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The Debate Over Origin and Meaning of the Quote “Go West, Young Man, Go West

Explore the debate over who said the famous phrase "Go West, Young Man, Go West" and what it meant in the context of Manifest Destiny. Learn more about the possible origins of this quote and its impact on American history.
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Emmanuel Leutze, "Westward the Course of Empire"(1861)
Emmanuel Leutze, “Westward the Course of Empire”(1861)

GoDCer Ryan sent me a cool fact — or possibly historical rumor — that I’d like to share with the rest of you. It’s a simple, yet well-known quote, but there is some debate as to whether these words were actually spoken (or written), as claimed in 1865.

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.

Horace Greeley
Horace Greeley

These are popularly attributed to Horace Greeley, former Congressman and then-newspaper editor for the New York Tribune. Others claim that John Soule wrote the words in his Terra Haute Express back in 1851. The founder of Grinnell College in Iowa even claims to have been the young man who heard Greeley speak those words.

Either way, these words were the embodiment of Manifest Destiny … America was to expand west, from sea to shining sea.

Also, the part about the rent still rings true today. Everything else is false. I don’t find this place to be dusty at all and the food is dramatically improving. Screw you Greeley, don’t insult my city.

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