Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810 - 1903) MP

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Death: Died in Richmond, KY, USA
Occupation: Farmer, Bootlegger
Managed by: Mary Lindsay Hanson
Last Updated:
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About Cassius Marcellus Clay

Cassius Marcellus Clay (October 19, 1810 – July 22, 1903), nicknamed "The Lion of White Hall", was an emancipationist from Madison County, Kentucky, United States. He was a cousin of Henry Clay and Alabama governor Clement Comer Clay.


Cassius Clay was a paradox - a southern aristocrat who became a prominent anti-slavery crusader. He was a son of Green Clay, one of the wealthiest landowners and slaveholders in Kentucky. Clay worked toward emancipation, both as a Kentucky state representative and as an early member of the Republican Party.

Clay attended Transylvania University and then graduated from Yale College in 1832. While at Yale, he heard abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison speak, and Garrison's lecture inspired Clay to join the antislavery movement. Garrison’s arguments were to him “as water is to a thirsty wayfarer”. Clay was politically pragmatic, supporting gradual legal change rather than the immediacy of the Garrisonians.

Clay served three terms in the Kentucky House of Representatives, but he lost support among Kentucky voters as his platform became more focused on ending slavery. In 1845, he began publishing an anti-slavery newspaper called the True American in Lexington, Kentucky. Within a month he received death threats, had to arm himself, and had to barricade the doors of his newspaper office for protection. Shortly after, a mob of about sixty men broke into his office and seized his printing equipment, which they shipped to Cincinnati, Ohio. Clay continued publication there.

Even though he opposed the annexation of Texas, Clay served in the Mexican-American War. His connections to the northern antislavery movement remained strong, and he was a founder of the Republican party and a friend of Abraham Lincoln, supporting him for the presidency. Clay was briefly a candidate for the vice presidency at the 1860 Republican National Convention, but lost the nomination to Hannibal Hamlin.

Minister to Russia

When the Civil War began in April 1861, Lincoln nominated Clay as ambassador to Spain, but Clay declined it.

Instead, he became Minister to Russia, where he witnessed the Tsar's emancipation edict. Recalled to the United States to accept a commission as a major general from Lincoln, Clay publicly refused to accept it unless Lincoln would sign an emancipation proclamation. Lincoln sent Clay to Kentucky to assess the mood for emancipation there and in the other border states. Following Clay's return Lincoln issued the proclamation.

Clay returned to Russia in 1863 and remained until 1869. He was influential in the negotiations for the purchase of Alaska.

Later political activities

Later, he founded the Cuban Charitable Aid Society to help the Cuban independence movement of Jose Marti. He also spoke out against robber barons and in favor of nationalizing the railroads. In 1869, Clay left the Republican Party. This was partly due to President Grant's military interference in Haiti. He also disapproved of the Republican reconstruction policy.

In 1872, he was one of the organizers of the Liberal Republican revolt, and was largely instrumental in securing the nomination of Horace Greeley for the presidency. In the political campaigns of 1876 and 1880, he supported the Democratic Party candidate, but rejoined the Republican party in the campaign of 1884.

Later years

Clay had a reputation as a rebel and a fighter.[7] There were threats on his life, compelling him to carry two pistols and a knife for protection; in addition, he used a cannon to protect his home and office.[7] As he aged, Clay became increasingly eccentric and paranoid.

In Clay's later years, his wife, Mary Jane Warfield Clay, daughter of Dr. Elisha Warfield, divorced him and he fell deeply into debt, causing him to sell much of his property. In 1894, he married 15 year-old Dora Richardson, but they soon divorced.

Cassius Clay died at his White Hall home on July 22, 1903. Survivors included his daughters, women's rights activists Laura Clay and Mary Barr Clay.


His family home, White Hall, is maintained by the Commonwealth of Kentucky as White Hall State Historic Shrine.

Cassius Marcellus Clay, father of boxer Muhammad Ali, was named after the politician and he gave the same name to his son, who changed it when he converted to Islam.

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Cassius Marcellus Clay ("The Lion of White Hall"), Maj. General (USA) časová osa

October 19, 1810
February 18, 1833
Age 22
"The Meadows", Fayette Co., KY
Age 24
December 30, 1837
Age 27
Madison, Kentucky, USA
October 2, 1839
Age 28
November 18, 1841
Age 31
White Hall, KY, USA
Age 32
February 20, 1847
Age 36
February 9, 1849
Age 38
Age 40