John Quincy Adams
John C. Calhoun
William H. Seward
Salmon P. Chase
Sir John Alexander Macdonald, G. C. B.
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( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"THE MILL-BOY OF THE SLASHES"
Few readers can follow the long career of Henry Clay without enthusiasm. "If any one desires to know the leading and paramount object of my public life, the preservation of this Union will furnish the key." These words, which are his, contain the essence of his biography. He was a man of ready adjustments, not easily led to extremes, who elected John Quincy Adams, effected the Missouri Compromise, and passed the compromise tariff which allowed the Nullifiers to retreat from their position of secession. Again, as the Civil War arose prematurely out of its lair in the future, Henry Clay, an old man close at the portals of the tomb, effected still another compromise, the greatest of all with which his name is connected in our history. Like all men of compromise, his life work settled nothing, except for his own time. A medal struck in his honor, with inscriptions revised by himself, noted the following points in his career : Senate, 1806; Speaker, 1811; war of 1812 with Great Britain and treaty of Ghent, 1814; Spanish America, 1822; Missouri Compromise, 1821; American system (protective tariff), 1824; Greece, 1824; Secretary of State, 1825; Panama instructions, 1826; tariff compromise (nullification threatened), 1833; public domain, 1833-41; peace with France preserved, 1835; compromise, 1850.
Henry Clay was the first of the American statesmen who revealed to his followers his personal feeling that he ought to be President. He was the first of the states-men to inspire great bodies of voters with a sense of public misfortune in his personal disappointments. He was one of three men Clay, Webster, and Calhoun whose names are heard as often as if they had been Presidents. He had no great subject for his oratory, yet he was so silvery in voice that the dying Randolph, a cynic to the death, was carried to the Capitol and raised from his couch that he might catch once more the cadence of the syllables, whose like he had never heard.
Henry Clay was born April 12, 1777, in Hanover County, Virginia, in a neighborhood called the "Slashes" a place in the woods which had been "slashed," or cut over the good timber taken, but the ground not cleared properly. His father was an eloquent Baptist preacher, and died when Henry, the fifth in a family of seven children, was only four years old. There is a tradition that, while the dead body of the minister lay in the house, Tarleton, the English raider, took some of the property of the place, and left a handful of gold on the widow's table. This money the mother of Henry Clay indignantly threw into the fireplace.
Henry Clay went to school in a log cabin with a hard clay floor. He went to mill on the Pamunkey River, riding a pony with a rope bridle, and carrying the "bread timber" in a bag. Hence he became the "Mill-Boy of the Slashes," and ran for President on that industrious and democratical recollection.
His mother married Captain Henry Watkins, who placed Henry Clay, by this time fourteen years old, in a retail store at Richmond, and afterward obtained for the stepson a clerkship in the office of the Clerk of the High Court of Chancery. At this time Henry Clay was an awkward country boy. His companions made some sport of his appearance, but he was studious and earned the good will of George Wythe, famous as the benefactor of brilliant young men. After four years of clerkship, Henry Clay entered the law office of Robert Brooke, Attorney-General, and was indulgently admitted to practice. The Tory lawyers had disappeared; there was need of legal counsel, and young advocates had excellent opportunities. In 1797, at twenty, he 1 ft Richmond, already a promising young man, and joined his mother and step-father at Lexington, Ky. He at once entered on a successful course of criminal practice, and afterward admitted that his power over juries had not improved the tone and character of Kentucky society. He became incomparable as an orator in his region, by a method worthy of relation: He read a passage from history each day. Then, seeking an audience of domestic animals, he spoke to them, in an off-hand manner, the ideas which he had gathered from the passage. He would speak aloud in forest, corn-field, hayloft, or stable, growing in strength of voice, fortitude, and readiness of thought while making an address.
