Cassius Marcellus Clay

Kentucky free-labor advocate Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810-1903) inherited seventeen slaves and extensive farm acreage in 1828. As a Whig representative in the state legislature, Clay began expounding an economic indictment of slavery. In 1843, Clay freed his slaves and hired them as free laborers. At the same time, he launched a campaign for gradual abolition addressed largely to the state's nonslaveholding whites. Abolitionists generally applauded Clay although they objected to his service in the Mexican War. Clay provided crucial financial support and physical protection to John G. Fee's abolitionist colony at Berea until hostile reaction following the Harpers Ferry Raid in 1859. Clay served as U.S. ambassador to Russia (1861-69) and remained active in Kentucky politics during and after Reconstruction. David L. Smiley, Lion of White Hall: The Life of Cassius M. Clay (Madison, Wisc., 1962); Stanley Harrold, The Abolitionists and The South, 1831-1861 (Lexington, Ky., 1955), 28-29, 32-33, 40-41, 132-33; DAB, 4:169-70.

Home | Biography