Fragment of Speech Commemorating the Death of Henry Clay, 6 July 18521
. . .If they would repress all tendencies towards liberty, and ultimate emancipation, they must do more than put down the benevolent efforts of this society– They must go back to the era of our own liberty, and independence, and muzzle the cannon that thunders its annual joyous return– They must revive the Slave-trade with all its train of atrocities– * * *2
They must blow out the moral lights around us, and extinguish that greatest torch of all, which America presents to a benighted word, ^world—^— pointing the way to their rights, their liberties, and their happiness–
And when they have achieved all these purposes, their work will be yet incomplete– They must penetrate the human soul, and eradi^cate^ the light of reason and the love of liberty– Then, and not till then, when universal darkness and despair prevail, can you perpetuate slavery, and repress all sympathies, and all humane, and benevolent efforts, among free men, in behalf of the unhappy portion of our race doomed to bondage"–3
Our friends who are cursed with this greatest of human evils deserve the kindest attention and consideration– Their property, and their safety are both involved– But the liberal and candid among them, will not, can not expect that every project to deliver our country from it, is to be crushed because of a possible, and ideal danger–4. . .
1Abraham Lincoln wrote this fragment. A report of Lincoln’s full eulogy appeared in the July 21, 1852, edition of the Illinois Weekly Journal. Significant differences in content and word choice are noted.
Lincoln quoted from a speech delivered by Henry Clay before the American Colonization Society in the hall of the U.S. House of Representatives on January 20, 1827. Variant reports of Clay’s speech appeared in Washington, DC newspapers, and Clay subsequently published it as a pamphlet. Variations between Lincoln’s quotations and Clay’s address as published are noted.
Speech of the Hon. Henry Clay, Before the American Colonization Society (Washington, DC: Columbian, 1827); Mary W. M. Hargreaves and James F. Hopkins, eds., The Papers of Henry Clay (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1981), 6:83-97.
2Variations from the printed report: the word “own” is not included, and the word “revive” is replaced with the word “renew.” The printed report also includes these two sentences: “They must suppress the workings of British philanthropy, seeking to meliorate the condition of the unfortunate West Indian slave. They must arrest the career of South American deliverance from thraldom.”
Speech of the Hon. Henry Clay, Before the American Colonization Society, 13; Mary W. M. Hargreaves and James F. Hopkins, eds., The Papers of Henry Clay, 6:94.
4This paragraph does not appear in the printed report. Newspaper reports of Clay’s speech also exclude this paragraph, but it does appear in the pamphlet version.
Clay died on June 29, 1852. On July 6, citizens of Springfield, Illinois, held two memorial meetings. The Reverend Charles Dresser conducted the first meeting at the Episcopal Church; afterwards, a procession proceeded to the hall of the Illinois House of Representatives at the Illinois State Capitol, where Lincoln delivered his eulogy.
Robert V. Remini, Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991), xxii; Speech of the Hon. Henry Clay, Before the American Colonization Society, 13; Mary W. M. Hargreaves and James F. Hopkins, eds., The Papers of Henry Clay, 6:97; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 9 July 1852, 3:1.
Handwritten Document, 1 page(s), Putnam Museum of History and Natural Science (Davenport, IA).