In 1799 he married Lucretia Hart, who became the mother of eleven children. He soon was able to purchase Ashland, an estate of 600 acres near Lexington, which became his future home. Like all great orators, he was extremely easy to come toward; he was a pleasant man to meet. This characteristic never deserted him, and he early became a favorite with his neighbors, a favored son of his State, and anon the idol of a National party. In the discussions attending the making of a Kentucky Constitution, Mr. Clay was ardently against slavery, without effect, although his fame as an orator became so well established that he was elected to the Legislature in 1803. Burr came through the country, bent on some kind of a filibustering enterprise, and was arrested. Clay appeared ,as Burr's counsel. Nine years later, meeting Aaron Burr, Clay refused to take his hand. When Clay spoke at one end of the State House, the other end would be emptied of its legislators, so widespread was the desire to hear his oratory, and in 1806 the State proudly sent him on to Washington as United States Senator for an unexpired term, to bring honor to Kentucky in the debates of Congress. He was not quite eligible as to age, being less than thirty years old. He also received retaining fees of $3,000 to appear at the Supreme Court at Washington for clients. He was already a fortunate man, but his commentators noted that he "declaimed more than he reasoned." He had been used to addressing large bodies; the Senate was a very small gathering. He returned to Kentucky with pleasure, and at once became Speaker of the House. As hatred of England increased, he suggested that Kentuckians, particularly the legislators, should wear only such clothes as were the product of home manufacture. For this, Humphrey Marshall denounced Clay as a demagogue, and a duel followed. The men met near Lexington with pistols, and both were touched at the second fire. This is said to have been the first blood shed in America in the cause of "protection."
In 1809 Henry Clay filled another unexpired term as United States Senator, and spoke with earnestness in behalf of home manufactures. He opposed, and possibly defeated, the recharter of the Bank, and was out-spoken against England. At the end of his short term he was elected to represent the Lexington district in Congress. The lower House at Washington was the debating club of the Nation. The Senate was still regarded more in the light of a privy council. So great was Clay's fame that he was elected Speaker by a large majority. A new member, however famous, could not be expected to achieve that eminence nowadays. As Speaker, too, he did not withdraw from debate, but, in Committee of the Whole, rather led the discussions. At that time the Speakership had not acquired the astonishing legislative powers that pertained to it as early as 1884, and when Henry Clay carried President Madison to war he did it entirely by the force of eloquence, as a result of Western feeling. Young America, led by Henry Clay, carried a vote for war by seventy-nine to forty-nine. Fifteen States were against it. The opponents of war called themselves "friends of peace, liberty, and commerce." Clay was so enthusiastic and active in getting recruits that President Madison desired to appoint him Commander-in-Chief, but he was needed in Congress. There Josiah Quincy, Federalist, made a remarkable fire-in-the-rear speech. Of "the buccaneering expedition against Canada," he said that its failure was a disgrace, "but the disgrace of failure was terrestrial glory compared with the disgrace of the attempt." The elder fixed his eyes on young Henry Clay : "Those must be very young politicians, their pin-feathers not yet grown, and, however they may flutter on this floor, they are not yet fledged for any high or distant flight."
To this attack Clay replied with one of his greatest speeches, in which a eulogy of Jefferson, living renowned on his mountain top, sent a thrill through the country and took a permanent place in the school-books. The war went ill, despite Clay's eloquence, and after he had been a second time elected Speaker he resigned to take a place on the Peace Commission in Europe. It is thought it was his object to interpose objections against a humiliating treaty. It is usually said of him that he alone made the English resign the right of navigation in the Mississippi. The labors at Ghent lasted for five months. The war ended as it began, yet Clay declared in Congress afterward that he would have acted the same way again. At Paris he met Madame de Staël. He went to London on diplomatic business. He returned to America greatly honored in September, 1815, and again became Speaker of the House of Representatives. He was offered the mission to Russia, and later the portfolio of War. Both offers were too small. It already seemed that merit and popularity must raise him to the Presidency as soon as he should reach the proper age. He wished to be Secretary of State, so as to get into succession, but his colleague at Ghent, John Quincy Adams, was chosen for the coveted place. Thus, as early as 1816, his hopes were dimmed. Nevertheless he again became Speaker and was for the time being a much greater officer than the Secretary of State. He became the eloquent proponent of taxes for roads and canals and protection of home industry. He viewed President Monroe with enmity, and that peaceable chief magistrate grieved daily at the opposition that was rising against an Administration that deserved no enemies.
