Newspaper publisher and abolitionist
Author Lewis Leary
Horace Greeley was America's leading journalist of the Civil War era. He was the founder and editor of the New York Tribune, America's most popular newspaper of the mid-nineteenth century. Using his newspaper editorials as a tool to comment on American society and politics, Greeley became known as a crusader for a wide range of social causes, including women's rights and land reform. He became most famous, however, for his fierce opposition to slavery and his strong support of the Union war effort.
Independent at an early age
Horace Greeley was born on February 3, 1811, to a poor farming family in Amherst, New Hampshire. His father, Zaccheus Greeley, uprooted his family on numerous occasions in failed efforts to establish a successful farm. This unsettled existence made it difficult for young Horace to obtain a good education. Nonetheless, he showed considerable abilities as a speller and reader. One classmate even stated that Greeley's spelling skills were known "for miles around." As Greeley entered his teen years, he began to think of ways in which he might use his spelling and reading talents to escape the family farm.
At age fourteen, Greeley left his parents' home to accept a position as a printer's apprentice in Vermont. This apprenticeship (agreement to work for another person in exchange for instruction in a trade) enabled him to learn a great deal about printing and newspaper production. In 1831, he left Vermont and traveled to New York City in hopes of securing a job with one of the city's many newspapers.
Greeley spent the next three years working for a number of New York newspapers, including the Morning Post and the Spirit of the Times. These jobs enabled him to continue to develop his knowledge of the newspaper business. As the months passed by, he began to dream of operating his own newspaper. He also started a family around this time. In 1836, he married Mary Cheney. The couple eventually had seven children, but only two survived to adulthood.
Launches the New York Tribune
From 1834 to 1840, Greeley served as editor and coowner of several New York publications. These periodicals, which were devoted to literature and politics, increased Greeley's reputation among the city's publishers and politicians. But he did not become famous until 1841, when he launched the New York Tribune.
Guided by Greeley's steady hand, the Tribune quickly became one of America's largest and most respected newspapers. "With its brilliant staff, exciting editorials, broad coverage of international and national events, the Tribune set a new standard for American journalism," wrote Lewis Leary in Horace Greeley.
Greeley's newspaper increased in popularity throughout the 1840s and early 1850s. As the audience for Greeley's wide-ranging newspaper editorials grew, he became powerfully influential in shaping public opinion in the Northern states. "Greeley's positions in his editorials represented some of the most important trends of public, social, and political commentary of the day," wrote Leary. For example, he became a leading advocate of women's rights and a strong defender of temperance, a movement that called for people to quit drinking alcohol. He also emerged as a leading critic of American laws and land distribution that favored rich people over farmers and laborers. As Greeley wrote in 1851, "if democracy be what we believe, it must have a wider and more perfect application [usage]. It must create a new social as well as a new political system. It must reform the relations of labor, of property and of social life, nor stop till all servitude [slavery], all castes [social classes], all inequality of privilege have disappeared to give place to . . . liberty, justice and fraternal [brotherly] cooperative relations."
By the 1850s, Greeley was known across the country for his support of policies that he thought might eliminate poverty and improve opportunities for poor and uneducated people. This concern for the poor led Greeley to become a leading champion of settlement of western territories, even though he thought that much of that land had been unfairly snatched from Mexico during the Mexican War (1846–48). He proclaimed that "I believe in migration—believe that there are thousands in the Eastern and Middle Western states who would improve their circumstances and prospects by migrating to the cheaper lands and broader opportunities of the West and South." In fact, Greeley popularized the slogan "Go West, young man," a famous expression associated with the settlement of the West.
Calls for end to slavery
Greeley's strong interest in eliminating poverty in America was a major factor in his antislavery stands of the 1850s. Slavery had been a part of America since the 1600s, when white people first captured African blacks and brought them to North America. The basic belief behind slavery was that black people were inferior to whites. Under slavery, white slaveholders treated black people as property, forced them to perform hard labor, and controlled every aspect of their lives. States in the Northern section of the United States began outlawing slavery in the late 1700s. But slavery continued to exist in the Southern half of the country, where it became an important part of the region's economy and culture.
Greeley hated the conditions in which many slaves were forced to live, and argued that the continued existence of slavery contradicted the nation's ideals of freedom and liberty. Many of his criticisms were directed at white people of the American South, who continued to defend slavery. But Greeley also criticized Northerners for their racist treatment of free black men and women.
By the mid-1850s, Greeley had become one of the country's most visible abolitionists (people who worked to end slavery in America). In 1854, he helped establish the antislavery Republican Party, and he repeatedly spoke out against Southern efforts to expand the rights of slaveowners and the territories in which slavery would be permitted. "This is not an age of the world in which new domain [territories] can be opened to slavedrivers without an instinctive shudder convulsing the frame of Humanity," he wrote. By 1856, Greeley's editorials against slavery had grown so strong that proslavery Arkansas congressmen Albert Rust (1818?–1870) physically attacked him on the streets of Washington, D.C. Greeley quickly recovered from the assault, however, and resumed his abolitionist activities.
