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Chapter 5: sources of the Tribune's influence — Greeley's personality

  • Its excellence as a newspaper
  • -- some of Greeley's editorial associates -- getting news by express -- value of Greeley's “isms” -- his connection with Fourierism -- later views on socialism -- the Graham diet -- Margaret Fuller -- what he believed about spiritual rappings -- his devotion to farm topics -- in the lecture field -- some views on poets -- his one term in Congress -- the attention he attracted -- his general supervision of his paper -- an easy target for borrowers -- two editorial-room reminiscences

Conceding that the Tribune was the most influential newspaper in this country in Mr. Greeley's day, and that he, as almost synonymous with it, was the most influential editor, it is interesting to glance at some of the sources of this influence.

It must be granted at once that not even an editor of so strong a personality as Greeley could have secured the great clientage that came to be recognized as his if he had not supplied to his readers a good newspaper. The Tribune was a good newspaper almost from the start. Greeley's versatility now had full play, and he could not only hold the attention of a vast audience when he addressed the public in an editorial, but could do marvelous pieces of reporting, compose interesting correspondence — as witness his letters from Europe and about his trip across the continent-and act as chief critic [72] over all the columns under his control. To him, therefore, belonged no mere honorary share of the repute of the Tribune as a newspaper.

But while on Greeley's shoulders rested most of the praise or blame for what appeared in its columns, his associates, to the day of his death, took no unimportant part in the making of the paper. In his first chief assistant, Raymond, he secured one of the ablest journalists of the day — a man who recognized the value of news, who knew how to select capable subordinates, and how best to direct their efforts. Among other contributors and editorial assistants to whom the Tribune was indebted were Margaret Fuller, Bayard Taylor, George William Curtis, Edmund Quincy ( “Byles” ), William Henry Frye, Hildreth, the historian, and Charles T. Congdon. Charles A. Dana joined the staff in 1847, and remained with it, a larger part of the time as managing editor, until 1862. George Ripley began writing for it in 1861, and, outliving Greeley, gave to its literary columns for twenty years a reputation that was unrivaled. Sidney Howard Gay, who was so conscientious an abolitionist that he abandoned his plan of becoming a lawyer because he could not take [73] the oath to sustain the Federal Constitution, but to whose breadth of view and journalistic skill credit has been given for keeping the Antislavery Standard, which he edited, from being either narrow, bigoted, or dull, was one of Greeley's associates for ten years, dating from 1858, a part of the time as managing editor. Along with these worked a host of others, not so well known, who kept their departments up to the highest mark.

The scent for news was as keen in those days as it is now, and, while the difficulties of obtaining it were greater, no effort was neglected to accomplish the object in view. Railroads were then in their infancy, with less than 3,000 miles in operation in this country in 1840. The first steamers to Europe began running in 1838. The Morse telegraph was first operated between Baltimore and Washington in 1844, and the first telegraph office was opened in New York city, at No. 16 Wall Street, in January, 1846. The means then employed to secure news quickly from a distance were what was called the special express-relays of horses and riders, the latter sparing neither themselves nor their steeds in making the time required of them. The Tribune files contain some interesting accounts of the time made by its express riders. [74] To obtain a Governor's message from Albany the Tribune contracted for three riders and ten relays of horses, and that the start from Albany should be made at noon, and New York city be reached not later than 10 P. M. The trip was finished at 9 P. M., a speed of a little less than eighteen miles an hour if the first rider did not start ahead of time-a point about which the Tribune in its boasting of the feat the next morning could not be certain. A rider charged with the duty of bringing in the returns of a Connecticut election left New Haven, in a sulky, at 9.35 p. M., on the arrival of the “express locomotive” from Hartford, reached Stamford in three hours; there encountered a snow-storm and darkness so intense that he ran into another conveyance near New Rochelle and broke a wheel; took the harness from his horse and pressed on on horseback, arriving at the office at five o'clock the next morning. The most energetic reporter of to-day could not exceed this rider in enterprise and persistency.

The ocean steamers of those days were not “greyhounds,” and so great was the competition for the earliest foreign news that enterprising newspapers did not wait for the arrival of the mails by water at the nearest home port. On one occasion, when news of [75] special importance was awaited, the Tribune engaged an express rider to meet the steamer (for Boston) at Halifax, and convey the news package with all speed across Nova Scotia to the Bay of Fundy, where a fast steamboat was to meet him and carry him to Portland, Me., whence a special locomotive would take him to Boston, from which point his budget would be hastened on to New York by rail and on horseback. Modern enterprise can not hope to excel this scheme, and we can sympathize with the editor in its failure to save him from being “beaten.” The rider made his way across Nova Scotia through drifts so deep that his sleigh was often upset, and was hurried across the Bay of Fundy through ice in some places eighteen inches thick, making Boston in thirty-one hours from Halifax-several hours ahead of the ocean steamer. But from that point delays were encountered, and, although the last rider made the trip from New Haven in four hours and a half, a rival journal had had the news on the street for two hours before him. When Henry Clay delivered an important speech on the Mexican War, in Lexington, Ky., on November 13, 1847, the Tribune's report of it was carried to Cincinnati by horse express, and thence transmitted by [76] wire, appearing in the edition of November 15. During the Mexican War a pony express carried the news from New Orleans to Petersburg, Va., the nearest telegraph station, in this way delivering the New Orleans papers of March 29 at the telegraph office on February 4. The exploits of these expresses were described by the press all over the country, and all this gave the competing journals a big advertisement.

