« ПретходнаНастави »
WOULD RATHER BE RIGHT TIAN BE PRESIDENT."
SKETCH OF THE LIFE
AND SOME OF THE
COMPILED PROM THE LATEST AND BEST AUTHORITIES.
“I implore, as the best blessing which Heaven can bestow upon me, that if the direful event of the dis.
278 WESTERN BOW.
1 8 5 3.
LIFE OF HENRY
OF HENRY CLAY.
It is proposed to present a short Sketch of the Life of Henry Clay, as a fit accompaniment to this edition of his Speeches. To present anything like a full history of the Man, the Lawyer and the Statesman, who was altogether the most prominent man in America during the age in which he lived, would require volumes, and is wholly beyond the purpose as well as the limits of the present sketch. The time indeed is not yet ripe for an impartial and authoritative commentary on either his own actions and opinions, or on the political questions with which his name is connected, either as an advocate or an opponent of them.' first
Henry Clay was born of humble and poor parents, in that part of Hanover County, Virginia, known as the Slashes, on the 12th day of April, in the year 1777.* His father died while he was yet a child, leaving him no other patrimony than an honest name. Until he attained the age of fourteen, he passed his time amidst the scenes of lowly, rustic life, receiving occasional instruction in the rudiments of knowledge beneath the humble roof of a log-cabin school-house, but more generally engaged in the active duties of plow-boy and mill-boy. At the age of fourteen, he went into the employment of Richard Denny, who then kept a small retail store in the city of Richmond, in which he remained about a year. He was next placed under the care of Mr. Peter Tinsley, the Clerk of the High Court of Chancery, in the city of Richmond, on the bench of which then sat one of the most accomplished jurists and scholars of America, the Venerable George Wythe, remarkable, as well for the unspotted integrity of his character, as for bis judicial and clas sical learning. In the friendship and daily conversation of Chancellor Wythe, the youthful Clay found at once, no mean substitute for
* It has been recently stated, with some appearance of truth, that Mr. Clay was born in 1775, instead of 1777, as believed by himself. The year of his birth is therefore at present a matter of some uncertaipty.
both father and instructor. He was employed as the amanuensis of the Chancellor, and thus became familiar not only with the thoughts and opinions of his distinguished patron, but also with the choice language with which he never failed to express them.
"Leaving the office of Mr. Tinsley the latter part of 1796, he went to reside with the late Robert Brooke, Esq., the Attorney-General, formerly Governor of Virginia. His only regular study of the law was during the year 1797, that he lived with Mr. Brooke; but it was impossible that he should not, in the daily scenes he witnessed, and in the presence of the eminent men whom he so often heard and saw, be in the way of gathering much valuable legal information. During his residence of six or seven years in Richmond, he became acquainted with all or most of the eminent Virginians of the period, who lived in that city, or were in the habit of resorting to it-with Edmund Pendleton, Spencer Roane, Chief Justice Marshall, Bushrod Washington, Wickham, Call, Copeland, &c. On two occasions he had the good fortune to hear Patrick Henry-once before the Circuit Court of the United States for the Virginia District, on the question of the payment of the British debts; and again before the House of Delegates of Virginia, on the claim of the supernumerary officers in the service of the State during the Revolutionary War. Mr. Clay remembered that remarkable man, his appearance and his manner distinctly. The impression of his eloquent powers remaining on his mind, was that their charm consisted mainly in one of the finest voices ever heard; in his graceful gesticulation, and the variety and force of expression which he exhibited in his face."*
In the month of November, 1797, having arrived at manhood, and received a license to practice the law from the Court of Appeals of Virginia, and feeling within himself the first throbbings of those mighty powers of mind and soul which were soon to proclaim his name throughout the civilized world, he determined, on leaving the metropolis of his native State, to find a home and new friends in the unsettled but bountiful West; where the forests were yet to be hewn down and the social fabric erected where amidst a new order of things, genius and energy were to find their appropriate field as well as their recompense. He commenced his professional life at once, in Lexington, Kentucky, his new home, as he himself has said,
* Sargent's Life of Clay.