|1st United States Ambassador to Mexico|
January 3, 1899 – May 26, 1905
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Edwin Conger|
|United States Senator
March 4, 1871 – March 3, 1877
Serving with Benjamin Rice, Stephen Dorsey
|Preceded by||Alexander McDonald|
|Succeeded by||Augustus Garland|
|9th Governor of Arkansas|
July 2, 1868 – March 4, 1871
|Preceded by||Isaac Murphy|
|Succeeded by||Ozra Hadley (acting)|
|Born||Powell Foulk Clayton
August 7, 1833
Delaware County, Pennsylvania
|Died||August 25, 1914
|Resting place||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Volunteers|
|Years of service||1861–1865|
|Commands||5th Kansas Cavalry
Post of Pine Bluff
Powell Clayton (born Powell Foulk Clayton; August 7, 1833 – August 25, 1914) was an American politician and diplomat who served as a United States Senator from Arkansas from 1871 to 1877 and United States Ambassador to Mexico from 1899 to 1905. He previously served as the 9th Governor of Arkansas from 1868 to 1871. A member of the Republican Party, ideologically Clayton was a Radical Republican.
Clayton was born in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, to John and Ann Glover Clayton. He was a direct descendent of William Clayton, originally from Chichester, England. Clayton the immigrant was a close friend of George Fox, founder of the Quakers, and William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. John Clayton was an orchard keeper and carpenter. John and Ann Clayton had ten children in all; six died in infancy.
The young Clayton attended a private military academy in Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia. He later attended engineering school at Wilmington, Delaware. He moved to Kansas in 1855 and served as an engineer at Leavenworth, Kansas. On April 29, 1861, he is recorded as having a company of militia at Fort Leavenworth. His brothers William and John followed him to the West and, at one point, they all worked in Arkansas.
American Civil War
In May 1861 Clayton was formally mustered into the United States Volunteers as a captain of the 1st Kansas Infantry. In December 1861, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 5th Kansas Cavalry and later to colonel in March 1862. During the war he served primarily in Arkansas and Missouri, fighting in several battles in those states.
During the morning and early afternoon of October 25, 1863, Clayton commanded federal troops occupying Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He successfully repulsed a three-pronged confederate attack of the forces of General John S. Marmaduke. His troops had piled cotton bales around the Pine Bluff courthouse and surrounding streets to make a barricade for the Union defenders, and it worked. Confederate losses were 41 killed, wounded, and captured. Clayton was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers on August 1, 1864.
In 1868 Clayton was elected as the first Republican governor of Arkansas. His tenure was marked by soaring state debt (despite a state surplus when he took office), corruption, and violence. He was forced to declare martial law for four months in late 1868 and early 1869, due to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan assaulted and killed freedmen asserting their new-found rights, as well as Republican leaders supporting those rights. The Governor was assisted by General Daniel Phillips Upham. Partisan critics accused his administration with corruption[by whom?] while he was governor. Clayton was impeached by the legislature but was never formally convicted of a crime. He was reportedly involved with the tampering of a US senate election between Thomas Boles and John Edwards; at the time the office was filled by election by the state legislature. Clayton was not convicted of any charges.
He worked with the legislature to improve the infrastructure in Arkansas: building railroads and new levees, as well as replacing levees destroyed during the war. While these improvements temporarily increased the debt, they were needed investment for a state that had been underdeveloped before the war. The legislature established free public schools for the first time and funded the construction of some buildings. Because so little public investment had been made before, financing such projects was controversial.
He was persuaded to resign and accept election to the United States Senate after trying to ensure that the state would be stable under the appointment of an acting governor. While in the Senate, he worked with President Grant and his brother, William H.H. Clayton, the US Attorney in Arkansas, to have Judge Isaac Parker reassigned from Utah to Fort Smith, Arkansas, a frontier area with a high rate of violence and crime. The legendary “Hanging Judge,” along with U.S. Attorney Clayton, are credited with bringing law and order to the region. William was later instrumental in bringing statehood to Oklahoma.
Clayton was appointed as ambassador to Mexico in 1897 by President McKinley and served in that position until 1905.
Later life and death
In 1912, Clayton moved to Washington, D.C.. Near the end of his life, Clayton reflected on the dilemma of Republicans trying to reestablish themselselves as a political force in Arkansas and other southern states:
In addition to the Democrats complete control and manipulation of the election machinery, as each biennial election drew near in Arkansas, some new version of the evils of Reconstruction was brought forth to distract the attention of the voters from the misdeeds of the Democratic Party ring and to make it possible for them to avoid giving an account of their stewardship. The wildest and most fallacious stories have been told by them.
Clayton married Adaline McGraw of Helena. Together with his brother William (W.H.H. Clayton), they purchased a plantation in Jefferson County, Arkansas, in the Mississippi Delta, formerly a base of cotton plantations and production. As in other southern states, violence did not end with the war. The resentment of white supremacists intensified in 1868 as the Ku Klux Klan used lynchings, other physical attacks and intimidation against emancipated freedmen to repress black voting and maintain white supremacy. They threatened and murdered white Republicans as well, including Congressman James M. Hinds. Other planters told Powell that they would pretend to go along with Reconstruction but would win back what they had lost later at the ballot box. Powell at first tried to stay out of the conflicts. When his neighbors became more threatening, he decided to enter politics.
On September 9, 1868 Clayton lost his left hand while hunting outside Little Rock when his rifle discharged.
As president of the Eureka Springs Improvement Company (ESIC), Clayton worked to develop commercial and residential structures, many which still exist. ESIC was most successful in having the Eureka Springs Railroad built. This was the key to making the resort accessible to tourists. The ESIC also built the Crescent Hotel, now one of Eureka Springs' most notable landmarks. A poem on the fireplace in the lobby of the Crescent Hotel is attributed to Clayton Tourism rose dramatically in Eureka Springs after the railroad was completed; it became the center for a variety of entertainments.
In 1883, Clayton became the chief promoter of the Eureka Springs Railway, which provided service to the resort community until 1889, when it was merged into what became from 1906 to 1946 the Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad. This defunct line provided passenger and freight service from Joplin, Missouri, to Helena in Phillips County in eastern Arkansas.
Clayton's The Aftermath of the Civil War in Arkansas was published posthumously in 1915.
- Donovan, Gatewood, and Whayne 1995, pp. 46–57.
- Clayton, Thomas J., Rambles and Reflections, Chester Pa. (1899), pp. 399-400
- Blackmar, Frank Wilson (1912). Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc. Standard Publishing Company. p. 366.
- Quoted in William C. Penrose, "Power Politics Is Old Hat", Arkansas Historical Quarterly XI (Winter 1952), p. 243
- "Powell Clayton". Find A Grave. Retrieved August 11, 2012.
- "Crescent Cottage Inn"
- "History: Powell Clayton", Eureka Vacation
- "H. Glenn Mosenthin, "Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad"". encyclopediaofarkansas.net. Retrieved April 28, 2013.
- Donovan, Timothy P.; Gatewood, Willard B. Jr.; Whayne, Jeannie M., eds. (1995). The Governors of Arkansas: Essays in Political Biography (2nd ed.). Fayetteville, Ark.: University of Arkansas Press. ISBN 1-55728-331-1.
- Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
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