I am inclined to think that what did as much as anything to widen Greeley's reputation, and to advertise his journal in its early days, was his devotion to “isms.” One of his laudators had insisted that he had only two of these, but that assumption did him an injustice. “No other public teacher,” to quote his own words, “lives so wholly in the present as the editor; and the noblest affirmations of unpopular truth — the most self-sacrificing defiance of a base and selfish public sentiment that regards only the most sordid ends, and values every utterance solely as it tends to preserve quiet and contentment, while the dollars fall jingling into the merchants' drawer, the land-jobbers' vault, and the miser's bag-can but be noted in their day, and with their day be forgotten.” Herein we get Greeley's idea of “isms,” a conception not [77] unlike Carlyle's definition of a certain abbot's Catholicism-“something like the isms of all true men in all true centuries.”

The Tribune was started when, in the words of John Morley, “a great wave of humanity, of benevolence, of desire for improvement — a great wave of social sentiment, in short-poured itself among all who had the faculty of large and disinterested thinking” ; a day when Pusey and Thomas Arnold, Carlyle and Dickens, Cobden and O'Connell, were arousing new interest in old subjects; when the communistic experiments in Brazil and Owen's project at Hopedale inspired expectation of social improvement; when Southey and Coleridge meditated a migration to the shores of America to assist in the foundation of an ideal society, and when philosophers on the continent of Europe were believing that things dreamed of were at last to be realized. Greeley's mind was naturally receptive of new plans for reform — a tendency inherited, perhaps, from his New England place of birth, “that land in which every ism of social or religious life has had its origin.” The hard experience of his own family, as he shared it in his early boyhood, led him to think that something was wrong somewhere in man's struggle for existence, [78] and his observations among the city poor during the hard times of 1837 enlisted his sympathies in behalf of all who live by labor. When, therefore, he found himself in control of a daily newspaper, he would not have been Horace Greeley if he had not been ready to make a “most self-sacrificing defiance” of public opinion in behalf of doctrines which he considered right.

What seemed to his fellow Whig leaders, in the early years of the Tribune, vagaries — his advocacy of Fourierism, extreme temperence legislation, etc.-gave them much annoyance, as likely to hurt the political cause with which Greeley's name and paper were associated, and they often labored with him on the subject. In minor points they met with some success, but when his mind was once made up, expediency was a futile argument with which to approach him. In a letter to Weed, dated February, 1842, after describing a sleepless night he had passed because of some of Weed's criticisms, he made this declaration of personal independence:

You have pleased, on several occasions, to take me to task for differing from you, however reluctantly and temperately, as though such conditions were an evidence, not merely of weakness on my part, but of some [79] black ingratitude or heartless treachery .... I have given, I have ever been ready to give you, any service within my power; but my understanding, my judgment, my conscientiousness of convictions, of duty and public good, these I can surrender to no man. You wrong yourself in asking them, and in taking me to task like a schoolboy for expressing my sentiments respectfully when they differ from yours .... Do not ask me to forget that I, too, am a man; that I must breathe free air or be stifled.

The New Yorker in its last year contained a series of articles on “What shall be done for the Laborer,” in which it held to the principle that the “basis of all social and moral reform” lay “in a practical recognition of the Right of every human being to demand of the community an opportunity to labor and to receive a decent subsistence as the just reward of such labor.” Greeley's sympathies were therefore ready to interest him in Albert Brisbane, a convert to Fourier's teaching, who had made the acquaintance of the French philosopher in France, and his friends, from his conversation, soon found that he had accepted Fourier's views. Brisbane edited a magazine called The Future, which was printed in Greeley's office, and [80] whose prospectus said: “The primary, positive, and definite object of its labors will be to show that Human Happiness may be promoted, knowledge and virtue increased, vice, misery, waste, and want infinitely diminished, by a reorganization of society upon the principle of Association, or a combination of effort, instead of the present system of isolated households.” 1 The Tribune of November, 1841, contained an editorial which said: “We have written something, and shall yet write much more, in illustration and advocacy of the great Social revolution which our age is destined to commence, in rendering all useful Labor at once instructive and honorable, and banishing Want and all consequent degradation from the globe. The germ of this revolution is developed in the writings of Charles Fourier.” In the Tribune of March 1, 1842, was begun a series of articles by Brisbane on “Association,” which were continued for many months. That the Tribune and its editor might not be held responsible [81] for the views expressed, each of these articles (with a few exceptions) bore this caption: “This column has been purchased by the advocates of Association, in order to lay their principles before the public. Its authorship is entirely distinct from that of the Tribune.”

