The originator and editor of the New-York Tribune, Horace Greeley –born Feb. 3, 1811, Amherst, N.H., U.S.– was the most noteworthy—and differentiating—American journalist of the nineteenth century. To the farmers and tradesmen of the rural North, the Tribune was similar to holy summons. To just about everyone else—Democrats, southerners, and a good many Whig and Republican political allies—Greeley was a shape-shifting threat: an abolitionist obsessive; a disappointing conservative; a awful liar; a self-important megalomaniac.
From his arrival in New York City in 1831 as a young printer from New Hampshire to his death in 1872 after losing the presidential election to General Ulysses S. Grant, Horace Greeley (b. 1811) was a typical New Yorker. He flourished on the city’s continual energy, with his New York Tribune at the vanguard of a national revolution in reporting and conveying news. Greeley consumed ideas, books, fads, and current events as quickly as he established his own interests and causes, all of which revolved around the idea of freedom. While he adored his work as a New York editor, Greeley’s lifelong mission for universal freedom took him to the edge of the American frontier and beyond to Europe. A major figure in nineteenth-century American politics and reform movements, Greeley was also a key actor in a worldwide debate about the meaning of freedom that involved broadminded thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic, including Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Karl Marx.
Greeley was first and foremost an ardent nationalist who devoted his life to ensuring that America live up to its promises of liberty and freedom for all of its members.