CLAY, Henry (1777-1852). Autograph letter signed ("H. Clay"), as Speaker of the House, to G. W. Featherstonehaugh, Washington, 2 May 1824. 2 pages, 4to.
CERTAIN THAT "THE ELECTION WILL COME INTO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES," CLAY REPORTS THAT "MY FRIENDS IN CONGRESS ARE QUITE SANGUINE OF MY SUCCESS..."
A fascinating, detailed letter showing as early as May, Clay was certain of the 1824 presidential election being decided in the House of Representatives. Here he confidently--but incorrectly--projects his path to victory. "My friends in Congress are quite sanguine of my success. None of us entertain a doubt that the States of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri & Louisiana will concur in my support....So far things may be relied upon with absolute certainty; and after all that is said of the other gentleman's prospects no one of them can positively count, at this time, upon a greater support. We are much deceived here if, Mr. Crawford being withdrawn, I should not receive the entire support of the three Southern States devoted to him. The delegation from Penna almost to a man are favorably disposed; and several of them go so far as to say that they will support me, even if the State should vote for Genl. Jackson. These points may be considered certain: 1st that the election will come into the H. of R. 2. That if I should be one of the three highest I shall be elected no matter who the other two may be. 3. That a decision of N. York in my favor, which wd bring me into the House far ahead of any other Candidate would inevitably secure my election..."
Clay's predictions all proved wrong except in one crucial respect: the election was indeed thrown into the House, yet by then Clay was no longer on the slate of candidates. He finished dead last in the field of four. Jackson won 99 of the 131 electoral votes needed for victory. John Quincy Adams had 89 and William H. Crawford had 41. Clay had just 37, winning Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio, plus a slice of New York's votes. According to the 12th Amendment, only the top three candidates got to vie in the House. But since Clay was still Speaker, he nevertheless proved crucial in deciding the contest. When he swung his support behind John Quincy Adams, Clay won the post of Secretary of State in Adams's Cabinet, but also the undying enmity of General Jackson who denounced the "corrupt bargain" which had denied him the White House.