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Greeley, Horace

Born: 1811-02-03 Amherst, New Hampshire

Died: 1872-11-29 Pleasantville, New York

Horace Greeley moved several times during his youth and received an intermittent education. He became an apprentice at the Northern Spectator in East Poultney, Vermont, in 1826 and moved to rejoin his family in Erie, Pennsylvania, after the newspaper failed in 1830. The following year, he began working for the Erie Gazette and then for the New York Evening Post. Once in New York, he drifted from one newspaper to another before founding The New Yorker with Jonas Winchester in 1834. He also became active in Whig politics and founded a pro-Whig paper, the Jeffersonian in 1838. In 1836, he married Mary Youngs Cheney, with whom he had seven children.

Greeley began publishing the New York Tribune in 1841, and it became his primary mouthpiece. As the chief editor, Greeley became one of the most influential and famous journalists in the country. He was an outspoken proponent of Whig policies and reform movements, especially anti-slavery. Even Karl Marx briefly wrote for Greeley. Greeley's initial foray into politics was his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1847, where he served one term along with Abraham Lincoln. Greeley opposed the Mexican War, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, causing him to become one of the founding members of the Republican Party. He increasingly positioned himself on the radical wing of the party, often expressing support for black legal equality as well as abolition.

In 1853, Greeley relocated to a farm in Chappaqua but moved to California in 1859. He wrote about his travels westward but in 1860 his focus primarily shifted to secession and the Civil War. At first, Greeley advocated letting the southern states secede peacefully but hardened his resolve for the Union after the attack on Fort Sumter. Greeley's support for abolition continued throughout the war, and he relentlessly pushed Lincoln to attack slavery. Greeley's most famous such plea was the August 19, 1862, piece, "The Prayer of the Twenty Millions," which resulted in an even more famous response from Lincoln. Once it became evident that Lincoln was going to issue an emancipation proclamation, Greeley threw his support behind the president. Indeed, Greeley's endorsement of Lincoln's conscription policy made him a primary target during the New York Draft Riots. Greeley supported Lincoln's 1864 campaign but continued to occasionally advocate peaceful compromise with the Confederacy and even met with southern diplomats in Niagara Falls, in 1864.

Erik S. Lunde, "Greeley, Horace," American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 9:467-70; Gregory A. Borchard, Abraham Lincoln and Horace Greeley (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2011); Glyndon G. Van Deusen, Horace Greeley: Nineteenth-Century Crusader (New York: Hill and Wang, 1964; Horace Greeley, The Autobiography of Horace Greeley, or Recollections of a Busy Life (New York: J. B. Ford, 1868); Horace Greeley, The American Conflict: A History of the Great Rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 (Hartford, CT: O. D. Case, 1866); Horace Greeley to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to Horace Greeley.