Whitelaw Reid

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For his grandson of the same name (and also a journalist), see Whitelaw Reid (journalist).
Whitelaw Reid
Whitelaw Reid.jpg
35th United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom
In office
March 8, 1905 – December 15, 1912
President Theodore Roosevelt
William Howard Taft
Preceded by Joseph H. Choate
Succeeded by Walter Hines Page
28th United States Ambassador to France
In office
March 23, 1889 – March 25, 1892
President Benjamin Harrison
Preceded by Robert M. McLane
Succeeded by T. Jefferson Coolidge
Personal details
Born October 27, 1837
Cedarville, Ohio, USA
Died December 15, 1912(1912-12-15) (aged 75)
London, England
Political party Republican
Profession Politician, Editor

Whitelaw Reid (October 27, 1837 – December 15, 1912) was an American politician and newspaper editor, as well as the author of a popular history of Ohio in the Civil War. After assisting Horace Greeley as editor of the powerful Republican newspaper, the New York Tribune, Reid purchased the paper after Greeley's death in 1872 and controlled it until his own death. The circulation grew to about 60,000 a day, but the weekly edition became less important. He invested heavily in new technology, such as the Hoe printing press and the Linotype machine, but bitterly fought against the unionized workers for control of his shop. As a famous voice of the Republican Party, he was honored with appointments as ambassador to France (1889) and Great Britain (1905), as well as numerous other honorific positions. In 1898 President William McKinley appointed him to the American commission that negotiated peace with Spain after the Spanish-American War.[1]

Early life[edit]

Reid's house, northeast of Xenia

Born on a farm near Xenia, Ohio, Reid attended Xenia Academy and went on to graduate from Miami University with honors in 1856.[2] At Miami, he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon (Kappa chapter), and lobbied for the expulsion of the six members who ultimately founded Sigma Chi.

He was the grandfather of prominent journalist and New York Herald Tribune editor Whitelaw Reid.


Vice Presidential candidate Reid. Photo by Rockwood.

He was the longtime editor of the New York Tribune and a close friend of Horace Greeley. He was a leader of the Liberal Republican movement in 1872.

During the war he wrote under the by-line "Agate".

A Republican, he had an illustrious career as a diplomat, serving as United States Ambassador to France from 1889 to 1892, and as U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James's from 1905 to 1912.

In 1892, Reid became the Republican vice presidential nominee when President Benjamin Harrison chose to drop Vice President Levi P. Morton from the ticket. Harrison and Reid lost to the Democratic ticket of Grover Cleveland and Adlai Stevenson, as Cleveland became the first former president to recapture the office.

Reid was given a spot on the peace commission following the Spanish–American War. Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, is located on his former Westchester County estate.

Reid Continue to the role of the Tribune As one of the foremost Republican newspapers in the country. He emphasized the importance of partisan newspapers in a speech in 1879:

The true statesman and the really influential editor are those who are able to control and guide parties....There is an old question as to whether a newspaper controls public opinion or public opinion controls the newspaper. This at least is true: that editor best succeeds who best interprets the prevailing and the better tendencies of public opinion, and, who, whatever his personal views concerning it, does not get himself too far out of relations to it. He will understand that a party is not an end, but a means; will use it if it lead to his end, -- will use some other if that serve better, but will never commit the folly of attempting to reach the end without the means....Of all the puerile follies that have masqueraded before High Heaven in the guise of Reform, the most childish has been the idea that the editor could vindicate his independence only by sitting on the fence and throwing stones with impartial vigor alike at friend and foe.[3]

He received the degree LL.D. honoris causa from the University of Cambridge in June 1902, when he was in the United Kingdom as Special Ambassador to attend the Coronation of King Edward VII.[4]


He died while serving as the ambassador to Britain on December 15, 1912. His remains are buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York.


  • After The War: A Southern Tour (May 1, 1865 to May 1, 1866.) London: Samson Low, Son, & Marston, 1866. Full text.
  • Ohio in the War: Her Statesmen Generals and Soldiers. Cincinnati: Robert Clarke Co., 1895. Vol. 1 & Vol. 2.
  • The Greatest Fact in Modern History. New York: Crowell, 1907. Full text.
  • American and English studies. New York: Scribner, 1913. Vol. 1 (Government and Education) & Vol. 2 (Biography, History, and Journalism)


  1. ^ Michael P. Riccards. "Reid, Whitelaw"; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000
  2. ^ American Authors 1600-1900: A Biographical Dictionary of American Literature (H. W. Wilson Co., New York, 1938)
  3. ^ Whitelaw Reid, American and English Studies, Vol. II (1913), pp. 258-60
  4. ^ "University intelligence" The Times (London). Friday, 6 June 1902. (36787), p. 11.

Further reading[edit]

  • Baehr, Harry William. The New York Tribune Since the Civil War (Octagon Press, Limited, 1972)
  • Cortissoz, Royal. The Life of Whitelaw Reid (2 Vol. Scribner's Sons, 1921). online
  • Duncan, Bingham. Whitelaw Reid: journalist, politician, diplomat (University of Georgia Press, 1975), A standard scholarly biography

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Robert M. McLane
United States Ambassador to France
1889 – 1892
Succeeded by
T. Jefferson Coolidge
Preceded by
Joseph H. Choate
United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Walter Hines Page
Party political offices
Preceded by
Levi P. Morton
Republican vice presidential nominee
Succeeded by
Garret Hobart