Cassius Marcellus Clay (politician)
Cassius Marcellus Clay
Digitally colorized copy of a photograph by Mathew Brady
|United States Ambassador to Russia|
May 7, 1863 – October 1, 1869
|President||Abraham Lincoln (1863–1865)|
Andrew Johnson (1865–1869)
Ulysses S. Grant (1869)
|Preceded by||Simon Cameron|
|Succeeded by||Andrew G. Curtin|
July 14, 1861 – June 25, 1862
|Preceded by||John Appleton|
|Succeeded by||Simon Cameron|
|Member of the Kentucky House of Representatives|
|Born||October 19, 1810|
Madison County, Kentucky, U.S.
|Died||July 22, 1903 (aged 92)|
Madison County, Kentucky, U.S.
|Political party||Republican (1854–70; 84–1903)|
Liberal Republican (1870–72)
|Spouse(s)||Mary Jane Warfield (1833–1878, divorced)|
Dora Richardson (1894–1897, divorced)
|Children||Elisha Warfield Clay|
Mary Barr Clay
Brutus J. Clay II
Henry Launey Clay (adopted)
|Alma mater||Transylvania University|
|Occupation||Lawyer, politician, newspaper publisher, soldier, farmer|
|Known for||Southern abolitionist and U.S. ambassador to Russia|
|Service/branch||1st Kentucky Cavalry|
|Years of service||1846–1847|
American Civil War
Cassius Marcellus Clay (/
Early life, education and marriage
Cassius Marcellus Clay was born to Green Clay, one of the wealthiest planters and slaveholders in Kentucky, who became a prominent politician, and his wife Sally Lewis. He was one of six children who survived to adulthood, of seven born.
Clay was a member of a large and influential political family. His older brother Brutus J. Clay became a politician at the state and federal levels. They were cousins of both Kentucky politician Henry Clay and Alabama governor Clement Comer Clay. Cassius' sister Elizabeth Lewis Clay (1798–1887) married John Speed Smith, who also became a state and US politician. Their son, Green Clay Smith, became a state politician and was elected to Congress.
The younger Clay attended Transylvania University and then graduated from Yale College in 1832. While at Yale, he heard abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison speak, and his lecture inspired Clay to join the anti-slavery movement. Garrison's arguments were to him "as water is to a thirsty wayfarer." Clay was politically pragmatic, supporting gradual legal change rather than calling for immediate abolition the way Garrison and his supporters did.
Marriage and family
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In 1833, Clay married Mary Jane Warfield, daughter of Dr. Elisha Warfield and Mary Barr. They had seven children of their own: Elisha Warfield, son Green, Mary Barr, Sally, Laura, Brutus J., II, and Anne, and adopted Henry Launey Clay (believed to be his son by an extra-marital relationship while in Russia).
Cassius Clay was a pioneer as an early Southern planter who became a prominent anti-slavery crusader. Clay worked toward emancipation, both as a Kentucky state representative and as an early member of the Republican Party.
Clay was elected to three terms in the Kentucky House of Representatives, but he lost support among Kentucky voters as he promoted ending slavery. His anti-slavery activism earned him violent enemies. During a political debate in 1843, he survived an assassination attempt by a hired gun, named Sam Brown. Despite being shot in the chest, Clay drew his Bowie knife, tackled Brown, cut out his eyes, and finally threw him over an embankment.
In 1845, Clay began publishing an anti-slavery newspaper, True American, in Lexington, Kentucky. Within a month he received death threats, had to arm himself, and regularly barricaded the armored doors of his newspaper office for protection, besides setting up two four-pounder cannons inside. Shortly after, a mob of about 60 men broke into his office and seized his printing equipment. To protect his venture, Clay set up a publication center in Cincinnati, Ohio, a center of abolitionists in the free state, but continued to reside in Kentucky.
