WorldMag.com WORLD Magazine / Central Ideas / Chapter Six
The Great Debates of Journalism


CONTENTS

PART ONE:
Rise of the Corruption Story

PART TWO:
Macrostories in Conflict

The Establishment of American Press Liberty
First Surge of the Oppression Story
The Great Debates of Journalism

PART THREE:
Breakthrough of the Oppression Story

APPENDICES

 

Central Ideas cover
What journalism textbooks call the "penny press era" the 1830s and 1840s is the period for which materialist explanations appear to be the strongest. By the 1830s, the traditional newspapers were vulnerable because they were expensive. The typical price was 6 cents per copy, a sum needed to pay for production and distribution, because advertising revenues were small; 6 cents was not small change when the average daily wage for farm laborers was 85 cents. A newspaper that sold for 1 cents rather than 6 cents could (in theory) dramatically increase circulation, perhaps sixfold, which would mean that total income from circulation could remain constant, whereas increased advertising rates could pay for the additional costs involved in printing and distributing many more copies.

The change would be feasible only if improvements in production and distribution also came. The necessary technology became available in the 1830s when steamdriven presses, able to produce copies far more quickly than those handoperated, came on line. The Hoe cylinder press, for example, could produce 4,000 papers per hour. Distribution was improved when newspaper boys, often youth rendered homeless through the family disruption that came with urbanization, were employed to sell single copies of newspapers on the street. All that was needed was an entrepreneur capable of seeing and grasping the new opportunities.

Several tried, but the first to make a success of a "penny newspaper" was printer Benjamin Day, who in 1833 began selling the New York Sun in 1833. Day was wise enough to establish a simple and lively style for his newspaper, but to ground it firmly in the same corruption story attitude toward the news that had made newspapers such as the Boston Recorder successful.[1] He did so primarily by installing as Sun editor George W. Wisner, who had worked on traditional Christian newspapers and understood that it is neither accurate nor stimulating to pretend that all is well in the world.

Wisner, like his Puritan predecessors, emphasized sensation, exposure, clarity, accuracy, and specificity. He understood the Mather emphasis on bad news and wrote of how news stories:

must generally tell of wars and fighting, of deeds of death, and blood, of wounds and heresies, of broken heads, broken hearts, and broken bones, of accidents by fire or flood, a field of possessions ravaged, property purloined, wrongs inflicted . . . . the abundance of news is generally an evidence of astounding misery, and even the disinterested deeds of benevolence and philanthropy which we occasionally hear of owe their existence to the wants or sorrows or sufferings of some of our fellow beings.[2]
Wisner's practice followed his principles: A drunkard hauled into court acknowledged that he "could not see a hole through a ladder."[3] Wisner ran tales of adultery.[4] He told of how a woman was seduced and abandoned.[5]

Wisner believed that specificity was important both to win readers and to make his product morally useful. He listed names of all criminal offenders and saw such posting as an inhibitor of others inclined to vice:

Much complaint has been made from a certain quarter, and emanating from a particular class of individuals, against the publication of the names of persons who have been arrested by the watch, [but . . .] such publications have a tendency to deter from disorders and crimes, and to diminish the number of criminals."[6]
A typical story shows how Wisner was not afraid to shame offenders:
Patrick Ludwick was sent up by his wife, who testified that she had supported him for several years in idleness and drunkenness. Abandoning all hopes of a reformation in her husband, she bought him a suit of clothes a fortnight since and told him to go about his business, for she would not live with him any longer. Last night he came home in a state of intoxication, broke into his wife's bedroom, pulled her out of bed, pulled her hair, and stamped on her. She called a watchman and sent him up. Pat exerted all his powers of eloquence in endeavoring to excite his wife's sympathy, but to no purpose. As every sensible woman ought to do who is cursed with a drunken husband, she refused to have anything to do with him hereafter.[7]
The emphasis was still on personal responsibility. Wisner, following the Reformed view that the heavens display the glory of God and the streets show the sinfulness of man, told stories to make his points, and also displayed a sense of humor. He opposed dueling but once accepted a challenge from a seller of quack medicines whom Wisner had criticized. Wisner, given his choice of weapons, said that they would have to be syringes filled with the doctor's own medicine, at five paces. The duel was called off.[8]

After a few years Wisner moved on to Michigan and died shortly thereafter, but others among the new penny papers followed his pattern: They were snappier in tone than some of their predecessors, but had the same willingness to print bad news and demand that people abide by the consequences of their actions. New York Herald editor James Gordon Bennett emphasized man's sinfulness, writing in 1836 that "I have seen human depravity to the coreI proclaim each morning on 15,000 sheets of thought and intellect the deep guilt that is encrusting our society. "[9] Theologically, Bennett repeatedly told readers that he considered atheism absurd.[10]

