Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Greeley, Horace
GREELEY, Horace, journalist, b. in Amherst, N. H., 3 Feb., 1811; d. in Pleasantville, near New York city, 29 Nov., 1872. His birthplace is shown in the accompanying engraving. On both sides his ancestors were of Scotch-Irish origin, but had been settled in New England for some generations. His father, Zaccheus Greeley, was a small farmer, always poor, and, by the time Horace was ten years old, a bankrupt and a fugitive from the state, to escape arrest for debt. Horace was the third child, four followed him, and when the little homestead of fifty acres of stony land at Amherst was lost and his father became a day-laborer at West Haven, Vt., the united exertions of all that were able to work brought the family only a hard and bare subsistence. Horace had been a precocious child, feeble, and not fond of sports, but with a strong bent to books. He could read before he could talk plainly, when he was not yet three years old, and he was soon after the acknowledged chief in the frequent contests of the village spelling-match. He received only a common-school education, and after his sixth year had schooling only in winter, laboring at other times in the field with his father and brothers. When six years old he declared he would be a printer, and at eleven he tried to be apprenticed in the village office. He was rejected then on account of his youth, but tried again, three years later, at East Poultney, Vt., in the office of the “Northern Spectator,” and was accepted as an apprentice for five years, to be boarded and lodged, and, after six months, to be paid at the rate of $40 a year. He learned the business rapidly, became an accurate compositor, gained the warm regard of his employer and of the whole village, showed a special aptitude for politics and political statistics, rose to be the neighborhood oracle on disputed points, took a leading part in the village debating-society, and was intrusted with a portion of the editorial work on the paper. Meantime he spent next to nothing, dressed in the cheapest way, went without a coat in summer and without an overcoat in winter, was laughed at as “gawky” and “stingy,” and sent almost every cent of his forty dollars a year to his father. At last, in June, 1830, the paper was suspended, and young Greeley, then in his twentieth year, was released from his apprenticeship, and turned out upon the world as a “tramping jour printer.” Fourteen months of such experience sufficed. He visited his father, who had now removed to the “new country” near Erie, Pa., worked with him on the farm when he could not find employment in country printing-offices, sent home most of his earnings, when he could, and at last decided to seek his fortune in New York. With his wardrobe in a bundle, slung over his shoulder by a stick, he set out on foot through the woods, walked to Buffalo, thence made his way, partly on canal-boats, partly by walking the towpath, to Albany, and then down the Hudson on a tug-boat. With $10 in his pocket, and his stick and bundle still over his shoulder, on 18 Aug., 1831, he entered the city in which he was to be recognized as the first of American journalists. He wandered for days from one printing-office to another vainly searching for work. His grotesque appearance was against him; nobody supposed he could be a competent printer, and most thought him a runaway apprentice. At last an Irishman at the cheap boarding-house he had found told him of an office where a compositor was needed; a Vermont printer interceded for him, when he was about to be rejected on his appearance, and at last he was taken on trial for the day. The matter assigned him had been abandoned by other printers because of its uncommon difficulty. At night his was found the best day's work that anybody had yet done, and his position was secure.
He worked as a journeyman printer in New York for fourteen months, sometimes in job-offices, for a few days each in the offices of the “Evening Post” and the “Commercial Advertiser,” longer in that of the “Spirit of the Times,” making friends always with the steady men he encountered, and saving money. Finally, in January, 1833, he took part in the first effort to establish a penny paper in New York. His partner was Francis V. Story, a fellow-printer: they had $150 between them, and on this capital and a small lot of type bought on credit from George Bruce, on his faith in Greeley's honest face and talk, they took the contract for printing the “Morning Post.” It failed in three weeks, but they had only lost about one third of their capital, and still had their type. They had therefore become master job-printers, and Greeley never worked again as a journeyman. They got a “Bank-note Reporter” to print, which brought them in about $15 a week, and a little triweekly paper, “The Constitutionalist,” which was the lottery organ. Its columns regularly contained the following card : “Greeley and Story, No. 54 Liberty street, New York, respectfully solicit the patronage of the public to their business of letter-press-printing, particularly lottery-printing, such as schemes, periodicals, and so forth, which will be executed on favorable terms.”
