Horace Greeley, an American journalist, born in Amherst, N. II., Feb. 3, 1811, died at Pleasantville, N. Y., Nov. 29,1872. His ancestors were Scotch-Irish. His father, Zaccheus Greeley, had settled on a small rocky farm, which he vainly tried to pay for and get a living from. Horace was a delicate and sickly child, but showed a remarkable appetite for learning. He could read almost as soon as he could talk, devoured all the books within reach, and so far surpassed his schoolmates that the leading men of the neighborhood offered to bear his expenses in a college course, which his parents declined for him. When ho was ten years old the farm was sold by the sheriff, and the family removed to West Haven, Vt. Horace had early conceived a strong desire to be a printer, and in 1820 he entered as an apprentice the office of the "Northern Spectator" in East Poultney, soon became an expert workman, and rendered occasional assistance in editing the paper. He kept up his studies, and was called the "giant" of the village debating society, being especially noted for, his familiarity with political statistics. His parents meanwhile had removed to Erie co., Pa., and he had made two visits there, walking a large part of the way.
In 1830 the "Spectator" was discontinued, and he went west in search of employment, finding it at Jamestown and Lodi, N. Y., and Erie, Pa. In August, 1831, he went to New York, reaching that city on the 17th, with $10 in his pocket. He soon found employment by undertaking a job which no other printer would accept, it being a 32mo New Testament in very small type, with inter-columnar notes in still smaller. By working at this 12 or 14 hours a day he was able to earn but $5 or $6 a week, yet he persevered till the Testament was completed. He worked as a journeyman in several offices till Jan. 1, 1833, when he commenced business on his own account, with Francis V. Story as his partner. They printed the " Morning Post," the first penny daily ever published, which was owned and edited by Dr. II. D. Shepard. Story was drowned in July, 1833, and his place in the establishment was taken by Jonas Winchester. On March 22, 1834, the new firm issued the first number of "The New Yorker," a weekly folio (afterward changed to double quarto), devoted mainly to current literature, but giving also a summary of news, which soon became celebrated for the accuracy of its political statistics. Mr. Greeley was the editor.
The paper reached a circulation of 9,000, and was continued seven years, but was never profitable. While engaged upon it Mr. Greeley wrote the leading articles for the "Daily Whig," and also edited for one year, 1838-'9, the "Jeffersonian," a political weekly published at Albany. In 1840 ho edited and published the "Log Cabin," a campaign weekly devoted to the advocacy of Harrison's election to the presidency, which attained a circulation of 80,000 copies. On April 10, 1841, ho issued the first number of the "Daily Tribune," which he says was "a small sheet, for it was to be retailed for a cent." Mr. Greeley was at first sole proprietor and publisher, as well as chief editor; but he soon formed a partnership with Thomas McElrath, who took charge of the business department. The " Daily Tribune" started with 500 subscribers, and of the first issue 5,000 copies were printed and sold or given away. In the autumn of 1841 the "Weekly Tribune" was commenced, the "New Yorker" and "Log Cabin" being merged in it.
With these journals Greeley was closely identified during the remainder of his life, so that in the popular mind "Tribune" and "Horace Greeley" were interchangeable terms; and of his work as a journalist and his influence on the rising profession of journalism he was confessedly and justly proud. In his autobiography he writes: "Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; riches take wings; the only earthly certainty is oblivion; no man can foresee what a day may bring forth, while those who cheer to-day will often curse tomorrow: and yet I cherish the hope that the journal I projected and established will live and flourish long after I shall have mouldered into forgotten dust, being guided by a larger wisdom, a more unerring sagacity to discern the right, though not by a more unfaltering readiness to embrace and defend it at whatever personal cost; and that the stone which covers my ashes may bear to future eyes the still intelligible inscription, 'Founder of the New York Tribune.'" In 1848 he was elected to congress to fill a vacancy, and served from Dec. 1 of that year till March 4,1849, distinguishing himself by exposing and denouncing the abuses of the mileage system, but mainly through the columns of his journal, rather than from his place on the floor of the house.
He was a warm advocate of industrial and social reforms, and was personally interested in the "North American Phalanx" (1843-'50), a socialist experiment near Red Bank, N. J., partly based upon the principles of Fourier. He labored zealously for the welfare of the poorer classes, and was a life-long opponent of slavery. Besides being continually busy with his editorial duties, he delivered numerous lectures and addresses at agricultural fairs, and occasional political speeches. His favorite topics were popular education, temperance, and labor organization. In 1851 he visited Europe, was a juryman at the London crystal palace exhibition, and travelled rapidly through France. Italy, and Great Britain. In 1855 he made a second trip to Europe, spending six weeks in Paris. There he passed two days in prison, on the action of an obscure French sculptor, who claimed $2,500 for damages to a statue which had been injured at the New York world's fair of 1853, of which Mr. Greeley was a director. He spent the winter of 1855-'6 in Washington, watching the memorable contest for the speakership and commenting on it in his letters to the "Tribune." For certain strictures on a resolution introduced by Albert Rust of Arkansas he was brutally assaulted by the latter in the capitol grounds, and was confined for several days by his injuries.