Greeley and the Civil War
By the late 1850s, most Northerners had become convinced that slavery was wrong. They wanted the federal government to take steps to outlaw slavery or at least keep it from spreading beyond the Southern states where it was already allowed. But the Southern economy had become so dependent on slavery that white Southerners worried that their way of life would collapse if slavery was abolished (completely done away with). Arguing that each state should decide for itself whether to allow the practice, Southerners refused to go along with attempts to limit or end slavery. By 1861, Southern dissatisfaction with the North had become so great that several states decided to secede from (leave) the Union and form a country that accepted slavery, called the Confederate States of America. The Northern states, however, were unwilling to see the United States split in two. They vowed to force the South back into the Union.
As America's Northern and Southern sections prepared to go to war to settle their differences, Greeley initially counseled the federal government to let the secessionist states leave in peace. Doubtful about the ability of President Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865; see entry) to guide the nation, Greeley desperately wanted to avoid a bloody war. He also argued that the departure of the Confederate states would finally eliminate slavery from the United States.
After the war erupted in April, however, Greeley became a key supporter of the Northern war effort. He knew that if the Union forces could stomp out the Confederate rebellion, the federal government would be able to institute laws ending slavery across all of North America. With this in mind, Greeley churned out a series of editorials urging Northerners to rally behind the Union flag.
Greeley's "Prayer of Twenty Millions"
Lincoln recognized that Greeley's views helped increase Northern support for the war, especially during the first two years of the conflict. Nonetheless, Greeley's editorials in the Tribune sometimes angered the president. The publisher sometimes criticized Lincoln for his military leadership, and he repeatedly called on Lincoln to free all blacks who were enslaved in the Southern states. Lincoln, though, worried that such a declaration would erode support for the war among Northerners, whose main concern was restoring the Union.
On August 19, 1862, Greeley issued his most famous demand for immediate emancipation (freeing) of slaves. Claiming that he spoke for twenty million disappointed Northerners, the abolitionist published an open letter to Lincoln in which he harshly criticized the president's "timid" policies toward slavery and the South. Lincoln responded three days later with his own note. "My paramount [most important] object is to save the Union and not either to save or destroy slavery," Lincoln stated.
Lincoln's response to Greeley seemed to indicate that he had no intention of tackling the slavery issue any time soon. In reality, though, the president's views on the issue changed dramatically during 1862. By the time that Greeley delivered his August 19 letter, Lincoln had come to believe that Northern support for the war might actually increase if he called for an end to slavery. After all, most Northerners felt that slavery was an immoral practice. In addition, many Northerners believed that restoration of the Union would never be possible if slavery were allowed to continue. By the fall of 1862, Lincoln had decided that "slavery must die [so] that the nation might live!" On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued his famous Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in the Confederate states. This announcement delighted Greeley, who immediately published an editorial praising both Lincoln and his Proclamation.
War weariness sets in
In the months immediately following Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, Greeley's support for the war effort remained strong. From the summer of 1863 to the summer of 1864, however, the publisher's feelings about the Civil War changed dramatically. Horrified at the steadily rising casualty lists, he became convinced that the conflict had disintegrated into a bloody stalemate (deadlock). By the summer of 1864, Greeley was imploring Lincoln to make peace with the South, even if it meant giving up Northern dreams of a restored Union. "Our bleeding, bankrupt, almost dying" country cannot withstand "new rivers of human blood," wrote Greeley.
Greeley's disillusionment with the war became so strong that he made a failed attempt to negotiate an end to the conflict with Confederate officials. He also considered joining other Republicans who wanted to replace Lincoln with someone else for the fall 1864 presidential elections. In the weeks leading up to the election, however, Union forces won a series of dramatic victories in the South. These triumphs enabled Lincoln to win reelection and signaled the impending collapse of the Confederacy.
The period in American history immediately after the war, from 1865 to 1877, was known as Reconstruction. During this time the federal government supervised the rebuilding of the Southern states. Greeley became personally involved in this effort. He devoted his time and energy to building a brighter future for Southern whites and blacks alike. For example, he opposed some Northern leaders who wanted to further punish Confederate soldiers and political leaders for their wartime activities. He felt that white Southerners should instead be encouraged to put the war behind them and rebuild their lives peacefully. Greeley also urged whites across the nation to treat free blacks and former slaves with fairness. "The Blacks are a portion not merely of the Southern but of the American people," wrote Greeley. He added that the North must protect blacks "no matter what the cost." In accordance with these beliefs, he strongly supported amendments to the U.S. Constitution that made blacks American citizens (the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified, or officially approved, in 1868) and gave them the right to vote (the Fifteenth Amendment, ratified in 1870).
In 1872, Greeley ran for president as the nominee of both the Democratic Party and the Liberal Republicans, a group of Republicans that did not like the policies of Republican president Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885; see entry). The presidential campaign became a nightmarish one for Greeley, however. Grant's allies ridiculed Greeley's frantic peacemaking efforts during the Civil War. They convinced many Americans that the publisher was too eccentric (odd or unconventional) to be president. To make this difficult time worse, Greeley's wife died less than a week before the election.