Clay served in the Mexican–American War as a captain with the 1st Kentucky Cavalry from 1846 to 1847. He opposed the annexation of Texas and expansion of slavery into the Southwest. While making a speech for abolition in 1849, Clay was attacked by the six Turner brothers, who beat, stabbed and tried to shoot him. In the ensuing fight, Clay fought off all six and, using his Bowie knife, killed Cyrus Turner.
Clay's connections to the northern antislavery movement remained strong. He was a founder of the Republican Party in Kentucky and became a friend of Abraham Lincoln, supporting him for the presidency in 1860. Clay was briefly a candidate for the vice presidency at the 1860 Republican National Convention, but lost the nomination to Hannibal Hamlin.
Civil War and Minister to Russia
President Lincoln appointed Clay to the post of Minister to the Russian court at St. Petersburg on March 28, 1861. The Civil War started before he departed and, as there were no Federal troops in Washington at the time, Clay organized a group of 300 volunteers to protect the White House and US Naval Yard from a possible Confederate attack. These men became known as Cassius M. Clay's Washington Guards. President Lincoln gave Clay a presentation Colt revolver in recognition. When Federal troops arrived, Clay and his family embarked for Russia.
As Minister to Russia, Clay witnessed the Tsar's emancipation edict. Recalled to the United States in 1862 to accept a commission from Lincoln as a major general with the Union Army, Clay publicly refused to accept it unless Lincoln would agree to emancipate slaves under Confederate control. Lincoln sent Clay to Kentucky to assess the mood for emancipation there and in the other border states. Following Clay's return to Washington, DC, Lincoln issued the proclamation in late 1862, to take effect in January 1863.
Later political activities
Later, Clay founded the Cuban Charitable Aid Society to help the Cuban independence movement of José Martí. He also spoke in favor of nationalizing the railroads, and later against the power being accrued by industrialists.
In 1869, Clay left the Republican Party. This was partly due to his opposition to President Grant's military interference in Haiti.[page needed] He also disapproved of the Republican Radicals' reconstruction policy after Lincoln's assassination.
In 1872, Clay was one of the organizers of the Liberal Republican revolt. He was instrumental in securing the nomination of Horace Greeley for the presidency. In the political campaigns of 1876 and 1880, Clay supported the Democratic Party candidates. He rejoined the Republican party in the campaign of 1884.
Clay had a reputation as a rebel and a fighter. Due to threats on his life, he had become accustomed to carrying two pistols and a knife for protection. He installed a cannon to protect his home and office. As he aged, Clay became increasingly eccentric and paranoid.
In 1878 after 45 years of marriage, Clay divorced his wife, Mary Jane (Warfield) Clay, claiming abandonment after she no longer would tolerate his marital infidelities.
In 1894, the 84-year-old Clay married Dora Richardson, the 15-year-old orphaned sister of one of his sharecropping tenants.
His family home, White Hall, is maintained by the Commonwealth of Kentucky as White Hall State Historic Shrine.
During the Civil War, Russia came to the aid of the Union, threatening war against Britain and France if they officially recognized the Confederacy. Cassius Clay, as minister to Russia during that time, was instrumental in securing Russia's aid. Emperor Alexander II of Russia gave sealed orders to the commanders of both his Atlantic and Pacific fleets, and sent them to the East and West coasts of America. They were instructed that the sealed orders were to be opened only if Britain and France entered the war on the side of the Confederacy. When the Russian Atlantic fleet entered New York harbor, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles wrote in his diary:
In sending these ships to this country, there is something significant. What will be its effect on France, and French policy, we shall learn in due time. It may be moderate, it may exacerbate. God bless the Russians.
Herman Heaton Clay, a descendant of African-American slaves, named his son Cassius Marcellus Clay—who was born nine years after the death of the emancipationist in tribute to him. This Cassius Clay gave his own son the same name, Cassius M. Clay, Jr., a heavyweight champion boxer who gained international renown and changed his name to Muhammad Ali after his conversion to Islam.
