- Hardcover: 440 pages
- Publisher: NYU Press (May 1, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0814794025
- ISBN-13: 978-0814794029
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,648,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Horace Greeley: Champion of American Freedom
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From Publishers Weekly
Surveying the astounding range of Horace Greeley's engagement in the public life of the mid-nineteenth century-the important role he played in progressive movements from temperance and Fourierism to emancipation and land reform; his establishment of capitalist utopian communities in New York, Colorado, and North Carolina; and his influence on politics and popular opinion through his thirty-year editorship of the New York Tribune-historian Williams emphasizes a common theme: Greeley dedicated his life to promoting freedom. In this, as in his casual racism and misogyny, he was a man of his age, a period when the proper meaning of freedom was the subject of intense public debate and, ultimately, war. The book accordingly tells Greeley's story through snapshots of the period and its prevailing passions, interspersed with contemporary comments by and about Greeley; the result is a brisk tour of the newspaperman's life and times that often avoids objective assessment or insight into the inner man. Williams' and Greeley's reflections on the republican ideals that rocked the world during the latter's lifetime are intriguing, but brief discussions of topics like Greeley's strained but crucial relationship with Abraham Lincoln leave the reader wishing for a closer look.
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From The New Yorker
Horace Greeley was America's most famous editor and, with his Tribune, a defining voice in mid-nineteenth-century politics. He was an early promoter of Thoreau, lent money to Poe, and employed as foreign correspondents both Mark Twain and Karl Marx (who described Greeley to Engels as a "jackass with the face of an angel"). Williams gives a straightforward account of Greeley's personal life, which included an unhappy marriage made bleaker by the couple's fascination with utopian communities and dietary fads. To contemporaries, Greeley was a portrait in contradictions: he helped found the Republican Party, then ran for President as a Democrat; was late in becoming an "anti-slavery man," then excoriated Lincoln for moving slowly on emancipation; urged headlong assaults on the Confederacy, then bailed Jefferson Davis out of jail. Williams, however, argues that Greeley unswervingly devoted himself to a single idealAmerican freedomand was, in turn, crucial to its development.
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Top customer reviews
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Williams suggests that Greeley might have had Asperger’s Syndrome. Making such a claim about historical figures is always a risky move and is often not helpful but Williams may have a point in this case and it does help make sense of some of the aspects of Greeley that are hard to understand. The lack of oxygen for an extended time at Greeley’s birth, his eccentric yet at the same time highly focused and fearless behavior, his incredible memory about facts, his “who cares” attitude about what he wore – these and several other characteristics seem to support Williams. Of course such a syndrome was unknown in the mid 1800’s but Greeley’s brilliant, often offbeat, originality and obsessive focus may have its source there. Nobody’s life actions are completely explained by their origin; Greeley’s ideas and life style had multiple sources and the truth and falsity of his ideas rise or fall on their own merits. But Williams makes an interesting point.
The influence that Greeley had through the New York Tribune was enormous. He publicized the necessity of “freedom” for all people, including slaves, to the widest audience possible. His ideas of a utopian society were far more realistic than others at the time and he constantly pushed for their establishment. (Greeley, Colorado began as one such society and was eventually named for him.) The book is smoothly written with clear chapter and subchapter divisions and helpful transitions. This biography is a tribute to this unusual and brilliant man who was critical in forming public opinion in the days before the Civil War. I found the book a great help in understanding ante-bellum America.
An early advocate of the abolition of slavery Horace Greeley also hired Karl Marx and Frederick Engles as European corespondents to report on major events in Europe including the Crimean War and the policies of the British government toward the civil war in the United States.
Horace Greeley was a kind of 19th century "zelig," an opinion-leader who played an influential role in virtually every political and social movement of the mid-1800s. But Greeley was more than a bit player to the leading actors of his day. He was a bold and innovative journalist who molded the modern newspaper. While considered one of the founders of the Republican Party and a political kingmaker, he ran for president against Grant in 1872 in perhaps one of the most unusual and fascinating presidential elections in American history.
The author deserves high praise for debunking many myths surrounding Greeley's alleged eccentricities, stereotypes that often originated from the distortions of his mudslinging rivals. The author's dispassionate analysis, rooted in a deep understanding of the political and social crosscurrents of the era, succeeds in putting Greeley's seemingly contradictory stances and actions in an understandable context.
This is a very accessible and enjoyable read, betraying none of the dry or plodding style of some specialized history. The author's depth of knowledge and scrupulous research is evident on every page.