Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Henry Clay contemplates his inevitable return to Washington to defend the American System and a run against Andrew Jackson!

    Henry Clay Fine Content Autograph Letter Signed "H Clay." Two pages, 8" x 10", Ashland, September 17, 1831. A superb letter by the Great Compromiser contemplating -- with some dread -- his likely election to the Senate. After years in Washington, as a Senator, Congressman, and finally a tedious stint as Secretary of State under John Quincy Adams, Clay was contemplating the life of a retired, country gentleman. The people of his home state of Kentucky had other ideas. In 1830 the Kentucky legislature nominated Clay for the presidency, and despite his reluctance to come out of retirement, relished the possibility of running against his nemesis, Andrew Jackson. Looking for national support, he hoped for a nod from the anti-Jackson party which would evolve into the Whig party: "...I wish Judge Rochester may be right in respect to the favorable disposition of the Anti Masons. This course, appear to me, to be very uncertain. We shall be able to understand more of it after the meeting of their Convention in Balto..." That convention nominated William Wirt for President in December 1831. The Kentucky legislature meanwhile, mindful that a position in Washington would give Clay a greater advantage in the 1832 race, appeared ready to send him to the Senate. To this possibility, Clay wrote "I have a great repugnance to a service, at this time, in Congress, form various causes, and I had taken pretty much the same view of the Subject which you have. But I am very strongly urged by friends within and without the State to consent to go to the Senate. They are unanimous upon the subject. Those at a distance say that evidence is wanted that the State of Kentucky will support me; that this has not been conclusively furnished by the results of our late Elections; and that my election to the Senate would tend to supply the desideratum. It is further represented that a formidable attack is meditated on the American System; that I ought to be present to defend it; and that of I am not there, when I could get there, I will be considered as indifferent to its fate. I stated to those who are within the State, that ment[ione]d the matter to me, that public attention having been almost exclusively turned to Mr. Crittenden, it was an indispensable preliminary that he should consent to waive his pretensions, before I would consider the subject. He consents to do so, and I have put it upon the footing that I will deliberate on it until the meeting of the legislature and not until then decide. I hope this course will meet your approbation..." Again turning to the coming election of 1832, Clay hopefully wrote: "... Maryland has again decided against Jackson, although it seems his majorities in Balto. and Washington County are rather increased than diminished. The adherence to him, under all the circumstances of scandal and disgrace at Washington City, is the strongest evidence of party infatuation that ever existed..." Sadly for Clay, the campaign was a disaster, and he was soundly defeated in the Electoral College by 219 to 49, carrying only six of twenty-four states. More importantly, Clay would remain in the Senate for the next two decades where he would cultivate his role as the Great Compromiser. A superb letter from Clay at one of the key turning points in his political career. Evenly toned, boasting bold ink; near fine condition.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2008
    21st-22nd Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 11
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 525

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $9) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2020 May 22 Space Exploration Signature Auction - Dallas.

    Learn about consigning with us

    The department director has the heart of a true and highly knowledgeable collector with the business acumen of someone who has been not only successful but has decades of an impeccable track record
    David Greenburg,
    Chicago, IL
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2019 November 2 Lincoln and His Times Americana & Political Signature Auction - Dallas
    2019 November 2 Lincoln and His Times Americana & Political Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED SO FAR $1,853,301