The real threat to journalism's long tradition did not come from material change or from Bennett, who was committed to the idea of an independent press, but from the return of the oppression story in the 1840s.[11] Repulsed during the 1790s, it was not a factor in journalism history for the following four decades yet during that period, much was changing in America theologically, both within Christianity and outside of it. Increasingly, liberal theologians began to proclaim that man was not inherently sinful, and that if man's environment were changed, man himself could become perfect. A host of panaceas, ranging from diet change (meat was out, graham flour was in) to the abolition of private property, became popular as ways of changing mankind.

Many of the proposals for change involved an opposition to property rights, which journalistsaware of how essential privately owned printing presses are to editorial independence had strongly favored over the years. Unitarian leader William Ellery Channing clearly named one of the assumed villains: "Avarice was the chief obstacle to human progress . . . The only way to eliminate it was to establish a community of property.[12] Channing later moderated his communistic ideas concerning property, but he typified the liberal New Englander's approach to the problem of evil. Evil was created by the way society was organized, not by anything innately evil in man. Change society and evil could be eliminated.

One of the radical attacks on private property was led by Albert Brisbane, who had journeyed to Europe in 1828, at age 18, and eventually become a disciple of Charles Fourier. Fourier, famous in Marxist history as a "utopian socialist," argued that man's natural goodness could be restored if society was reorganized into small units called phalanxes, each with 1,620 members. Each phalanx member would be paid from the common product and would live in a common dwelling called a phalanstery, with a common dining hall featuring seven meals a day. Bodies might also be in common, because "free love" would be encouraged. The communes would emphasize agriculture, but each member would be free to work when and where he wanted.

For Fourier and Brisbane, this economic vision came from pantheistic theological roots and was designed, in Brisbane's words, to create "a humanity worthy of that Cosmic Soul of which I instinctively felt it to be a part."[13] But Brisbane, desiring success and believing that material change would lead to spiritual transformation, learned to downplay his theology before the public:

I held that it was not worth while to excite religious antipathies to the idea of an industrial reform. The great point to be gained was the organization of society on a true, practical basis. I saw that when once the material operations and relations of men were properly organized, opinions would modify themselves by the influence of a new life and a higher education.[14]
Brisbane began to develop a following. The going was still slow, however, so he asked one veteran journalist, Park Benjamin, how he could gain a mass audience. Benjamin suggested that Brisbane first work on a talented but somewhat loony editor named Horace Greeley, for Greeley was "just damned fool enough to believe such nonsense."

He was. The collaboration of Brisbane and Greeley gave the oppression story its first long lasting presence in American journalism. In 1841, Greeley was a 30-year-old frustrated office seeker just starting up a new penny newspaper, the New York Tribune.[15] Greeley was enthralled by the "ennobling tendencies" of Transcendentalism and enamored with the movement's leaders: "Its apostles are mainly among the noblest spirits living."[16] He called himself a mere popularizer of Emerson's transcendentalist teachings, and at the same time a Universalist who believed in salvation for every man and salvation of society by man's efforts.[17] Greeley also wanted people to revere him as a great thinker; as fellow editor E. L. Godkin noted, Greeley castigated office seekers, but he was "as timeserving and ambitious and scheming an old fellow as any of them."[18]

Naturally, Greeley was attracted to Brisbane's proposal of salvation through commune. With a new convert's enthusiasm, Greeley published a magazine edited by Brisbane and entitled The Future, Devoted to the Cause of Association and a Reorganization of Society. He then gave Brisbane a frontpage column on the Tribune that gave the communalist the opportunity to "spread ideas broadcast over the whole country, gaining a great number of adherents."[19] As one Greeley biographer noted, "The Tribune threw itself wholeheartedly behind Brisbane, and soon found itself building up news interest, discussion, and circulation at an extraordinary rate as it helped him popularize his cause."[20] And, it is arguable that the penny press began making a worldview difference not because of its existence in and of itself, but because of the ideas of Brisbane and Greeley.

