OUTSTANDING HENRY CLAY AUTOGRAPH DOCUMENT STATING HIS POSITION IN THE POLITICAL SCANDAL THAT HAD HIM DENYING CHARGES THAT HE MADE A DEAL WITH JOHN QUINCY ADAMS TO MAKE HIM SECRETARY OF STATE, IF HE BACKED ADAMS, FOR PRESIDENT IN THE 1824 ELECTION
CLAY, HENRY. (1777-1852). American statesman; represented Kentucky in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives; Speaker of the House; Secretary of State, in John Quincy Adams administration; received electoral votes for President in the 1824, 1832, and 1844 presidential elections; helped establish the National Republican Party and the Whig Party; for his role in defusing sectional crises, he earned the nickname: “the Great Compromiser”. Superb, and Important Autograph Notes Signed: “Mr. Clay” in the body of the document. 1 ½ closely written pages, quarto. No place, no date. [Washington, D.C. — also docketed ‘February 4, 1824’ on verso]. Clay writes:
“After the usual business of the morning was transmitted — The Speaker (Mr Clay) rose from his place, and requested the indulgence of the House, for a few moments, whilst he asked the attention to a subject, in which he felt himself deeply concerned. A note had appeared this morning, in the National Intelligencer, under the name, and with the authority, as he presumed, of a member of this House from Pennsylvania (Mr. Kremer) which adopted, as his own, a previous letter, published in another print, containing serious and injurious imputations against him, and what the author avowed his readiness to substantiate by proof. These charges implicated his conduct, in regard to the pending Presidential election, and the respectability of the station which the member holds, who thus openly profess them, and that of the people whom he represents, entitled them to grave attention. It might be, indeed, worthy of consideration) whether the character and dignity of the House itself did not require a full investigation of them and an impartial decision on their truth •• For, if they Were true, if he Were capable, and base enough, to betray the solemn trust which the Constitution had confided to him, if, yielding to personal views and considerations, he could compromise the highest interests of his Country, the House would be scandalized by his continuing to occupy the Chair with which he had so long honored in presiding at its deliberations, and he merited instantaneous expulsion… Without, however, presuming to indicate what the House might conceive it ought to do, on account of its own purity and honor, he hoped that he should be allowed respectfully to solicit, in behalf of himself, an enquiry into the truth of the charges to which he referred. Standing in the relations to the House, which both the member from Pennsylvania and himself did, it appeared to him that here was the proper place to militate the inquiry, in order that, if guilty, here the proper punishment might be applied, and, if innocent, that here his character and conduct may be vindicated. He anxiously hoped therefore, that the House would be pleased to direct an investigation to be made into the truth of the charges. Emanating from the source which they did, this was the only notice which he could take of them. If the House should think proper to raise a Committee, he trusted that some other than the ordinary mode pursued by the practice and rules of the House would be adopted to appoint the Committee.”
John Quincy Adams was elected President by the House of Representatives, on February 9th 1825, after none of the four presidential candidates secured a majority of votes in the Electoral College during the 1824 presidential election, as prescribed by the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution. The outcome however, was assured for Adams’ election when Henry Clay, threw his support to Adams so that any chance of Andrew Jackson’s candidacy would fail. It was the cause of this support that came into question. In a Philadelphia newspaper on January 28th, an article appeared pointedly accusing Clay of a deal that was made between Adams and Clay, that would give Clay the Secretary of State position in Adams’ administration in return for his support. On February 1st, Clay published his reply to the charges in the National Intelligencer paper, proclaiming that report was a fabrication and a forgery, and “if it be genuine, I pronounce the member, whoever he may be, a base and infamous calumniator, a dastard and liar; and if he dare unveil himself and avow his name, I will hold him responsible, as I here admit myself to be, to all the laws which govern and regulate men of honor.” For more details on this fascinating piece of history we suggest seeing the book “Life of Henry Clay, by Schurz, pages 253-256]. These manuscript notes, made by Clay, and written in his own hand, are his personal details and recollections of the position he took, and the utterances he made before Congress in his defense. Simply a superb piece of Americana, and an important piece of history for the collector or institutional archive.