Mr. Greeley had renewed his habit of writing for the papers on which he was employed as a compositor. He was thus a considerable contributor to the “Spirit of the Times,” and now, by an article contributed to the “Constitutionalist,” defending the lotteries against a popular feeling then recently aroused, he attracted the attention of Dudley S. Gregory, of Jersey City, the agent of a great lottery association, whose friendship soon became helpful and was long-continued. His partner, Story, died after seven months, and his brother-in-law, Jonas Winchester, was taken into the partnership instead. The firm prospered, and by 1834 Mr. Greeley again began to think of editorship. The firm now considered itself worth $3,000. With this capital and the brains of the senior partner, the “New Yorker,” the best literary weekly then in America, was founded. Shortly before its appearance James Gordon Bennett visited Mr. Greeley and proposed to unite with him in establishing a new paper to be called the “New York Herald.” In declining, Mr. Greeley recommended another partner, who accepted and continued the partnership with Bennett until the “Herald” office was burned, when he retired. The “New Yorker” appeared on 22 March, 1834, sold one hundred copies of its first number, and for three months scarcely increased its circulation from this point over one hundred copies a week. By September, however, it had risen to 2,500. At the end of a year it was 4,500, at the end of the second year 7,000, and of the third 9,500. It was steadily popular with the press and people, and steadily unsuccessful pecuniarily. The first year showed a loss of $3,000, the second year of $2,000 more, and the third year of a further $2,000. Mr. Greeley became widely known and respected as its editor, was able to add to his income by furnishing editorials to the “Daily Whig” and other journals, and within four years had attained such prominence that the tow-headed printer who was mistaken for a runaway apprentice and dismissed from the “Evening Post” office, because the proprietors wished to have “at least decent looking men at the cases,” was selected by William H. Seward and Thurlow Weed as the best man available for the conduct of a campaign paper, which they desired to publish at Albany, to be called the “Jeffersonian.” He continued his work on the “New Yorker,” but went back and forth between New York and Albany each week. The “Jeffersonian,” for a campaign paper, was unusually quiet, calm, and instructive; but it seems to have given the Whig central committee satisfaction, and it still further brought its editor to the notice of the press and of influential men throughout the state. The “Jeffersonian” lasted until the spring of 1839, and Mr. Greeley was paid a salary of $1,000 for conducting it. A few months later the country entered upon the extraordinary popular excitements attending the presidential canvass of 1840, and when Mr. Greeley, prompt to seize the opportunity, issued simultaneously at New York and Albany, under the firm-name of “H. Greeley & Co.,” the first number of a new campaign paper called the “Log Cabin,” it sprang at once into a remarkable circulation; 20,000 copies of the first issue were printed, and this was thought to be an extravagant supply; but it was speedily exhausted. Other editions were called for, and finally, the type having been distributed, the number had to be reset, and in all 48,000 copies were sold. In a few weeks 60,000 subscriptions had been received, and the advance did not cease until the weekly issue had risen to between 80,000 and 90,000 copies — a circulation then absolutely unprecedented. The “Log Cabin” was a vivacious political journal, much more aggressive than the “Jeffersonian” had been, and displaying many of the personal peculiarities of its editor, his quaintness, his homely common sense, and an extraordinary capacity for compact and pungent statement. It printed rough caricatures of Van Buren and other Democrats, gave a good deal of campaign poetry, with music attached, and yet made room for lectures upon the “Elevation of the Laboring Classes.” In all the heat and fury of that turbulent campaign its editor set in one respect an example of moderation not always followed in contests of a much later date. In answer to a correspondent he said flatly: “ Articles assailing the personal character of Mr. Van Buren or any of his supporters cannot be published in the 'Log Cabin.'” Meantime, Mr. Greeley was widely consulted, was appointed on campaign committees, asked to make speeches, and called hither and thither to aid in adjusting political differences. He had become a person of influence and a political factor. He continued his paper for one week after the term promised, in order to send to his readers a complete account of the victory, the election of Gen. Harrison as president, with as full returns of the vote as possible. After an interval of a few weeks it was resumed as a family political paper, and continued until it was able, on 3 April, 1841, to announce that “on Saturday, April 10th instant, the subscriber will publish the first number of a new morning journal of politics, literature, and general intelligence. 'The Tribune,' as its name imports, will labor to advance the interests of the people and to promote their moral, social, and political well-being. The immoral and degrading police reports, advertisements, and other matter which have been allowed to disgrace the columns of our leading penny papers will be carefully excluded from this, and no exertion spared to render it worthy of the hearty approval of the virtuous and refined, and a welcome visitant at the family fireside. Horace Greeley, 30 Ann street.”
Until this time Mr. Greeley had acquired great reputation, but no money. In spite of the brilliant success of the “Log Cabin,” and the general esteem for the “New Yorker,” neither had ever been profitable, and their editor, always talked of as “able, but queer,” began also to be recognized as lacking in business qualifications. He gave credit profusely, loaned money when he had it to almost any applicant, made his paper sometimes too good for the popular demand, and had no faculty for advertising his own wares. Once, when admitting that his paper was not profitable, he frankly said: “ Since the 'New Yorker' was first issued, seven copartners in its publication have successively withdrawn from the concern, generally, we regret to say, without having improved their fortunes by the connection, and most of them with the conviction that the work, however valuable, was not calculated to prove lucrative to its proprietors. 'You don't humbug enough' has been the complaint of more than one of our retiring associates; 'You ought to make more noise, and vaunt your own merits. The world will never believe you print a good paper unless you tell them so.' Our course has not been changed by these representations.”