The Tribune had little to say on the subject while it was publishing the Brisbane essays, but on January 20, 1843, the Fourier Association of the City of New York was formed, and Greeley was the first-named director of the North American Phalanx, organized soon after, with a capital of $400,000, to put the Association idea into practise, and the Tribune of January 27, in that year, said: “We can not but believe that Association, with its concert of action, its unity of interests, its vast economies, and its more effective application of labor and other means of production will be extremely profitable, and offer to those who enter it not only a safe and lucrative investment of their capital and a most advantageous field for their industry and skill, but social and intellectual enjoyments, and every means of a superior education of their children.” The “Brook farm” experiment, which was later placed on a Fourier basis, was initiated in 1841, and the [82] “Sylvania” enterprise, in Pike County, Pennsylvania, in 1843.

The plant of the North Amercian Phalanx was established near Red Bank, N. J. Only one-quarter of the capital was paid in, but a big dwelling for the members and their families, called the Phalanstery, was erected, with a steam apparatus for cooking and washing, and mills, storehouses, and other buildings. All the members were divided into groups, each of which was assigned its outdoor or indoor work. This experiment attracted a great deal of attention. Charles A. Dana and his family were for a time residents of the Phalanstery, and Margaret Fuller, Frederica Bremmer, and Rev. W. H. Channing were among its visitors; but the Phalanx, like “Brook farm” and “Sylvania,” was not a permanent success. “Sylvania” passed into the hands of the mortgagee in two years, and, after a disastrous fire, “with some other setbacks,” the property of the Phalanx was sold, its debts were paid, and the stockholders received a dividend equal to about 65 per cent of their investment.

The Tribune and its editor incurred a great deal of criticism, and the paper lost some readers, because of Greeley's espousal [83] of the socialist doctrines, but he refused to disassociate himself from the experiments while they were being tried, and the attacks on him helped to advertise him and his paper, and increased its circulation among those who could not regard as inherently wrong a cause supported, or countenanced, by men like George Ripley, Charles A. Dana, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Parke Godwin. In February, 1841, Greeley wrote to Weed that he took a wrong view of the political bearing of the Fourier matter, explaining: “Hitherto all the devotees of social reform of any kind have been regularly repelled from the Whig party, and attracted to its opposite. It strikes me that it is unwise to persist in this course, unless we are to be considered the enemies of improvement, and the bulwarks of an outgrown aristocracy in this country.”

In a letter to R. W. Griswold, Greeley said: “I do not regard either office or money as a supreme good; and, though I never had either, I have been so near to each as to see what they are worth, very nearly. I regard principle and self-respect as more important than either.” When the Courier and Enquirer, in April, 1844, spoke of the Tribune as “the organ of Charles Fourier, Fanny Wright, and R. D. Owen, advocating from [84] day to day the destruction of our existing social system, and substituting in its stead one based upon infidelity, and an unrestricted and indiscriminate intercourse of the sexes,” the Tribune began its reply, “We do not copy the above with a view to defend ourselves from the cowardly falsehoods of the escaped State-prison bird,” etc. As late as February 10, 1848, replying to some criticisms in the Herald and the Observer, the Tribune said: “Should the Tribune get much further ahead of the Herald in circulation and business, we shall expect to hear that Fourier was a Fiji cannibal and the original contriver of Asiatic cholera.”

In 1846 the Courier and Enquirer accepted a challenge by the Tribune to a discussion of Fourierism, and its articles were written by Greeley's former assistant, Henry J. Raymond, who had joined its staff in 1843. Raymond denied that the condition of the laboring classes was as bad as the Fourierites pictured it, and called the new doctrines hostile to Christianity, to morality, and to conjugal constancy. After the close of this debate the Tribune practically dropped the subject. Greeley's conviction, in the light of his later years, was that the social reformers were right on many points, and that Fourier [85] was the most practical of them. He set forth in 1868, as part of his social creed, the following affirmations:

I believe that there need be, and should be, no paupers who are not infantile, idiotic, or disabled; and that civilized society pays more for the support of able-bodied pauperism than the necessary cost of its extirpation.

I believe that they babble idly and libel Providence who talk of surplus labor, or the inadequacy of capital to supply employment to all who need it.

