Go West, young man
"Go West, young man" is a phrase, the origin of which is often credited to the American author and newspaper editor Horace Greeley concerning America's expansion westward, related to the then-popular concept of Manifest Destiny. No one has yet proven who first used this phrase in print.
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.
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations gives the full quotation as, "Go West, young man, and grow up with the country", from Hints toward Reforms (1850) by Horace Greeley, but the phrase does not occur in that book.
In 2010, Timothy Hughes of the "Rare & Early Newspapers" blog examined Greeley's writings and concluded that this text does not appear in that issue of the newspaper: "Here is the Tribune of that date and I've scoured through the issue yet never found the quote. The closest I could come is in 'The Homestead Law' article, page 4 column 4, where he mentioned: ' ... We earnestly urge upon all such to turn their faces Westward and colonize the public lands ... '. (See text image)." The actual editorial instead encourages American Civil War veterans to take advantage of the Homestead Act and colonize the public lands.
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.
Josiah Bushnell Grinnell claimed in his autobiography that Horace Greeley first addressed the advice to him in 1833, before sending him off to Illinois to report on the Illinois Agricultural State Fair. Grinnell reports the full conversation as:
"Go West, young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles." "That," I said, "is very frank advice, but it is medicine easier given than taken. It is a wide country, but I do not know just where to go." "It is all room away from the pavements. ..."
Grinnell College historian Joseph Frazier Wall claims that Greeley himself denied providing that advice and "[spent] the rest of this life vigorously protesting that he had never given this advice to Grinnell or anyone else ...". Wall wrote that an account of the true source of "Go West, young man" and Greeley's disavowal of being the author of the phrase is in Dictionary of Quotations by Bergen Evans and published by Delacourte Press in New York in 1968 (p. 745:2).
Author Ralph Keyes also suggests Soule as the source, offering an account in which the line originated from a bet between Soule and Indiana Congressman Richard W. Thompson over whether or not Soule could trick readers by forging a Greeley article.
Some claim it was first stated by John Babsone Lane Soule in an 1851 editorial in the Terre Haute Express, "Go west young man, and grow up with the country"; and that Greeley later used the quote in his own editorial in 1865. An analysis of this phrase in the 2007 Skagit River Journal concludes: "the primary-source historical record contains not a shred of evidence that Soule had anything to do with the phrase."
Many people believe Horace Greeley did not coin this phrase at all, but merely popularized it. He may have borrowed it from Soule who may have published it in an editorial of his own in an 1851 edition of the Terre Haute Express. However, the phrase does not occur in the 1851 edition of the Terre Haute Express, and the Soule theory may date no earlier than 1890.
- Gordon, Hal (13 July 2006). "Go West Young Man ..." The Speechwriter's Slant (blog). Archived from the original on 5 September 2008. Retrieved 13 February 2009.
- Spinrad, Leonard (1979). Speaker's Lifetime Library. Parker Pub. Co. p. 155.
- The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Oxford University Press, TME. 1999. p. 351. ISBN 9780198601739. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
- Greeley, Horace (1850). Hints Toward Reforms, in lectures, addresses, and other writings. New York: Harper & Brothers. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
- Hughes, Timothy (20 Dec 2010). "Go West, young man ..." Rare & Early Newspapers. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
- Josiah Busnell Grinnell (1891). Men and Events of Forty Years. Boston: D. Lothrop. p. 87. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
- Joseph Frazier Wall (1997). Grinnell College in the Nineteenth Century. Ames: Iowa State University Press. p. 91.
- Keyes, Ralph (1992). Nice Guys Finish Seventh: False Phrases, Spurious Sayings, and Familiar Misquotations. New York: HarperCollins. p. 21.
- Fuller, Thomas (September 2004). "Go West, Young Man—an Elusive Slogan". Indiana Magazine of History 100, 231–243.
- ""Go West, Young Man" Who wrote it? Greeley or Soule?". Skagit River Journal. Issue 38: Skagit County Historical Society. March–April 2007. Retrieved 24 June 2018.CS1 maint: location (link)
- Williams, Robert (2006). Horace Greeley: Champion of American Freedom. New York: NYU Press. p. 40. ISBN 9780814794029. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
- Shapiro, Fred (2006). The Yale Book of Quotations. Yale University Press. p. 323. ISBN 0300107986. Retrieved 2009-02-14.