Horace Greeley, Nineteenth-Century Crusader

By Glyndon G. Van Deusen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Soundings

ENTHUSIASTIC AS GREELEY WAS OVER ASSOCIATION, there was one aspect of the movement that left him cold. Its leaders, generally, took no interest in political action. They were contemptuous of it. This was never the case with the Tribune's editor. Even in the heyday of Fourierism, he believed that a safe course to reform could be charted through the stormy seas of practical politics. With the Tribune firmly established, Greeley began to take soundings so that this course might be charted for the good ship Whig.

There were four great principles, Greeley believed, that gave, or should give, meaning to Whiggery. First was protection which, like Association, had the central aim of increasing the number of producers in the American society. A stable currency, internal improvements and the uplift of the masses were the other articles in the creed of this four-square gospel of social harmony and national welfare. It was a gospel distinctly nationalistic in its implications.

The Democratic party, to Greeley's way of thinking, did not believe in this gospel, any more than it did in democracy itself. That party's great hero, the "violent and lawless" Jackson, had done more than any other American who had ever lived to make the government over into a "centralized despotism." Its members, in the mass, believed that there was a natural antagonism between wealth and poverty, capital and labor, and many of them made it their business to foster these antagonisms for the sake of partisan advantage. Hostile to paper money, tariffs, and internal improvements, hag-ridden by a do-nothing governmental philosophy, the party of Jackson and Van Buren was essentially exclusive and undemocratic in character. Moreover it was financially untrustworthy, for since the panic of 1837 it had soiled itself by the repudiation of state debts, Mississippi being the outstanding culprit in this regard. 1 The Democratic party, in short, was the foe, as Whiggery was the proponent, of the New Day.

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