The Negro and the Nation: A History of American Slavery and Enfranchisement

By George S. Merriam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
SOME NORTHERN LEADERS

TURNING now to the North, the principal leaders in its political life have already been mentioned, except Lincoln, whose star had not yet risen; but it is worth while to glance at some of those who, apart from Congress and public office, were molding public sentiment. Perhaps the man of the widest influence on public opinion was Horace Greeley. Through his New York Tribune he reached an immense audience, to a great part of whom the paper was a kind of political Bible. His words struck home by their common sense, passion, and close sympathy with the common people. A graduate of the farm and printing office, he was in close touch with the free, plain, toiling, American people, and in no man had they a better representative or a more effective advocate. There was in him something of John Bright's sturdy manhood, direct speech and devotion to human rights; something, too, of Franklin's homely shrewdness,--though little of Franklin's large philosophy or serenity. He was at first a Henry Clay Whig, and always a zealous protectionist; then in alliance with the anti-slavery element in the party, and soon the leading Republican editor. He was a lover of peace, in active sympathy with social reforms, sometimes betrayed into extravagances, but generally guarded by his common sense against extremists and impracticables. His limitations were a want of large culture, a very uncertain judgment in estimating men, and a temperament liable to such sudden ebb and flow that he fell sometimes into rashness and sometimes into panic. But he was disinterested

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