History in “Go West Young Man”Crystal Calhoun
Horace Greeley (1811 – 1872) was an American newspaper editor, a founder of the Liberal Republican Party, a reformer, a politician, and an outspoken opponent of slavery. The New York Tribune (which he founded and edited) was America’s most influential newspaper from the 1840s to the 1870s and “established Greeley’s reputation as the greatest editor of his day.” Greeley used it to promote the Whig and Republican parties, as well as opposition to slavery and a host of reforms ranging from vegetarianism to socialism.
“Go West, young man” is quoted by Horace Greeley concerning America’s expansion westward, related to the then-popular concept of Manifest Destiny.
Greeley favored westward expansion. He saw the fertile farmland of the west as an ideal place for people willing to work hard for the opportunity to succeed. The phrase came to symbolize the idea that agriculture could solve many of the nation’s problems of poverty and unemployment characteristic of the big cities of the East. It is one of the most commonly quoted sayings from the nineteenth century and may have had some influence on the course of American history.
Some sources have claimed the phrase is derived from the following advice in Greeley’s July 13, 1865 editorial in the New York Tribune, but this text does not appear in that issue of the newspaper. The actual editorial instead encourages Civil War veterans to take advantage of the Homestead Act and colonize the public lands.
“ Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable. Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.”