Chapter 22: 1848!
- Revolutions in Europe -- the Tribune exults -- the Slievegammon letters -- Taylor and Fillmore -- course of the Tribune -- Horace Greeley at Vauxhall garden -- his election to Congress.
The Year of Hope! You have not forgotten, O reader, the thrill, the tumult, the ecstasy of joy with which, on the morning of March 28th, 1848, you read in the morning papers these electric and transporting capitals. Regale your eyes with them once more: Fifteen days later from Europe. arrival of the Cambria. highly important news! Abdication of Louis Phillippe! A Republic proclaimed. the royal family have left Paris. assault on the Palais royal. great loss of life. communication with the interior cut off. Resignation of Ministers. revolt in Amiens—Paris in alarm. What history is condensed in these few words? Why has not that history been faithfully and minutely recorded, as a warning and a guide to the men of future revolutions? Why has no one deduced from the events of the last eighty years a science of Revolution, laid down the principles upon which success is possible, probable, certain? The attempt, and not the deed confounded Europe,  and condemned her to more years of festering stagnation. ‘As I looked out of the window of my hotel, in Boulogne,’ says a recent traveler, ‘it seemed to me that all the men were soldiers, and that women did all the work.’ How pitiful! How shameful! A million of men under arms! The army, the elite of the nation! One man of every ten to keep the other, nine in order! O infinite and dastardly imbecility! I need not say that the Tribune plunged into the European contests headlong. It chronicled every popular triumph with exultation unbounded. One of the editors of the paper, Mr. Charles A. Dana, went to Europe to procure the most authentic and direct information of events as they transpired, and, his letters over the well-known initials, “C. A. D.,” were a conspicuous and valuable feature of the year. Mr. Greeley wrote incessantly on the subject, blending advice with exhortation, jubilation with warning. In behalf of Ireland, his sympathies were most strongly aroused, and he accepted a place in the ‘Directory of the Friends of Ireland,’ to the funds of which he contributed liberally. It was in August of this year, that the famous ‘Slievegammon’ letters were published. As frequent allusions to this amusing affair are still made in the papers, it may as well be explained here. The country was on the tiptoe of expectation for important news of the Irish rebellion. The steamer arrived. Among the despatches of the Tribune were three letters from Dublin, giving news not contained in the newspapers. The Tribune ‘without vouching for the accuracy of the statements,’ made haste to publish the letters, with due glorification. This is one of them:
For a day or two, the Irish and the friends of Ireland exulted; but when the truth became known, their note was sadly changed, and the Tribune was widely accused of having originated a hoax. Whereas, it was only too innocent! The most remarkable feature of the affair was, that the letters were written in good faith. The mind of Dublin was in a delirium of excitement, rumors of the wildest description were readily believed, and the writer of the Slievegammon letters was as completely deceived as any of his readers. It need only be added, that Horace Greeley never saw the letters till he saw them in print in the columns of the Tribune; when they appeared, he was touring in the uttermost parts of Lake Superior. This was the year, too, of the Taylor and Fillmore “campaign;” from which, however, the Tribune held obstinately aloof till late in the summer. Mr. Greeley had opposed the nomination of Gen. Taylor from the day it began to be agitated. He opposed it at the nominating convention in Philadelphia, and used all his influence  to secure the nomination of Henry Clay. As soon as the final ballot decided the contest in favor of Taylor, he rushed from the hall in disgust, and, on his return to New York, could not sufficiently overcome his repugnance to the ticket, to print it, as the custom then was, at the head of his editorial columns. He ceased to oppose the election of Gen. Taylor, but would do nothing to promote it. The list of candidates does not appear, in the usual place in the Tribune, as the regular ‘Whig nominations,’ till the twenty-ninth of September, and even then, our editor consented to its appearance with great reluctance. Two days before, a whig meeting had been held at Vauxhall Garden, which Mr. Greeley chanced to attend. He was seen by the crowd, and after many, and very vociferous calls, he made a short address, to the following effect:
