Item #6685 Senate Chamber U.S.A. Conclusion of Clay’s Speech In Defence of Slavery [caption title].

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Senate Chamber U.S.A. Conclusion of Clay’s Speech In Defence of Slavery [caption title].

[N.p., but likely New York. 1839]. Lithograph, 10.25” x 12” plus margins. CONDITION: Good, narrow margins, upper margin expertly extended, lightly soiled, paper pulp reinforcements on verso.

A rare and anonymously-produced political cartoon attacking Henry Clay's duplicitous position on slavery, the issue that was at the fulcrum of so many political, moral, and legal conflicts in antebellum America.

Clay, at the time a Senator from Kentucky and one of the country's most popular politicians, grew infamous for his attempts to play both sides of the slavery issue. This cartoon takes the opportunity of one of his 1839 Senate speeches to skewer his views on slavery as he angled for another presidential nomination. The text points out the hypocrisy and contradictions in his words and attitudes. Audiences above the Mason-Dixon Line hear Clay proclaim: "I consider Slavery as a Curse, a curse to the Master and a grievous wrong to the Slave," insisting he was "no friend to slavery," while those in the South are assured that as an owner of three-score humans he "will continue to oppose any scheme, whatever, of emancipation, gradual or immediate." The text also points out his contradictory views on dueling. An illustration of Mason & Dixon's Line separates his views on slavery. South Carolina's John Calhoun who, with Clay, was two-thirds of the Senate's "Great Triumvirate," and was the country's most prominent slavery advocate, shakes Clay's hand and promises his support. He assures Clay that abandoning his "'folly & delusion' about liberty" and endorsing slavery as the "'most safe & stable basis for free institutions'" will also secure South Carolina's support in his next presidential run: "you shall be made President for life."

Both men are mindlessly standing with one foot upon a prone enslaved man. In addition, Clay stands upon a torn portion of a Kentucky Convention Bill (likely addressing the issue of fugitive slaves), and Calhoun's left foot stands on a torn part of a memorials and resolutions from Vermont and Massachusetts affirming that "All men are created equal and entitled to liberty &c.'" The afflicted and enslaved African-American man on which they trample to the viewer, in a quote from the Old Testament Book of Micah (7:8, relating to the rise of Israel): "Rejoice not against me O mine enemy when I fall; I shall arise."

Though this print bears no publication information, the style and substance point toward the work of H.R. Robinson of New York, who produced a number of sharp political attacks in the form of satirical prints in the 1830s.

Not in Reilly. Rare, with only three copies recorded in OCLC, at the Library of Congress, Boston Public Library, and the American Antiquarian Society.

REFERENCES: Weitenkampf, p. 60; OCLC 741723538 and 1038126677.

Item #6685

Price: $5,000.00

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