Cassius Marcellus Clay (Politician) Biography


Who is Cassius Marcellus Clay? What did Cassius Marcellus Clay do? Information on Cassius Marcellus Clay biography, life story and career.

Cassius Marcellus Clay; (1810-1903), American abolitionist and diplomat. An early and firm believer in Negro emancipation, he supported Abraham Lincoln, who later appointed him U. S. minister to Russia. The son of a slaveholder, Clay was born at White Hall, the family estate in Madison county, Ky., on Oct. 19, 1810. A graduate of Yale in 1832, he was elected in 1835 as a Whig to the Kentucky legislature, serving until 1841. There he attracted attention for his emancipationist views. He denounced the scheme of Texas annexation as a plot to extend slavery, and in 1844 he campaigned for the Whig presidential candidate, his distant cousin Henry Clay.

On June 3, 1845, in Lexington, Ky., Cassius Clay began publication of the True American, an abolitionist weekly, but a mob seized the press on August 18. Although threatened with assassination, Clay revived the paper in Cincinnati, Ohio, and later published it as the Examiner, in Louisville, Ky. A volunteer in the Mexican War, he was captured early in 1847. In the 1848 election he campaigned for Zachary Taylor, and in 1851 he ran unsuccessfully for the governorship of Kentucky. He became a Republican in the 1850’s. Expecting to be named Lincoln’s secretary of state, he settled for the Russian post, which he filled in 1861 and 1862 and again from 1863 to 1869. He was instrumental in retaining Russian friendship for the Union, and he assisted in the purchase of Alaska. He was a violent, volatile man, and in his last years he barricaded himself at White Hall, where he died on July 21,1903.


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