Grant easily defeated Greeley in the election, winning 56 percent of the popular vote. The crushing defeat, combined with his wife's death, plummeted Greeley into deep despair. Within a matter of weeks, his mental and physical health declined greatly. He died in New York City on November 29, 1872, less than a month after the election.
Where to Learn More
Cross, Coy F. Go West Young Man!: Horace Greeley's Vision for America. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995.
Hale, William Harlan. Horace Greeley: Voice of the People. New York: Harper, 1950.
Horace Greeley (1811–1872), Editor of the New York Tribune. [Online] http://www.honors.unr.edu/~fenimore/greeley.html (accessed on October 10, 1999).
Lunde, Erik S. Horace Greeley. Boston: Twayne, 1981.
Maihafer, Harry J. The General and the Journalists: Ulysses S. Grant, HoraceGreeley, and Charles Dana. Washington, D.C.: Brasseys, 1998.
Van Deusen, Glyndon G. Horace Greeley: Nineteenth-Century Crusader. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1953. Reprint, New York: Hill and Wang, 1964.
Greeley's War of Words with President Lincoln
In August 1862, Horace Greeley and President Abraham Lincoln exchanged strongly worded letters concerning the continued existence of slavery in the Confederacy. Greeley wanted Lincoln to officially outlaw slavery in the South, even though the Federal government did not have any power to enforce such a law at the time. Lincoln, though, responded by saying that he would not take any action that might hurt his ability to eventually restore the divided Union.
Excerpt from Greeley's "Prayer of Twenty Millions":
To Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States:
Dear Sir: I do not intrude to tell you—for you must know already—that a great proportion of those who triumphed in your election, and of all who desire the unqualified suppression [complete crushing] of the rebellion now desolating [destroying] our country, are sorely disappointed and deeply pained by the policy you seem to be pursuing with regard to the slaves of rebels. . . .
We complain that you, Mr. President, elected as a Republican, knowing well what an abomination [great evil] Slavery is, and how emphatically [clearly] it is the core and essence of this atrocious [terrible] rebellion, seem never to interfere with these atrocities, and never give a direction to your military subordinates, which does not appear to have been conceived in the interest of Slavery rather than of Freedom. . . .
On the face of this wide earth, Mr. President, there is not one disinterested [impartial], determined, intelligent champion of the Union cause who does not feel that all attempts to put down the rebellion and at the same time uphold its inciting cause [the issue that triggered it] are preposterous [absurd] and futile—that the rebellion, if crushed out to-morrow, would be renewed within a year if Slavery were left in full vigor. . . .
I close as I began with the statement that what an immense majority of the loyal millions of your countrymen require of you is a frank, declared, unqualified, ungrudging execution of the laws of the land, more especially of the Confiscation Act [an 1862 law that declared all property—including slaves—owned by rebels to be "contraband of war"; since slaves were considered property in the South, escaped slaves were allowed to remain in the North under this law]. . . . As one of the millions who would gladly have avoided the struggle at any sacrifice but that of principle and honor, but who now feel that the triumph of the Union is indispensable [absolutely necessary] not only to the existence of our country but to the well-being of mankind, I entreat [beg] you to render a hearty and unequivocal [clear] obedience to the law of the land.
Yours, Horace Greeley
Excerpt from President Lincoln's response:
The sooner the national authority can be restored, the nearer the Union will be the Union it was.
If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them.
If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them.
My paramount object [main goal] is to save the Union and not either to save or destroy slavery.
If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it—If I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it—and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.
What I do about slavery and the colored race I do because I believe it helps to save this Union; and what I forbear [decide not to do], I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. . . .
. . . I have stated my purpose according to my views of official duty; and I intend no modification [change] of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.
Born February 3, 1811
Amherst, New Hampshire
Newspaper publisher and editor, writer, and presidential candidate
"I am weary of fighting over issues that ought to be dead—that logically were dead years ago. When slavery died, I thought that we ought speedily to have ended all that grew out of it by universal amnesty and impartial suffrage."
An influential newspaper publisher and writer, Horace Greeley was a significant public figure for reform from the 1840s to the early 1870s and was affectionately called "Uncle Horace" by admiring readers. He was a leading proponent for abolition (end of slavery) through the Civil War years, supported programs for the poor and working class, and sought to improve society through pacifism (nonviolence) and cooperation. During the Reconstruction era (1865–77), Greeley rallied for civil rights legislation and favored policies of reconciliation toward former members of the Confederacy. The latter view distanced Greeley from many Northern Republicans still bitter over the Civil War (1861–65). Greeley had been a Republican since the party was founded in the mid-1850s, but he ran for president as a Democrat in 1872. That year proved tragic for Greeley: He was heavily criticized during the presidential campaign, endured the death of his wife, lost a landslide election, and lost control of the famous newspaper he had founded over thirty years earlier. Greeley died a broken man less than a month after the 1872 election.