- Clay, Cassius Marcellus (1886). The Life, Memoirs. Writings, and Speeches of Cassius Marcellus Clay showing his Conduct in Overthrow of American Slavery, the Salvation of the Union and the Restoration of the Autonomy of the States. I (1 ed.). Cincinnati, Ohio: J.Fletcher Brennan & Co. Retrieved 4 June 2016 – via Internet Archive.
- The Writings of Cassius Marcellus Clay (edited with a Memoir by Horace Greeley. New York, 1848)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cassius Marcellus Clay.|
- "KOAR's Russian Connection", Kentucky Online Arts Resource Blog, 15 October 2012
- Brennan 20
- Chisholm 1911.
- Kestenbaum, Lawrence. "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Clarke-streett to Claytee".
- Lockwood, John (2011). The Siege of Washington. Oxford University Press. p. 95.
- David Borgenicht; Turk Regan (1 July 2010). The Worst-Case Scenario Almanac: Politics. The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. Chronicle Books. pp. 94–. ISBN 978-0-8118-7359-8. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
- Clay, Memoirs, pp. 260-264
- Clay, Memoirs, pp. 305–312
- Frank A. Golder. The Purchase of Alaska. The American Historical Review, Vol. 25, No. 3 (April 1920), pp. 411–425.
- Clay, Memoirs
- "Clay, Cassius Marcellus", by Frank L. Klement, in The World Book Encyclopedia, Chicago: World Book Inc, 1984
- Cassius Marcellus Clay, The Life of Cassius Marcellus Clay: Memoirs, Writings, and Speeches, showing ..., p. 542
- Newspaper article, Death Has Gripped Gen. Cassius Clay, Atlanta Constitution, July 23, 1903
- Webster G. Tarpley: Speech for 150th Anniversary of Russian Fleets of 1863, National Press Club, 27 September 2013
- "American Banker Wharton Barker's First-Person Account Confirms: Russian Tsar Alexander II Was Ready for War with Britain and France in 1862–1863 to Defend Lincoln and the Union", (March 24, 1904), Webster G. Tarpley website
- Anna Rohleder. "Muhammad Ali's Boxing Day Gloves". Forbes. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
- "Muhammad Ali", Biography Online
- "From the Vietnam war to Islam – the key chapters in Ali’s life," Kevin Mitchell, The Guardian, 4 June 2016, accessed 1 Feb 2018
- Betty Boles Ellison, A Man Seen But Once: Cassius Marcellus Clay, AuthorHouse, 2005
- Johnson, E. Polk (1912). A History of Kentucky and Kentuckians: The Leaders and Representative Men in Commerce, Industry and Modern Activities. Lewis Publishing Company. pp. 744–745. Retrieved 2008-11-10.
- Richard Kiel and Pamela Wallace, "Kentucky Lion": The True Story of Cassius Clay, Morrison McNae Publishing, 2007
- Kirchner, Paul (2010), Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters, and Fighting Techniques, Boulder, CO: Paladin Press, ISBN 1-58160-742-3
- Keven McQueen, Cassius M. Clay: Freedom's Champion, Turner Publishing Company, 2001
- H. Edward Robinson, Cassius Marcellus Clay: Firebrand of Freedom, University Press of Kentucky, 1976
- Works by or about Cassius Marcellus Clay at Internet Archive
- White Hall-Clermont Foundation, official website
- White Hall - home of Cassius M. Clay, Kentucky Parks
- Original Letters: Abraham Lincoln to Cassius Marcellus Clay, 1860, Shapell Manuscript Foundation
- Cassius M. Clay biography, Kentucky Educational Television
- "Cassius M. Clay", Columbia Encyclopedia 6th Edition, online at Bartleby website
| United States Ambassador to Russia
March 28, 1861 – June 25, 1862
| United States Ambassador to Russia
March 11, 1863 – October 1, 1869
Andrew G. Curtin