I trust, fellow-citizens, I shall never be afraid nor ashamed to meet a Whig assemblage and express my sentiments on the political questions of the day. And although I have had no intimation till now that my presence here was expected or desired, I am the more ready to answer your call since I have heard intimations, even from this stand, that there was some mystery in my course to be cleared up—some astounding revelation with regard to it to be expected. And our eloquent friend from Kentucky even volunteered, in his remarks, to see me personally and get me right. If there be indeed any mystery in the premises, I will do my best to dispel it. But I have, in truth, nothing to reveal. I stated in announcing Gen. Taylor's nomination, the day after it was made, that I would support if I saw no other way, to defeat the election of Lewis Cass. That pledge I have ever regarded. I shall faithfully redeem it. And, since there is now no chance remaining that any other than Gen. Taylor or Gen. Cass can be elected, I shall henceforth support the ticket nominated at Philadelphia, and do what I can for its election. But I have not changed my opinion of the nomination of Gen. Taylor. I believe it was unwise and unjust. For Gen. Taylor, personally, I have ever spoken with respect; but I believe a candidate could and should have been chosen more deserving, more capable, more popular. I cannot pretend to support him with enthusiasm, for I do not feel any. Yet while I frankly avow that I would do little merely to make Gen. Taylor President, I cannot forget that others stand or fall with him, and that among them are Fillmore and Fish and Patterson, with whom I have battled for the Whig cause ever since I was entitled to vote, and to whom I cannot now be unfaithful. I cannot forget that if Gen. Taylor be elected we shall in all probability have a Whig Congress; if Gen. Cass is elected, a Loco-Foco Congress. Who can ask me to throw away all these because of my objections to Gen. Taylor?  And then the question of Free Soil, what shall be the fate of that? 1 presume there are here some Free Soil men [ “Yes! Yes! all Free soil!” ]—I mean those to whom the question of extending or restricting Slavery outweighs all other considerations. I ask these what hope they have of keeping Slavery out of California and New-Mexico with Gen. Cass President, and a Loco-Foco Congress? I have none. And I appeal to every Free Soil Whig to ask himself this question— “How would South Carolina and Texas wish you to vote” Can you doubt that your bitter adversaries would rejoice to hear that you had resolved to break off from the Whig party and permit Gen Cass to be chosen President, with an obedient Congress? I cannot doubt it. And I cannot believe that a wise or worthy course, which my bitterest adversaries would gladly work out for me. Of Gen. Taylor's soundness on this question, I feel no assurance, and can give none. But I believe him clearly pledged by his letters to leave legislation to Congress, and not attempt to control by his veto the policy of the country. I believe a Whig Congress will not consent to extend Slavery, and that a Whig President will not go to war with Congress and the general spirit of his party. So believing, I shall support the Whig nominations with a view to the triumph of Free Soil, trusting that the day is not distant when an amendment of the Federal Constitution will give the appointment of Postmasters and other local officers to the People, and strip the President of the enormous and anti-republican patronage which now causes the whole Political action of the country to hinge upon its Presidential Elections. Such are my views; such will be my course. I trust it will no longer be pretended that there is any mystery about them.This speech was received with particular demonstrations of approval. It was felt that a serious obstacle to Gen. Taylor's success was removed, and that now the whig party would march on in an unbroken phalanx to certain victory. The day which secured its triumph elected Horace Greeley to a seat in the House of Representatives, which the death of a member had made vacant. He was elected for one session only, and that, the short one of three months. How he came to be nominated has been explained by himself in a paragraph on the corruptive machinery of our primary elections: ‘An editor of the Tribune was once nominated through that machinery. So he was—to serve ninety days in Congress—and he does n't feel a bit proud of it. But let it be considered that the Convention was not chosen to nominate him, and did not (we presume) think of doing any such thing,  until it had unanimously nominated another, who unexpectedly declined, and then one of us was pitched upon to supply his place. We don't know whether the Primaries were as corrupt then as now or not; our impression is that they have been growing steadily worse and worse—but no matter—let us have them reformed.’ His nomination introduced grit spirit into the contest, and he was voted for with enthusiasm, particularly by two classes, working-men and thinking-men. His majority over his opponent was 3,177, the whole number of votes being 5,985. His majority considerably exceeded that of Gen. Taylor in the same wards. At the same election Mr. Brooks, of the Express, was elected to a seat in the House, and his “Card” of thanksgiving to those who had voted for him, elicited or suggested the following from Mr. Greeley: