This Day in History — June 3

On June 3, 1845, Publication of The True American, the antislavery newspaper edited by Cassius Marcellus Clay from a heavily fortified office on N. Mill St., began. Cassius Clay grew up a young southern aristocrat, son of Green Clay, a hero of the American Revolution and War of 1812 and one of the wealthiest landowners and slaveholders in Kentucky. Clay attended Transylvania University and studied at Yale, where he was no doubt influenced by the growing Abolition movement. Returning to Kentucky after his studies at Yale, Clay served three times in the Kentucky General Assembly, but as his platform became increasingly anti-slavery, he lost support. Clay’s outspoken attacks on slavery aroused bitter hostility, especially among the pro-slavery faction of the Whig party , and occasionally involved him in violence. He began publishing The True American in 1845 and received many death threats because of his viewpoint, causing him to arm himself and barricade his Mill Street office in Lexington. He was not able to defend himself or his publication against a committee which had been established to suppress it, as he was stricken with typhoid fever. However, during his absence, a group including James B. Clay, his cousin Henry Clay’s son, packed the newspaper equipment and moved it to Cincinnati. Clay continued to publish the newspaper in Cincinnati for a time and two years later, he was awarded a judgement of $2,500 againt the suppression committee.

Cassius Clay continued his political career by serving as ambassador to Russia. He advised President Abraham Lincoln on the decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation based on the response of the anti-slavery movement border states, such as Kentucky.

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