New York, New York
Horace Greeley was born in Amherst, New Hampshire, on February 3, 1811. He was the third child of Zaccheus Greeley and Mary Woodburn. The family was poor and Greeley had little education, but he was encouraged to learn to read by his mother. At the age of fourteen, Greeley was apprenticed to Amos Bliss, editor of the Northern Spectator in Vermont. (An apprentice learns a trade by assisting a skilled craftsperson.) Greeley learned how to set print for periodicals (magazines, newspapers, and journals). When the Northern Spectator ceased publication in 1830, Greeley stayed with his parents for a short while and briefly worked with printers in the area but found little opportunity in small towns of the northeast.
With about $25 in savings and his possessions tied together with a piece of cloth, Greeley set out for New York City at age twenty in 1831. After several weeks, he found a job printing an edition of the New Testament of the Bible. While working on various other printing jobs, Greeley regularly read periodicals for news and to learn how news was reported. He had saved enough money by early 1833, before he turned twenty-two, to take on printing jobs with a partner, Jonas Winchester. The duo also produced two periodicals, Sylvester's Bank Note and Exchange Manual and the Constitutionalist, both of which combined information on winning lottery numbers with assorted news items.
In March 1834, Greeley and Winchester founded a weekly literary and news journal called the New Yorker. (This was not the same publication as the modern day New Yorker magazine, which was founded during the 1920s.) The journal contained some original contributions by Greeley and other writers as well as reprinted stories, fiction, reviews, and transcripts of notes from musical compositions from American and foreign newspapers. While Greeley struggled to make a success of the New Yorker, his personal life took a happy turn when he met Mary Youngs Cheney, an independent-minded social activist and schoolteacher. They married on July 5, 1836, and would have seven children. However, only two of the children lived into adulthood. The emotional pain of losing so many children contributed to Mary Greeley's increasing isolation and mental and physical ailments.
Success with political writings
To earn extra money, Greeley began writing political articles for the Daily Whig and other newspapers. He was a member of the Whig Party, which began in the 1830s and lasted to the 1850s. Most Whigs were against slavery and were more socially reform-minded than their rivals in the Democratic Party. Greeley's political writings and his editorial skills drew the attention of New York's Whig leaders, Thurlow Weed (1797–1882) and William H. Seward (1801–1872). Greeley was picked by them to edit a weekly magazine, the Jeffersonian, through which the Whig Party communicated its views to a national audience. Periodicals were the major form of mass media in the United States during the nineteenth century. The Jeffersonian ran for one year as a general information magazine and supporter of Whig views.
Preparing for the 1840 presidential campaign, Whig leaders selected Greeley to edit and publish the Log Cabin. Immensely popular, the Log Cabin reached a circulation of almost one hundred thousand subscribers. Greeley became a public figure through his work on the periodical and was invited to make speeches, sit on committees, and help manage the Whig campaign in New York.
Seeing an opportunity for an inexpensive daily newspaper that represented the views of the Whig Party, Greeley merged the New Yorker and the Log Cabin and combined his own money and a loan to launch the New York Tribune in April 1841. The political activism of the Tribune brought quick attention and sales, and it was soon established as the best New York City newspaper at a time when more than twelve daily papers were published.
When Greeley took on a partner, Thomas McElrath (1807–1888), to concentrate on production efficiency, he was freed to focus on writing and shaping the editorial views of the Tribune. The paper became known for accurate and lively presentation of news, literary reviews and stories, and for Greeley's progressive views on civil, political, and economic equality. Greeley wrote editorials supporting free distribution of government lands on the frontier to settlers; attacking government land grants to railroads; opposing capital punishment; demanding abolition; and supporting labor unions (in 1850, Greeley became the first president of the New York Printers' Union). The paper opposed the Mexican-American War (1846–48), viewing it as an offensive action against another country that was intended to expand the United States and spread slavery further.
Greeley began traveling widely during the 1850s as a popular speaker and voice at political conferences. After serving briefly as a U.S. representative from New York—he was selected to fill a vacant seat from December 4, 1848, to March 3, 1849—Greeley toured Europe in 1851 and spoke before the English parliament. In 1853, he purchased a fifty-four acre farm in Chappaqua, New York. He spent weekends there and wrote articles on his experiences with farming.
By the mid-1850s, a national version of the New York Tribune, called the Weekly Tribune, was launched. It quickly became a leading national newspaper. The abolitionist movement was growing stronger and the Tribune helped represent it as the nation grew divisive over slavery. Greeley advocated resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which permitted slave owners to pursue fugitive slaves into nonslave states. Greeley joined the Republican Party when it was formed in 1854. The new party appealed to antislavery Whigs and Democrats. He attended the national organization meeting in 1856 when, for the first time, Republicans nominated a presidential candidate, explorer John C. Frémont (1813–1890).