Mr. Greeley, although eccentric enough in his appearance and habits, had thus far developed but few eccentricities of thought. He was temperate almost to the verge of total abstinence, partly, no doubt, from taste, partly also, perhaps, from his observations on the intemperate habits common about his father's early home in New Hampshire. He was opposed to slavery, but rather deprecated northern interference: approved of the colonization society, and opposed anti-slavery societies at the north. He believed prohibition impracticable, but was warmly in favor of high license. He was vehemently in favor of a protective tariff, and always, as he expressed it, “an advocate of the interests of unassuming industry.” He had been captivated by vegetarian notions, and was for a short time an inmate of a Grahamite boarding-house. There he met Miss Cheney, a young teacher from Connecticut, who was making a short stay in New York, on her way to North Carolina. She was a highly nervous, excitable person, full of ideas, prone to “isms.” and destined to have a strong and not always helpful influence on his life. He continued the acquaintance by correspondence, became engaged, married her in North Carolina, and made a short wedding-journey, of which his first visit to Washington was the principal feature. About the same period he contributed a good many verses to the “Log Cabin” — “Historic Pencillings,” “Nero's Tomb,” “Fantasies,” “On the Death of William Wirt,” etc. They are not destitute of poetic feeling, but in later years he was never glad to have them recalled. In 1859, learning that Robert Bonner, of the “New York Ledger,” proposed to include them among representative poems in a volume to be made up from authors not appearing in Charles A. Dana's “Household Book of Poetry,” Mr. Greeley wrote: “Mr. Bonner, be good enough — you must — to exclude me from your new poetic Pantheon. I have no business therein, no right and no desire to be installed there. I am no poet, never was (in expression), and never shall be. True, I wrote some verses in my callow days, as I suppose most persons who can make intelligible pen-marks have done; but I was never a poet, even in the mists of deluding fancy. . . . Within the last ten years I have been accused of all possible and some impossible offences against good taste, good morals, and the common weal; I have been branded aristocrat, communist, infidel, hypocrite, demagogue, disunionist, traitor, corruptionist, and so forth, and so forth, but cannot remember that any one has flung in my face my youthful transgressions in the way of rhyme. . . . Let the dead rest! and let me enjoy the reputation, which I covet and deserve, of knowing poetry from prose, which the ruthless resurrection of my verses would subvert, since the unobserving majority would blindly infer that I considered them poetry.”
In establishing the “Tribune,” Mr. Greeley had considerable reputation, wide acquaintance among newspaper men and practical politicians, one thousand dollars in money borrowed from James Coggeshall, and the promise from another source of a thousand more, which was never realized. He had employed, some time before, at $8 a week, a young man fresh from the University of Vermont. This young man, Henry J. Raymond, now became his chief assistant in the conduct of the new paper, and gradually a considerable force of people of similar fitness gathered about him, the paper always having an attraction for men of intellect and scholarly tastes. In the early years it thus enjoyed the services of George William Curtis, William Henry Fry, Charles A. Dana, Margaret Fuller, Albert Brisbane, Bayard Taylor, Count Gurowski, and others. Of its first number, 5,000 copies were printed, and, as Mr. Greeley said, “with difficulty given away.” About 600 subscribers had been procured through the exertions of his personal and political friends. Being published at first at one cent a copy, it was regarded as a serious rival by the cheap papers, and the “Sun” especially undertook to interfere with its circulation by forbidding its newsboys to sell the new paper. The public considered this unfair, and the “Tribune” was greatly helped. In four weeks it reached a circulation of 6,000; in four weeks more its circulation had risen to the limit of the press, being between 11,000 and 12,000. Its business management was chaotic, but by July the chances for a permanent success were so clear that Thomas McElrath, a business man of excellent standing, was taken in as an equal partner. A weekly issue was projected, and on 20 Sept. the “New Yorker” and the “Log Cabin” were merged in the first number of “The New York Weekly Tribune,” which soon attained considerable circulation and ultimately became a great political and social force in rural communities, particularly in the period of the anti-slavery discussion prior to and during the war for the Union. From this time forward Mr. Greeley's business prosperity was secure, but the “Tribune” might easily have been far more successful from the mere money point of view if its editor had been less outspoken and indifferent to the light in which the New York public might regard his opinions. The controlling influences in the city were then largely favorable to free-trade; but he made the “Tribune”\ aggressively protectionist. A commercial community was necessarily conservative, but the “Tribune” soon came to be everywhere regarded as radical. New York had close business connections with the south, but the “Tribune” gradually became more and more explicit in its anti-slavery utterances. The prevailing religious faith among the better educated classes was orthodox; Mr. Greeley connected himself almost from the outset with a Universalist church. He aimed always to practise the utmost hospitality toward new ideas and their exponents, so that people soon talked of the “isms” of the “Tribune.” Sympathizing profoundly with workingmen, he was led constantly to schemes for bettering their condition, and became interested in the theories of Fourier. Before the “Tribune” was a year old he had discussed the subject of “Fourierism in France” in an article beginning thus: “We have written something, and shall yet write much more, in illustration and advocacy of the great social revolution which our age is destined to commence, in rendering all useful labor at once attractive and honorable, and banishing want and all consequent degradation from the globe. The germ of this revolution is developed in the writings of Charles Fourier.” In March, 1842, he began publishing, under a contract with a number of New York Fourierites, one column daily on the first page of the “Tribune” on Fourierite topics, from the pen of Albert Brisbane. The theories here advanced were also occasionally defended in the editorial columns. Mr. Greeley became a subscriber to one or two Fourierite associations, notably that of the “American Phalanx” at Red Bank, N. J., and occasionally addressed public meetings on the subject. When the famous Brook Farm experiment was abandoned, its chief, George Ripley, sought employment on the “Tribune,” and was soon its literary editor. Another of its members, Charles A. Dana, became in time the “Tribune's” managing editor. Another, Margaret Fuller, contributed literary work and occasional editorials, and lived in Mr. Greeley's family; and another, George William Curtis, was also employed. In 1846 Henry J. Raymond, who had now, owing to some disagreement, left the “Tribune” and become a leading editor on the “Courier and Enquirer,” saw that Fourierism offered an inviting point for attack upon the “Tribune.” Mr. Greeley, whose conduct of the paper was always argumentative and pugnacious, responded to some criticism by challenging Mr. Raymond to a thorough discussion of the whole subject, in a series of twelve articles and replies, to be published in full in all the editions of each paper. Mr. Raymond accepted, and made therein his first wide reputation in New York. Mr. Greeley's articles were undoubtedly able, but he was not so adroit a fencer as his opponent, and he had the unpopular side. The discussion left on the public mind the impression that Mr. Raymond was the victor, and the Fourierite movement from that date began its decline in America. Mr. Greeley was always careful to mark his dissent from many of Fourier's propositions. In the discussion Mr. Raymond endeavored to force him into the position that no man can rightfully own land (substantially the doctrine of which Henry George has since been the apostle), but Mr. Greeley indignantly repudiated it. In later years he dwelt upon the principle of association as the only one in Fourier's scheme that particularly attracted him; and in the form of co-operation among working-men this always received his zealous support.