When General Jackson came before Congress as a high-handed commander in the Seminole War, Clay led the debate against him. The resolutions of censure on the hero of New Orleans were lost, and Henry Clay, previously a man for war, was politically placed in the attitude of a critic of the only successful soldier in his own war. If he had at this time abandoned hope of the Presidency and come into the support of General Jack-son, it is not impossible, by that means, he might have unwittingly accomplished the wish of his life. On the lines which he chose, he could never be elected to the highest office, because too many men stood in the way. Owing to the good nature of President Monroe, Mr. Clay was, for the fourth time, elected Speaker, but there would have been opposition of a considerable character had any desire for retribution resided in the hearts of either Monroe or Adams. He was still regarded as a remarkable orator and a brilliant if somewhat erratic public man. It was deemed to be good statesmanship to keep the Speakership in the West. He made many speeches in behalf of the South American Republics, and his political reputation, somewhat shaken in the ill-advised attacks on Monroe and Jackson, was rapidly reestablished. He possessed, by all accounts, many more natural gifts than he made diligent use of. He allowed slower and less promising athletes to outrun him over the course. His next great appearance as a legislator was in the Missouri Compromise. A forty years' debate on slavery had begun in Congress. Slaves had increased in value. They were bred like the lower animals, Virginia and North Carolina leading in this industry. With exports of $20,000,000 of cotton each year, all wrung from the ill-paid toil of slaves, the South had lost the philosophical desire for emancipation that had been indicated in its early history. The cancer of slavery was well rooted in the body politic. But the North and West were increasing in population more rapidly than the South, and the South could only hope to maintain slavery by keeping its hold on the Senate. If a free anda slave State were admitted together, the status quo could be assumed. The Missouri Compromise came when the bill authorizing the State of Missouri was passed. Henry Clay helped the slaveholders with all the arts so soon learned in the chair of the Speaker, and at last Missouri was made a slave State, but the line of her Southern border, projected westward to (what was then) Mexico, was to be the extreme northern limit of slavery there were to be no slaves north of latitude 36.30. The Missouri Constitution came to Congress in a most objectionable form; free negroes could not enter the State. To leave this clause in the Constitution and yet admit Missouri seemed a difficult feat even for the metaphysicians of those days, but Clay accomplished it, greatly exalting his fame. At the same time the Southern members were taught that a little talk about the sword would alarm Mr. Clay into almost any compromise or retreat that the South might be willing to accept. To this point Henry Clay had first been antislavery, then proslavery; first hot for war and then compliant to the slaveholders who threatened war; anxious to let Major-General Jackson loose against the English; then too quick to criticise Major-General Jack-son for whipping the English wherever he could find them. Meanwhile his finances had suffered. He could earn great fees; he resigned his Speakership in order to repair his shattered fortunes. It will be seen that his Presidential hopes, or some unknown reason, had led him into a public course that was not logical, for he was bent on pleasing the North with protection and river-and-harbor bills, and the South with slavery, so that he was more than likely to offend both sections. He was now called "the great pacificator." It was in these days he said he would "rather be right than President."
In Kentucky his fame was secure. The State lost the Speakership to Virginia in his absence, and the pressure on him was heavy to return to Congress. On his reacceptance of a seat in 1824 he was again elected Speaker by an overwhelming vote, and became an open candidate to succeed Monroe as President. He now developed his high-tariff policy, christening or rechristening it "the American system," and the infant industries of the Union, largely in the North, were encouraged with the thought that they were to be fattened on the pap of taxation. As Monroe's Presidential term ended, it was seen that the dynastic idea of succession through certain offices was in danger. General Jackson, an outsider, was looming over the scene, and Clay had as good right to be President as Jackson or Craw-ford. But, at the elections of 1824, Jackson led, Adams was second, and Crawford third. Clay, being only fourth, could not be voted for in the House, and yet became President-maker a strange addition to the peace-making chapters of his life. He elected Adams, and took the portfolio of State, evidently still under the belief that tradition would continue to give the Presidency to the Secretaries of State. This acceptance of an office that he had coveted in 1816 he regarded in after life as a critical error of his career. The cry of bargain-and-sale went up from Jackson's friends, making Clay's last days in the Speakership bitter, with challenges to mortal combat and scandal. Yet Clay retired with the record of being the ablest Speaker America had produced, and his course in the House is still the subject of widespread technical study.
When the appointment of envoys to the Panama Congress was debated, John Randolph said Clay and Adams had made "a coalition of Blifil and Black George the combination, unheard of till then, of the Puritan and the blackleg." Clay challenged Randolph. They met on the Virginia shore of the Potomac, above the Little Falls bridge, at 4 p. M., April 8, 1826—a Saturday.