The Media Changes Political Campaigns
The Log Cabin, edited and published by Horace Greeley, was significant because it helped change the nature of presidential campaigns in the United States. In its one-year existence during the 1840 presidential race, the magazine helped make songs and slogans part of presidential campaigns, alongside issues and speeches. The title of the magazine reflected the Whig Party's portrayal of its candidate, William Henry Harrison (1773–1841; served 1841), as a farmer who lived in a log cabin and drank apple cider. This folksy image was meant to appeal to common people and contrast with that of Harrison's opponent, President Martin Van Buren (1782–1862; served 1837–1841), who was portrayed as an urban political sophisticate and wine drinker, out of touch with the common voter.
During this period, Greeley published books drawn from his newspaper writings on political issues and his travels. His books included Hints Toward Reforms (1850), Glances at Europe (1851), and An Overland Journey from New York to San Francisco in the Summer of 1859 (1860). Greeley also edited History of the Struggle for Slavery Extension or Restriction in the United States (1856). As a political candidate, Greeley was far less successful: He failed in attempts for Congress in 1850, lieutenant governor of New York in 1854, and the U.S. Senate in 1861 and 1863. He later failed as a candidate for the House of Representatives in 1868 and 1870. Still, Greeley was a respected and popular public figure, beloved to admirers as "Uncle Horace" and seen as somewhat comical to his opponents. Caricatures (exaggerated cartoon drawings) of Greeley appeared frequently, showing the beard that grew around his throat and his habit of wearing a broad-brimmed hat and disheveled clothes.
During the Civil War years, Greeley found difficulty balancing his pacifist views with political activism. While momentum grew strong among abolitionists for viewing the Civil War as a moral cause, Greeley continued advocating peaceful resolution, even though political solutions to end slavery had failed for decades. He challenged President Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865; served 1861–65) for not immediately emancipating slaves. In 1863, he advocated that the Union and Confederacy should present their cases before an international mediator (someone without bias who settles disputes), and he worked to begin peace negotiations. He did not support reelection of Lincoln as president in 1864 until two months before the election. Greeley had wanted immediate abolishment of slavery, while Lincoln took more gradual steps that would lead to a constitutional amendment that banned slavery.
Controversial Reconstruction figure
Following the Civil War, Greeley supported passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 (which granted citizenship to all the people born in the United States) and the Fifteenth Amendment (which mandated that voting rights were not to be denied due to race). He advocated reconciliation of the Union, an end to antagonism between the North and South, and amnesty (a free pardon) toward former soldiers of the Confederacy. Greeley was personally involved in the release of Jefferson Davis (1808–1889; see Confederate Leaders entry), who had served as president of the Confederacy. Outraged Northerners, who wanted to punish participants in the Confederacy, reacted bitterly to Greeley: The New York Tribune lost almost half of its subscribers, and many book buyers cancelled orders for Greeley's two-volume history, The American Conflict (1868), which recounts the causes, incidents, and results of the Civil War and opinions on slavery since 1776.
Greeley's Power with Words
As an editorial and feature writer for one of the nation's most popular newspapers of the nineteenth century, Horace Greeley attracted the attention of many readers. Among them was the president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Since periodicals were the dominant form of mass media at the time, they carried tremendous influence. On August 19, 1862, Greeley wrote an open letter to Lincoln in the New York Tribune titled "The Prayer of Twenty Million." In his letter, Greeley demanded that Lincoln commit himself definitely to emancipation (freedom from slavery). Lincoln's reply was published several days later, addressed "to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right." In the famous reply, Lincoln explained to the large readership of the Tribune that his sole purpose for the Civil War was to preserve the Union. He hoped that slavery would end, but as president his main responsibility was to ensure the United States remained intact.
Another example of Greeley's public power is reflected in the saying he is most associated with—"Go west, young man." The saying was intended to inspire young men to settle in the western frontier where they would find opportunity, independence, and success through self-reliance. The phrase actually dated back to an Indiana newspaper writer, John Soule, in 1851, but when Greeley repeated it over a decade later, it became popular and remained associated with him.
Greeley supported the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson (1808–1875; served 1865–69; see entry) in 1868, referring to him in an editorial as "an aching tooth in the national jaw" for Johnson's refusal to sign civil rights legislation. Greeley supported Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885; served 1869–77; see entry) in his successful run for the presidency in 1868. By 1870, however, Greeley dropped his support for Grant because Greeley believed presidents should only serve one term and because he disagreed with some of Grant's actions as president. Greeley was concerned that Grant had appointed too many government workers as a way of returning political favors, was against Grant's efforts to annex (claim as U.S. territory) Santo Domingo, and believed some of Grant's policies were harsh towards the South.
In an editorial in a May 1871 edition of the New York Tribune, Greeley officially opposed Grant's bid for reelection. He became increasingly distanced from the most powerful members of the Republican Party, which included the president and a group of congressmen responsible for most of the legislation that became law during the Reconstruction era.
