The Worst Thing Yet! 1872
In his portly old age, the bald head and spectacles made him the very image of Charles Dickens's Mr. Pickwick, and to generations yet unborn he would be remembered most for words he never uttered: "Go west, young man." But Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune had greatness in more than a Pickwickian sense. He was the foremost editor of his age and one of its most widely recognized men, truly a symbol of the political ambitions of the independent press. Who was more worthy to test that press's actual power? And yet the story of that challenge was as complex as Greeley's character; for the election of 1872, in which he starred so pathetically, was as much a political farce as it was a personal tragedy.
His reputation for oddity and ambition was well earned. Slouching, hot-tempered, benevolent, passionate, rude, the white-coated figure of the Tribune's founder was a caricature easily drawn. Those who believed, as a Cincinnati journalist did, that Greeley did "more wrong through his perverse notions than any man alive," found it easy to like him. 1