I believe that the efficiency of human effort is enormously, ruinously, diminished by what I term Social Anarchy. .... It is quite within the truth to estimate the annual product of our national industry at less than onehalf of what it might be if better applied and directed.

The poor work at perpetual disadvantage in isolation, because of the inadequacy of their means. ... Association would have these unite to purchase, inhabit, and cultivate a common domain-say, of 2,000 acres-whereby these advantages over the isolated system would be realized

(mentioning economy, etc.).

But, while holding to these beliefs, he acknowledged the difficulty of living up to them. [86] His own experience had shown him that a prime obstacle to a successful social experiment was “the kind of persons who are naturally attracted to it, the conceited, the crotchety, the selfish, the headstrong, the pugnacious, the unappreciated, the played-out, the idle, and the good-for-nothing generally; who, finding themselves utterly out of place and a discount in the world as it is, rashly conclude that they are exactly fitted for the world as it ought to be.” He had found, too, that, where such experiments had been a success, they rested either on a communistic basis (and he would not admit that a member contributing $100,000 to an industrial enterprise should stand on the same footing as one who brings nothing, or that a skilled mechanic should receive no more than a ditcher) or on a “firm and deep religious basis.” In other words, the system as he took it up originally was a failure, and a scheme as he would have limited it would have been rejected by modern socialists.

Greeley was attracted by Sylvester Graham's dietetic doctrine that there is better food for man than the flesh of animals; that all stimulants, including tea and coffee, should be avoided; that bread should be made of unbolted flour, and that spices should not [87] be used, and only the least possible salt. After hearing Graham lecture, he became an inmate of his boarding-house, where the table conformed to the new views, and it was there that he met his future wife, Miss Mary Y. Cheney, a native of Connecticut, who was teaching in North Carolina, and who was even more susceptible to new doctrines than was her husband. Greeley used no alcoholic liquors, did not care for tea, and had given up coffee when he found his hand trembling after partaking of it at an evening entertainment. He preferred meat, in after years, to “hot bread, rancid butter, decayed fruit, and wilted vegetables,” but always declared that, if we of this generation confined ourselves to a Graham diet, our grandchildren would live longer than we shall, and require less care from doctors. Mrs. Greeley lived up to her belief most conscientiously in their early married life, making no alteration in her table, and offering no excuse, when guests were present. “Usually,” Greeley tells us, “a day, or at most two, of beans and potatoes, boiled rice, puddings, bread and butter, with no condiments but salt, and never a pickle, was all they could abide; so, bidding her a kind adieu, each in turn departed to seek elsewhere a more congenial hospitality.” [88]

Mrs. Greeley made the acquaintance of Margaret Fuller in Boston, and attended the conversations, for women only, planned by Miss Fuller, to discuss what woman was born to do, and how she could do it, and it was at Mrs. Greeley's invitation that Margaret became a member of the Greeley household when she went to New York. Until the latter part of the year 1844 the Greeleys had lived within less than half a mile of the Tribune office, one experiment in Broome Street convincing the editor that that location was too far from his work. After his exertions in the great Clay campaign of 1844 the family took an old wooden house, surrounded by eight acres of land, on the East River, at Turtle Bay, nearly opposite Blackwell's Island. Margaret Fuller described it as “two miles or more from the thickly settled part of New York, but omnibuses and cars give me constant access to the city.” She did not complain of her accommodations there, but Greeley suggests that, in her physical condition, a better furnished room and a more liberal table would have added to her happiness.

Greeley did not grant a ready acceptance to all of Miss Fuller's views. She wrote a great deal for the Tribune, however, on social questions, book reviews (including a very uncomplimentary [89] one of Longfellow's poems), and afterward letters from Europe, and Greeley has given generous praise to her contributions and her aims. But when she demanded “the fullest recognition of social and political equality” for women, he was willing to concede the justness of this demand only on condition that the enfranchised woman “would emancipate herself from the thraldom to etiquette, and the need of a masculine arm in crossing the street.” Until this emancipation was secured he “could not see how the ‘woman's rights theory’ is ever to be anything more than a logically defensible abstraction” ; and he declared his belief that “a good husband and two or three bouncing babies would have emancipated [Margaret] from a deal of cant and nonsense.” 2 Thus we see that there were “isms” to which Greeley could not be attracted.

Greeley was responsible for an impression, which gained wide currency at the time, that the Tribune editor was a believer in spiritualism, [90] especially as demonstrated in the “rappings” of the Foxes, which attracted so much attention in 1848. The Tribune did, in December, 1849, publish as a matter of news an account of the “rappings,” signed by responsible citizens of Rochester, while Greeley Was in Washington as a member of Congress; but in a long review of a book on the “rappings” the next month it said: “We have not meant to imply that any statement in this book is necessarily false or incredible, but only that they are of such a nature as to require a very large amount of unimpeachable evidence to sustain them.” Some two years later, Greeley was present at one of the Fox seances in a hotel in New York, but he was not impressed with their exhibition.