Greeley became part of a faction (small group) within the Republican Party that challenged the president and the most powerful congressmen. In March 1872, the members of the faction, called the Liberal Republicans, broke with the Republican Party and nominated Greeley as their candidate for president. The Liberal Republicans formed a coalition with Democrats to support an opponent to Grant in the 1872 campaign. By the time Democrats met in Cincinnati, Ohio, in May 1872 to plan their national convention, Greeley had some support to become the party's presidential nominee. The Democratic national convention held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in July 1872 was divided on several candidates. Many party regulars disliked Greeley because he had supported Republican policies for years. When Greeley won the nomination after hotly contested voting, many Democrats left the convention with no intention of supporting Greeley.
Honors for Greeley
The town of Greeley, Colorado, a planned community, was named in honor of Horace Greeley. Another example of Greeley's lasting influence is the Horace Greeley Award, presented by the New England Press Association in honor of Greeley, "one of the greatest and most dedicated journalists in the history of American journalism."
The presidential campaign of 1872 was among the uglier campaigns in American history. Republicans attacked Greeley as a traitor, and he was not treated with seriousness and respect by many major newspapers and commentators. Influential political cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840–1902) regularly lampooned (ridiculed) Greeley.
Emotionally drained by heavy criticism and a long campaign tour, Greeley returned home a few weeks before the election to care for his dying wife. He had little sleep as he sat by her bedside. Mary Greeley died on October 30, 1872. A week later, Greeley was soundly defeated in his bid for the presidency, winning only six states and losing in the electoral college, 286 to 66. When he returned to the office of the Tribune later in November, Greeley discovered that daily operations and editorial responsibilities had been permanently taken over by others.
Greeley soon suffered a mental breakdown and was hospitalized. His health declined rapidly and he died on November 29, 1872. Greeley's funeral, held in New York City on December 4, was attended by President Grant and members of his administration as well as a huge number of supporters.
For More Information
Cross, Coy. Go West Young Man!: Horace Greeley's Vision for America. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995.
Lunde, Erik S. Horace Greeley. Boston: Twayne, 1981.
Parton, James. Life of Horace Greeley. Manchester, NH: Ayer Company, 1982.
"Horace Greeley." Spartacus Educational.http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAgreeley.htm (accessed on July 14, 2004).
Greeley, Horace (1811-1872)
Horace Greeley (1811-1872)
Newspapr editor and poliyician
The Written Word. Horace Greeley was born into a poor family in Amherst, New Hampshire, in 1811. Greeley’s father always struggled and could not provide his son with much in the way of an education, but Greeley took advantage of the family’s 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 City’s 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 Bryant’s 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 woman’s rights activist), Charles A. Dana(later editor of the New York Sun ), and Bayard Taylor. In an era when newspapers frequently influenced the nation’s political agenda, Greeley’s 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. Greeley’s 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 paper’s reputation by giving frequent lectures on every conceivable issue of moral reform, from agricultural science to abolitionism. Greeley’s 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 Greeley’s 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 nation’s 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. Greeley’s vacillation over supporting Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 election, his advocacy of peace with the South in 1864–1865, 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.
Menahem Blondheim, News over the Wires: The Telegraph and the Flow of Public Information in America, 1844–1897 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994);
Glyndon G. Van Deusen, Horace Greeley: Nineteenth-Century Crusader (New York: Hill & Wang, 1953).
Greeley, Horace (1811-1872)
GREELEY, HORACE (1811-1872)
Two features of Horace Greeley's life make him notable in the fields of communication and journalism. The first is his rise to publisher of one of the most powerful newspapers in the nineteenth century, the New York Tribune. The second is his career as a writer of editorials and lectures for the popular "lyceums" (i.e., lecture series that provided education to the public on a variety of topics).
In his autobiography, Recollections of a Busy Life (published four years before his death), Greeley recalled the misery of his family's chronic, debt-ridden existence when he was a child: "Hunger, cold, rags, hard work, contempt, suspicion, unjust reproach, are disagreeable; but debt is infinitely worse than them all" (Greeley, 1868, p. 96). This statement characterizes the drive that turned a child from an impoverished farm family into one of the most influential newspaper editors of the nineteenth century.
Greeley took his first job on the path to journalism in East Poultney, Vermont, as a printer's apprentice, at the age of fifteen. In 1831, he went to work in Pennsylvania for the Erie Gazette, and later, he worked as a printer in New York City for the Spirit of the Times, the Morning Post, and the Commercial Advertiser. In 1834, two events that would shape Greeley's influence on the world of newspapers and on his own career as a politically minded publisher occurred: (1) he founded his New Yorker, a literary magazine, and (2) he joined the Whig party of New York. Joining forces with Thurlow Weed, an editor of the Albany Evening Journal, and William H. Seward, the Whig candidate for governor of New York in 1837, Greeley founded the Jeffersonian, a Whig paper. In 1840, Greeley also initiated the Log Cabin, a Whig paper designed to support the presidential candidacy of William Henry Harrison. Once Harrison was elected, and after Harrison's untimely death soon after he became president, Greeley published the first issue of his own newspaper, the New York Tribune, on April 10, 1841. Described as "A New Morning Journal of Politics, Literature and General Intelligence," the newspaper promised "to advance the interests of the people, and to promote their Moral, Political and Social well-being."