In any event, Greeley threw himself personally into the commune movement, as he attended Fourierist conventions, became president of the American Union of Associationists, and financially backed three phalanxesthe Sylvania Association in Pennsylvania, the North American Phalanx in New Jersey, and Brook Farm in Massachusetts.[21] Greeley received ample stroking; in 1844, for example, when he went to a New York City banquet honoring Fourier's birthday, Greeley was toasted by Brisbane as the man who had

done for us what we never could have done. He has created the cause on this continent. He has done the work of a century. Well, then, I will give a toast: `One Continent, One Man !'[22]
Greeley's political activities helped him attract many young, idealistic writers, some of whomMargaret Fuller, George Ripley, and Charles Dana particularlyhad great literary skill. The Tribune became the place to work; as editor E. L. Godkin would later note, "To get admission to the columns of the Tribune almost gave the young writer a patent of literary nobility."[23] One Tribune reporter recalled that the furnishings were poor, but
Ill-furnished and ill-kept as the Tribune office was in those days, it harbored a moral and intellectual spirit that I met nowhere else during my thirtyfive years of journalistic experience. Every member of the force, from reporter to editor, regarded it as a great privilege to be on the Tribune and to write for its columns . . . . [24]
Greeley himself had great journalistic instincts. He demanded from his reporters "vigor, terseness, clearness, and simplicity."[25] He emphasized comprehensive news coverage, and described how an editor should make sure that nothing "of interest to a dozen families occurs, without having the fact daily, though briefly, chronicled." He noted that if an editor can "secure a wideawake, judicious correspondent in each village and township" and have him send "whatever of moment occurs in his vicinity," readership is assured.[26]

Greeley also insisted on good typography. One anecdote shows how even Greeley's fiercest competitors respected the Tribune's superiority in this regard. It seems that Greeley once fired a printer who misread Greeley's notoriously messy handwriting and thought the editor was calling not for an early morning milk train to bring the fruits of farm labors to New York City, but a "swill train." When the editorial was published and an angry delegation of Westchester County farmers assaulted Greeley, he in rage scribbled a note to the composing room foreman ordering that the printer be fired. The foreman knew Greeley's writing and could read the message, but to the average reader only the signature was clear. The fired printer asked to hold onto Greeley's note as a souvenir. He then took it to other newspapers and answered questions about previous employment and reliability by flashing the note. The name of Greeley on it all else being illegible was accepted as all the recommendation needed.

All of these factors allowed Greeley the freedom to make his newspaper a proponent of social revolution without unduly alienating otherwise delighted subscribers.[27] And for a while, other leaders of New York journalism gave Greeley a wide berth. In 1846, however, he was challenged to a series of newspaper debates by his former assistant editor on the Tribune, Henry Raymond. Raymond, 26, had moved from assisting Greeley on the Tribune to assisting James Watson Webb on the New York Courier and Enquirer, and Greeley still had high regard for him; Greeley later would write that he had never seen "a cleverer, readier, more generally efficient journalist" than Raymon.[28] But the philosophical differences between the two were sharp: in 1854 journalist James Parton would muse, "Horace Greeley and Henry J. Raymond, the one naturally liberal, the other naturally conservativethe one a Universalist, the other a Presbyterian... "[29]

The debates took place because neither Greeley nor Raymond tried to hide their views, and because both thought their readerships would be informed by a debate on basic issues of political economy. The arrangement agreed to was straightforward: The Tribune would publish an initial Greeley column defending Associationism, and the Courier would then print that column along with a response by Raymond; Greeley would then print Raymond's reply and a reply of his own; the Courier would print Greeley's new column and a new response by Raymond; and so on. Each party agreed to publish a total of 12 articles from its own side and 12 from the other.

The format of the debates was clear, but the course of argumentation was anything but direct. Greeley opened the debate series on November 20 by trying to establish a natural rights base for his opposition to private property: he asserted presuppositionally that each member of "the whole Human Family" had an equal right to the earth, and that, therefore, every New York resident had "a perfect right . . . to his equal share of the soil, the woods, the waters, and all the natural products thereof." The problem, however, was that "Civilized Society, as it exists in our day, has divested the larger portion of mankind of the unimpeded, unpurchased enjoyment of their natural rights"; the solution would be "Association," by which all property would be communal rather than private.[30]

Raymond in response did not challenge Greeley's presuppositions but concentrated on drawing out four steps that logically would follow acceptance of Greeley's theory: (a) if equal distribution of all land was right, then the current unequal distribution was wrong; (b) if the wrong was to be righted, then none of the current patterns of property ownership should stand; (c) if land could not be owned rightfully, than the product of that land could not be owned rightfully; (d) because all property originated in land ownership, no one could rightfully own anything at all. Raymond then went on to argue from history that although difficulties did arise out of property ownership, "without it they would be increased a thousand fold . . . Without it civilization would be unknownthe face of the Earth would be a desert, and mankind transformed into savage beasts."[31]

