Horace Greeley, Nineteenth-Century Crusader

By Glyndon G. Van Deusen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15
A Republican Operator

KANSAS WAS FUEL TO THE FLAME OF ANTISLAVERY excitement, and Greeley used that fuel to the best advantage. The Tribune's portrayal of the free-soil and proslavery forces contending for the possession of Kansas was etched in black and white. The slaveholding Missourians who crossed over into the territory were "Border Ruffians," men who believed only in the law of the rifle and the bowie knife, men who were bent upon committing mayhem and murder. The proslavery Kansas settlers were a plundering, shooting, burning, torturing, tobacco-chewing, whiskey-drinking set, who would as soon shoot a Free-soiler as to look at him. They had an irresistible penchant for violence and tumult. The Free-soilers, on the other hand, were honest, industrious, and God-fearing. They were interested only in their work, their homes, and freedom. Their whole disposition was to remain quiet, avoid collisions, and pursue their farming, resisting only as a last resort the outrages inflicted upon them. 1

Actually, the settlers, whether slaveholders or Free-soilers, were fairly similar as to character and temperament, but there was little indication of this in the pages of the Tribune.

Greeley beat the drum for free soil in Kansas, but he made it clear that this was by no means his ultimate goal. For the moment, he was fighting a defensive battle against slavery extension. This was all that was now practicable, in view of the attitude of the great majority of American citizens. But the final aim was the elimination of a great social evil. With that end in view (an end that was to be accomplished, where slavery already existed, through social pressure and education rather than by political action), he was seeking to develop and ripen public sentiment in favor of a general emancipation. His campaign against slavery was not based so much upon truth as upon moral considerations.

It was in keeping with this idea of a steady advance toward the

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