Cassius Marcellus Clay

Cassius Marcellus Clay

US Envoy to Russia
Country: USA

  1. Biography of Cassius Marcellus Clay
  2. Cassius Clay passed away in 1903.

Biography of Cassius Marcellus Clay

Cassius Marcellus Clay was born in Kentucky in 1810. He was the cousin of Henry Clay. Although both of their families were slave owners, they dedicated their lives to the abolitionist cause. Cassius was the more fervent abolitionist of the two.

Cassius Clay received his education at the law schools of Transylvania University in Kentucky and Yale University. During his time at Yale, he was inspired by the speeches of William Lloyd Garrison and became passionate about the abolitionist movement. After completing his studies, Clay returned to Kentucky and began his political career. He was elected to the state legislature, where he worked on issues such as the establishment of free schools and reforming the jury system.

In 1840, Cassius Clay made his first anti-slavery speeches. He argued that slavery was an economic disaster for non-slaveholders, using the differences in economic development between Ohio and Kentucky as an example. However, his anti-slavery ideals cost him his seat in the legislature. Since his family continued to own slaves, his speeches did not find support among those who shared his position. In 1844, Clay freed the slaves owned by his family, and a year later, he founded the newspaper "True American." However, the publication was soon shut down by his opponents, who attacked his printing press. Clay transported his newspaper to Ohio, where it resumed publication under the name "Examiner."

In 1850, Clay, along with preacher John Fee, established a free school in Kentucky, which only children from non-slaveholding families could attend. Later that same year, Clay unsuccessfully ran for governor of the state. In 1856, Cassius Clay joined the Republican Party and became the leader of its Kentucky chapter. During the preparations for the 1860 presidential elections, Clay ran for the vice-presidential nomination, but was passed over in favor of Hannibal Hamlin.

After failing to secure a position in Lincoln's administration, Clay accepted an offer to become a diplomat at the Russian imperial court. He returned a year later, yielding his position to Simon Cameron, but in 1863, he once again traveled to St. Petersburg, where he stayed for six years. Clay's tenure as a diplomat in Russia, according to his American biographers, played a crucial role in shaping Russia's position on the Civil War. Clay's good relations with Prince Gorchakov allowed him to persuade Russia to oppose European intervention in the American conflict. He also served as an active mediator between the U.S. State Department and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the Alaska Purchase negotiations.

Upon his return home in 1869, Clay expressed disagreement with the Republican Reconstruction program, left the party, and joined the Democrats. In 1893, Clay unexpectedly divorced his wife of 45 years and married a fifteen-year-old farmer's daughter. The marriage lasted less than a year.

Cassius Clay passed away in 1903.