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Clay, Henry (1777-1852) to John D. Godman

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC01028 Author/Creator: Clay, Henry (1777-1852) Place Written: Washington, D.C. Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 6 March 1824 Pagination: 3 p. ; 25 x 20 cm.

Summary of Content: Discusses the upcoming presidential election. Speculates on the contest between himself, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and William H. Crawford. Thinks it certain that the election will be decided in the House of Representatives (it was). Between himself and Crawford, he guesses that whoever wins New York will be considered by the House along with Adams and Jackson. Predicts that if he makes to the House, he will win; otherwise he suspects Adams will win. Comments on other states and possible outcomes. Discusses how Godman and his other political supporters in Philadelphia can render him assistance, mentioning but rejecting (on principle) the idea of spending money to gain support in the newspapers. Also reaffirms his support in the West. Asks that Dr. Godman show this letter only to "Mr. Wharton & to Mr. E. Ingersoll." Clay eventually threw his influence behind Adams, who was elected president; Clay became secretary of state.

Background Information: In the election, Jackson received the greatest number of votes both at the polls and in the Electoral College, followed by Adams, Crawford, and then Clay. But Jackson failed to ...win the constitutionally-required majority of the electoral votes.
As provided by the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution, the election was thrown into the House of Representatives, which was required to choose from among the top three vote-getters in the Electoral College. There, Clay persuaded his supporters to vote for Adams, commenting acidly that he did not believe "that killing two thousand five hundred Englishmen at New Orleans" was a proper qualification for the presidency. Adams was elected on the first ballot.
A Philadelphia newspaper charged that Adams had made a secret deal to obtain Clay's support. Three days later, Adams's nomination of Clay as Secretary of State seemed to confirm the charge of a "corrupt bargain." Jackson was outraged, since he could legitimately argue that he was the popular favorite. The general exclaimed, "The Judas of the West [Clay] has closed the contract and will receive the thirty pieces of silver."
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Full Transcript: Washn. 6 Mar. 24
Dr Sir

The multitude and pressure of my engagements have prevented my earlier acknowledging the receipt of your very friendly letter of the 22d ulto inquiring in what ...way you and my friends Mr. Wharton and Mr. E. Ingersoll can render best service to the cause which you have been good enough to espouse, and asking any information I may happen to possess as to the current state of the Presidential question. I have now the present you with my views on the matter, frankly given under which I can avail myself of.

I think it certain that the election will come into the H[ouse] of R[epresentatives].
Penna. having decided for Genl. Jackson, I think it most probable that Mr. Adams and the Genl. will be two of the three highest who will be carried into that House.
If I should obtain the vote of N. York, I shall also be one of those three, and the highest of them.
If Mr. Crawford should obtain it, he will enter the House and I shall be left out of it unless I can counterbalance the vote of Genl. Jackson by a support derived from some Eastern State.
In respect to the disposition of New York, you are probably well informed at Philada. Here the belief is that the real contest in that state is between Mr. Adams and me.
If I enter the H. of R. no matter with what associates my opinion is that I shall be elected.
If Mr. Adams, Mr. Crawford and Genl. Jackson should happen to be the three highest, I think Mr. Adams will be elected.
The states of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Louisiana, according to indisputable information received here, remain unshaken in their determination to support me. Virginia prefers me next to Crawford. South Carolina is balanced between Genl. Jackson and me. My opinions on the Tariff will probably occasion me the loss of that State. It is a little remarkable that, whilst those opinions subject me to certain & positive loss to the South, they bring me no corresponding gain in other quarters… which coincide with me.
My present belief is that Mr. Adams Genl. Jackson and myself will be the three highest who will enter the H.of R. And the number of votes respectively which we may have will depend mainly upon the decision of N. York. If that decision should be against Mr. Crawford I think his friends will abandon him and make their secondary choice, which I have reason to think will, as to most of them, be of me.
As to what you and my other friends in Phila. can do for me, you must be the best judges.
If the degree of unanimity, indicated by the recent vote of the Convention at Harrisburg, is to be taken as furnishing the evidence of the public opinion of your state, all effort there must be hopeless and vain. Your efforts then would best be applied to collateral objects without that state. New Jersey is a state of much importance, because its vote may tend materially to assist in carrying one into or excluding him from the H. of R. A paper at Philada. supporting my pretensions would doubtless have much affect. But then I am determined to leave the printers to do just was they please, without spending one cent or making any other sacrifice to engage any of them in my support. I have neither money nor (I thank God) principles for any such object.
This is a letter of impressions. I have not time to go [3] go [sic] at large into the reasons which produce them.
Whatever may be the result of the impending election I pray my friends and family to believe that I shall contemplate it with the most perfect composure, and that in any event I shall feel grateful for their kindness.
My friends to the West are determined to persevere to the last, and you may disbelieve all and every report which alleges a different purpose on their part.
My best respects to Mr. Wharton & to Mr. E. Ingersoll to whom only be pleased to shew this letter from
Yours faithfully
H. Clay
Dr. J. D. Godman
[4: blank]
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People: Clay, Henry, 1777-1852
Godman, John D. (John Davidson), 1794-1830
Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848
Jackson, Andrew, 1767-1845

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: PresidentCongressElectionPoliticsGovernment and CivicsFinanceJournalism

Sub Era: The First Age of Reform

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