Greeley's Southern Tour

 “Mr. Greeley’s Speech”
  Source:  Harper’s Weekly
  Date:   July 1, 1871, p. 594

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
After touring the South, Greeley was formally welcomed home to New York on June 12, 1871, with a serenade and greetings at the Lincoln Club Rooms at Union Square and by an audience of thousands on the street outside.  Speaking on a platform erected in front of the Club Rooms, Greeley declared, “I desire no office, and though I never shall decline any nomination that has not been given to me—[laughter] I shall certainly seek no office whatever [applause].”  His carefully phrased observation, “I never shall decline any nomination that has not been given to me” was clearly open to easy misquotation and misinterpretation.  In fact, that entire section of his oration could be mistaken as a petulant declaration of independence from the Republican Party he had done so much to establish.  Greeley went on to speak of his experiences in the South, the evils of “thieving” carpetbag rule, and urban corruption in the North.  For the editor, it was time the nation left behind the politics arising from the Civil War.

Fellow-citizens … I am wearing of fighting over the issues that ought to be dead… When slavery died I thought that we ought speedily to have ended all that grew out of it, by universal amnesty and impartial suffrage.  [Applause.]  I think so still; and if the Democratic party concede Impartial Suffrage, the Republican party will concede universal amnesty… So then, friends, I summon you … to prepare for the new issues … questions of industrial policy—questions of national achievement…

Plainly, Greeley had declared himself for something, without saying precisely what it might be.  To many, that something appeared to be a fishing expedition for somebody who could defeat Grant.  The next morning, one Democratic newspaper referred with reckless optimism to the Greeley speech as “the funeral oration of the Republican party.”  In a Harper’s Weekly editorial (dated July 1, published June 21), George William Curtis, who was personally fond of Greeley but politically loyal to President Grant, remarked that the speech was “notable because of the eminent position of Mr. Greeley in the Republican party, and because he has been mentioned, without dissent on his part, as a candidate for the Presidency.”  After reviewing some of Greeley’s words and deeds that had been unhelpful to the Union cause during the secession crisis and Civil War, Curtis focused on the Tribune editor’s recent speech, which was notable for Greeley’s failure to tie his political future to the Republican Party.



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