In 1859 he visited California by the overland route, had public receptions in San Francisco and elsewhere, and addressed various assemblies on the Pacific railroad, political questions, etc. In I860 he attended the republican national convention at Chicago, where he was largely instrumental in defeating the nomination of William II. Seward for president and securing that of Abraham Lincoln, though his preference was for Edward Bates of Missouri. This action was attributed to a personal feeling of resentment on the part of Greeley, which is explained by the following extracts from a letter dated Nov. 11, 1854, which he addressed privately to Mr. Seward, but demanded for publication when it was referred to by the latter's friends during the canvass of I860 : "The election is over, and its results sufficiently ascertained. It seems to me a fitting time to announce to you the dissolution of the political firm of Seward, Weed, and Greeley, by the withdrawal of the junior partner, said withdrawal to take effect on the morning after the first Tuesday in February next. . . . I was a poor young printer and editor of a literary journal - a very active and bitter whig in a small way, but not seeking to be known out of my own ward committee - when, after the great political revulsion of 1837, I was one day called to the City hotel, where two strangers introduced themselves as Thurlow Weed and Lewis Benedict of Albany. They told me that a cheap campaign paper of a peculiar stamp at Albany had been resolved on, and that I had been selected to edit it. ... I did the work required, to the best of my ability.
It was work that made no figure, and created no sensation; but I loved it, and I did it well. When it was done, you were governor, dispensing offices worth $3,000 to $20,000 per year to your friends and compatriots, and I returned to my garret and my crust, and my desperate battle with pecuniary obligations heaped upon me by bad partners in business and the disastrous events of 1837. I believe it did not then occur to me that some one of these abundant places might have been offered to me without injustice; I now think it should have occurred to you. ... In the Harrison campaign of 1840 I was again designated to edit a campaign paper. I published it as well, and ought to have made something by it, in spite of its extremely low price; my extreme poverty was the main reason why I did not. . . . Now came the great scramble of the swell mob of coon minstrels and cider-suckers at Washington, I not being counted in. ... I asked nothing, expected nothing; but you, Governor Seward, ought to have asked that I be postmaster of New York." In the beginning of the civil war Greeley declared himself in favor of allowing the southern states to secede from the Union, provided a majority of their citizens voted in favor of that course.
When hostilities were actually commenced, he demanded their vigorous prosecution, and was popularly held responsible for the "On to Richmond" cry, first uttered in the "Tribune," which preceded the defeat of Bull Run. In 1804, with the unofficial sanction of President Lincoln, he went to Clifton, Canada, to confer with George N. Sanders, Jacob Thompson, and Beverly Tucker, on the subject of peace. In that year also he was a presidential elector, and a delegate to the Philadelphia convention. At the close of the war he advocated a policy of universal amnesty with universal suffrage. In May, 1867, he signed the bail bond of Jefferson Davis, thereby incurring so much popular censure at the north that the sale of his "History of the American Conflict," which had been very large on the publication of the first volume, suddenly stopped almost entirely on the second, then just issued. In 1869 he was the republican candidate for comptroller of the state of New York, but was defeated, though he received a larger vote than any other candidate on the ticket except Gen. Sigel. In 1870 he was a candidate for congress in the 6th New York district, and ran 300 votes ahead of the state ticket, but was defeated by the democratic candidate, S. S. Cox. Early in 1872 he made a journey to Texas, nominally for the purpose of delivering an address at the state agricultural fair and observing the industrial and commercial condition and prospects of the states he traversed; but probably the visit had also its political bearings, and he stopped at numerous places to make speeches and hold conferences with prominent citizens.
On May. 1 of that year a convention of so-called liberal republicans, who were dissatisfied with the administration, met at Cincinnati, and on the sixth ballot Mr. Greeley was nominated for president, B. Gratz Brown of Missouri being subsequently nominated for vice president. The democratic convention, which met at Baltimore in July, adopted these candidates and their platform. Mr. Greeley accepted the nomination, retired from the editorship of the " Tribune," and entered the canvass personally, travelling and speaking almost constantly till within a short time of the election. He received in the election 2,834,-079 votes, against 3,597,070 for Grant, and carried the states of Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas. His powers of endurance had been strained to the utmost in the canvass, which was unusually exciting, and in which his foibles, his personal habits, and his anomalous political position were unsparingly caricatured and ridiculed. During the last month of it he was watching by the bedside of his wife, who died a few days before the election. Shortly after, he was prostrated by a disorder of the brain and sank rapidly.
His funeral, though simple, was perhaps the most impressive ever witnessed in New York. The body lay in state in the city hall, through which an unbroken stream of visitors' passed for an entire day; and the funeral services were attended by the president and vice president of the United States, the vice president elect, the chief justice, and many other eminent citizens from distant places. He died with a full belief in the doctrines of Universalism, which he had held for many years. - About the year 1852 Mr. Greeley purchased a farm of 50 acres, afterward enlarged to 75, on the Harlem railroad, in the township of New Castle, Westchester co., 35 m. N. of New York. The railroad station there was known as Chappaqua, from the Indian name of a mill stream which ran through the place. Here for the last 20 years of his life he spent his Saturdays, working about the farm, his especial delight being in the woodland. His farming was not profitable, and was the subject of innumerable jests, all of which he took in good part, replying that he was only a fanner by proxy, and therefore did not expect to make money by it. - Mr. Greeley's published volumes are as follows: "Hints toward Reforms," consisting mainly of lectures and addresses (New York, 1850); "Glances at Europe " (1851); " History of the Struggle for Slavery Extension" (1856); "Overland Journey to San Francisco " (1860); " The American Conflict" (2 vols., Hartford, 1864-'6); "Recollections of a Busy Life " (New York, 1868); "Essays designed to elucidate the Science of Political Economy' (Boston, 1870); and "What I Know of Farming" (New York, 1871). His life has been written by James Parton (New York, 1855; new ed., 1868), and by L. U. Reavis (1872). See also "A Memorial of Horace Greeley" (New York, 1873).