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Horace Greeley was born in Amherst, New Hampshire, where his father, Zaccheus, farmed. His mother, Mary (Woodburn) knew how to foster sentiments of beauty and justice, and encouraged his reading, for his schooling was intermittent.
When Horace was ten years old, the family moved to West Haven, Vermont. A year later he was apprenticed to a printer in East Poultney, Vt. At nineteen, the printing job ended, so he went to Pennsylvania, where his father had found a new home.
At twenty years, he went to New York to begin his career in printing and publishing. He worked in one newspaper after the other until he established the New York Tribune in 1841. He edited this paper for over 30 years and during most of this time the New York Tribune was the greatest single journalistic influence in the country. His own clear, vigorous and timely editorials were the features that made the Tribune known and quoted throughout the nation.
Greeley was a social reformer, a romantic idealist who set his sights high. He demanded more and better teacher-training, and a free, tax-supported public school system with practical instruction. He was a constant and unrelenting foe of gambling and prostitution. Tobacco and liquor were evils. He denounced capital punishment and was one of those who protested against flogging in the navy until that barbarous practice was abolished in 1850. When he saw that slavery was being expanded, he voiced his crusade against slavery.
He saw the government as the means for promoting the general welfare of the people, He encouraged labor to organize and had his workers at the Tribune organize and share in the newspaper. He advocated a protective tariff for the prosperity of American labor. He urged liberating wives from what amounted to slavery to their husbands, just as he maintained that women needed a large sphere of activity and better rewards for their labor.
Greeley encouraged people to settle the west and is well known for his oft repeated slogan: "Go west, young man, go west." He sponsored experiments in cooperative living, one such colony was named for him: Greeley, Colorado. After sending thousands of people west, he took a trip west himself. He was so impressed with Illinois in 1859 that he wrote back to the Tribune: "Doubtless the child is born who will see here a State of ten millions of people, one million of them inhabiting her commercial emporium (Chicago)."
Horace Greeley's newspaper publishing business kept him working most of the time, so that he had little time for family life. He married Mary Y. Cheney in 1836, and although they had seven children, only two daughters lived to adulthood. To provide a healthier country setting for his family, he bought a farm in Chappaqua, New York, Westchester County. Later they also had a home in the same town.
In 1848 he was elected to Congress for one session, where he was ahead of the times in introducing the Homestead Act. It wasn't passed until 3-4 Years later. He was a delegate to the Republican national convention of 1860, where his influence was a chief factor in the nomination of Abraham Lincoln.
While he was a foe of slavery, after the Civil War he signed the bail bond of Jefferson Davis. He also advocated universal amnesty.
In 1872 he was nominated for the presidency, but the campaign was a bitter one with some of his friends turning against him. During the last two weeks, his wife became seriously ill, so he stayed at her bedside until her death on October 30. He lost the election on November 5th to Ulysses S. Grant. Being in poor health, himself, and broken spirits after the bitter election campaign, he died on November 29th.
But Horace Greeley's friends, the printers, did not forget him. Typographical Union No. 6 caused a bust to be erected over his grave in Greenwood and placed him in bronze at the triangle made by Sixth Avenue, Broadway and Thirty-third Street, which is known as Greeley Square. Another statue was placed at the entrance to the Tribune Building, later -moved to City Hall Park, where it rests in a little grove, where the trees shade the figure of the great good man who loved their kind so well.
Greeley was a Universalist who first attended the Orchard Street Church in New York, where the Rev. Thomas J. Sawyer was the minister. Later he attended the Universalist Church on Broadway, The Church of the Divine Paternity, with his friend, P. T. Barnum, where the Rev. Edward Hubbell Chapin, D. D. preached. This church moved to Fifth Avenue and Forty-fourth Street and took a different name. It is said that people went to Dr. Chapin's church almost as much to get a glimpse of Greeley and Barnum as they did to hear Dr. Chapin.
Universalism was a keen and constant interest in Greeley's life. He used to attend the General Convention Sessions and in 1860 he contributed forty dollars toward founding the Theological School at Canton, N.Y., part of St. Lawrence University.
He attended the Centenary of Universalism conference held at Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1870. Here he supported a resolution to raise $200,000 to start a John Murray Fund for a Universalist Publishing House. He wanted some twelve to twenty-four page tracts and some books to be written by leading Universalists which people could show to their neighbors and friends. This goal was accomplished, and the publishing house was located in Boston.
After Greeley's death, the funeral was held in the Church of the Divine Paternity, where Dr. Chapin, Henry Ward Beecher, and Doctor Thomas Armitage spoke. President Grant and Vice-President Colfax came from Washington, D. C., and the Governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut attended with their staffs. A great procession followed the body to its grave in Greenwood, where another Universalist clergyman, the Rev. James M. Pullman, brother of the train-car builder, committed ashes to ashes and dust to dust.
There was an immediate and nation-wide outpouring of feeling for Horace Greeley. He had done so much for liberty, so much for human welfare, had done it so tirelessly, so unselfishly, at such sacrifice, that all the land went into mourning over him. A memorial statue to Horace Greeley was unveiled on February 3, 1914 at Chappaqua.