Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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CLAY, Clement Comer, statesman, born in Halifax county, Virginia, 17 December, 1789; died in Huntsville, Alabama, 9 September, 1866. His father, William Clay, was an officer of the Revolutionary army, who removed to Granger county. Tennessee, after the war. Young Clay was graduated at East, Tennessee University, Knoxville, admitted to the bar in 1809, and in 1811 removed to Huntsville, Alabama At the beginning of the Creek war, in 1813, he volunteered as a private in a Madison county battalion, and was afterward made adjutant. He was elected to the territorial council in 1817, and in 1819 was a delegate to the constitutional convention, and chairman of the committee to report a plan of state organization. He was chosen one of the circuit judges by the first state legislature in 1820, and elected chief justice by his colleagues, holding the office till 1823, when he resigned and resumed his law-practice. He was speaker of the legislature in 1828, and in the same year elected to congress as a democrat, serving from 1829 till 1835. He opposed the effort to recharter the United States bank, and conspicuously advocated the measures of Jackson's administration, fie was elected governor in 1835, and in 1837, before the expiration of his term, chosen to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy made by the appointment of John McKinley to the supreme bench. He took his seat at the extra session called, by President Van Buren in September, 1837 and served, supporting the administration, till 1841, when sickness in his family caused him to resign. In 1842 and 1843 he codified the laws of his state, and after that devoted himself to his profession. During the war he remained quietly at home.--His son, Clement Claiborne, born in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1819; died there, 3 January, 1882, was graduated at the University of Alabama in 1835. When the elder Clay was elected governor,he made his son his private secretary, in which capacity the boy continued his studies, and also contributed editorials to Alabama papers. When his father went to the senate, young Clay completed his law studies at the University of Virginia, and was admitted to the bar in 1840. He served in the Alabama legislature in 1842, 1844, and 1845, and in 1846 became judge of the Madison county court. He resigned in 1848, and in 1853 was elected United States senator. In 1857 he delivered an eloquent eulogy on Senator Butler, of South Carolina, and in 1858 made a speech advocating the admission of Kansas to the Union under the Lecompton constitution. He also advocated a bill repealing the bounty on vessels engaged in the Newfoundland fisheries. As a senator, he regarded himself as the envoy of a sovereign state to the council of the nation, and lost no opportunity of asserting the rights of that state as defined by Mr. Calhoun and other southern statesmen. He was re-elected unanimously in 1859, but withdrew in February, 1861, his state having seceded from the Union. He was formally expelled from the senate in March, 1861, and was chosen a senator in the Confederate congress. He went to Canada in 1864 as a secret agent of the Confederate government, took part in planning the raids on the northern frontier, and made some futile attempts at negotiation with President Lincoln. He returned to the Confederacy, but took refuge in Canada at the close of the war. In May, 1865, hearing that a reward had been offered for his arrest, he gave himself up to the United States authorities and was for some time a prisoner in Fort Monroe with Jefferson Davis. He was released in April,'1866. and from that time practiced his profession at Huntsville.
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