(1777-1852) American politician, the 'Great Pacificator' who supported the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850 which sought to avoid a civil war on the issue of states' rights and slavery. 'I CONSIDER MY PUBLIC CAREER AS FOREVER TERMINATED...' Superb political content A.L.S' H. Clay', 3pp. 4to., Ashland, Aug. 24, 1848, marked 'Confidential' and and addressed to Nicholas Dean Esq. Clay railing against the Whigs' presidential nomination of Zachary Taylor and foreseeing disaster for his administration and the nation itself. In part: '...The letter reads, in part: ...I should confidently believe that the Philada Convention committed a great error in the nomination it made of Genl Taylor, if I did not distrust my own judgment upon a subject with which my name was associated. What will be the result of the nomination, I am not in possession of sufficient data to form a satisfactory opinion. The termination of elections in six states this month does not look very favorable to Gen'l Taylor. Of these, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa have gone for the other party, Kentucky for the Whigs and North Carolina also but with a fearfully diminished majority. With a different nomination, I believe that we should have carried three or four of these States...I suppose that old recollections, and especially Mr. [Martin] V. Burens [sic] course formerly on the subject of slavery, which forms the foundation of his present hopes, will operate against his success. I have thought it, however, probable that the old Hunker might conceive it more for the interest of their friend Cass that the State of New York should rather go for V. Buren than Taylor; and that by an [sic] union between them, the Barn-burners and a portion of the Whigs, that State might be carried for Mr. V. Buren, but of this you are better able to judge than I am...I consider my public career as forever terminated; and I am most anxious to preserve untarnished that character, around which so many warm hearted friends have done me the honor to rally. I should, I think, justly incur their censure if, after all that I have thought and said (confirmed as my convictions are by observation) against the elevation of more Military men to the Presidency, I could come out in the active support of the
most inclusive Military Candidate ever presented to the American people. One who has forced himself upon the Convention, or been forced upon it. One who declared that he would stand as an Independent Candidate against me or any other Whig that might be nominated. A declaration made under his own hand and which remains uncontradicted by anything under his own hand which the public has been permitted to see…There is nothing in the contest to arouse my patriotism, or to animate my zeal. I regard the attempt to elect Genl. Taylor as one to create a more personal party. How such a party may work I cannot foresee. Possibly better than that of either of his competitors; but this possibility is not sufficient to excite any warmth or enthusiasm with me. Genl. Taylor has I think exhibited much instability and vacillation. He will inevitably fall into the hands of others, who will control his administration. I know not who they will be; but judging from my experience of poor weak human nature, they will be most likely those who will have fawned and flattered the most...' Clear tape repair to fold splits, slightly toned and soiled long the folds, else very good. Accompanied by the original transmittal envelope, postmarked August 25. In the 1848 Presidential election, the Whig Party nominated Mexican-American War veteran Zachary Taylor, passing over party stalwarts Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. Taylor's running mate was Millard Fillmore, who was from Buffalo and was known for his moderate views on slavery. Martin Van Buren had expected to be nominated by the Democratic Party, but when he was passed over for Lewis Clay, he broke from the party and led the ticket of the Free Soil Party, which opposed the
extension of slavery into the territories. Barnburners and Hunkers (both of which Clay mentions in his letter) were two opposing factions of the New York state Democratic Party. Barnburners were a radical anti-slavery and anti-banks and corporations faction, while Hunkers were relatively pro-government. Although this specific division was contained within the borders of New York, it reflected the national divide in the U.S. in the years leading up to the Civil War. Taylor would die sixteen months into his presidential term, having made no meaningful progress on the issue of slavery. The finest Clay letter we've offered.