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Henry Clay
by [?]

If there be any description of rights, which, more than any other, should unite all parties in all quarters of the Union, it is unquestionably the rights of the person. No matter what his vocation, whether he seeks subsistence amid the dangers of the sea, or draws it from the bowels of the earth, or from the humblest occupations of mechanical life–wherever the sacred rights of an American freeman are assailed, all hearts ought to unite and every arm be braced to vindicate his cause.

—Henry Clay

There is a story told of an Irishman and an Englishman who were immigrants aboard a ship that was coming up New York Harbor. It chanced to be the fourth day of July, and as a consequence there was a needless waste of gunpowder going on, and many of the ships were decorated with bunting that in color was red, white and blue.

“What can all this fuss be about?” asked the Englishman.

“What’s it about?” answered Pat. “Why, this is the day we run you out!”

And the moral of the story is that as soon as an Irishman reaches the Narrows he says “we Americans,” while an Englishman will sometimes continue to say “you Americans” for five years and a day. More than this, an Irish-American citizen regards an English-American citizen with suspicion and refers to him as a foreigner, even unto the third and fourth generation.

No man ever hated England more cordially than did Henry Clay.

The genealogists have put forth heroic efforts to secure for Clay a noble English ancestry, but with a degree of success that only makes the unthinking laugh and the judicious grieve.

Had these zealous pedigree-hunters studied the parish registers of County Derry, Ireland, as lovingly as they have Burke’s Peerage, they might have traced the Clays of America back to the Cleighs, honest farmers (indifferent honest), of Londonderry.

The character of Henry Clay had in it various traits that were peculiarly Irish. The Irishman knows because he knows, and that’s all there is about it. He is dramatic, emotional, impulsive, humorous without suspecting it, and will fight friend or foe on small provocation. Then he is much given to dealing in that peculiar article known as palaver. The farewell address of Henry Clay to the Senate, and his return thereto a few years later, comprise one of the most Irishlike proceedings to be found in history.

There is no finer man on earth than your “thrue Irish gintleman,” and Henry Clay had not only all the highest and most excellent traits of the “gintleman,” but a few also of his worst. Clay made friends as no other American statesman ever did. “To come within reach of the snare of his speech was to love him,” wrote one man. People loved him because he was affectionate, for love only goes out to love. And the Irish heart is a heart of love. Henry Clay called himself a Christian, and yet at times he was picturesquely profane. We have this on the authority of the “Diary” of John Quincy Adams, which of course we must believe, for even that other fighting Irishman, Andrew Jackson, said, “Adams’ Diary is probably correct–damn it!”

Clay was convivial in all the word implies; his losses at cards often put him in severe financial straits; he stood ready to back his opinion concerning a Presidential election, a horse-race or a dog-fight, and with it all he held himself “personally responsible”–having fought two duels and engaged in various minor “misunderstandings.”

And yet he was a great statesman–one of the greatest this country has produced, and as a patriot no man was ever more loyal. It was America with him first and always. His reputation, his fortune, his life, his all, belonged to America.

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