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Cassius Marcellus Clay


  • minister to Russia, architect of "strange friendship" with Czar Alexander II
  • prevents mediation efforts of Napoleon III and Palmerston
  • represents Lincoln's war aim of abolitionism

    Kentucky Abolitionist

  • cousin of Henry Clay; veteran of Mexican War; governor of Kentucky
  • married Mary Jane Warfield of Lexington 1832
  • fought duel with Samuel Brown 1843, bullet deflected by his silver knife case, always carried bowie knife, formal 18-in. blade with pearl handle or street blade with bone handle
  • published True American newspaper 1845
  • abolitionists upset he volunteered to fight against Mexico 1846, but he was a militant patriot
  • helped create Republican Party, served on the first National Committee in 1856
  • sought VP nomination 1860, but lost to Hannibal Hamlin of Maine
  • lived near Lexington at Whitehall

    Minister To Russia 1861-62

  • Lincoln rewarded Clay with appointment
  • Clay from key border state, yet too volatile for Cabinet
  • instructed to win support of Russian government with an "athletic Western argument"
  • left for Russia May 1, 1861 with wife, children, nurse, bowie knives
  • instructions: support Russia with "athletic Western argument"
  • mingled well with aristocracy, lavish parties, duels
  • met "liberator" Czar Alexander II July 14, after czar had issued his edict Feb. 19 liberating 40 million serfs, giving land to the village (mir), creating in 1864 district assemblies (zemstvo), and in 1870 municipal councils (soviet).

    Poland Rebellion 1862

  • Foreign Minister Gortchakov - needed U.S. friendship
  • expansion southeast into Caucusus, northeast into Poland
  • Czar suppressed revolt by Jan. 1863, ended Polish autonomy
  • Napoleon appealed to Brit., Austria, U.S. for intervention
  • Garibaldi revolt in Italy, hero in U.S. to Italian brigades
  • French troops withdrawn from Italy
  • to face Bismarck, new president of Prussia Sept. 1862
  • Prussian and Austria invade Denmark 1864

    Minister to Russia 1863-69

  • Russian fleet sent to U.S. July 26, 1863
  • Brit. and French fear alliance - cartoon Nov. 21, 1863
  • Atlantic Fleet under Admiral Lisovski arrived NYC Sept. 24
  • Russian sailors photographed by Brady
  • Pacific Fleet under Admiral Popov arrived in San Francisco Oct. 12
  • Popov on alert in Dec. against possible CSA attack
  • but Gortchakov instructed Popov to stay neutral
  • Welles: "God bless the Russians"
  • cartoon - Dr. Lincoln to Smart Boy of the Shop: "Mild applications of Russian Salve for our friends over the way, and heavy doses - and plenty of it - for our Southern patient"
  • Clay returned to US 1869 with Russian boy Launey Clay who was the offspring of one of his Russian extramarital affairs
  • divorced Mary 1878, married 15-year-old servant Dora Richardson at age 84 in 1894, divorced in 1898
  • died at Whitehall July 22, 1903


    revised 6/25/03 by Schoenherr | Maps