Greeley at this point could have stood his ground and attempted to argue that private property's detriments were greater than its benefits, but he did not think he could prove that case historically; instead, in his second essay he retreated to a better defensive position by writing that he wanted to argue about current reality, not history and theory, and so would stress the importance of property being used for the good of all rather than for individual, assumedly selfish, purposes.[32] Raymond in his second essay accepted the move away from theory and demanded that Greeley lay out the specifics of his program, and explain how communes could attract needed capital without expropriation by force.[33] Greeley responded with details of the Associationist program, and tried to prove his peaceful and moderate intentions by stipulating that those who provided needed capital for the communes could be rewarded by receiving shares of the commune's production.[34]

Raymond, in his third essay, took that detail and held it high as proof of Greeley's inconsistency; Raymond argued that Greeley was in one breath calling the distribution of capital unjust, and in the next indicating a willingness to ratify that unfairness and even modify Associationism to extend it.[35] Greeley responded that his goal was not so much to rectify past abuses as to prevent further ones, so he therefore was willing to recognize capital accumulations as long as future profits would go primarily to those who labored, not merely those who invested.[36] Raymond, in his fourth reply, wrote that Greeley's scheme was unrealistic because, apart from a market system, it was not possible to determine exactly the value of labor or product.[37]

Here the debaters were approaching what is still a key question of economics, although the current phenomenon of Marxist economies abandoning command manufacturing and pricing decisions indicates that the argument is virtually over. In the mid19th century, however, massive experience with administered pricing in industrial economies was still in the future, and Greeley could assert in his fifth essay that it would not be hard to distribute proceeds to "Capital, Labor and Skill as impartial justice shall dictate."[38] Raymond for his part replied that administered distribution was impossible without tyranny: those who wished to choose freely and make their own economic arrangements "must be overruled, put down by the strong hand: or they must be consulted and gratifiedand that would simply be a return to the existing social state."[39] Raymond contended that Greeley was unwilling to confront some basic issues of man's natureincluding, most particularly, the question of "sin" and its effect on social progress.[40]

By the end of the fifth debate some key issues in political theory and economics had been discussed, but the debates still had not achieved the intellectual intensity that could make them profound rather than persnickety. Both debaters, in fact, were becoming exasperated with each other's penchant for floating like a butterfly rather than stinging like a bee: Raymond complained on December 24 of "the difficulty of conducting an argument with an opponent who recognizes none of the common rules of reasoning, and who repudiates his positions as fast as they become unpleasant." Greeley replied that Raymond's counterpunching was "founded only in the grossest ignorance and misconception of what I have presented."[41]

With the sixth editorial page essays, however, the longterm salience of the debates increased because Raymond's jabs drove Greeley to confront the question of how social progress could occur. Greeley acknowledged at the start, "I know well that an Association of knaves and dastardsof indolent or covetous personscould not endure without a moral transformation of its members." Then came Greeley's key emphasis on structural rather than personal change as the root of progress; he argued that the structure of Association "strongly tends to correct the faults inimical to its existence,"[42] for people placed in a good environment will undergo a moral transformation. Raymond, in his sixth essay, pounced on Greeley's admission, arguing that "this concession is fatal to the whole theory of Association. It certainly implies that Individual Reform must precede Social Reformthat the latter must have its root in the former."[43]

Raymond went on to call Greeley's assertion that Associationism would be selfcorrecting "a gross absurdity," for "Association is thus expected to make its own indispensable conditions. It is to create its own creatorto produce its own causeto effect that personal reform in which it must originate."[44] Raymond then stated his position: Only the "personal reform of individual men," through Christianity, can lead to social progress. Raymond argued that reformers should "commence their labors by making individual men Christians: by seeking their personal, moral transformation. When that is accomplished, all needed Social Reform will either have been effected or rendered inevitable."[45]

Greeley, in his seventh statement, had two replies to Raymond. First, Greeley defended the causal relationship Raymond attacked. Greeley argued that personal change among the best and the brightest would lead to societal transformation, which in turn would lead to change among the masses:

Give but one hundred of the right men and women as the nucleus of a true Social Organism, and hundreds of inferior or indifferent qualities might be rapidly molded into conformity with theme.[46]
Greeley could write this because he saw man as a product of his environment: "I believe there are few of the young and plastic who might not be rendered agreeable and useful members of an Association under the genial influences of Affection, Opportunity, Instruction, and Hope."[47] Greeley's emphasis on plasticity would become increasingly common in the second half of the century as environmental explanations for social problems became more common.

