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
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.
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