Horace Greeley: Printer, Editor, Crusader

By Henry Luther Stoddard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
Overland to the Pacific

IT WAS NOW time for another Greeley pilgrimage to distant places. Many northern states, including his own New York, had gone Democratic; the Senate and the House of Representatives at Washington were again under southern control. "Is there a North?" seemed to have been answered in 1858 in the negative. Greeley determined to find out for himself if there was a West -- a Pacific coast West -- and what that treasure house of limitless gold really looked like. It was a lure he could not resist. Besides, he had been one of the earliest advocates of building the Union Pacific Railroad. He now wanted to cross the deserts, mountains and rivers over which it would pass, and thus know their difficulties. Pessimists were saying that "constructing a railroad across fourteen hundred miles of such deserts and mountains would be like building a bridge to the moon or tunneling under an ocean." Greeley had more faith. So this fifty-year-old newspaper chieftain hazarded the discomforts and dangers of a stagecoach journey to the coast. "I want to learn what I can of that country with my own eyes," he explained, "and to study men in their cabins and at their work instead of reading about them in books."

If any traveler to the "Gold Coast" during the 1850 decade wrote of his experiences with more human interest than did Greeley in letters to the Tribune and in his book An Overland Journey, the story has yet to be read by this author.

Lugging the same old carpetbag with which he had twice toured Europe, Greeley left New York City on May 9, 1859, for St.

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