Abraham Lincoln and Executive Power Print E-mail
We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution
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Horace Greeley (1811–1872)

Horace Greeley founded the New York Tribune in 1841 and soon had a subscription roll numbering in the tens of thousands across the country. As an influential editor during the Lincoln administration, he constantly wrote to and about Lincoln, offering advice and reprobation in equal parts.

Greeley urged that no compromise be made with the South on slavery; he believed that the cotton states’ national loyalty would soon trump their political principles and they would return to the Union. At the outset of the war, however, he supported its execution wholeheartedly.

In 1862 Greeley became a staunch advocate of emancipation and published an editorial, “Prayer of Twenty Millions,” that prompted Lincoln to respond: “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.”

In 1864, Greeley believed that rapprochement with the Confederates was possible. After his attempt to organize a conference with a delegation of Confederate agents in Niagara Falls failed, Greeley endorsed Lincoln’s reelection and supported the president’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction of 1863. He was disappointed in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, considering it warlike.

Only after Lincoln’s assassination did Greeley truly see the president’s greatness. He wrote: "Mr. Lincoln was essentially a growing man. Enjoying no advantages in youth…he was steadily increasing his stock of knowledge to the day of his death. He was a wiser, abler man when he entered upon his second than when he commenced his first Presidential term. His mental processes were slow, but sure; if he did not acquire swiftly, he retained all that he had once learned. Greater men our country has produced; but not another humanly speaking she could so ill spare, when she lost him, as the victim of Wilkes Booth's murderous aim."