Greeley, Horace

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Greeley, Horace

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

Early Life

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

The Founding of the Tribune

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

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

Social Reformer

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

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

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

Republican Leader

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

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

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

Presidential Candidate

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


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

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

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Greeley, Horace (1811–1872)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Horace Greeley was a political leader and newspaper editor. He was born near Amherst, New Hampshire, on February 3, 1811, the eldest of the five children of Zaccheus Greeley, a poor farmer. He had irregular schooling but om 1826 he apprenticed to the publication Northern Spectator in East Poultney, Vermont. By 1834, he had become senior editor of the then-new literary magazine called the New Yorker. In 1836. he married Mary Youngs Cheney, a schoolteacher.

April 10, 1841, Greeley started the New York Tribune, a Whig newspaper dedicated to reform, economic progress, and the elevation of the masses. He was still editing this paper—by then of high standard—when the Fox sisters first visited New York in June, 1850. Greeley was the first to call upon the Fox sisters and publicly admitted that he was puzzled by the phenomena they produced. He did, however, emphasize that the good faith of the sisters should not be questioned. Giving his opinion of the sisters, in the New York Tribune, Greeley said,

Mrs. Fox and her three daughters left our city yesterday on their return to Rochester, after a stay here of some weeks, during which they have subjected the mysterious influence, by which they seem to be accompanied, to every reasonable test, and to the keen and critical scrutiny of hundreds who have chosen to visit them, or whom they have been invited to visit. The rooms which they occupied at the hotel have been repeatedly searched and scrutinized; they have been taken without an hour’s notice into houses they had never before entered; they have been all unconsciously placed on a glass surface concealed under the carpet in order to interrupt electrical vibrations; they have been disrobed by a committee of ladies appointed without notice, and insisting that neither of them should leave the room until the investigation has been made, etc., etc., yet we believe no one, to this moment, pretends that he has detected either of them in producing or causing the “rappings,” nor do we think any of their contemners has invented a plausible theory to account for the production of these sounds, nor the singular intelligence which (certainly at times) has seemed to be manifest through them.

Greeley later stated in Recollections of a Busy Life (1868) that “the jugglery hypothesis utterly fails to account for occurrences which I have personally witnessed … certain developments strongly indicate that they do proceed from departed spirits.”

Greeley has been described as quick-tempered, with frequently faulty judgement. He had a desire for public office that amounted to being an obsession. At one time he was a candidate for the United States presidency. However, he was very warm-hearted and had great patience with his extremely eccentric wife. He was also one of the early supporters of the Fox sisters, championing them for several years. For this he has become known as “The Abraham Lincoln of Spiritualism.” He is said to have provided funds for Margaret Fox’s education and offered his home to the whole Fox family.


Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The History of Spiritualism. New York: Doran, 1926
Encyclopedia Britannica. Chicago: William Benton, 1964
Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
The Spirit Book © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Greeley, Horace


Born Feb. 3, 1811. at Amherst. N. H.; died Nov. 29, 1872. in Pleasantville, N. Y. American political figure and journalist.

In 1841, Greeley founded the New York Daily Tribune, which in the 1850’s became an organ of the Republican Party; between 1851 and 1862, K. Marx and F. Engels were among the paper’s contributors. During the Civil War (1861–65), Greeley favored an accommodation with the plantation owners. In 1872 he ran for president on the ticket of the Liberal Republican Party, which was close to the plantation owners, but was defeated.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Greeley, Horace

(1811–72) journalist, politician; born in Amherst, N.H. After working as a job-printer and typesetter in New York, he started a literary and news journal and then edited two weekly Whig publications. He founded the New York Tribune in 1841 and, aided by a fine staff, built it into a highly regarded, prosperous paper, but also a mouthpiece for his broadly liberal views, often expressed in signed editorials. Greeley served briefly in the U.S. House (1848–49), but later repeatedly failed to win election to Congress. An abolitionist and supporter of the Free Soil movement, he became a prominent Republican but failed to support Lincoln for a second term in 1864 and bucked Northern public opinion by signing a bail bond for the imprisoned Jefferson Davis in 1867. The indefatigable Greeley traveled widely and often made speeches at lyceums and local gatherings; he was a familiar figure known for his shambling appearance, absentminded manner, and blend of seeming naivete and homespun wisdom. His words of advice, "Go West, young man," became famous. In 1872 he was nominated for president by Republican liberals and endorsed by the Democratic Party, but in a bitter campaign he was badly defeated by the regular Republican candidate, Ulysses S. Grant. He also lost effective control of the Tribune. Devastated as well by his wife's death, he died soon afterward in an unbalanced state of mind.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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