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Clay, Cassius Marcellus (1810-1903) | Eastern Kentucky University - Special Collections and Archives

Name: Clay, Cassius Marcellus (1810-1903)
Variant Name: Cassius M. Clay, C.M. Clay, Cassius Clay

Historical Note:

Cassius Marcellus Clay was born in Madison County, Kentucky, on 19 October 1810. He was the son of Green Clay, a Kentucky soldier of the War of 1812 and a cousin of Henry Clay. He was educated at Centre College, Danville, KY and at Yale, where he graduated in 1832.Influenced to some extent by William Lloyd Garrison, he became an advocate of emancipation and advocated a system of gradual emancipation. In 1835, 1837 and 1840 he was elected as a Whig to the Kentucky legislature, where he helped secure the establishment of a public school system and a much-needed reform in the jury system. In 1841 he was defeated on account of his anti-slavery views. In 1845 he established, at Lexington, KY an anti-slavery publication known as The True American, but in the same year his office and press were wrecked by a mob, and he removed the publication office to Cincinnati, OH. In the Mexican War he served as a captain of a Kentucky company of militia.

He left the Whig party in 1850, and as an anti-slavery candidate for governor of Kentucky polled 5000 votes. In 1856 he joined the Republican party, and wielded considerable influence as a Southern representative in its councils. In 1861 he was sent by President Abraham Lincoln as minister to Russia; in 1862 he returned to America to accept a commission as major-general of volunteers, but in March 1863 was reappointed to his former post at St. Petersburg, where he remained until 1869. Disapproving of the Republican policy of reconstruction, he left the party, and in 1872 was one of the organizers of the Liberal - Republican revolt, and was largely instrumental in securing the nomination of Horace Greeley for the presidency. In the political campaigns of 1876 and 1880 he supported the Democratic candidate, but rejoined the Republican party in the campaign of 1884. He died at his estate, Whitehall, in Madison County, KY on 22 July 1903.

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