Thus began Greeley's tenure as an editor who crusaded against slavery, capital punishment, class injustice, and marital infidelity and who wrote editorials in favor of labor rights, protective tariffs, westward expansion, and women's rights (not suffrage). Greeley was a strong shaper of public opinion whose own views were loyal to Whig party causes, such as protection of industry, but who desired his newspaper to be politically neutral. Believing that newspapers should provide a forum for debate, Greeley's newspaper featured writings by such luminaries of the nineteenth century as Margaret Fuller and Karl Marx. The New York Tribune was known for its quality reporting of local, national, and international events, for its inclusion of various genres of writing, such as poetry and criticism, and for its embodiment of the virtues of a free press. It became one of the first great American newspapers, reaching a circulation of almost 300,000 by 1860. One of Greeley's most famous editorials, "The Prayer of Twenty Millions," was a plea to President Abraham Lincoln to authorize military commanders to free slaves during 1862. Lincoln's famous reply, that his concern was saving the Union, regardless of slavery, shows how Greeley's clout led many leaders of the day to engage with him editorially.
Throughout his lifetime, Greeley championed a variety of causes, some of them seemingly contradictory. He advocated protective tariffs but supported the presidential candidacy of the Republican party, which favored tariff reduction. He was apparently an inelegant speaker with a squeaky voice and a literary style, both of which combined with his eccentric and ill-fitting dress to give an impression of a well-schooled but painfully awkward orator. Nonetheless, Greeley gave extensive lectures on labor, education, and farming techniques throughout the country at agricultural fairs and lyceums. He was known as an articulate and opinionated speaker.
Greeley wrote twelve books in his lifetime, and four of them encapsulate his career as a journalist and statesman. The first, Hints Toward Reforms (1853), is a 400-page collection of his lectures at lyceums and agricultural fairs. Characterized as "editorials on legs," these lectures range widely in topic from labor to religion to slavery, thereby showing Greeley's own range of interests. The second, A History of the Struggle for Slavery Extension or Restriction in the United States, is an excessively detailed account of slavery in the United States, overlaid with Greeley's political commentary on the ordinances and bills that fueled the institution of slavery from the eighteenth century onward. This book, published in 1856, has been praised for its journalistic detail and research. The third, An Overland Journey, from New York to San Francisco, in the Summer of 1859, is a travelogue of Greeley's ventures west to California, complete with details of modes of transport and the variety of natural phenomena he witnessed. It is this work that may have contributed to Greeley's fame for the phrase "Go west, young man," which was actually coined by John Soule, an Indiana editor, in 1851. Finally, Greeley's 1868 autobiography, Recollections of a Busy Life, traces his life from the Puritan New England roots through his newspaper days. Included in this book are accounts of the U.S. Civil War and a discussion of the deaths of his children (he lost five out of seven). Comprehensive and evocative, it is considered to be on par with Benjamin Franklin's famous autobiography.
Greeley was the Republican candidate for president in 1872, but he was soundly defeated by the incumbent, Ulysses S. Grant, in an election that coincided with tragedy in Greeley's personal life, as he faced his wife's death and his own failing health.
See also:Newspaper Industry, History of.
Greeley, Horace. (1850). Hints Toward Reforms. New York: Harper & Brothers.
Greeley, Horace. (1856). A History of the Struggle for Slavery Extension or Restriction in the United States, from the Declaration of Independence to the Present Day. New York: Dix, Edwards.
Greeley, Horace. (1859). An Overland Journey from New York to San Francisco in the Summer of 1859. New York: C. M. Saxton, Barker.
Greeley, Horace. (1868). Recollections of a Busy Life. New York: J. B. Ford. Hale, William Harlan. (1950).
Horace Greeley: Voice of the People. New York: Harper & Brothers.
Lunde, Erik S. (1981). Horace Greeley. Boston: G. K. Hall
Maihafer, Harry J. (1998). The General and the Journalists: Ulysses S. Grant, Horace Greeley, and Charles Dana. Washington, DC: Brasseys.
Parton, James. (1882). The Life of Horace Greeley, Editor of the New York Tribune. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin.
Schulze, Suzanne. (1992). Horace Greeley: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood.
Stoddard, Henry Luther. (1946). Horace Greeley: Printer, Editor, Crusader. New York: G. P. Putnam.
Van Deusen, Glyndon G. (1953). Horace Greeley: Nineteenth-Century Crusader. New York: Hill and Wang.
(b. February 3, 1811; d. November 29, 1872) American journalist, editor, and political leader.
