Dakota Datebook

Horace Greeley

Monday, November 29, 2010

 

Beyond advising Americans to move west, Horace Greeley had little to do with Dakota Territory. Thus, a post in the territory named in his honor may appear odd. But, Greeley was more than a simple supporter of American expansion; he was an immensely influential editor of the New York Tribune, and a presidential candidate in 1872.

Horace Greeley started the New York Tribune in 1841. Through Greeley’s leadership and his selection of some of the most brilliant nineteenth century writers, including social theorist Karl Marx, the newspaper established itself among the most influential in America. Yet, Greeley remains best remembered for his untiring promotion of expansion into the American West and his famous quote, “Go west, young man, go west.”

In 1859, Greeley made own journey west, reporting on his adventures along the way, and after riding thousands of miles in the discomfort of a stagecoach, he wrote powerfully for a nationwide network of railroads. He promoted the work of various railroads including the Northern Pacific, which by the 1870s was cutting through northern Dakota Territory. He purchased company stock and actively advanced its interests in the Tribune.

To protect the rail crews, the US Army stationed infantry troops near the planned NP route and a new post was built. Given Greeley’s connection to the Northern Pacific, his national prominence and his calls for westward expansion, it’s not surprising the post, located in what is now downtown Bismarck, was named in his honor.

In 1872, Greeley’s power and influence reached its height as the Democratic and Liberal Republican parties both nominated Greeley for President. But, in mid-September, newspapers broke stories of scandal and corruption. Numerous public leaders, such as Vice President Colfax and James Garfield were implicated in a profit sharing scheme whereby influential leaders accepted railroad stock in return for favors. Greeley, with his close connection to the Northern Pacific, was similarly implicated, and given the newspaperman’s reputation as a crusader against corruption, his connection to the charges were perhaps all the more damaging.

Greeley’s campaign collapsed and President Grant ran away with the election. Greeley took the drubbing poorly. Combined with the recent death of his wife, he fell into a state of despair and passed away on this date in 1872. Given the acrimonious campaign and Greeley’s political fall, a fort baring his name was no longer politically appropriate. Camp Greeley was quietly changed to Camp Hancock.

Dakota Datebook written by Lane Sunwall

Sources

Lunde, Erik S., “Horace Greeley” http://www.anb.org/articles/16/16-00653.html?a=1&n=horace%20greeley&d=10&ss=0&q=1 (accessed November 10, 2010).

Snortland, J. Signe, ed. A Traveler’s Companion to North Dakota State Historic Sites. Bismarck, ND: State Historical Society of North Dakota, 1996.

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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