The rappings and alleged spiritual manifestations of the Fox sisters at Rochester early attracted attention in the “Tribune,” and were fairly described and discussed without absolute incredulity. In 1848, at Mrs. Greeley's invitation, the Fox sisters spent some time in his family as his guests. He listened attentively to what they said, inquired with interest into details, but hesitated to accept the doctrine of actual spiritual communications, and at any rate failed, he said, to see that any good came of them. Nevertheless, the open-minded readiness that he displayed in investigating this, like any other new subject presented to him, led to his identification for some time in the public mind with the spiritualistic movement, so that as effective a weapon as could be used against the “Tribune” in commercial and conservative New York was to call it a Fourierite and spiritualistic organ. With all his radicalism, however, there were two subjects on which, then and throughout life, he was steadily conservative. He constantly defended the sanctity and permanence of the family relation, and protested against anything in legislation or public practice tending to break down the sanction of the Sabbath as a day of rest.
Meanwhile, the “Tribune” prospered moderately and almost continuously, and if Mr. Greeley had not been hopelessly incapable in business mailers, should soon have placed him in a position of comfortable independence. In twenty-four years it invested from its earnings $382,000 in real estate and machinery, and divided among its owners a sum equal to an annual average of over $50,000. But Mr. Greeley inherited his father's tendency to reckless indorsements for his friends, was readily imposed upon by adventurers, and found it easier to give a dollar to every applicant than to inquire into his deserts. In spite of an income liberal for those days, he was thus often in serious straits for money, and lived in an extremely plain if not always economical fashion. Presently, as his property became more valuable, he contracted the habit of raising money for immediate necessities by parting with some of it. After it was clear to practical men that the “Tribune” was a success, he sold half of it to Thomas McElrath for $2,000. By the time it was seven years old he owned less than a third of it. In 1860 his interest was reduced to three twentieths, in 1868 to less than one tenth, and by 1872 he actually owned only six shares out of the hundred into which the property was then divided. Meantime, though always hampered by his business ideas, the property had advanced in value until in 1867 he was able to sell at $6,500 a share, and his last sale was at $9,600. The price of the daily “Tribune” was kept at one cent until the beginning of its second volume, when it was advanced to two cents for a single number, or nine cents a week. It then had 12,000 subscribers, and did not lose 200 of them by the increase in price. A year later it had reached a circulation of 20,000, and advertisements were so numerous that frequent supplements were issued. After a time the price was again advanced to three cents, and finally to four. The circulation rose to a steady average of 35,000 to 40,000, and there were periods of extraordinary interest, especially during the civil war, when for months it reached from 60,000 to 65,000. The weekly edition, being free then from competition, with strong weekly issues in the inland cities, gained a wide circulation throughout the entire north, being probably more generally read for some years in the northern states and territories than any other one newspaper. During political canvasses it sometimes reached a total circulation of a quarter of a million copies, and often for years ranged steadily above 100,000 copies a week. A semi-weekly edition was begun for the benefit of weekly readers enjoying mail facilities that led them to want their news oftener, and this edition ultimately attained a steady circulation of from 15,000 to 20,000 copies.