Randolph was a dead shot, but not used to the hair-trigger. It is said that he was not inclined to kill Clay. The first fire was made too quickly by Randolph, but Clay's bullet went through Randolph's loose flannel gown or coat. At the second shot, Randolph fired in the air, while Clay's bullet again went through Randolph's coat. Seeing that Randolph had not wished to kill him, Clay was overwrought with fraternal feeling, and went forward saying that he would not have hurt Randolph for a thousand worlds, knowing all as he at last did. "You owe me a new coat," said Randolph, dryly. "I am glad the debt is no greater," answered Clay. Benton gives eight pages to the "interview." He says : "It was about the last high-toned duel I have witnessed." The effects of the duel on Clay's political reputation were bad, for Jackson had the advantage of him if both were to stand on a platform of man-killing; and Clay, too, the ardent denunciator of the _code duello, had thus fought a battle. For years the proud Kentuckian was bent on running down the slander that he had sold out to Adams, but Jackson kept entirely out of his way, nor did he single Clay as an enemy who should be killed in a duel, as he had full opportunity to do. It may be said that Clay proved convincingly that every man who alleged the bargain, as a matter of fact known to him, was a deliberate liar. But, in the election for President in 1828, every Clay vote of 1824 went for Jackson, and Adams was overwhelmingly defeated. Even Kentucky voted for Jackson, against the Administration of which its favored son, Clay, was the Premier. Mr. Clay's health and pride both suffered while he was Secretary of State. He did not like the office nor its labors. The sacrifices he had made to take it had been fruitless of good. What he had thought would be a step to the Presidency was a stumbling block. He went into private life at fifty-two still a great party chief to the ordinary apprehension the greatest man in the Union. By this time he had grown imperious, and was a man whom lesser souls would delight to disappoint, thinking he needed stern discipline. There was no one to challenge his sway among men save a broken-hearted old backwoodsman, newly elected President, whom Clay thought would soon be enmeshed in trouble and stultified through incompetency to fill a great office. For a time this owner of Ashland lived at home as a farmer, striving to cultivate the agricultural and pastoral graces that had broadened Jefferson's hold on the people. He refused seats in Congress and the Legislature. He was a lover of good horses. He found his personal fame still very great. Turnpikes would take no toll; innkeepers were jealous one of another in towns where he sojourned. On the whole, he was flattered, and prompt to arouse himself out of his disappointment. The example of the ex-President, in taking a seat in Congress, made a profound democratic impression, not only on Clay, but on the Nation. Clay made a journey through Ohio, with brass bands and cannons, with wagons full of young women representing the States, and with banquets. His protection theories were considered good for a new country. He began to talk and feel that there was a Caesar at the Capitol with pretorian guards it could all be stopped if Henry Clay were elected President. But, just at this moment, Morgan, the Free Mason, disappeared, there arose a hatred of Free Masons, it became a political question in the largest States, and Clay's forces were split in twain. He reappeared at Washington in December, 1831, as Sena-tor from Kentucky and candidate for Congress on a platform of antagonism to "spoils," and favoring high tariff, river-and-harbor bills, and United States Bank. Clay's party was called the National Republican. It met at Baltimore and nominated him for President by acclaim. But the debate on Bank and high tariff went on in the Senate, where Clay had to compromise on the tariff to please the South, thus maddening the "tariff barons" at the North, and Jackson vetoed the recharter of the Bank with the certainty that there were more debtors than creditors, each with a single vote. Clay was beaten before he entered the race; yet Jackson had seemingly committed an unheard of number of political errors. His mistakes never hurt him; Clay's never failed to be vital for instance, in Jackson's veto of the Bank, he relied on Clay's former arguments against the Bank. In the elections Jackson polled 687,502 votes; Clay, 530,189; in the Electoral College Jackson had 219 and Clay 49; Wirt, the anti-Mason, had 7, and South Carolina gave 11 for Floyd, nullification being well on as a question. It was Clay's compromise tariff bill that offered the South Carolinians an opportunity of retreat, and, although buried under defeat, he was still more than ever "the great pacificator," with 530,000 voters behind him, so that he could make a progress through the country with nearly as much eclat as Jack-son. In July, 1833, Mr. Clay went by way of Buffalo to New England, and wrote to a friend that he seemed to pass through scenes of enchantment. In the winter he waged war on President Jackson in the Senate, but the Bank was doomed and Clay went on to certain defeat. Yet his leadership was unquestioned. Clay passed a bill distributing the surplus National taxes among the States as a "loan." Nobody could deny that it was bad government to thus deal with the people's money. The original tax must have been unjust because it was unneeded.
