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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Green Clay

CLAY, Green, soldier, born in Powhatan county, Virginia, 14 August, 1757; died in Kentucky, 31 October, 1826. He immigrated to Kentucky before he was twenty years of age, became a surveyor, and acquired a fortune by locating lands. He was a representative of the Kentucky district in the Virginia legislature, a member of the convention that ratified the Federal constitution, and a leading member of the Kentucky constitutional convention of 1799. He was long a member of one or the other branch of the legislature, and at one time speaker of the senate. In 1813, when General Harrison was besieged by the British in Fort Meigs, he came to his relief with 3,000 volunteers and forced the enemy to withdraw. He was left in command at the fort, and defended it with great skill against an attack of the British and Indians under General Proctor and Tecumseh. After the war he retired to his plantation, and devoted himself to agriculture. He was a cousin of Henry Clay.--His son, Cassius Marcellus, politician, born in Madison county, Kentucky, 19 October, 1810, studied at Transylvania University, but afterward entered the junior class at Yale, and was graduated there in 1832. While in New Haven he heard William Lloyd Garrison, and, although his parents were slave-holders, became an earnest abolitionist. He began to practice law in his native county, and was elected to the legislature in 1835, but was defeated the next year on account of his advocacy of internal improvements. He was again elected in 1837, and in 1839 was a member of the convention that nominated General Harrison for the presidency. He then removed to Lexington, and was again a member of the legislature in 1840, but in 1841 was defeated, after an exciting canvass, on account of his anti-slavery views. The improved jury system and the common-school system of Kentucky are largely due to his efforts while in the legislature. Mr. Clay denounced the proposed annexation of Texas, as intended to extend slavery, and in 1844 actively supported Henry Clay for the presidency, speaking in his behalf in the northern states. On 3 June, 1845, he issued in Lexington the first number of an anti-slavery paper entitled "The True American." Mob violence had been threatened, and the editor had prepared himself for it. He says in his memoirs: "I selected for my office a brick building, and lined the outside doors with sheet-iron, to prevent it being burned. I purchased two brass four-pounder cannon at Cincinnati, and placed them, loaded with shot and nails, on a table, breast high, had folding-doors secured with a chain, which could open upon the mob and give play to the cannon. I furnished my office with Mexican lances, and a limited number of guns. There were six or eight persons who stood ready to defend me. If defeated, they were to escape by a trap-door in the roof; and I had placed a keg of powder with a match, which I could set off and blow up the office and all my invaders; and this I should most certainly have done in case of the last extremity." In August, while the editor was sick, his press was seized by the mob and taken to Cincinnati, and he himself was threatened with assassination; but, notwithstanding all opposition, he continued to publish the paper, printing it in Cincinnati and circulating it through Kentucky. This was not his only narrow escape. He was continually involved in quarrels, had several bloody personal encounters, and habitually spoke in political meetings, with a bowie knife concealed about him, and a brace of pistols in the mouth of his grip-sack, which he placed at his feet. When war with-Mexico was declared, Mr. Clay entered the army as captain of a volunteer infantry company that had already distinguished itself at Tippecanoe in 1811. He took this course because he thought a military title necessary to political advancement in a "fighting state" like Kentucky. On 23 January, 1847, while in the van, more than 100 miles in advance of the main army, he was taken prisoner, with seventy-one others, at Encarnacion, and marched to the City of Mexico. On one occasion, after the escape of some of the captives, the lives of the remainder were saved by Capt. Clay's gallantry and presence of mind. After being exchanged, he returned to Kentucky, and was presented by his fellow-citizens with a sword in honor of his services. He worked for General Taylor's nomination in the convention of 1848, and carried Kentucky for him. He called a convention of emancipationists at Frankfort, Kentucky, in 1849, and in 1850, separating from the Whig party, was an anti-slavery candidate for governor, receiving about 5,000 votes. He labored energetically for Fremont's election in 1856, and for Lincoln's in 1860, but took pains to separate himself from the "radical abolitionists," holding that all 640 CLAY interference with slavery should be by legal methods. On 28 March, 1861, he was appointed minister to Russia. He returned to this country in June, 1862, having been commissioned major general of volunteers, and shortly afterward made a speech in Washington, declaring that he would never draw his sword while slavery was protected in the seceding states. He resigned on 11 March, 1863, and was again sent as minister to Russia, where he remained till 25 September, 1869. In 1870 he publicly supported the revolutionary movement in Cuba, and became president of the Cuban aid society. In 1871 he delivered an address by invitation at the St. Louis fair, urging speedy reconciliation with the north, and at the same time attacking President Grant's administration. He was identified with the liberal republican movement in 1872, and supported his old friend Horace Greeley for the presidency. He afterward joined the Democratic Party, and actively supported Samuel J. Tilden in 1876, but advocated Blaine's election in 1884. In 1877 Mr. Clay shot and killed a Negro, Perry White, whom he had discharged from his service and who had threatened his life. Mr. Clay was tried, and the jury gave a verdict of "justifiable homicide." A volume of his speeches was edited by Horace Greeley (1848), and he has published "The Life, Memoirs, Writings, and Speeches of Cassius M. Clay" (2 vols., Cincinnati, 1886).

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