First Whig, then Anti-slavery Whig, then Republican, the “Tribune's” political course was generally in accord with the more popular and aggressive tendency of these parties. But it was also a highly individualized journal, constantly representing many opinions advocated by its editor irrespective of party affiliations, and sometimes against them. He held that the worst use any man could be put to was to hang him, and for many years vehemently opposed capital punishment. He favored the movement for educating women as physicians, and sought in many ways to widen the sphere of their employments. But he opposed woman suffrage unless it could be first shown that the majority of women themselves desired it. He assailed repudiation in every form, north or south, and was the bitterest critic of the repudiating states. In practice a total abstinent, he always favored the repression of the liquor traffic, and, where possible, its prohibition. He did not believe prohibition possible in states like New York, and there he favored high license and local option. He thought popular education had been directed too much toward literary rather than practical ends, and earnestly favored the substitution of scientific for classical studies. He gave the first newspaper reports of popular lectures by Prof. Louis Agassiz and other eminent scientists; but he thought ill of theatres, and in the early days of the “Tribune” would not insert their advertisements. He encouraged the discussion of a reformed spelling; but, while allowing the phonetic system to be commended in his columns, refused to adopt it. He gave much space to accounts of all co-operative movements among laborers, and sought to encourage co-operation in America as a surer protection for labor than trades-unionism. He sought to remain on good terms with the latter, and even accepted the first presidency of Typographical Union No. 6; but when subsequently, under this union, a strike was ordered in his office to prevent the insertion of an advertisement for printers by a rival paper, he gave notice that thenceforward he would tolerate no trades-union meddling, should mind his own business, and require them to mind theirs. He was a warm friend to every movement in behalf of the Irish people, and particularly for the restoration to them of a greater measure of self-government. He advocated judicious but liberal appropriations for internal improvements, and was conspicuous in urging government aid for the construction of the first Pacific railroad. He strove to diffuse knowledge of the west and promote its settlement, giving much space to descriptions of different localities, and making removal to the west his panacea for all sorts of misfortune and ill-luck in the east. He actively encouraged one of his agricultural editors to establish a colony in Colorado on land that could be cultivated only by irrigation, and was proud that the successful town founded by this colony was called by his name, and that its first newspaper bore as its title the “Greeley Tribune.” in an enlarged fac-simile of his own handwriting. He had personally a great fondness for farming, but little success at it, though he derived great comfort and recreation from his experiments on the farm that he bought at Chappaqua, thirty-three miles north of New York, where his family resided in the summer, and where for many years he spent his Saturdays chopping down or trimming his trees, and occasionally assisting at other farm labor. He favored an international copyright. He constantly watched for new men in literature, was one of the first editors in America to recognize the rising genius of Dickens, and copied a sketch by “Boz” in the first issue of his first newspaper. He was one of the earliest in the east to discover Bret Harte, and perhaps the earliest to recognize Swinburne. He held frequent public discussions — one with Samuel J. Tilden and Parke Godwin on protection, another with Robert Dale Owen on marriage and divorce. He frequently addressed, in his editorial columns, open letters to distinguished public men, promptly printed replies if any came, and was apt to follow these with a telling rejoinder. Thurlow Weed, Benjamin P. Butler, Oliver P. Morton, John J. Crittenden, Samuel J. Tilden, and many others, were thus singled out. He was fond of taking readers into his confidence. Thus he published details of his experiments in farming, and printed serially a charming autobiography. He announced his intended movements, particularly his trips to Europe and through the west. The latter proved an ovation, especially in the territories and in California. Being arrested once in Paris as a director of the American world's fair, at the suit of a disappointed French exhibitor, he published a graphic and amusing account of his imprisonment in Clichy. He admired Fenimore Cooper, and yet was involved in the series of libel suits instituted by that novelist, through a letter (written by Thurlow Weed) published anonymously in the “Tribune”; whereupon he pleaded his own case, and promptly published an amusing report of the trial and the adverse verdict. Sometimes, especially in discussion, he was less good-humored. In an angry letter to a state officer about some public documents advertised in the New York “Times,” he referred to its editor as “that little villain, Raymond.” Replying to a charge against him by the “Evening Post” of some corrupt association with the slave interest, he began, “You lie, villain, wilfully, wickedly, basely lie.” A subscriber in Aurora, N. Y., discontinued his newspaper on the ground of Greeley 's opposition to William H. Seward, and angrily said his only regret in parting was that he was under the necessity of losing a three-cent stamp to do it. Greeley published the letter with this reply: “ The painful regret expressed in yours of the 19th inst. excites my sympathies. I enclose you a three-cent stamp to replace that whose loss you deplored, and remain, Yours placidly.” Quaint letters like this, the oddities of his excessively crabbed handwriting, peculiarities of dress, his cravat (apt to be awry), his white coat, his squeaky voice, his shuttling manner, came to be universally known, and only seemed to add to the personal fondness with which his readers and a large portion of the general public regarded him. He became, in spite of almost every oratorical defect, a popular speaker, always in demand, and always greeted with the loudest applause on whatever occasion, social, educational, reformatory, or political, he appeared. As early as January, 1843, he was announced as a lecturer on the subject of “Human Life,” the advertisement being accompanied with the request, “If those who care to hear will sit near the desk, they will favor the lecturer's weak and husky voice.” He was afterward able to make this weak and husky voice heard by mass meetings of thousands, and by the delivery of lectures throughout the west he often more than doubled in a winter the annual salary that he received from the “Tribune.” But he went, whenever he could, wherever he was asked, whether paid or not. He was always ready to write for other people's papers, too, sometimes for pay, because he needed the money, but almost as readily without it, because he craved new audiences.