His wife, whose attention had been turned to things spiritual by the recent death of the son whom they so greatly mourned, attended several of the seances, and was so much interested that she invited the Foxes to spend several weeks at her house, and exhibitions of “rappings” given there were widely talked of, and Greeley's name was naturally associated with the business. But this was not an “ism” that won his unconditional acceptance, and he told a correspondent, through [91] the Tribune, that “ghosts who had anything worth listening to would hardly stoop to so uninteresting a business as hammering.” In his autobiography he pronounced the so-called spiritual communications “vague, unreal, shadowy, trivial,” but added, of the “communications” made by “mediums” : “That some of them are the result of juggle, collusion, or trick I am confident; that others are not, I decidedly believe.”

A subject not to be classed as an “ism,” in which Greeley always manifested the greatest interest, and which won for him the regard of a vast clientage, was farming. “I should have been a farmer,” he wrote in 1868. “Were I now to begin my life over I would choose to earn my bread by cultivating the soil.” The lack of intelligence displayed in New England agriculture was impressed upon him in his boyhood, and he never wrote more enthusiastically than in teaching farmers what he thought they ought to know. In the forties his editions began to publish reports of the sessions of the Farmers' Club in connection with the American Institute, and large space was always devoted in the Weekly Tribune to agricultural subjects.

In no character was Greeley so satirized as in that of a farmer, professing to give instruction [92] on a subject about which he had no practical knowledge, and his agricultural experiment at Chappaqua received a vast amount of attention from pen and pencil. But such sneers were far astray. Greeley's ideas on farming were not quixotic; they were good, and they were founded on the advice of the best authorities of the day. The Chappaqua estate was ridiculed on the assumption that it did not “pay.” Most of the “gentlemen farmers” of this country would have to confess to a similar failure of their experiments if judged by their account books. Chappaqua, too, was not selected by Greeley, but by his wife, or rather to meet three conditions on which she insisted-viz., a spring of pure water, a cascade or brawling brook, and a tract of evergreen woods, and, to be accessible to the busy editor, the site must be near the city. The best he could do, in satisfying these conditions, was to accept with them “a rocky, wooded hillside, sloping to the north of west, with a bog at its foot.” Much money was spent on this unpromising tract that might have been saved where so many obstacles were not to be overcome; but the owner overcame many of these, and by intelligent methods. When he wrote his autobiography he declared that he had been [93] “making” rather than “working” a farm, but he insisted that “good — farming” would pay, and every intelligent observer of our day will testify that most farming failures are due to bad farming.

In the early seventies the Tribune printed a series of articles on farming, by its editor, and they were afterward collected under the title “What I know of farming.” A reading of these essays will give any competent judge a good opinion of the writer's practical knowledge of the subject. There is excellent counsel to young farmers about the selection and preparation of a farm; suggestions about draining which have since been accepted by thousands of agriculturists; sound views about waste in the use of fertilizers; pleas for birds as farmers' assistants, and sensible advice on such subjects as deep plowing, level culture for potatoes, and the necessity of keeping farm accounts.

Merely to mention subjects under the general classification of reforms to which the Tribune gave support in its earlier years, we may recall its enthusiastic defense of the Irish cause in 1848, and of the cause of Hungary, in whose behalf it proposed the raising of a patriotic loan, in shares of $100; its championship of cooperation in labor; its [94] gradual approach to the radical view of temperance legislation represented by the Maine law, and its opposition to capital punishment, to more liberal divorce laws, and to flogging in the navy.

It is true that its espousal of many causes raised up a host of enemies for the Tribune, and no other newspaper in the United States was looked on as so dangerous by those who did not agree with it. Nevertheless, the champion whose sword was naked for an attack on any worthy foe was an intellectual hero in thousands of eyes, and when Raymond started the Times in 1852 to supply a journal of political views similar to those advocated by the Tribune without the Tribune's “vagaries,” the new enterprise succeeded, but it made no serious inroads on the circulation of the older one.3 Greeley came to be a sort of general counsel for many people, some of whom could undoubtedly be classified among that “fringe of the unreasonable and half-cracked, with whom,” Higginson says, “it is the tendency of every reform to surround itself.” Before the Tribune was a year old its editor told his readers, “We have a number of requests to blow up all sorts of [95] abuses,” and he added, with that selfconfi-dence which always characterized him, “which shall be attended to as fast as possible.” Greeley thoroughly enjoyed his reputation as a philosopher and a seer, and a glance through his columns will show how little he was hindered by modesty in giving advice, those receiving his ministrations including young men seeking employment, young doctors and lawyers, country merchants, would-be editors, and inquiring farmers.

