Not often does a newspaper editor become a figure of national importance. To attain that stature he must write eloquently and persuasively, have intense moral earnestness, be a forceful speaker, and if possible, become a candidate for public office. If to these qualifications he can add mild ecentricities of manner, dress, and personal appearance, he can scarcely fail to gain national prominence. Horace Greeley had them all.
Born in Amherst, New Hampshire in 1811, he served his editorial apprenticeship in New York on several literary, political and news journals before launching in 1841 what became in five years the best all-around newspaper in the city, the Tribune. his radical editorial opinions gained him more than city-wide attention. In the 1850's his eloquent championing on the Free-Soil movement and his opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Bill made him spokesman for the anti-slavery North.
He began to lecture, and a public which had known him only through his writings saw with mingled amusement and admiration the mild, pink, spectacled face fringed with throat whiskers, the wide-brimmed hat and white dustcoat, and the awkward gait and absent-minded air that made him so perfect a subject for caricature. he had a knack for felicitous phrases: we remember today his "Go West, young man."
From the start of the war he vigorously supported the Union. Joining the extreme anti-slavery group, he called upon Lincoln in his editorials to make the war a crusade for humanity by proclaiming emancipation. When it came, he enthusiastically commented on the Proclamation as "recreating the Nation." But as the war dragged on his fervor slackened, and his peace proposals and weak support of Lincoln for re-election lost him popular approval.
His career after the war was a sad anticlimax At first highly favorable to Grant, Greeley turned against him and, yielding to a life-long itch for political office, opposed him in 1872 as a Liberal Republican, half-heartedly endorsed by the Democrats. Grant beat him soundly after a campaign marked by more than the usual scurrilous personal attacks.
Returning to the the Tribune Greeley found that he had lost his editorship. It was the final blow. Broken in body and spirit, he died that same year, insane.