In the winter of 1835-6 the slavery question, in Ben-ton's words, "was installed in Congress." Clay favored the right of petition, a question which John Quincy Adams, with Spartan fortitude, was keeping alive in the House. When Jackson came near the end of his second term, the Whigs began to question the wisdom of putting up their leader for President whether this were good tactics. This keenly touched Clay. The result was that he let his party flounder, and it held no convention at all. Van Buren was triumphantly elected, and General Jackson went home the victor at all points, even expunging from the records of the Senate the resolutions of censure which Clay had put there with so much labor. Against this crowning defeat Clay made an eloquent and even chivalrous resistance, and was reawakened to political life by the activities of the session of the Senate, which closed with Jackson's public career. The institution of a real National Treasury did not begin until this time, and Clay opposed it. A National Treasury, like a National postoffice, tax collection, city gas-works, waterworks, street cars, would be one more step away from private proprietary rights; there would naturally be a party opposed to it on principle, and this force could count with certainty on the aid of many who would have reasons purely sordid. Calhoun, with Jackson out of the way, came back into alliance with Van Buren, and there was a notable debate between Clay and Calhoun. Thus the twain who had joined against Jackson were now bitter opponents. Calhoun brought proslavery resolutions into the Senate and asked for a test vote. Clay tried to compromise. Calhoun declared that the difference between his views and those of Clay was wide as the poles. Calhoun did not want anybody to be legally able to assert that slavery was "wicked and sinful" he thought that was a libel, or he pretended to think so. Yet Clay managed to soften the Calhoun resolutions. He wrote privately : "Their professed object is slavery; their real aim, to advance the political interests of the mover, and to affect mine." Thus, like Jackson, Clay regarded all public questions as being smaller than the personal one even slavery itself, that was to cost the greatest war the world had seen. "The Abolitionists," wrote Mr. Clay a little later, "are denouncing me as a slaveholder, and the slaveholders as an Abolitionist, while both are united on Mr. Van Buren." Mr. Clay thereupon went over to slavery in a speech which began with the statement that he was no friend of slavery, and Calhoun at once rose and congratulated him.
The Whigs met in National convention at Harrisburg, Pa., December 4, 1839, a date that nowadays would be considered strangely early in the campaign. If Clay were to be defeated in this convention it must be done by chicanery. He stood exactly as Blaine so long appeared before the country in after years. The astute leaders in New York, with Weed at their head, did not want a Free Mason like Clay, and needed a General. They desired to turn the tables on the Democrats and pit a General against a civilian. General Harrison was nominated while Henry Clay was at Washington waiting to receive the nomination. He arose to take the dispatch, announcing the result, and stamped in rage on the floor: "My friends are not worth the powder and shot it would take to kill them." "If there were two Henry Clays, one of them would make the other President of the United States. "It is a diabolical intrigue, I know now, which has betrayed me. I am the most unfortunate man in the history of parties always run by my friends when sure to be defeated, and now betrayed for a nomination when I, or any one, would be sure of an election." From that time it came to be said that the man was unfortunate who got the Presidential bee in his bonnet, because the course of events was often a pure lottery, and he, as a rule, who went to the convention with most ballots was precisely the one who could not be nominated. Clay entered the campaign as a Speaker, and was its central high light. The victory was startling. Harrison offered to Clay the portfolio of State, which Clay declined. In the Senate he moved the repeal of the sub-treasury measures, in a proud speech, stating that the elections gave him his mandate. Silas Wright's rejoinder is one of the wittiest replies ever made namely, that "after such a Presidential campaign as the country had witnessed, the election might also be interpreted as a mandate from the people to tear down the Capitol and erect on its site a log-cabin, ornamented with coon-skins." The resolution failed. The Albany Regency (Weed) that had defeated Clay at Harrisburg now inspired President Harrison with the ignoble idea of writing to the fallen leader not to come to see him, but to write, so that people could not say Clay was directing the Administration. To this Clay responded feelingly. It was a cruel incident. Henry Clay was sixty-four; for over twelve years he had led his party until it camé to power; then it was the first to treat him with contempt. Harrison died almost as soon as Clay reached home. John Tyler, Vice-President, was President.