Greeley's lectures also gave him and his paper a good deal of advertising. It is somewhat difficult to realize to-day the importance of the lecture platform when “it was considered a sort of duty for educated men to have on hand a lecture or two which they were willing to read to any audience which was willing to ask them.” 4 Emerson wrote to a friend in 1843, “There is now a ‘lyceum,’ so called, in almost every town in New England, and if I would accept an invitation I might read a lecture every night.” But all lecturers were not expected to contribute their wisdom or entertainment without compensation. It was said in the early fifties that Zzz “Ik Marvel,” from the delivery of one not very good lecture, [96] could secure money enough to support himself while he was writing a really good book, and that one course of Bayard Taylor's lectures brought him profit enough to pay his way ten times around the world.

Greeley always loved to talk, and the lecture-field was a tempting one to him. In later years it used to be said in the office that the only way he could be induced to take a vacation was to start him off on a lecturing tour. His first attempt on the platform was made in New York in February, 1842,5 and he wrote soon after, asking his friend Griswold to get him an engagement in Philadelphia, saying, “I know there are hardly a hundred persons in Philadelphia who know of me,” but suggesting that he could “fill a hole” in a program. Greeley was never an orator, but people have a curiosity to see a public man of wide reputation, and after the Tribune became established he “drew” on this account, although his subjects were abstract rather than, in the common acceptance, entertaining. Eleven such lectures, written between 1842 and 1848, each of them in less than a day, were published in 1850 under the title Hints toward Reform, and the subjects included [97] Human Life, The Emancipation of Labor, and The Formation of Character. In a lecture on Poets and Poetry, printed in his autobiography, he commented freely on almost the entire list of English poets, pronouncing The Faery Queen “a bore, unreal, insupportable,” and confessing his hatred of the Toryism of Shakespeare; and in another lecture, on Literature as a Vocation, he styled the great dramatist “the highest type of literary hack,” finding in his writings a combination of “starry flights and paltry jokes, celestial penetration and contemptible puns,” and expressing his unqualified admiration for Mrs. Hemans, in whose Adopted Child he had found “hours of pure and tranquil pleasure.”

Most of the audiences which listened to these discourses were lyceums, or young men's associations in country villages. The great place for lectures in New York city was the Tabernacle, which seated 3,000 persons. Greeley's audiences there numbered on an average 1,200 in the early fifties. In a course of lectures delivered in Chicago in 1853, when its population was about 30,000, Greeley stood second as a “drawing card,” being only preceded by Bayard Taylor in a list which included John G. Saxe, R. W. Emerson, Theodore [98] Parker, George William Curtis, Horace Mann, and E. P. Whipple.

In 1848 Greeley was elected to Congress, for the only time in his career, accepting a nomination in the upper district of New York city, to fill a vacancy caused by the unseating of a Democrat on charges of fraud at the polls, without the seating of his Whig opponent. As the term would last only from December to March, and the original candidate declined the nomination for the short term when the nomination for the full term was denied him, Greeley got the place. He attracted wide attention during his short residence in Washington, and his paper received through him a vast amount of advertising, for a large part of which it had to thank his unwise enemies. If he was not the only editor who was a member of that Congress, he was certainly the only member who acted as editorial correspondent of so well known a newspaper as the Tribune. His fellow members would therefore naturally look on him as doubly armed-prepared to meet them face to face, and to criticize them with his pen; and his readers would regard his letters as of unusual value, coming from one having the opportunity for an inside view of things.

Greeley went to Washington with a conviction [99] that the national legislators were as much in duty bound to attend strictly to their public business, and so to earn their pay, as was a man in private employment. Two days after he took his seat he scored the absentees. In a letter to the Tribune, speaking of the “annual hypocrisy of electing a chaplain,” he said: “If either House had a chaplain who dared preach to its members what they ought to hear — of their faithlessness, their neglected duty, their iniquitous waste of time by taking from the treasury money which they have not even attempted to earn-then there would be some sense in the chaplain business.” This he followed on December 22 with an exposure of the mileage abuse which involved him in a bitter contest with his fellow-members, and gained him wide notoriety.

