Horace Greeley Biography

Horace Greeley, an influential American reformer and editor, made a significant impact on publishing in the 1800s. Through his newspaper, the ‘New York Tribune,’ Greeley aimed to educate and shape public opinion on various social and economic issues, including slavery, prostitution, capital punishment, and alcoholism. Despite his association with the conservative Whig Party, Greeley held progressive views on labor and women’s rights, setting him apart from his conservative colleagues. As a trendsetter, he appointed Margaret Fuller, a feminist, as the first female columnist in New York. Greeley’s famous editorial in 1851, urging young men to “Go west,” inspired many to venture into the frontier. Additionally, he founded the first temperance club in Vermont and advocated for “associationism,” a movement based on Charles Fourier’s teachings, aiming to establish a new social and economic order. Although initially hesitant, Greeley became a staunch anti-slavery advocate, dedicating his efforts to enlightening the public about the evils of slavery.

Quick Facts

  • Died At Age: 61
  • Family: Spouse/Ex-: Mary Young Cheney Greeley (m. 1836), father: Zaccheus, mother: Mary Greeley, children: Gabrielle Miriam Greeley, Ida Lillian Greeley
  • Born Country: United States
  • Quotes By Horace Greeley
  • Journalists
  • Political ideology: Whig, Liberal Republican Party, Republican
  • Died on: November 29, 1872
  • Place of death: New York City
  • U.S. State: New Hampshire
  • Founder/Co-Founder: The New York Tribune
  • More Facts
  • Education: Phillips Exeter Academy

Childhood & Early Life

Horace Greeley was born on February 3, 1811, in Amherst, New Hampshire, USA, to Zaccheus and Mary. His father was a day laborer and farmer. The family was not economically well off and this affected Greeley’s schooling. He had to leave school at the age of fourteen.


Horace Greeley’s first job was that of an apprentice with a newspaper in Vermont. Here he learned journalistic skills, which helped him later in his career. His next job was that of a printer in Pennsylvania and New York. In 1831, he moved to New York and initially worked with small publications.

His career took an upward turn when in 1834 he founded the ‘New Yorker,’ which was a news plus literary magazine. He was both an editor and writer for the magazine. The magazine failed to make any profit. At this point of time the main source of his income was writing.

Though the magazine did not make much profit, it did establish him as an editor to be reckoned with. The magazine also brought Horace Greeley to the attention of Thurlow Weed, who was a prominent New York political figure and a liberal Whig. Their political association lasted for almost twenty years.

During the elections of 1838 and 1840, Greeley edited the ‘Log Cabin’ for the Whigs. It was a weekly campaign paper, and under the editorship of Greeley, its circulation reached 80,000 copies.

Greeley not only championed the Whig’s causes through his newspaper, but he also campaigned for them. He was a member of various Whig committees and effectively managed state campaigns.

In 1841, he founded the ‘New York Tribune.’ He remained the editor of the newspaper till his death. The paper focused on reforms, social issues, and economic development.

Through this newspaper, he championed the causes of education reforms, western expansion, and producers’ cooperatives. However, it needs to be noted here that he was against women’s suffrage. The newspaper was an important vehicle in popularizing Fourier’s communitarian beliefs.

The publication ‘Tribune’ was merged with ‘New Yorker’ and ‘Log Cabin.’ During the 1840s and 1850s, the popularity of ‘Tribune’ grew tremendously. The newspaper played a prominent role in the growing anti-slavery sentiment in the north.

His association with the Whig members had come under severe strain after they continuously failed to support him for high office. Therefore, in 1854, he aligned himself with the newly formed Republican Party. In fact, he played a prominent role in organizing the Republican Party.

Political Career and Later Life

Horace Greeley’s failure to support the re-nomination of Lincoln made him unpopular with the Republicans. He advocated amnesty for former Confederates. In 1867, he signed the bail bond of Jefferson Davis, who was the former president of the Confederate. Both these acts made him a highly unpopular figure in the Radical Republican Party.

During the reconstruction period, Horace Greeley advocated for equal rights for African Americans. However, he was not happy with President Johnson’s efforts.

After President Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Bill and Freedman’s Bureau Bill, he decided to part ways with President Johnson. He supported President Johnson’s impeachment and campaigned for Ulysses S. Grant in the 1868 election.

Greeley was highly critical of the corruption in the Grant administration. The reluctance of the Grant administration to take up civil service reforms and the administration’s support for reconstruction measures in the south, finally convinced Greeley to leave the Radical Republican Party and join the Liberal Republicans.

In 1872, Horace Greeley was the presidential candidate of the Liberal Republican Party. He was attacked mercilessly by the opposition.

After the Civil War, Greeley saw his influence diminishing in ‘Tribune.’ After losing the presidential election in 1872, he also lost the editorship of ‘Tribune.’ The defeat in the election, losing the editorship of ‘Tribune,’ and his wife’s death were too much for Greeley. He suffered a mental breakdown and died in late 1872.

Major Works

Horace Greeley is most prominently known for launching the ‘New York Tribune.’ The newspaper came to be known for its high standards of news gathering, exceptionally qualified staff, and articles which delved into the social, intellectual, and moral issues of the day.

The ‘New York Tribune’ helped create awareness on issues like alcoholism, gambling, capital punishment, and prostitution. His anti-slavery stance helped influence a vast majority of Americans against this social evil. Through his writings, speeches, and newspaper, he played a prominent role in deciding the national debate on this issue. Organizing the Radical Republican Party is also considered one of his major achievements.

Family & Personal Life

In 1836, Horace Greeley married Mary Young Cheney. They had nine children but only two survived through adulthood. During the 1872 presidential election, he was so viciously attacked by the Radical Republican Party that it cost him his sanity. His wife’s death just a week before the election also had a negative effect on his physical and mental health. He was admitted to a mental hospital, where he died on November 29, 1872.

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