Tyler was not in sympathy with the party that had elected him he had been put in the Vice-President's chair to vote with the slaveholders if they should need him. Clay said at Ashland : "I will drive him before me," and came on to the Senate with renewed life. He would abolish the Treasury, establish a private Bank again, sell bonds, raise the tariff, and distribute the land moneys. He was made chairman of Finance, and of Bank. He abolished the Treasury and sold the bonds, but Tyler stopped him at the Bank, vetoing the bill twice and killing it. Clay also distributed more land money to the States. He supported a bankruptcy bill which let the debtors off on their own terms, but such a measure is a consequence of every widespread panic, and can-not be blamed on Clay. When Tyler vetoed the Bank, all his Cabinet resigned except Webster (Secretary of State). When Tyler heard Webster say he would stay, he said : "Give me your hand on that, and now I will say to you that Henry Clay is a doomed man from this hour." But Tyler, not Clay, was isolated. For years the word "Tylerize," meant to betray. When Clay came to make his farewell speech in the Senate, in the spring of 1842, the hall was crowded and the scene was singular in our history. As he closed the Senate adjourned. Even Calhoun shook hands with the departing Chief. "This valedictory," says Benton, in his "Thirty Years," "was the first occasion of the kind, and, thus far, has been the last; and it might not be recommendable for any one except another Henry Clay —if another should ever appear-to attempt its imitation." "Clay's leaving Congress was something like the soul's quitting the body," wrote Crittendon, the successor, another compromiser, because a Middle State like Kentucky, where the battles must be, would dread an internecine war.
At Ashland Henry Clay, now called the "Old Prince," was received with an enthusiasm exceeding all his previous popularity. Minor orators vied with each other in covering new terms of panegyric. Aristides, Cincinnatus, Washington, "unrivaled orator of the age," "illustrious abroad, beloved at home" these were the compliments cheered to the echo, that met him every-where. He was nominated as Whig candidate for President all over the country, and made a progress northward, southward to New Orleans, and southeast-ward. Texas was annexed by treaty, and the treaty came to the Senate. Approval meant war with Mexico. This obtrusion of an unexpected question at a moment when Henry Clay was safe on the old questions, was a repetition of his former experiences. There were enough Abolitionists to defeat him on a slavery issue. It was gossip of that generation that both Clay and Van Buren agreed to drop Texas as an issue. Clay was unanimously nominated at Baltimore, May 1, 1844, and Daniel Webster came back into the Whig camp. He was received perhaps a little too coolly by Clay. Van Buren's plans were upset, and Polk was nominated because he was warm for Texas; this put Clay against Texas. The campaign was a hot one. "Poor Cooney Clay is lying low Polk and Dallas are all the go !" On that cry the expansionists and the slaveholders won a victory, the Abolitionists defeating Clay. He retired to Ashland again a defeated man, and began to blame everything on General Jackson. His sorrows were the personal burden of no fewer than 1,299,068 electors who had cast their votes for him. He had more than doubled his vote, and yet was again in defeat. He was sixty-seven, and Ashland was mortgaged. He appeared at the Bank of Lexington to discuss his distressing financial situation. There he learned that "Henry Clay owed nothing." "Who did this?" "Not your enemies."
In January, 1845, he spoke at Washington, in the hall of the House. Acres of people were turned away. "Shepperd," says Alexander H. Stephens, "who was more Whiggish than Clayish, said that Clay could get more men to run after him to hear him speak, and fewer to vote for him, than any other man in America."
As the arms of the United States soon put Mexico hors de combat, Clay came out in a ringing speech against the extension of slavery, and meetings of unparalleled size in the eastern cities demonstrated that the old politician had once more, with unerring instinct, struck a keynote. Thurlow Weed learned that the victorious General Taylor had always admired Henry Clay and worn home-made clothes. What better Whig than that could there be? It also happened that General Taylor had never voted. What more perfect candidate to defend? This was Weed's argument. Henry Clay, in anger, went East. At seventy-one he held the hand of the dying John Quincy Adams. He went forth to extraordinary ovations. The people were ready to nominate him, but the politicians were tired they were afraid of his luck if he lost and his temper if he should win. In the convention of Whigs at Philadelphia, June 7, 1848, Clay received only 97 votes to iii for Taylor on the first ballot. On the fourth, only 32 to 171 for Taylor. Meanwhile Congress had authorized slavery in free territory conquered from Mexico, and passed congratulatory resolutions to the Revolutionists of 1848 in Europe who had "thrown off slavery." The Whigs had no platform. Clay was deeply mortified. He did not go into the canvass. Taylor accepted Democratic nominations, and thus Clay kept in a logical party attitude.