Members of Congress then received pay at the rate of eight dollars a day, and mileage at the rate of forty cents a mile, by “the usual traveled route.” When Greeley made his first call on the sergeant-at-arms for his money, he was shown a schedule giving the amount of mileage drawn by each member. Some of the figures appeared to him to be extravagant, and he at once decided on a step, conscientiously taken, but [100] which gave the best evidence of his newspaper tact. He hired a man to make for him a table showing the actual distance traveled by each member in reaching the capital, the distance for which he was allowed mileage, and what the saving would have been had the mileage been computed over the shortest route. As most members made out their schedules to cover as many miles as possible, without reference to the more modern steamboat routes (and Greeley's amanuensis had taken the official mail route distances), his table, when the Tribune of December 22, containing it, came to Washington, excited a great sensation, every member being charged with receiving from $2 to more than $1,000 in excess of his equitable allowance. “I had expected that it would kick up some dust,” says Greeley in his autobiography, “but my expectations were outrun.” “I have divided the House into two parties,” he wrote to his friend Griswold at the time; “one that would like to see me extinguished, and the other that wouldn't be satisfied without a hand in doing it.”

For some days members simply discussed the matter with one another or with their critic. Him they could not bend. On December 27 the subject was brought to the [101] attention of the House by an Ohio member named Sawyer, who had been previously held up to ridicule by a Tribune correspondent for eating his luncheon during the session behind the Speaker's chair, and who, in the table, was credited with receiving $281 more than was his honest due. Mr. Turner, of Illinois, whose excess of mileage was nearly $200, moved the appointment of a committee to inquire whether the Tribune's charges did not amount to an allegation of fraud against the members, and to report whether they were false or true. Turner charged the editor-member-whom he alluded to as “perhaps the gentleman, or rather the individual, perhaps the thing” --with seeking notoriety, and being engaged in a very small business. Greeley took part in the ensuing debate, holding tenaciously to the main point of his disclosure.

The discussion continued until January 16, when the committee made a report exonerating the members, and there the matter practically dropped. Greeley was accused, during the discussion, of employing in his newspaper correspondence time that he should have devoted to the public business in the House, and a fierce and somewhat embarrassing attack was made on him concerning [102] a vote which he gave on an appropriation for the purchase of certain books-archives, debates, etc.-with which it was customary to supply members. He certainly got very much confused in his explanations. “For a time,” he says in his autobiography, “it looked as though the mileage men had the upper hand of me, and I was told that a paper was drawn up for signatures to see how many would agree to stand by each other in voting my expulsion, but that the movement was crushed by a terse interrogatory remonstrance by Hon. John Wentworth, then a leading Democrat. ‘Why, you blessed fools,’ warmly inquired ‘long John,’ ‘do you want to make him President? ’ ” Wentworth's remark showed how strongly public feeling had shaped itself on Greeley's side of the main question. In one of the debates in the House a speaker declared that he had not seen a single newspaper that did not approve of Greeley's course. How restive the public are regarding attempts of members of Congress to increase unduly their own emoluments may be learned by recalling the excitement caused by the act of 1816 increasing the pay of members (including those then in office) from $6 a day to $1,500 a year (Clay's vote for this bill nearly causing his defeat for reelection), [103] and the outburst of denunciation of the Congress which, in 1873, passed the so-called “salary grab” bill.

But the mileage abuse was not the only one to which Greeley drew attention. The waste of time was a constant subject of comment in his editorial correspondence, and on January 22 he moved an amendment to the general appropriation bill providing that members should not be paid when absent from their seats except in case of sickness or when employed elsewhere in public business, and he made a vain attempt to save the bonus of $250 which it had been customary to vote to the House employees. The value of the attention which the seven-years'-old Tribune attracted all over the country because of its editor's course in Congress could not well be overestimated, and an indication of the practical result is seen in the fact that its advertising receipts were larger by $7,830 in 1849 than in the year previous. The economist was received with great cordiality on the occasion of a trip to the West that he made in 1849, the marked warmth of his reception in Cincinnati calling out from him a special letter of thanks.

Greeley's personality was always impressed on the Tribune. His favorite text [104] was some article in another newspaper, and a count of his editorials would probably show that a majority of them began with a quotation from, or a reference to, some other editor's views. His reply was very often emphasized by the line, “Comments by the Tribune,” or the like, and if he desired to be particularly emphatic he would sign his initials, “H. G.” His correspondence, when he was out of the city in the earlier years, often occupied the editorial columns, and he was fortunate in getting before the public in his travels. Thus, when he first visited England, in 1851, he was chairman of one of the juries of award in the World's Exhibition in London, delivered the address proposing the health of the architect of the Crystal Palace at a notable banquet, and gave his experience as an editor to a Parliamentary Commission. When he visited Paris in 1855 he was arrested at the instance of a French exhibitor at the Crystal Palace exhibition in New York, who tried to hold him responsible for a statue that was broken there because he was a director in the enterprise, and he was imprisoned for two days in the Clichy prison. His trip across the plains, in 1859, was made a notable event, and the driver of the stage in which he crossed the Sierras [105] was a sort of hero for the rest of his life.