Greeley's arguments also pointed toward future ideologies by putting forward what a half century later would become known as the "Social Gospel": He tried to show that Raymond's demand for Christ first was absurd, because "Association is the palpable dictate of Christianitythe body whereof True Religion is the soul."[48] In arguing that Associationism was Christianityinpractice, a material emphasis that transcended the spiritual, Greeley described slum living conditions and asked,

Can any one doubt what Christianity must dictate with regard to such hovels as these? Can any fail to see that to fill them with Bibles and Tracts, while Bread is scanty, wholesome Air a rarity, and Decency impossible, must be unavailing? `Christianity,' say you! Alas! many a poor Christian mother within a mile of us is now covering her little ones with rags in the absence of fuel . . . [49]
Greeley's statement jarred Raymond to lay out his full position on January 20, 1847. He first noted partial agreement with Greeley as to the need for action:
The existence of misery, and the necessity of relieving it, are not in controversy, for we have never doubted either. It is only upon the remedy to be applied, that the Tribune and ourselves are at variance.[50]
But Raymond argued that Greeley was unnecessarily revolutionary when he insisted that:
to benefit a part, the whole must be changed; that to furnish some with good dwellings, all must abandon their houses and dwell together under a common roof; that the whole fabric of existing institutions, with all its habits of action and of thought, must be swept away, and a new Society takes its place, in which all must be subject to common customs, a common education, common labor, and common modes of life, in all respects. This, its fundamental position, we deny. We deny the necessity, the wisdom, and the possibility of removing existing evil, by such a process.[51]
Raymond, rather than linking philanthropy with upheaval, saw individual and church action as efficacious. He praised "individuals in each ward, poor, pious, humble men and women, who never dreamed of setting themselves up as professional philanthropists," but daily visit the sick and help the poor. He also argued that:
Members of any one of our City Churches do more every year for the practical relief of poverty and suffering, than any Phalanx [the Associationist name for communes] that ever existed. There are in our midst hundreds of female `sewing societies,' each of which clothes more nakedness, and feeds more hunger, than any `Association' that was ever formed.[52]
Raymond then portrayed Greeley's ideas as abstractly ineffective:
Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been expended by the Associationists, in propagating their theories of benevolence, and in making benevolent experiments, yet where is the practical good they have accomplished? . . . The Tribune sneers at practical Christianity . . . Does the taunt come with good grace from a system which theorizes over starvation, but does not feed it; which scorns to give bread and clothing to the hungry and naked, except it can first have the privilege of reconstructing Society?
Now the two debaters were focusing on the basics. Raymond had called Greeley superficial for not getting at what Raymond saw as the root, spiritual causes of material poverty, and now Greeley struck back with his assessment that capitalism, not spiritual decay, was the culprit: "Association proposes a way . . . of reaching the causes of the calamities, and absolutely abolishing Pauperism, Ignorance, and the resulting Vices."[53] Journalists, Greeley went on, should not merely praise those who mitigated "woes and degradations," but should fight oppression: "Relieving Social Evils' is very well; we think eradicating and preventing them still better, and equally feasible if those who have power will adopt the right means, and give them a fair trial."[54]

Raymond's response on February 10, however, continued to insist that views of human nature, and not merely issues of relief versus prevention, were the continental divide separating his position from that of Greeley. Raymond, instead of accepting Greeley's assertion that Associationism was true Christianity, argued that it was antiChristian. For example, Raymond pointed out Associationism's belief

that the Husband and Wife, instead of being one, as the laws of God have decreed, shall be entirely independent of each other in name and in property, and that each shall have perfect liberty of action and affection.[55]
Raymond argued that the near absolute liberty the communes were designed to allow would inevitably feed into anarchy, and that their maintenance would be possible only through totalitarian "Social Science," which would be designed to "control all departments of Social Life."[56]