Newspaper editor Horace Greeley abhorred war. Greeley was one of the most widely read and best known Americans of his day. His life spanned the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the American Civil War. The
founding editor of the New York Tribune was an inveterate talker and writer who played a major role in transforming American liberty into American freedom in the years before 1860. Greeley's political language, inspired by the European republican revolutionaries of 1830 and 1848, transformed propertied liberty under the law into equal freedom for all, grounded in God's moral law. Freedom meant both rights guaranteed under the Constitution and the natural rights of all to land, association, and peace. He believed that war threatened both liberty and freedom in a republic.
The War of 1812 shaped Greeley's youth. Born in Amherst, New Hampshire, Greeley grew up in Vermont and New York and rose to eminence as a journeyman printer, then became founding editor of the New Yorker (1834) and finally the New York Tribune (1841). As a young man, Greeley listened to opponents of "Mr. Madison's War" and to Fourth of July speeches by Revolutionary War veterans. Greeley entered politics hating Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren and other "corrupt" Democrats, suspecting that Freemasons were taking over the country, and admiring Kentucky Senator Henry Clay. In time, he became a protectionist Whig (an anti-Democrat who favored higher tariffs to protect American industries) and then helped form and name the Republican Party in 1854. In New York, Greeley also became a lifelong Universalist who believed that all people, not an elite, deserved Christ's salvation.
During the 1840s, Greeley campaigned vigorously for Whig candidates, both at the polls and in his newspaper. After the economic depression of 1837, he urged young unemployed men of eastern cities to take their families and "go West" to find land and employment; thousands did so. In 1840, he helped elect William Henry Harrison to the presidency. For a time, Greeley was a follower of French associationist Charles Fourier, both at Brook Farm near Boston and at the North American Phalanx in Red Bank, New Jersey (organizations large enough to support their own industries and social needs). Greeley was also Henry Thoreau's literary agent in New York for fifteen years. He gave Margaret Fuller her start as a literary editor and invited her to stay for a year in his home. He also became an opponent of slavery, but not an abolitionist.
Greeley opposed the Mexican War both because of his pacifist leanings (Greeley wanted to dismantle the U.S. army and navy) and because he believed territorial gains might extend slavery to the American West. In 1849, he supported the Free Soil Party's campaign against slavery in the territories. He also became a major spokesman for organized labor, especially printers, and for women's rights, but not suffrage.
Aside from serving out an unexpired term in Congress in 1849, Greeley never held elected office. But the weekly edition of his Tribune became the Bible of farmers and plain folk across the expanding country. He hired a group of militant young writers to staff the newspaper—Charles A. Dana, George Ripley, Margaret Fuller, Karl Marx (who survived in London for a decade on his Tribune articles), and Adam Gurovsky. He sharply opposed the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854, the Dred Scott decision, and all other attempts to maintain slavery. In 1860, he helped nominate Lincoln by throwing the votes he had amassed for another candidate to the rail-splitter, largely in order to defeat Greeley's archenemy and former ally, William Seward of New York.
In 1861, Greeley opposed the Civil War and urged Lincoln to let the "erring sisters" of the Confederacy depart from the Union in peace. But once war came, he was staunchly supportive, hoping that it would become a war not simply to maintain the Union, but for the emancipation of the slaves. Some blamed Greeley and the Tribune for prematurely encouraging a Union defeat at Bull Run by running daily headlines urging "On to Richmond!" before federal troops were prepared. Greeley subsequently helped inspire Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation with his widely read "Prayer of Twenty Million." He then tried to negotiate an end to the war with both foreign and Confederate representatives, much to Lincoln's chagrin.
After the war, Greeley urged amnesty and charity toward the South. He published a two volume history of the Civil War entitled The American Conflict. Subscriptions to his paper fell off, however, after Greeley helped put up bail money to free Jefferson Davis from prison in 1867. In 1872, Greeley ran for U.S. president as a candidate of both the Liberal Republican and Democratic Parties against Republican Ulysses S. Grant. He lost badly, and died shortly thereafter.
Horace Greeley hated war as much as he hated slavery. He was not a socialist, but a bourgeois utopian that cherished peaceful community where men and women were equally free to labor and prosper. He felt war threatened that prosperity and that freedom.
Fahrney, Ralph Ray. Horace Greeley and the Tribune in the Civil War. Cedar Rapids, IA: Torch Press, 1936.
Greeley, Horace. The American Conflict: A History of the Great Rebellion in the United States of America, 1860–1864, 2 vols. Hartford, CT: O. D. Case & Co., 1864–1866.
Kirkland, Edward Chase, ed. The Peacemakers of 1864. New York: Macmillan, 1927.
Lunde, Erik S. Horace Greeley. Boston: Twayne, 1981.
Maihafer, Harry J. The General and the Journalists: Ulysses S. Grant, Horace Greeley, and Charles Dana. Washington DC and London: Brassey's, 1998.
Schulze, Suzanne. Horace Greeley: A Bio-Bibliography. New York: Greenwood Press, 1992.
Robert C. Williams
Horace Greeley, 1811–72, American newspaper editor, founder of the New York Tribune, b. Amherst, N.H.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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. □
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."
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.