HENRY CLAY (1777-1852) was a Congressman, Speaker of the House, Senator from Kentucky and a multi-time Presidential candidate. In his first political speech, he attacked the Alien and Sedition Acts, laws passed by the Federalists to suppress dissent during the Quasi-War with France. Clay advocated for direct elections for Kentucky elected officials and the gradual emancipation of slavery in Kentucky. The 1799 Kentucky Constitution included the direct election of public officials but the state did not adopt Clay’s plan for gradual emancipation. In 1814, he helped negotiated the Treaty of Ghent, which brought an end to the War of 1812. As Speaker of the House, he developed the American System, which called for federal infrastructure investments, support for the national bank and high protective tariff rates. In 1820, he brought an end to a crisis over slavery by leading the passage of the Missouri Compromise. Clay owned as many as 60 slaves but condemned slavery as an evil. In several actions, he worked to limit the expansion of slavery.
One-page, 8 x 10, ALS, September 10, 1843, Ashland, Lexington, Kentucky, signed “H. Clay” and free franked by him. The letter was written by Clay between his two terms as Senator from Kentucky to Albert T. Burnley of Frankfort, Kentucky, regarding decisions of Kentucky judge George M. Bibb (1776-1859). Bigg was Chancellor of the Louisville, Kentucky Chancery Court. He would later become Secretary of the Treasury.
“My Dear Sir, I received your favor of the 4th. I have examined the transcript of the record, and the opinion of Chancellor Bibb in the Bank case. I think his decision, that it was necessary to record the deed of land in Kentucky, to render it an effectual conveyance of assets of the Bank here, is entirely correct. Land of the debt which you are pursuing was now due and demandable. I should [expect] much confidence in your success. Under the impression I suggested to Mr. Erwin that it might be expedient to level another attachment to secure the payment of some debt usually due, if the attached fund was not absorbed by prior attachments. On the other point, the fraud imputed to the deed of trust, I think there is more doubt. But there is much force in the Chancellor’s argument, and I do not mean to say that I have come to a different conclusion from him. I believe however I must ask you to allow me to decline arguing the cause. If it were one in which you and Mr. Erwin only, or you alone were interested, I should take pleasure in rendering you any service in my power. Considering that you are already well represented, and that C. of Appeals will have before it the able argument of Mr. Bibb, any little light which I could shed on the case will hardly be missed. The Counsel applied to the Court to hear the cause this term, but when I left Frankford on Thursday no answer had been given on the application. With constant regard H. Clay”
Overall excellent condition. Folds, expected toning. Very fine address leaf with sharply written free frank signed by Clay along with a Lexington postmark.
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