Horace Greeley: Printer, Editor, Crusader

By Henry Luther Stoddard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
"The Drumbeat of the Nation"

JANUARY 5, 1854, should rank in history with the election of Lincoln in 1860, for on that day Greeley's editorial in the Tribune became what George William Curtis called in Harper's Weekly the "drumbeat of the nation," summoning the people of the North to unite against the determination of the South "to make the West pastureland for slavery." In the Senate Stephen A. Douglas, the "Little Giant" from Illinois, had introduced his bill organizing into a territory the vast wilderness known as Kansas and Nebraska, giving its inhabitants the right to decide by vote whether or not slavery should be lawful within its boundaries. Douglas called it "popular sovereignty," but Greeley's prompt retort was "squatter sovereignty." "What kind of 'popular sovereignty' is it," he asked, "that allows one class of people to vote slavery for another?"

Here at last was a plain, direct issue that no one in the North could ignore. It was a challenge that had to be accepted or future opposition to slavery extension abandoned. If ever a man sensed instantly and bespoke the spirit of a people, Greeley now did. With the instinct and boldness of courageous leadership he called for a new political organization to take charge of the battle for freedom and the Union. There were confidence, enthusiasm and prophecy in his first editorial:

The passage of the Nebraska bill will arouse and consolidate the most gigantic, determined and overwhelming party for freedom that the

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