Greeley “edited” the whole Tribune up to the day of his nomination for President. None of its columns escaped his supervision. He was not an easy man to please, as he considered all mistakes likely to be placed on his own shoulders. The style of his own editorial articles was clear, forceful, and concise, without rhetorical adornment, and he expected his assistants to follow his model. Writing to one of these who had gotten out a number of the New Yorker in 1840, while he was in Albany, Greeley said: “The last New Yorker was a very fair number, bating typographical errors, such as ‘Dugal’ for ‘Dugald’ Stuart, which is awful, as insinuating ignorance against us. I saw ‘From whence’ in your verse, too. Don't you think that is shocking-positively shocking?” His letters to Charles A. Dana, written while he was watching the Banks speakership contest in 1855-56,lZZZ give many pictures of him in the role of the editorial supervisor. One of these letters began thus:

What would it cost to burn the Opera House? If the price is reasonable, have it [106] done and send me the bill. . . . All Congress is disappointed and grieved at not seeing Pierce and Cushing demolished in the Tribune ... And now I see that you have crowded out the little I did send to make room for Fry's eleven columns of arguments as to the feasibility of sustaining the opera in New York if they would only play his compositions. I don't believe three hundred who take the Tribune care one chew of tobacco for the matter!

Again he wrote:

I shall have to quit here or die, unless you stop attacking people here without consulting me;

and again: “If you were to live fifty years and do nothing but good all the time, you could hardly atone for the mischief you have done by that article on Benton. ... I write once more to entreat that I may be allowed to conduct the Tribune with reference to the mile wide that stretches either way from Pennsylvania Avenue. It is but a small space, and you have all the world besides.” Indicating his zeal for exactness, and his quick detection of an error, he wrote: “The Tribune of Monday says that the bank suspension took place in 1836. It was 1837 (May 10). Please correct in Weekly.”

Greeley was always easily approached, [107] and the demands on his purse and influence were constant. He devoted a chapter of his autobiography to Beggars and Borrowers, but it gave no adequate idea of the money that such applicants obtained from him. He portrays many kinds of beggars — the “chronic,” the “systematic,” --and in summing up his experience says, “I can not remember a single instance in which the promise to repay was made good.” But he went on lending. To a clerk from New Hampshire, who, arriving in New York with his wife penniless, asked for a “loan” to take him back to his father's house, Greeley replied, “Stranger, I must help you get away. But why say anything about paying me? You know, and I know, you will never pay a cent.” This makes us recall that “when the Spectator went out to meet Sir Roger de Coverley he could hear him chiding a beggar asking alms for not finding some work, but at the same time handing him sixpence.”

Some applicants, however, did meet with a refusal. Chauncey M. Depew has told of finding a visitor in Greeley's editorial room when he made a call on him. The editor's patience had evidently been almost exhausted, and as he wrote on steadily he would give an occasional kick toward the caller, who [108] every now and then put in a word. Finally, turning round, Greeley said: “Tell me what you want. Tell me quick, and in one sentence.” The man said, “I want a subscription, Mr. Greeley, for a cause which will prevent a thousand of our fellow-beings from going to hell.” Greeley shouted, “I will not give you a cent. There don't half enough go there now.” As Greeley was a Universalist, this reply was not so severe as it sounded.

The first time I saw Greeley was in the little room, just off the publication office, where he did his work in his later years. Having occasion to ask him about the publication of some article in the weekly edition, which was then in my charge, I found him busily writing, with a man, hat in hand, standing near him, evidently making some appeal. The desk was piled high with papers, and there was a litter of the same around him on the floor. Over his desk dangled the handle of a bell-cord, with which he could summon his messenger-boy, and by another cord were suspended his scissors, which would have been lost as soon as he laid them down. To his visitor he apparently paid no attention, although the man would occasionally interject a few words, fumbling his hat nervously. At last, having reached the bottom [109] of a page, Greeley swung around in his chair, and, in his querulous voice, said, “I'll be d-d if I am going to spend my time getting New York offices for Jersey-men.” Then the man went out. [110]

1 Henry J. Raymond wrote to R. W. Griswold in 1841: “Greeley got himself into a scrape by connecting himself with it (The Future), and the city-especially the Sunday-papers came down upon him with a vengeance. He's rather sorry that he enlisted, and is trying to take the curse off by advertising Brisbane's name as editor.”

2 In printing a full report of the first women's convention, held in Ohio, the Tribune, on May 1, 1850, declared that a sincere Republican could give no adequate reason for refusing the suffrage to women if they should, as a body, demand it, because it was “a natural right, however unwise or unnatural the demand.” This view was combated by Dr. Horace Bushnell in his Women's Suffrage.

3 Greeley complained that the Times's circulation exceeded that of the Tribune in New York city.

4 Hale's Lowell and his friends.

5 Letters of R. W. Griswold, p. 104.

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