Horace Greeley & the Popular Press

by John Wang

Horace Greeley Biography

Born in Amherst, New Hampshire on February 3, 1811, Horace Greeley was a major political writer of his time. In his younger years, he went from newspaper to newspaper in his job as an editor. He finally left for New York City in 1831, and in 1834 he was able to start his own newspaper, the New Yorker. Later, in 1838, he became the editor for the Jeffersonian, and 1840, he started the Log Cabin, both for a Whig campaign. In 1841, after his papers had become quite popular and he had become a well known Whig, he merged all of his newspapers into one, the New York Tribune. He then continued to edit this paper for the rest of his life. Politically, he is credited with starting the Liberal Republican Political Party and had many radical views on different subjects. While he opposed slavery and monopolies, he was pro to subjects like vegetarianism and socialism. Greeley's main political ventures include his short term in the House of Representatives from December 1848 to March 1849. He also ran for president in the 1872 election, but died at the age of 61 before the electoral votes were even counted. The main events in his personal life include being in an unhappy marriage, starting in 1836, with Mary Cheney, who had many mental disorders. For the last two decades of her life, she suffered from consumptive lung disease, though, and died 30 days before Horace Greeley did. While married, they had 7 children, but unfortunately 5 of them died very young. Greeley, overall, was a very talented newspaper editor and was quite involved in politics during his lifetime.

Common Themes and Subjects

Horace Greeley was a politician with many radical views, thus he had opinions about many themes and subjects.

Whig Political Viewpoint: He was first a Whig, and believed most of the Whig beliefs, such as opposing Andrew Jackson and the Democrats' views, and favoring modernization, protecting the economy, and the "American System."

Western Expansion and Settlement Viewpoint: Believed that western expansion and settlement was important for the United States, as seen in his famous quote, "Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country."

Economic Viewpoint: Greeley hated monopolies and rail road land grants. He believed in high tariffs and that industry was the key to wealth.

Liberal Republican Viewpoint: He hated slavery and fought for antislavery ideas. He also disliked democratic views. He wanted to make peace with the Confederacy, though, which caused many northerners to see him as a traitor and cancel subscriptions to his newspaper. He ran (but failed) for presidential election with this political viewpoint.

Other Viewpoints: Along with these, Greeley also had either positive views or negative views on almost any "-ism" or topic, such as vegetarianism, alcoholism, and socialism.

Overall, Greeley was able to voice his many opinions on these subjects using his journals that he edited, and many of these ideas became popular among other people, too.

Horace Greeley's Major Works

Although Horace Greeley was popular for his editing of many famous newspapers, he really only had a few major works. Out of the four newspapers that he worked on, three of them were actually combined into the fourth.

New Yorker: Greeley's first newspaper, this was launched in 1834 and was really just a weekly source for news and literary information. This really had little political influences.

Log Cabin: Made in 1840, this was Greeley's own weekly journal on his Whig ideas and other political beliefs. This became popular among other Whigs and earned him his position in the Jeffersonian newspaper (following).

Jeffersonian: Greeley was selected in 1838 to serve as the editor for this newspaper, a very important publication for the Whigs and Greeley's political views. This was seen as the "Bible" of the Whig political group (as how the Bible is seen by Christians).

New York Tribune: This was the combination of the three works (above) that Greeley founded in 1841 and edited until his death. This became extremely popular and at one point hit tens of thousands of subscribers around the country. Unfortunately for him, though, he lost more and more influence in it, and at his time of death, he claimed that he had lost it all. He is quoted to have said to coeditor Reid "...you stole my newspaper."

Overall, Horace Greeley is a very popular editor of a very famous and influential journal that was the key reason that William Henry Harrison became president.

Happy 200th Birthday, Horace Greeley!