In 1848 he was elected to the National house of representatives, to fill a vacancy for three mouths. Regarding as an abuse the methods then pursued by congressmen in charging mileage, he published a list of the members' mileage accounts. This caused great indignation, which was heightened by the free comments on congressional proceedings contributed daily to the “Tribune” over his signature. Thus he said that if either house “had a chaplain who dared preach of the faithlessness, neglect of duty, iniquitous waste of time, and robbery of the public by congressmen, there would be some sense in the chaplain business; but any ill-bred Nathan or Elijah who should untertake such a job would be kicked out in short order.” He broke down the mileage abuse. He also introduced the first bill giving homesteads, free, to actual settlers on the public lands. In 1861 he was a candidate for U. S. senator against William M. Evarts, defeating Evarts, but being defeated in turn by the combination between Evarts's supporters and a few men favoring Ira Harris, of Albany, who was elected. In 1864 he was one of the Republican presidential electors. In 1867 his friends again put him forward for the senate, but his candor in needlessly restating the views he held on general amnesty, then very unpopular, made his election impossible. The same year he was chosen delegate-at-large to the convention for revising the state constitution. At first he took great interest in the proceedings, but grew weary of the endless talk, and finally refused either to attend the body or draw his salary. Two years later he was made the Republican candidate for state comptroller, at a time when the election of the ticket was known to be hopeless, and in 1870 he was again nominated for congress by the Republicans in a hopelessly Democratic district, where he reduced the adverse majority about 1,700, and ran largely ahead of the Republican candidate for governor. On the death of Charles G. Halpine (“Miles O'Reilly”), he accepted an appointment to the city office that Halpine had held, and discharged the duties gratuitously, turning over the salary to Col. Halpine's widow. With one notable exception, this completes his career as office-holder or candidate for office.
Mr. Greeley's hostility to slavery grew stronger from the beginning of his editorial career. In 1848 he was intense in opposition to the Mexican war, on the ground that it was intended to secure more slave territory. In 1852 he sympathized with the Free-soil movement, and disapproved of the Whig platform — “spat upon it,” as he said editorially — but nevertheless supported the Whig candidate, Gen. Winfield Scott, because he thought that better than, by supporting a ticket that he knew could not be elected, to risk the success of the Democrats. In 1856 he was an enthusiastic supporter of John C. Frémont, and during the next four or five years may be said to have been the chief inspiration and greatest popular leader in the movement that carried the Republican party into power. He was indicted in Virginia in 1856 for circulating incendiary documents — viz., the “Tribune.” Postmasters in many places in the south refused to deliver the paper at all, and persons subscribing for it were sometimes threatened with lynching. Congressman Albert Rust made a personal assault upon him in Washington, and no northern name provoked at the south more constant and bitter denunciation. Throughout the Kansas-Nebraska excitement the “Tribune” was constantly at a white heat, and its voluminous correspondence and ringing editorials greatly stimulated the northern movement that made Kansas a free state. Still, he favored only legal and constitutional methods for opposing the aggressions of slavery, and brought upon himself the hostility of the Garrison and Wendell Phillips abolitionists, who always distrusted him and often stigmatized him as cowardly and temporizing.
Up to this time the popular judgment regarded Seward, Weed, and Greeley as the great Republican triumvirate. But in 1854 Mr. Greeley had addressed a highly characteristic letter to Gov. Seward complaining that Seward and Weed had sometimes used their political power to his detriment, and shown no consideration for his difficulties, while some of Seward's friends thought Greeley an obstacle to the governor's advancement. Having labored to secure a legislature that would send Mr. Seward to the U. S. senate, it seemed to him “a fitting time to announce the dissolution of the political firm of Seward, Weed, and Greeley by the withdrawal of the junior partner.” The letter showed that the writer was hurt, but it was not unfriendly in tone, and it ended thus: “You have done me acts of valued kindness in the line of your profession; let me close with the assurance that these will be ever gratefully remembered by Yours, Horace Greeley.” Gov. Seward's friends claimed that on account of Greeley's disappointment as an office-seeker, as shown in this private letter, he had resolved to prevent Seward's nomination for the presidency in 1860. Mr. Greeley denied this emphatically, but declared that he did not think the nomination advisable, and that in opposing Seward he discharged a public duty, in utter disregard of personal considerations. At any rate, he did oppose him successfully. The Seward men prevented his reaching the National convention as a delegate from New York; but he secured a seat as delegate from Oregon in place of an absentee, and made such an effectual opposition to Mr. Seward that he may fairly be said to have brought about the nomination of Abraham Lincoln. In the canvass that followed, the “Tribune” was still a great national force. Immediately after the election Mr. Greeley said: “If my advice should be asked respecting Mr. Lincoln's cabinet, I should recommend the appointment of Seward as secretary of state. It is the place for him, and he will do honor to the country in it.”
