Cassius Marcellus Clay (politician) bigraphy, stories - American ambassador to Russia

Cassius Marcellus Clay (politician) : biography

October 19, 1810 - July 22, 1903

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

Minister to Russia

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

Clay accepted the post of Minister to the Russian court at St. Petersburg. The Civil War erupted before he left for Russia. As there were no Federal troops in Washington at the time, Mr. Clay organized a group of 300 volunteers to protect the White House and US Naval Yard from a possible Confederate attack. These men became known as Cassius M. Clay's Washington Guards. For this service President Lincoln gave Clay a presentation Colt revolver. When Federal troops arrived, Clay and his family embarked for Russia.Clay, Memoirs, pp. 260-264

As Minister to Russia, 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, Memoirs, pp. 305–312

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


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

A California legend arose that, during the Civil War, Russia and the Union came to an alliance, where Russia threatened Britain and France with war should they join the Confederacy against the Union. The myth held that Clay was instrumental in Russia signing this alliance. The myth grew on account of Russian ships that made their way to Californian harbors for repairs during the war, and that the welcome they received was a sign of a possible alliance. Gilbert, Benjamin F. California and the Civil War: A Bibliographical Essay California Historical Society Quarterly Vol. 40, No. 4 (1961): 289-307. The legend has since been debunked by the historical community.

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.

In his maiden speech on the Senate floor, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul praised Clay, and contrasted him favorably with his cousin Henry., ABC News (Feb. 2, 2011)

Later years

Clay had a reputation as a rebel and a fighter."Clay, Cassius Marcellus", by Frank L. Klement, in The World Book Encyclopedia (1984). World Book Inc: Chicago. 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. As he aged, Clay became increasingly eccentric and paranoid.

In 1878 after 45 years of marriage Clay divorced his wife, Mary Jane Warfield Clay, daughter of Dr. Elisha Warfield, for abandonment after she could no longer tolerate his marital infidelities.The life of Cassius Marcellus Clay: Memoirs, writings, and speeches, showing ...

By Cassius Marcellus Clay, Page 542  

In 1894, the 84-year old Clay married Dora Richardson, the 15-year old daughter of one of his sharecropping tenants and a domestic servant. The scandalous marriage provoked national headlines and was much against the latter's will as Clay had to keep the girl locked in a room in his Whitehall mansion to prevent her from running away. She reportedly attempted suicide once by trying to jump out the window. A few years later, Clay finally divorced his bride.

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Living octopus

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