Increasingly the debates hinged on the view of man that divided the two editors. When Greeley argued on February 17 that all man's problems "have their root in that isolation of efforts and antagonism of interests on which our present Social Order is based," Raymond replied by emphasizing individual corruption rather than social oppression as the root of most social ills.[57] Although Greeley believed that "the Passions, feelings, free impulses of Man point out to him the path in which he should walk," Raymond argued that evil feeds on those passions and impulses of man's natural inclination, and that channelling those inclinations into paths of work and family was the only alternative to anarchy and barbarism.[58] The last three debates showed even more clearly the conflict of two faiths. Greeley's Associationist belief was that human desires are:

good in themselves. Evil flows only from their repression or subversion. Give them full scope, free play, a perfect and complete development, and universal happiness must be the result . . . create a new form of Society in which this shall be possible . . . then you will have a perfect Society; then will you have `the Kingdom of Heaven . . . '[59]
Raymond, however, argued that:
this principle is in the most direct and unmistakable hostility to the uniform inculcations of the Gospel. No injunction of the New Testament is more express, or more constant, than that of selfdenial; of subjecting the passions, the impulses of the heart to the law of conscience.[60]
Greeley responded, on March 12, with his faith that the education intrinsic to commune life was the key to developing individuals who would not need God's grace or biblical restraint: "I do not believe that a rightly-trained, truly-developed human being will any more have "a passion for a dozen different women,' etc., than he will have a passion to commit a dozen murders."[61] Associationism also stressed structuring of the social environment:
Excesses and vices are not an essential part of the passions, but on the contrary depend on external circumstances, which may be removed. All that is necessary is to discover a society in which every bad route for the action of the passions will be closed, and in which the path of virtue will be strewn with flowers . . . . How could the passions lead to crime, when every thing should be arranged to satisfy them in the most agreeable manner?[62]
But Greeley would not assent to Raymond's assertion that Associationism was antiChristian; rather, he made backing of communes a Christian necessity, and argued in his 11th essay that it is
the duty of every Christian, every Philanthropist, every one who admits the essential Brotherhood of the Human Family, to labor earnestly and devotedly for a Social Order, which shall secure to every human being within its sphere the full and true development of the nature wherewith God has endowed him, Physical, Intellectual, and Moral.[63]
Raymond, in his 11th response, argued that Greeley was socialist in economics, antinomian in ethics, and overall a person who was trying to create a new god in Greeley's own image: Greeley's thought, Raymond charged,
pretends to be religious, and even claims to be the only true Christianity. But . . . it rejects the plainest doctrines of the Bible, nullifies its most imperative commandments, and substitutes for them its own interpretation of the laws of nature. Thus the God in whom it professes faith, becomes, in its definition, simply the 'principle of universal unity.'[64]
Raymond accused Greeley of similarly twisting the concept of the Trinity and the meaning of the words "Kingdom of Heaven."[65] He concluded, concerning Greeley's belief, that:
Its whole spirit is in the most direct hostility to the doctrines of the Bible. It recognizes no absolute distinction between right and wrong . . . and aims at nothing beyond the 'full and true development of the nature of man.' . . . It is the exact antagonist of Christianity; it starts from opposite fundamental principles and aims at precisely opposite results.[66]
The key question that all reformers and journalists should answer, Raymond insisted, concerned the locus of evil action among humans: did evil come from within, or was it generated by social institutions? Raymond stipulated that,
Before a cure can be applied or devised, the cause of the evil must be ascertained: and here at the very outset, the theory of Association comes in direct collision with the teachings of Christianity.[67]
The cause, Raymond argued, was "the sinfulness of the heart of Man." The remedy, he argued,
must reach that cause, or it must prove inefficient. The heart must be changed. The law of Man's nature must cease to be the supreme law of his life. He must learn to subject that law to the higher law of righteousness, revealed in his conscience and in the Word of God . . . . and that subjugation can only be effected by his own personal will, with the supernatural aids furnished in the Christian Scheme.[68]
And thus the lines were clearly drawn. Greeley believed that "the heart of man is not depraved: that his passions do not prompt to wrong doing, and do not therefore by their action, produce evil."[69] Greeley, in his 12th and final essay, reiterated his faith that "social distinctions of master and servant, rich and poor, landlord and landless," are the cause of social problems. He followed Unitarian practice in referring to Jesus as a "divinely-sent messenger and guide" but was unwilling to accept Christ as God's son. He concluded his side of the debate on April 28 with some exasperation:
I can not see how a man profoundly impressed with the truth and importance of Christ's teaching . . . can fail to realize and aspire to a Social polity radically different from that which has hitherto prevailed.[70]
Raymond's final response reiterated the centrality of "Sin, as an active power, in the human heart," and argued that Associationism at best would deal with superficial problems, but not "the lust, the covetousness, the selfseeking," out of which battles arise.[71] Greeley trusted man's wisdom, but Raymond concluded that
the principles of all true REFORM come down from Heaven . . . . The CHRISTIAN RELIGION, in its spiritual, lifegiving, heartredeeming principles is the only power that can reform Society: and it can accomplish this work only by first reforming the individuals of whom Society is composed. Without GOD, and the plan of redemption which he has revealed, the World is also without HOPE.[72]
As the debates ended, interest in them was so high that Harper's quickly published all 24 of the articles in a pamphlet of 83 closely printed, double-columned pages, which sold out.

