contacts made from his work on the Harrison campaign, by April 1841 he was able to raise the capital to launch the New York Tribune into the crowded and competitive New York newspaper market. Between the sensationalism of the penny press and the staid correctness of William Cullen Bryants Evening post, Greeley saw room for a newspaper that advocated political reform but didi so in goor taste. To attract this audience Greeley assembled what was probably the best staff of writers in the nation, including Margaret Fuller (literary reviewer and womans rights activist), Charles A. Dana(later editor of the New York Sun ), and Bayard Taylor. In an era when newspapers frequently influenced the nations political agenda, Greeleys Tribune became the most influential of all. The circulation of the Tribune reached 287, 750 on the eve of the Civil War, making it the political bible of the North. Greeleys views on Western lands, his opposition to immigration restriction, and his virulent hatred of slavery all found a place in the pages of the Tribune and eventually in the platforms of American political parties. Greeley augmented his papers reputation by giving frequent lectures on every conceivable issue of moral reform, from agricultural science to abolitionism. Greeleys moral earnestness, combined with his baggy trousers, white socks, and absent-minded manner made him an immensely popular figure. According to historian Menahem Blondheim, Greeley was known to stick mail in his winter coat on the last cold day of spring and then forget about it until he put the same coat back on six months later.

Go West Young Man. Despite his popularity, many of Greeleys views were considered radical. He regularly corresponded with Karl Marx and for two years allowed the socialist Fourierists to use the front page of the Tribune to publish their unusual ideas for social reorganization. In an age when abolitionism was not always popular he became a fierce opponent of slavery in the South while simultaneously attacking Northern corporations for exploiting their factory workers. Among his readership, however, Greeley was perhaps best known as an advocate of the free distribution of federally owned Western lands to migrating settlers, a notion that became law with the Homestead Act of 1862. A charter member of the Republican Party, Greeley adhered closely to the party dictum that America should be a land of free soil, free labor, free men. Greeley saw in the nations Western lands a perpetual opportunity for any hardworking individual to achieve independence and economic security. This philosophy is embodied in the phrase for which Greeley is best known, Go West Young Man, although it was a newspaperman named John Soule from Terre Haute, Indiana, who first wrote the words.

Civil War and Political Failure. During the Civil War, Greeley remained a staunch supporter of the Union and the Republican Party, especially its radical wing. But he nonetheless took editorial positions during and after the war that opened him to intense criticism. From the first he saw the conflict not only as a fight to preserve the Union but also a holy war to abolish slavery, an unpopular position among many moderate Republicans and among almost all Democrats. Greeleys vacillation over supporting Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 election, his advocacy of peace with the South in 18641865, and his call for full civil equality for freedmen after the war all eroded his public image. When Greeley ran for president in 1872, he became the object of vicious assaults in the press, including scathing cartoons by Thomas Nast. When he lost the election to Ulysses. S. Grant and subsequently was edged out of active service in the Tribune , Greeley lost heart and died on 29 November 1872.

Sources

Menahem Blondheim, News over the Wires: The Telegraph and the Flow of Public Information in America, 18441897 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994);

Glyndon G. Van Deusen, Horace Greeley: Nineteenth-Century Crusader (New York: Hill & Wang, 1953).

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Greeley, Horace (1811-1872)

Greeley, Horace (1811-1872)

Famous American political writer, editor of the New York Tribune, and an important figure in early American Spiritualism. He was the first to call upon the Fox Sisters on their arrival in New York in June 1850, and he admitted publicly that he was puzzled by the phenomena he observed and that he thought the good faith of the mediums could not be questioned.

The Fox sisters were guests at Greeley's home in New York for three days. During that period he became convinced of the genuineness of their mysterious rappings, although he did not accept the spirit hypothesis. "Whatever may be the origin of the cause of the rappings," he wrote, "the ladies in whose presence they occur do not make them. We tested this thoroughly and to our entire satisfaction."

The columns written in Greeley's paper were fair and impartial during periods of the wildest controversy. In his Recollections of a Busy Life (1868), he admits that "the jugglery hypothesis utterly fails to account for occurrences which I have personally witnessed," and that "certain developments strongly indicate that they do proceed from departed spirits." He submitted, however, that nothing of value was obtained from the investigation, that the spirits "did not help to fish up the Atlantic cable or find Sir John Franklin."

Sources:

Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

Moore, Lawrence R. In Search of White Crows. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.

Van Deusen, Glyndon G. Horace Greeley: Nineteenth-Century Crusader. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1953.

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Greeley, Horace

Greeley, Horace (1811–72) US journalist and political leader. In 1841 Greeley founded and edited the New York Tribune. He advocated progressive social reforms and opposed slavery. His advocacy of Western settlement was encapsulated in his advice, “Go West, young man, go West”. Ulysses S. Grant defeated Greeley's bid for the presidency in 1872.

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