When the civil war approached, Mr. Greeley at first shrank from it. He hoped, he said, never to live in a Union whereof one section was pinned to the other by bayonets. But after the attack on Fort Sumter and the uprising at the north he urged the most vigorous prosecution of the war, to the end that it might be short. He chafed at the early delays, and the columns of his paper carried for weeks a stereotyped paragraph, “On to Richmond!” demanding the speediest advance of the National armies. Rival newspapers hastened in consequence to hold him responsible for the disaster at Bull Run, and his horror at the calamity, and sensitiveness under the attacks, for a time completely prostrated him. He subsequently replied to his critics in an editorial, which became famous, headed “Just Once,” wherein he defended the demands for aggressive action, though denying that the “On to Richmond” paragraph was his, and saying he would have preferred not to iterate it. Henceforth he would bar all criticism on army movements in his paper “unless somebody should undertake to prove that Gen. Patterson is a wise and brave commander.” If there was anything to be said in Patterson's behalf, he would make an exception in his favor. He continued to support the war with all possible vigor, encourage volunteering, and sustain the drafts, meantime making more and more earnest appeals that the cause of the war — slavery — should be abolished. Finally he addressed to President Lincoln a powerful letter on the editorial page of the “Tribune.” which he entitled “The Prayer of Twenty Millions.” He made in it an impassioned appeal for the liberty of all slaves whom the armies could reach, and said: “On the face of this wide earth, Mr. President, there is not one disinterested, 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, are preposterous and futile; that the rebellion, if crushed out to-morrow, would be renewed within a year if slavery were left in full vigor; that army officers who remain to this day devoted to slavery can at best be but half-way loyal to the Union; and that every hour of deference to slavery is an hour of added and deepened peril to the Union. I appeal to the testimony of your ambassadors in Europe. It is freely at your service, not mine. Ask them to tell you candidly whether the seeming subserviency of your policy to the slave-holding, slavery-upholding interest is not the perplexity, the despair of statesmen and of parties; and be admonished by the general answer.” This appeal made a profound impression upon the country, and drew from the president within two days one of his most characteristic and remarkable letters, likewise published in the “Tribune.” Mr. Lincoln, after saying that “if there be perceptible in it [Mr. Greeley's letter] an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right,” continued: “My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery. . . . What I do about slavery and the colored race I do because I believe it helps to save this Union, and what I forbear I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. . . . I have here stated my purpose according to my views of official duty, and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere should be free.” The emancipation proclamation was issued within a month after this correspondence.
In 1864 Mr. Greeley became convinced that the rebels were nearer exhaustion than was thought, and that by a little diplomacy they could be led into propositions for surrender. He accordingly besought the president to send some one to confer with alleged Confederate commissioners in Canada. Mr. Lincoln finally sent Mr. Greeley himself, subsequently despatching one of his private secretaries, Col. John Hay, to the spot to watch the proceedings. It was found that the so-called commissioners had not sufficient authority. The negotiations failed, and Mr. Greeley's share in the business brought upon him more censure than it deserved. As soon as the surrender did come he was eager for universal amnesty and impartial suffrage, and he thought the treatment of Jeiferson Davis a mistake. When, after imprisonment and delay, the government still failed to bring Mr. Davis to trial, Mr. Greeley visited Richmond and in the open court-room signed his bail-bond. This act provoked a storm of public censure. He had been writing a careful history of the civil war under the title of “The American Conflict.” The first volume had an unprecedented sale, and he had realized from it far more than from all his other occasional publications combined. The second volume was just out, and its sale was ruined, thousands of subscribers to the former volume refusing to take it. On the movement of George W. Blunt, an effort was made in the Union League club to expel Mr. Greeley. This roused him to a white heat. He refused to attend the meeting, and addressed to the president of the club one of his best letters. “I shall not attend your meeting this evening. . . . I do not recognize you as capable of judging or even fully apprehending me. You evidently regard me as a weak sentimentalist, misled by a maudlin philosophy. I arraign you as narrow-minded blockheads, who would like to be useful to a great and good cause, but don't know how. Your attempt to base a great enduring party on the heat and wrath necessarily engendered by a bloody civil war is as though you should plant a colony on an iceberg which had somehow drifted into a tropical ocean. I tell you here that, out of a life earnestly devoted to the good of human kind, your children will recollect my going to Richmond and signing the bail-bond as the wisest act, and will feel that it did more for freedom and humanity than all of you were competent to do, though you had lived to the age of Methuselah. I ask nothing of you, then, but that you proceed to your end by a brave, frank, manly way. Don't sidle off into a mild resolution of censure, but move the expulsion which you purposed and which I deserve if I deserve any reproach whatever. . . . I propose to fight it out on the line that I have held from the day of Lee's surrender. So long as any man was seeking to overthrow our government, he was my enemy; from the hour in which he laid down his arms, he was my formerly erring countryman.” The meeting was held, but the effort at any censure whatever failed.
Mr. Greeley did not greatly sympathize with the movement to make the foremost soldier of the war president in 1868, but he gave Gen. Grant a cordial support. He chafed at the signs of inexperience in some of the early steps of the administration, and later at its manifest disposition to encourage, in New York, chiefly the wing of the Republican party that had been unfriendly to himself. He disapproved of Gen. Grant's scheme for acquiring Santo Domingo, and was indignant at the treatment of Charles Sumner and John Lothrop Motley. The course of the “carpet-bag” state governments at the south, however, gave him most concern, and brought him into open hostility to the administration he had helped to create. In 1871 he made a trip to Texas, was received everywhere with extraordinary cordiality, and returned still more outspoken against the policy of the government toward the states lately in rebellion. Dissatisfied Republicans now began to speak freely of him as a candidate for the presidency against Gen. Grant. Numbers of the most distinguished Republicans in the senate and elsewhere combined in the formation of the Liberal Republican party, and called a convention at Cincinnati to nominate a national ticket. Eastern Republicans, outside of New York at least, generally expected Charles Francis Adams to be the nominee, and he had the united support of the whole revenue reform and free-trade section. But Mr. Greeley soon proved stronger than any other with western and southern delegates. On the sixth ballot he received 332 votes, against 324 for Adams, a sudden concentration of the supporters of B. Gratz Brown upon Mr. Greeley having been effected. Immediate changes swelled his majority, so that when the vote was finally announced it stood: Greeley, 482; Adams, 187. In accepting the nomination, which he had not sought, but by which he was greatly gratified, Mr. Greeley made the restoration of all political rights lost in the rebellion, together with a suffrage impartially extended to white and black on the same conditions, the cardinal principle of the movement. His letter ended with this notable passage: “With the distinct understanding that, if elected, I shall be the president, not of a party, but of the whole people, I accept your nomination in the confident trust that the masses of our countrymen, north and south, are eager to clasp hands across the bloody chasm which has too long divided them, forgetting that they have been enemies in the joyful consciousness that they are and must henceforth remain brethren.”
