Description

    Senator Henry Clay Autograph Letter Signed "H. Clay." Two pages with integral blank, 8" x 10", "Ashland [Clay's plantation in Lexington, Kentucky]," August 14, 1848. Following his failure to secure the presidential nomination from the Whig Party two months earlier (the nomination went to Gen. Zachary Taylor), Clay made the decision to retire and returned home to his Kentucky estate, Ashland. Addressed to his friend, the Kentucky-born newspaper editor Thomas B. Stevenson, and marked "Private," Clay discusses the circumstances around the Whig nomination and the prospects of the upcoming presidential election.

    It had come to Clay's attention that, prior to securing his nomination for president, Gen. Taylor had expressed to a mutual friend his "willingness to run as Vice President on a ticket with me [Clay]. . . Scott's letter to me is not marked private nor confidential; and I think you might say, in your letter to the Tribune, 'that you have had the most satisfactory evidence that General Scott was willing to run as a candidate for the Vice Presidency . . . and that that fact was not disclosed to the members of the Philadelphia Convention.'" Still irked by his loss to Taylor, he continues later in the letter by saying that he is "excessively bored . . . to come out and endorse General Taylor. As if he had not spoken in a way that all may comprehend him! As if it were not enough that I should submit quietly to the decision of the Philadelphia Convention [the Whig National Convention]! Suppose I could endorse him, and being elected, he should totally disappoint Whig hopes, would I not be justly liable to the reproaches of any one that I might have misled?"

    With regard to the question of whether the new territories acquired from Mexico would be free or slave, a question Clay himself believes may influence the upcoming election, he states: "The retrocession of New Mexico and California, I did not suppose to be at present practicable; but if the question to which they have given rise should long remain unsettled, and the existing excitement and agitation should continue and increase, I should not be surprised if public opinion should finally take that direction. If the South were wise, it would yield the point in dispute . . . In the mean time, many of the friends of the principle that free territory should remain free, are putting themselves in a position full of embarrassment." Later, he opines that "If Congress has risen without an adjustment of the slave question, I think the future full of uncertainty . . . The Whig party at the North and in Ohio is much more imbued with the anti-slavery feeling than the Locofoco party [a faction of the Democratic Party] . . . I should not be surprised if many of the Old Hunkers in New York unite with the Barnburners and the dissatisfied Whigs to give the vote of that State to Mr. Van Buren [the former president who planned a return to the White House], and thereby indirectly promote the interest of General Cass." Lewis Cass, a former general during the War of 1812, received the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in May 1848, but lost the election to Taylor. Docketed on the blank, which shows some moderate staining. Folds have weakened with separation from the right edge on all pages. Unevenly toned, the text remains bright.


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    Auction Dates
    April, 2015
    9th Thursday
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