It is hard to evaluate the long term effect of the debates on American society and journalism. But if we keep in mind the statement of Lincoln's that began this book- `Public opinion on any subject always has a `central idea' from which all its minor thoughts radiate"-the significance of the debates is clear. Raymond and Greeley were really arguing about what the "central idea" for Americans, and American journalists, should be.

The battle was not one of change versus the status quo. Raymond agreed with Greeley that social problems were great"Far from denying their existence, we insist that they are deeper and more fundamental in their origin."[73] But Raymond saw himself as arguing for "a more thorough and radical remedy than the Tribune supposes"-namely, the change of heart that acceptance of Christianity brings.[74] That concept was common in the Christian journalism that dominated the early 19thcentury press. It underlay the corruption story and its emphasis on the universality of sin and the need for all individuals, including rulers, to repent and change. Raymond in the debates repeatedly stated this doctrine:

No truth is more distinctly taught in the Word of God than that of the sinfulness of the human earth: the proclivity of Man's nature to act in violation of the rule of right .... It is solely because malice, covetousness, envy, lust, and selfishness in general exist, as active principles, in the heart of man, that their fruits exist in Society. It is solely because the foundation is poisoned, that the streams which flow from it are bitter.[75]
But would that belief remain dominant in American journalism?

Not if Horace Greeley had anything to do with it. He embraced part of that methodology but rejected the theology behind it. Instead of seeing sinful man and a society reflecting that sinfulness, he believed that man was naturally good but was enslaved by oppressive social systems. Greeley in the debates was developing the rationale of the oppression story emphasis on problems arising not from internal sin but from external influences. That is why the debates were so grinding: Raymond and Greeley were arguing not only about theology and economics, but about the future of American society and the future of journalistic practice. The tectonic plates were shifting as they spoke. Soon the earthquake would come.


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CHAPTER 6 Great Debates of Journalism Notes

1. Established publications then as now had a tendency to become dull, with long sentences and elliptical statements at a time when punchy paragraphs were demanded. The classic statement of stodginess and literary arrogance was offered by the editor of a Christian magazine, Spirit of the Pilgrims: He announced that "extended and labored articles" were the best kind, and that readers "uninterested in communications of this nature may as well give up their subscription and proceed no farther with us." Spirit of the Pilgrims soon went out of business.

2. New York Sun, April 4, 1835, and cited by James Stanford Bradshaw, "George H. Wisner and the New York Sun," Journalism History 6:4, Winter 1979-80, p. 118.

3. Ibid., May 13, 1834.

4. Ibid., May 19, 1834.

5. Ibid., April 21, 1834.

6. Ibid., July 4, 1834.

7. Ibid., September 2, 1833.

8. Bradshaw, p. 120.

9. New York Herald, July 27, 1836.

10. Quoted in Isaac Pray, Memoirs of James Gordon Bennett and His Times (New York, 1855), p. 276.

11. See New York Herald, December 14, 1838, and July 2, 1845. For other views see Mott, p. 237, and Don Seitz, The James Gordon Bennetts (Indianapolis, 1928), p. 83.

12. Unitarianism, the belief Calvin considered most dangerous to orthodox trinitarian Christianity, arose in the center of the Calvinistic commonwealth, Massachusetts. This was both ironic and logical, because Unitarianism was a reaction against the Reformed world view with its concept of man's fallenness, its untamed God, and its doctrine of salvation based on God's sovereignty. Harvard itself became the Unitarian Vatican, with publishing enterprises (the influential Monthly Anthology and Boston Review) and supporters such as William Emerson, minister at the First Unitarian Church and father of Ralph Waldo, and William Tudor (Harvard, 1798), future editor of the influential North American Review.

13. Albert Brisbane, Association (New York, 1843), p. 209.

14. Ibid., p. 207.

15. When William Henry Harrison was elected president in 1840, Horace Greeley expected a payoff. He had edited The Log Cabin, a major Whig campaign organ, and thought that Governor Seward would ask that the position of postmaster of New York be given to him. He did not get it, nor was he able to get anything in what he called "the great scramble of the swell mob of coonminstrels and cidersuckers at Washington." Greeley complained that "no one of the whole crowd . . . had done so much toward General Harrison's nomination and election as yours respectfully," yet he was "not counted in." (Letter of November 11, 1854, quoted in Frederick Hudson, Journalism in the United States, From 1690 to 1872 (New York, 1873), pp. 549-550.)

