Horace Greeley

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Horace Greeley (1811-1872)
Horace Greeley (1811-1872)
Photographic portrait of Greeley
Photographic portrait of Greeley

Horace Greeley (February 3, 1811November 29, 1872) was an American newspaper editor and politician.

He was born in Amherst, New Hampshire, where he worked as a printer, then left for New York City, where he started the New York Tribune in 1841. He was editor of the Tribune for the rest of his life, using it as a platform for advocacy of his causes, though he was known for his inconsistencies. He originally supported the rights of the Southern states to secede from the Union, but became an abolitionist and supporter of the North in the Civil War. His passion for detail distinguished modern newspapers' fact-supported and statistic orientation from the more discursive editorial essays then current in newspaper writing.

He was a consistent supporter of Whig policies, 'improvements' protective tariffs, and the abolition of slavery. He served as Congressman for three months, from 1848 to 1849. He also ran unsuccessfully for election to the House of Representatives in 1850, 1868, and 1870, and for the United States Senate in 1861 and 1863. His personal guarantee of bail for Jefferson Davis did nothing to enhance his popularity.

In 1872, Greeley was among several high-profile investors who were defrauded by Philip Arnold in a famous diamond and gemstone hoax.

He was an unsuccessful candidate for President of the United States in 1872, running on both the Democratic and Liberal Republican tickets, advocating non-punitive treatment of the South, but was defeated soundly by President Ulysses S. Grant. Not long after the election Greeley's wife died and Greeley lost control of the New York Tribune. He descended into madness and died before the electoral votes could be cast.

Greeley was an agrarian and supported liberal policies towards settlers: one of his famous phrases was "Go West, young man".

While Greeley had been pursuing his political career, Whitelaw Reid, owner of the New York Herald had gained control of the Tribune. Weeks later, Greeley, in his final illness, spotting Reid, cried out "You son of a bitch, you stole my newspaper", and died. Reid reported Greeley's last words as "I know my redeemer liveth".

Horace Greeley in his old age.
Horace Greeley in his old age.

Greeley had a long, but unhappy, marriage to Mary Cheney Greeley, a sometime Suffragette. Mary Cheney Greeley believed in spirits and was a rigorous adherent of The Graham Diet. Mrs. Greeley doted on one son to the extent that an infant daughter died from neglect. The eventual death of that son was devastating to Mrs. Greeley. Horace Greeley spent as little time as possible with his wife and would sleep in a boarding house when in New York City. After the death of the Greeley couple the two daughters found thousands of dollars worth of china, objets d'art, and finery under covers in the basement.

Greeley had requested a simple funeral, but his two surviving daughters ignored this request and arranged a grand affair. He is buried New York's Green-Wood Cemetery.

Horace Greeley had a home in the hamlet of Chappaqua, New York in Westchester County. The Greeley House, one of two Chappaqua abodes owned by the Greeley family, is located on King Street; it now houses the New Castle Historical Society. The local high school is named for him, and the name of one of the school newspapers pays homage to the 19th-century paper owned by Greeley.

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Preceded by:
Horatio Seymour
Democratic Party Presidential candidate
1872 (lost)
Succeeded by:
Samuel J. Tilden
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