Horace Greeley's "New York Tribune"

Horace Greeley's "New York Tribune": Civil War-Era Socialism and the Crisis of Free Labor

Adam Tuchinsky
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt7zfzw
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  • Book Info
    Horace Greeley's "New York Tribune"
    Book Description:

    In the mid-nineteenth century, Horace Greeley's New-York Tribune had the largest national circulation of any newspaper in the United States. Its contributors included many of the leading minds of the period-Margaret Fuller, Henry James Sr., Charles Dana, and Karl Marx. The Tribune was also a locus of social democratic thought that closely matched the ideology of Greeley, its founder and editor, who was a noted figure in politics and reform movements.

    Adam Tuchinsky's book recalls an earlier style of opinion media, with "participant editors" acting not unlike today's Internet journalists-professionals and amateurs alike-who digest the news and also shape it. It will appeal to all readers interested in the history of the media and its relationship to partisan politics. During its Greeley era, the Tribune was simultaneously an influential voice in the Whig and Republican parties and a vigorous advocate of socialism. Historians and biographers have struggled to reconcile these seemingly contradictory tendencies.

    Tuchinsky's history of the Tribune, by placing the newspaper and its ideology squarely within the political, economic, and intellectual climate of Civil War-era America, illustrates the connection between socialist reform and mainstream political thought. It was democratic socialism-favoring free labor, and bridging the divide between individualism and collectivism-that allowed Greeley's Tribune to forge a coalition of such disparate elements as the old Whigs, new Free Soil men, labor, and staunch abolitionists. This progressive coalition helped ensure the political success of the Republican Party. Indeed, even in 1860, proslavery ideologue George Fitzhugh referred to socialism as Greeley's "lost book"-the overlooked but crucial source of the Tribune's and, by extension, the Republican Party's antagonism toward slavery and its more general free labor ideology.

    Tuchinsky brings forth this lost history and demonstrates that, amid the sectional crisis and the battle over slavery, Greeley and the Tribune promoted a viable form of democratic socialism that formed one foundation of modern liberalism in America.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6027-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. A People’s Newspaper
    (pp. 1-17)

    In The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. DuBois wrote that the “problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line.”¹ The problem of the nineteenth century was the “labor question,” what nineteenth-century socialists referred to as the “organization of labor,” and it was at the heart of the seemingly disparate histories of race and class, of North and South, of rural and urban life, and of gender and the family. Broadly considered, the central question of the Civil War era was “how shall labor be organized.” The wealthy regions of the South clung to a slave-based...

  5. Chapter 1 The Emancipation of Labor
    (pp. 18-57)

    Reflecting on the first decade of the Tribune’s existence, Horace Greeley remarked that his main objective as a reformer and public intellectual was to be “a mediator, an interpreter, a reconciler, between Conservatism and Radicalism.”¹ For Greeley, the 1840s were a formative period intellectually, and during that decade he labored to harmonize radical and conservative ideas in ways that would not only benefit his party politically but also adapt traditional Whiggish values to new economic realities. But for Greeley this impulse to fuse conservative and radical positions was almost entirely an intellectual one. In his person, he was a divisive...

  6. Chapter 2 Transcendental Cultural Democracy
    (pp. 58-81)

    Henry Raymond’s assault on socialist morality unsettled Greeley. Raymond had introduced a line of attack that would contribute, along with the failure of the communities themselves, to the diminished scale that American socialism would take from 1848 onward. It would also effectively separate the labor question from the paper’s broader critique of American culture. However fantastical, Fourierism was guided by a commitment to social transformation that combined political economy with institutional cultural reform—music, lectures, conversation, and science. Over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, social democratic liberalism would become increasingly statist and abandon its moral and self-cultural...

  7. Chapter 3 The French Revolution of 1848 and the Radicalization of the Tribune
    (pp. 82-107)

    The final years of the 1840s were dark times for American Fourierism. The movement had spread like a wildfire but after just four years the “Age of Fourier” was coming to a close. Critics mocked the communitarians as “four-year-ites.” Phalanxes began to fail as early as 1845. In the spring of 1846, Brook Farm, which had only recently reorganized itself on Fourierist lines, lost its recently constructed and uninsured phalanstery to fire. Despite the efforts of generous New York stockholders—Greeley among them—America’s most important communal enterprise disbanded. Throughout the fall, winter, and spring of 1846–47, Greeley engaged...

  8. Chapter 4 Marriage, Family, and the Socioeconomic Order
    (pp. 108-125)

    During the 1840s, American socialism was unified behind a brand of Fourierism that was both practical and comprehensive. Structurally, Fourierism aimed to recalibrate the structural inequalities in the relationship between capital and labor, but it was also based on a psychological foundation—the passions—and committed to a broad agenda of cultural reform. Libraries, lectures, music, and even communal living were essential parts of its appeal. Nonetheless, American Associationists were fundamentally uneasy with the way in which Fourier’s writings broached the subjects of family, marriage, and sexuality. The first major American distillations of Fourier’s thought suppressed his sexual extremism. Albert...

  9. Chapter 5 Land Reform, Pragmatic Socialism, and the Rise of the Republican Party
    (pp. 126-164)

    In the spring of 1846, Horace Greeley exulted that a political revolution was imminent. It would “dissolve and recombine,” he hoped, the Jacksonian party system “so that the old Hunker Whigs and Loco-Focos shall be put in one file and liberal Progressive Whigs and Democrats go together.” “The basis of union of the True Democracy,” he wrote to one New York free soiler, “is to be Land Reform, not alone as applied to the Public Lands but to all Lands. With this goes Labor Reform or the Ten Hour regulation. To these articles I hope another will naturally attach itself—...

  10. Chapter 6 The Civil War and the Dilemma of Free Labor
    (pp. 165-211)

    For two decades, Greeley had called for economic reforms that would democratize property, diffuse the benefits of technology and specialization, and protect labor from the ravages of competition with chattel and foreign labor. Most of all, he encouraged workers to form cooperative associations in response to the increasing consolidation of capital. Throughout the 1850s and during the Civil War, the Tribune, like most Republican organs, predicted that the defeat of slavery would result in a golden age for labor, but few anticipated the extent to which the Civil War would accelerate the changes associated with the market revolution. This entirely...

  11. Chapter 7 Liberal Ambiguities
    (pp. 212-242)

    In May 1872, a diverse collection of reformers, journalists, and disaffected Republicans met in Cincinnati to consolidate the various local and state efforts to overturn the rule of the regular Republican Party and to defeat “Grantism,” the pejorative label dissatisfied reformers used to describe the corrupt, patronage-ridden administration of Ulysses S. Grant. After six ballots, the Liberal Republican convention, improbably, nominated Horace Greeley for the presidency. What followed was even more implausible. In July, the regular Democratic Party gathered in Baltimore to select a candidate for the presidency. They decided to link their fate to the Liberal Republicans, nominating Greeley...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 243-284)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 285-304)
  14. Index
    (pp. 305-312)