16. Greeley letter to B. F. Ransom, March 15, 1841, in Horace Greeley, Autobiography (New York, 1872), pp. 68-74.

17. Greeley, Hints Toward Reforms (New York, 1854), p. 86.

18. Quoted in Jeter Allen Isely, Horace Greeley and the Republican Party, 1853-1861 (Princeton, 1947), p. 15.

19. Brisbane, p. 205.

20. William Harlan Hale, Horace Greeley: Voice of the People (New York, 1950), p. 99.

21. Brook Farm, which attracted for a time some leading literary lights, became the best known of the communes; Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance shows his sarcastic reaction to Brook Farm.

22. Ibid., p. 105.

23. E. L. Godkin quoted in Mott, p. 277.

24. Hale, p. 299.

25. Quoted in James Lee, p. 405.

26. Ibid.

27. Because the 1840s was a decade of utopian hopes that in some ways paralleled the 1960s, some readers also would be excited by commune coverage.

28. Quoted in Charles Sotheran, Horace Greeley and Other Pioneers of American Socialism (New York, 1892), p. 193.

29. Ibid., p. 195.

30. New York Tribune, November 20, 1846.

31. New York Courier and Enquirer, November 23, 1846 (hereafter noted as Courier).

32. Tribune, November 26, 1846.

33. Courier, November 30, 1846.

34. Tribune, December 1, 1846.

35. Courier, December 8, 1846.

36. Tribune, December 10, 1846.

37. Courier, December 14, 1846.

38. Tribune, December16, 1846.

39. Courier, December 24, 1846.

40. Ibid.

41. Courier, December 24, and Tribune, December 28, 1846.

42. Ibid.

43. Courier, January 6, 1847.

44. Ibid. Raymond went on to state that Greeley's "blunder is exactly that of the man who should expect a waterwheel, by turning, to produce the water which is from the first to turn it; who should look to the motion of a watch for the creation of the mainspring, which alone can give it motion. It is precisely the error which the would-be inventors of Perpetual Motion have constantly committed. Can anything be more palpably impossible? And is not this defect fatal to the whole system?"

45. Ibid.

46. Tribune, January 13, 1847.

47. Ibid.

48. Ibid.

49. Ibid.

50.Courier, January 20, 1847.

51. Ibid.

52. Ibid.

53. Tribune, January 29, 1847.

54. Ibid.

55. Courier, February 10, 1847.

56. 58. Courier, January 20, 1847.

59. Ibid., March 5, 1847.

60. Ibid.

61. Tribune, March 12, 1847.

62. Courier, March 19, 1847. Raymond also argued that few people in the communes would do any work, but Greeley insisted that production would not be a problem if well organized; he anticipated Bellamy's industrial army of the 1880s by arguing, curiously, "What Organization may do to render the repulsive attractive is seen in the case of War and Armies. Intrinsically the most revolting employment that can be suggested to a man is that of maiming and butchering his fellowmen by the wholesale, and taking his chance of being maimed or butchered in turn. And yet millions are found to rush into it, take delight in it, spend their lives in it, in preference to peaceful and better rewarded avocations. And why? Because (I speak of the regular soldier, who makes war his lifelong profession) rulers have given to war an Organization, which satisfies two of the sensesthat of Hearing by Music, that of Sight by glittering uniforms, precision of movement, and beauty of array. In a few, Ambition is also excited, while to the mass the assurance of an unfailing though meager subsistence is proffered. By these simple expedients the imagination is led captive, and millions constantly enlisted to shoot and be shot at for an average of not more than sixpence per day. "O that the governments of the world were wise enough, good enough to bestow onehalf the effort and expenses on the Organization of Labor that they have devoted to the Organization of Slaughter!"

63. Tribune, March 26, 1847.

64. Courier, April 6, 1847.

65. Ibid. Raymond wrote concerning Greeley's Associationism, "The Trinity in which it pretends to believe, is resolved into a trinity of the 'active, passive, and neutral principles of life and order.' It gravely declares that by the `Kingdom of Heaven' is meant Association."

66. Ibid.

67. Ibid.

68. Ibid.

69.Ibid.

70. Tribune, April 28, 1847.

71. Courier, May 20, 1847.

72. Ibid.

73. Ibid., March 5, 1847.

74. Ibid.

75. Ibid., April 16, 1847.