At seventy-four he was sent by unanimous voice of his Legislature to the United States Senate, and thither he went, to the extreme disappointment of Jefferson Davis and Stephens. Davis was the son-in-law of the President. In this Senate sat Clay, Webster, Calhoun, Benton, Jefferson Davis, Cass, Douglas, Corwin, Hamlin, Seward, and Chase. On January 29, 1850, to this company of great statesmen, Henry Clay unfolded his "comprehensive scheme of adjustment." Jefferson Davis demanded more slave territory. On February 5, the day Clay was to speak, he found an extraordinary attendance outside the Capitol. His speech lasted two days. Often the clamor outside was so great that he could not be heard in the Senate. He was feeble, but his voice had not lost its charm. It is said that, when he finished, a great throng gathered to kiss and embrace him. He implored peace concession on each side that would avert war. Through the great debate on the compromise of 185o Clay grew-in genuine statesman-ship. After he threw off the hope of the Presidency he was truly an American to boast of. He alone had the eye to see what was possible. He made the pending bills all into one an "Omnibus" it was called. California was to come in free; Utah and New Mexico were to be open to either policy; the District of Columbia was to be free; fugitive slaves were to be given up under a stringent bill. Taylor died, and Clay was influential with Fillmore. August 2, thinking the Omnibus defeated, he defied the enemies of the Union, declared his willingness to fight even his own State for the Union, gave up his leadership, and retired, ill, to Newport.
While he was gone, all his measures passed in detail. In the autumn he returned to Ashland with the greatest success of his life, and he had done exactly right.
Although very infirm, he reached the Congress of December, 1850. The Great Rebellion, the "irrepressible conflict," was hurrying forward. The slave-holders were only sorry they had waited so long. They now hated the Union. And their hatred had enkindled sentiments as hostile in the North. The Fugitive Slave law could not be executed. To a statesman so great and so hopeful as Henry Clay, the tide of events as he neared the grave must have revealed to him the criminality of many statesmen in whom he had once believed. Yet it may truly be said that America had theretofore fought so feebly that no one could foresee the deluge of blood that was anon to flow. He went to Cuba for his cough. At Ashland, in 1851, the old man was repeatedly tempted by others to consent to run for President. "The ambition of others," says Carl Schurz, "pursued him when his own was dead."* He made a few addresses in New York, having been called, like Patrick Henry, to sacrifice his feeble life for his country. He was a good Union man. When he arrived at Washing-ton in December, 1851, he was too ill to go to the Senate. He received Kossuth, of Hungary, in his sick chamber at the National Hotel. He was on his death-bed when the Whig convention nominated Scott, June 10. Both parties adopted his platform, and he saw himself the moulder of the promises of all the politicians. No other political prophet of his skill has lived, and there was universal satisfaction among his worshipers that he survived to behold this triumph. He said, on his bed of sharp distress, "Was there ever man had such friends?" for the solicitude of the Nation was as astonishing as it was gratifying. "He remained," says Carl Schurz, "a winner of hearts to his last day," and died on June 29, 1852, in the seventy-sixth year of his age.
On July 1, both Houses of Congress, the civic officers, the military, and citizens in great numbers, carried his remains to the Senate Chamber, there meeting the President, the Cabinet, and the officers of the army and navy. After funeral services the funeral cortege started for Ashland, passing through Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Louisville, to Lexington. The multitudes that gathered to pay the last tribute to Henry Clay could not be numbered. On July 10, with imposing ceremonies, his body was entombed, and a grand monument now marks his resting place.
Love for Andrew Jackson, in his admirers, was intellectual; for Henry Clay, it was from the heart, and purely personal, united, however, with flattering feelings that the end had been splendid and ideal. We cannot deny that Henry Clay was personally the most interesting politician who has lived. He probably was not quite the equal of Patrick Henry as an orator, but he had the scent of parliamentary leadership keener than it has been developed in any other statesman. In eloquence much like Henry; in perception like Jefferson; in fidelity to the Union, like Washington; in endurance, like John Quincy Adams. The lesson of his life is that parliamentary institutions evolve compromise, and that equal rights work out, not the best that is imaginable, but the medium of the best that is attainable._ It was only at the portals of the grave, when compromise was no longer the theme of his argument, that Henry Clay became truly noble and great, and then his compromises grew perceptible to others as the discourse of reason, patriotism, and expediency. The almost universal affection for Henry Clay, too, was a tribute to human nature, gently presenting our race as it is not too often seen.