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The biography of our country's most distinguished and honored statesmen is emi. nently fraught with encouragement and hope for her aspiring youth_especially for those who enter upon the stage of active life unportioned and unheralded by the partial voice of powerful friends and kindred. Of the eight citizens who have attained the honors of the Presidency, Washington was descended from a family of country squires, Adams from a Puritan ancestry of unpresuming worth and undistinguished talent, and Harrison immediately from a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and remately from one of the Judges who condemned Charles 1. to the block. The others belong to that very large number who, in fashionable parlance, 'had no grandfathers'--that is, who achieved eminence for themselves, and did not receive it from pedigrees. From Franklin down to Hamilton, the master-spirits of the Revolution were men who could never have hoped to achieve distinction as the colonists of a distant monarchy. Each of these carved out for himself a lofty niche in the Temple of Fame; but seldom have their lineal successors presented any claim to rival, much less heighten, the glory which still faintly irradiates their brows. Of how many of the Patriots and Sages of the past generation do we find the glory reflected in their descendants ?
HENRY Clay is one of the many among our eminent men who, beside the disad. vantages of poverty and obscurity,were fated to encounter that of early orphanage. His father, a clergyman of the Baptist persuasion, died while he was yet very young, leaving him nothing but a Christian example and an honest name. Yet he found friends to aid his acquirement of a knowledge of the Law, to which his powers were early dedicated; he found and attached friends in the new home in the wild west to which his footsteps were turned while yet in his minority ; and at an age wiren men have rarely ventured to aspire to political distinction, he who had so iately en. tered Kentucky an unknown and friendless stripling, had passed from a seat in the Legislature to the Speaker's chair, and thence to the Senate of the United States.
His subsequent career has been such as to teach emphatically to the youth of Amer. ica this lesson—that no one who is conscious of possessing the requisite qualities need ever apprehend that humility of origin or obscurity of position will deprive him of opportunities to serve and honor his country.
The volumes herewith presented are intended to trace clearly the career of Mr. Clay from his entrance on the stage of public life down to the present time-mainly by the light of his own lofty, persuasive and at times impassioned eloquence. A circumstantial original Memoir is prefixed, while a slender thread of narrative accompanies, for the most part, the Speeches, with the view of elucidating them by a simple setting forth of the time, place and occasion. On this, however, no great stress is placed. Mr. Clar's parliamentary efforts, clear, direct and vigorous, generally embody all the illustration that is needful to their full understanding, a few words only suffice to set forth their bearing on the spirit and history of the times. The great importance, variety and indestructible interest of the topics he mainly discusses; the character and ability of the orator, the direct and often exact bearing of his arguments on the controversies and interests of our own time, all combine to render his Speeches among the most valuable contributions of Patriot. ism and Genius to the enlightenment and elevation of the American People.
No labor has been spared to render this edition not only far more complete than any former one has been, but so perfect that there shall exist no necessity for one to come after it. The work is stereotyped, so as to afford opportunity for correcting any errors which may hereafter be detected, and to admit of the addition from time to time of the Speeches which Mr. Clay shall make hereafter: so that he who buys this work may complete it up to any future period without extra expense. It is hoped that this plan will receive the hearty approbation and support of the public, and es. pecially of the numerous and thick-gathering friends of the Great Statesman of the West.
The PORTRAIT which embellishes this volume is copied from an original painting by GEORGE LINEN, and was recommended by Mr. Clas, as an excellent and faithful likeness.
The View of the BIRTH PLACE OF HENRY CLAY Was copied from a drawing made on the spot. New-York, 1842.
“ His fame is so great thronghout the world that he stands in no need of an encomium and yet his worth is much greater than his fame. It is impossible not to speak great things of liim, and yet it will be very difficult to speak what he deserves."--COLERIDGE.
“ If I desire to pass over a part in silence, whatever I omit will seem the most worthy to have been recorded."CLAUDIAN.
The most fitting monument in honor of a public man is a faithful record of his public acts. If these be worthy, and the record simple, time, which destroys all things but good deeds and lofty thoughts, will embalm them for eternity. If they be base, eulogy adds a lie to their deformities, and they must perish of their own disease. In the spirit of this truth we address ourselves to the task before us.
HENRY Clay was born on the 12th of April, 1777, in a district of Hanover County, Virginia, which, from its physical character, and for lack of a better name, was familiarly known throughout the neighborhood as The Slashes. His father was a Baptist clergyman, of fair talent and stern integrity; but as he died in 1781, before his character and habits could have exerted any influence upon those of his son, farther reference to them would be aside from our prin
cipal purpose. At the age of four years, then, HENRY was left, the fifth of seven children, without fortune, to the guardian care of an affectionate mother. She sent him to school -and he learned to read and write : and, as he grew older, the rudiments of English grammar, of arithmetic, and geography were acquired in the lowly district school, with which, at that time as well as this, Virginia was by no means too plentifully supplied. But here his education, so far as it depended on the mere formal teaching of others, abruptly stopped. His mother was poor-not only unable to procure for him the advantage of methodical study—but forced to require his active services in aid of her own exertions. He applied himself to the labor of the field with alacrity and diligence; he shunned no task, but embraced all duties; and there yet live those who remember to have seen him oftentimes riding his sorry horse with a rope bridle, no saddle, and a bag of grain, to Mrs. Darricott's mill on the Pamunkey river. By the familiar name of the Mill Boy or THE SLASHES, do these men and their descendants even now perpetuate the remembrance, or the tradition, of his lowly, yet dutiful and unrepining employments.
During this period of his life he enjoyed the counsel and the care of his beloved mother, who was a woman fitted by her natural qualities to develop in her son, by her daily intercourse with him, that high-minded frankness and sincerity of character which marked his course through the whole of his subsequent career. But, greatly to his regret, he was separated from her, and placed as clerk in a small retail store with Mr. Richard Denny, in Richmond, Virginia ; but we have no evidence that this, his new employment, was more to his taste than it was to that of his great predecessor,