Horace Greeley

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."

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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