Horace Greeley: Champion of American Freedom

Williams, Robert C. Horace Greeley: Champion of American Freedom. New York: New York University Press, 2006.
    Source Type
    Publication Type
    Robert C. Williams, Horace Greeley: Champion of American Freedom (New York: New York University Press, 2006), 191.
    Body Summary:
    In March 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the legality of slavery in the case of a slave named Dred Scott. Scott claimed his freedom because his owner had moved him from a slave state (Missouri) to a free state (Illinois). U.S. Chief Justice Roger Taney held that a slave, ex-slave, or descendant of a slave was not an American citizen, but the property of an owner. Because Congress was constitutionally required to protect property, it could not prohibit slavery in the territories. Thus the slave owner’s constitutional rights to liberty and property under the law superseded the freedom of the slave, who was not a citizen, but a thing. Anti-slavery men and women everywhere were outraged.

    [Horace] Greeley wrote that Taney’s decision carried as much moral weight as a majority vote in “any Washington bar room.” The decision was bad law, “southern sophism cloaked with the dignity of our highest court.” Slaves might be sold on Bunker Hill and in front of Faneuil Hall in Boston, while slave ships might now “land their dusky cargo at Plymouth Rock.” The Dred Scott decision was a collection of “false statements and shallow sophistries” put together to support a foregone conclusion, and a “fatal blow to the rights and liberties of all.” Even the individual states could only establish and strengthen slavery within their borders. The Dred Scott case, wrote Greeley, meant that “the Star of Freedom and the stripes of bondage are henceforth one. American Republicanism and American Slavery are for the future synonymous.”
    Robert C. Williams, Horace Greeley: Champion of American Freedom (New York: New York University Press, 2006), 308.
    Body Summary:
    Horace Greeley’s most famous legacy was probably his injunction to “Go West, Young Man!” Millions did, of course. Whether or not Greeley ever said these exact words, generations of school children recited or remembered them. Westward expansion in search of land and freedom constituted one of the major trends in American history. Greeley both articulated and reflected that trend. But he also fused European and American ideas of freedom into a single republican philosophy grounded in free labor and the right to rise or fall by dint of one’s own hard work.
    Robert C. Williams, Horace Greeley: Champion of American Freedom (New York: New York University Press, 2006), 195-196.
    Body Summary:
    In 1858, Illinois joined Kansas as a battleground in the war between slavery and freedom. Here a leading Democrat, Stephen A. Douglas, faced a former Illinois congressman and railroad attorney, Abraham Lincoln, in the race for a U.S. Senate seat held by Douglas. To the consternation of Lincoln and most Republicans, Horace Greeley supported Douglas, a Democrat, against Lincoln, a Republican. Why? Many have attributed Greeley’s support for Douglas simply to his erratic and inconsistent political behavior. But in fact, Greeley’s consistent strategy that year was to divide the Democrats by backing an anti-Lecompton man who had broken with his party and his president, which would help elect a Republican president in 1860. Strategically, Greeley had his eye on the next presidential election, when his old mentor William Henry Seward would probably be the front-runner. Lincoln was an unknown figure outside Illinois. Tactically, Greeley thought defeating Lincoln and returning a renegade Senator to divide the Democrats in Washington was a perfectly reasonable strategy.
    How to Cite This Page: "Horace Greeley: Champion of American Freedom," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/14356.