Jun 16, 2022 - Sale 2609

Sale 2609 - Lot 7

Price Realized: $ 1,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 800 - $ 1,200
"THEY OUGHT TO DEFEND THEMSELVES. . .WITHOUT EMPLOYING A. . .WORTHLESS NEGRO" CLAY, HENRY. Autograph Letter Signed, "H. Clay," to Representative Joshua Reed Giddings ("My dear Sir"), sending newspaper articles [not present] concerning fugitive Lewis Richardson, claiming that the allies of [abolitionist attorney James G.] Birney not only attempted to defend their conduct by publishing Richardson's vilification of Clay, but are also responsible for the annexation of Texas and the war with Mexico. 3/4 page, 4to; short closed tear near lower edge, paper clip stain at upper edge, minor loss to lower left corner, folds, docketing verso. "Ashland" [Lexington, KY], 16 May 1846

Additional Details

"Prompted by the desire to retain the good opinion which you have done me the honor to entertain of me, I send . . . documents in relation to the fugitive Slave Lewis Richardson.
"You will have seen the use which has been attempted to be made of him. Those partizans of Mr. Birney who, by their course at the last Presidential election, contributed, first to the annexation of Texas, and, lastly, to a War with Mexico, may feel that their conduct needs some defense; but I think they ought to defend themselves, if they can, without employing a drunken worthless negro to vilify me."
On May 13, 1846, Lewis Richardson (b. 1792) delivered a speech at Amherstburg, Canada (where slavery was abolished in 1836), after having escaped over 8 years of enslavement at the Ashland estate of Henry Clay. The speech, published in March and April of that year in the Signal of Liberty and other abolitionist newspapers, described the abuse and deprivations that Richardson suffered at Ashland. Clay denied Richardson's claims, suggesting that abolitionists were exploiting the escape to advance their political aims.
Clay ran as the Whig candidate in the 1844 U.S. presidential election, losing to Democrat James K. Polk. Abolitionist and Liberty Party candidate James G. Birney also ran in the contest, receiving less than 3% of the votes. Clay believed that the attacks of the abolitionists against him contributed to his loss, which allowed Polk and his supporters to proceed with their program to annex Mexico, which in turn brought about the Mexican-American war.