Mr. Greeley's nomination at first caught the popular fancy, and his canvass promised for a time to resemble that of 1840, in the enthusiastic turmoil of which he had first risen to national prominence. But, contrary to his judgment (though in accordance with that of close friends), the Democrats, instead of putting no ticket in the field, as he had expected, formally nominated him. This action of his life-long opponents alienated many ardent Republicans. The first elections were considered in his favor, and when in the summer North Carolina voted, it was believed that his friends had carried the state. The later official vote, however, gave the state to the Grant party, and from that time the Greeley wave seemed to be subsiding. At last, on appeals from his supporters, who thought extraordinary measures needful, he took the stump in person. The series of speeches made in his tour, extending from New England through New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, evoked great enthusiasm. All sides regarded them as an exhibition of brilliant and effective work unprecedented in that generation. But they were not enough to stem the rising tide. Mr. Greeley received 2,834,079 of the popular vote, against Gen. Grant's 3,597,070; but he carried none of the northern states, and of the southern states only Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas.
He had always been more sensitive to attacks and reverses than the public imagined, and now the strain proved too great. The canvass had been one of extraordinary bitterness, his old associates reviling him as a turn-coat and traitor, and some of the caricatures being unparalleled for their ferocity. His wife, always feeble, and of late years suffering greatly from a combination of nervous and other diseases, fell ill while he was absent on his tour. On his return he watched almost continuously for weeks at her bedside, and he buried her in the closing weeks of the canvass. For years he had been a sufferer from insomnia; he had necessarily lost much sleep, and during and after his wife's illness he scarcely slept at all. He was not disappointed in the election, for he had known for weeks that defeat was inevitable. Nor did this act, though generally disapproved by his friends, weaken his friendships. Henry Ward Beecher wrote: “You may think, amidst clouds of smoke and dust, that all your old friends who parted company with you in the late campaign will turn a momentary difference into a life-long alienation. It will not be so. I speak for myself, and also from what I perceive in other men's hearts. Your mere political influence may for a time be impaired, but your own power for good in the far wider fields of industrial economy, social and civil criticism, and the general well-being of society, will not be lessened, but augmented.” But Mr. Greeley's nervous exhaustion resulted in an inflammation of the upper membrane of the brain. He resumed his editorial duties, but in a few days was unable to continue them. He remained sleepless, delirium soon set in, and he died on 29 Nov., 1872.
The personal regard in which he was held, even by his bitterest opponents, at once became manifest. His body lay in state in the city hall, and a throng of many thousands moved during every hour of the daylight through the building to see it. The president, vice-president, and chief justice of the United States, with a great number of the leading public men of both parties, attended the funeral, and followed the hearse, preceded by the mayor of the city and other civic authorities, down Fifth avenue and Broadway. John G. Whittier described him as “our later Franklin,” and the majority of his countrymen have substantially accepted that phrase as designating his place in the history of his time, while members of the press consider him perhaps the greatest editor, and certainly the foremost political advocate and controversialist, if not also the most influential popular writer, the country has produced. In 1867 Francis B. Carpenter painted a portrait of Mr. Greeley for the “Tribune” association; a larger one, executed by Alexander Davis, was exhibited in the Paris salon, afterward became the property of Whitelaw Reid, and is now (1887) in the “Tribune” counting-room. At the time of Mr. Greeley's visit to Rome, Hiram Powers made a portrait bust, and at a later date Ames Van Wart executed one in marble, on a commission from Marshall O. Roberts. The bronze bust in Greenwood cemetery was presented by the printers of the United States. John Q. A. Ward is now (1887) completing a colossal sitting figure, to be cast in bronze and placed at the entrance of the “Tribune” building. The accompanying portrait is from an excellent photograph by Bogardus. Mr. Greeley's works are “Hints Toward Reforms” (New York, 1850); “Glances at Europe” (1851); “History of the Struggle for Slavery Extension” (1856); “Overland Journey to San Francisco” (1800); “The American Conflict” (2 vols., Hartford, 1864-'6); “Recollections of a Busy Life” (New York, 1868; new ed., with appendix containing an account of his later years, his argument on marriage and divorce with Robert Dale Owen, and miscellanies, New York, 1873); “Essays on Political Economy” (Boston, 1870); and “What I Know of Farming” (New York, 1871). He also assisted his brother-in-law, John F. Cleveland, in editing “A Political Text-Book” (New York, 1860), and supervised for many years the annual issues of the “Whig Almanac” and the “Tribune Almanac.” Lives of Horace Greeley have been written by James Parton (New York, 1855; new eds., 1868, and Boston, 1872); L. U. Reavis (New York, 1872); and Lewis D. Ingersoll (Chicago, 1873). There is also a “Memorial of Horace Greeley” (New York, 1873).