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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From the Valedictory to the Senate, Delivered in 1842
By Henry Clay (1777–1852)
 
FROM 1806, the period of my entrance upon this noble theatre, with short intervals, to the present time, I have been engaged in the public councils at home or abroad. Of the services rendered during that long and arduous period of my life it does not become me to speak; history, if she deign to notice me, and posterity, if the recollection of my humble actions shall be transmitted to posterity, are the best, the truest, and the most impartial judges. When death has closed the scene, their sentence will be pronounced, and to that I commit myself. My public conduct is a fair subject for the criticism and judgment of my fellow men; but the motives by which I have been prompted are known only to the great Searcher of the human heart and to myself; and I trust I may be pardoned for repeating a declaration made some thirteen years ago, that whatever errors—and doubtless there have been many—may be discovered in a review of my public service, I can with unshaken confidence appeal to that divine Arbiter for the truth of the declaration that I have been influenced by no impure purpose, no personal motive; have sought no personal aggrandizement; but that in all my public acts I have had a single eye directed and a warm and devoted heart dedicated to what, in my best judgment, I believed the true interests, the honor, the union, and the happiness of my country required.  1
  During that long period, however, I have not escaped the fate of other public men, nor failed to incur censure and detraction of the bitterest, most unrelenting, and most malignant character; and though not always insensible to the pain it was meant to inflict, I have borne it in general with composure and without disturbance, waiting as I have done, in perfect and undoubting confidence, for the ultimate triumph of justice and of truth, and in the entire persuasion that time would settle all things as they should be; and that whatever wrong or injustice I might experience at the hands of man, He to whom all hearts are open and fully known, would by the inscrutable dispensations of His providence rectify all error, redress all wrong, and cause ample justice to be done.  2
  But I have not meanwhile been unsustained. Everywhere throughout the extent of this great continent I have had cordial, warm-hearted, faithful, and devoted friends, who have known me, loved me, and appreciated my motives. To them, if language were capable of fully expressing my acknowledgments, I would now offer all the return I have the power to make for their genuine, disinterested, and persevering fidelity and devoted attachment, the feelings and sentiments of a heart overflowing with never-ceasing gratitude. If, however, I fail in suitable language to express my gratitude to them for all the kindness they have shown me, what shall I say, what can I say, at all commensurate with those feelings of gratitude with which I have been inspired by the State whose humble representative and servant I have been in this chamber?  3
  I emigrated from Virginia to the State of Kentucky now nearly forty-five years ago; I went as an orphan boy who had not yet attained the age of majority; who had never recognized a father’s smile, nor felt his warm caresses; poor, penniless, without the favor of the great, with an imperfect and neglected education, hardly sufficient for the ordinary business and common pursuits of life; but scarce had I set my foot upon her generous soil when I was embraced with parental fondness, caressed as though I had been a favorite child, and patronized with liberal and unbounded munificence. From that period the highest honors of the State have been freely bestowed upon me; and when in the darkest hour of calumny and detraction I seemed to be assailed by all the rest of the world, she interposed her broad and impenetrable shield, repelled the poisoned shafts that were aimed for my destruction, and vindicated my good name from every malignant and unfounded aspersion. I return with indescribable pleasure to linger a while longer, and mingle with the warm-hearted and whole-souled people of that State; and when the last scene shall forever close upon me, I hope that my earthly remains will be laid under her green sod with those of her gallant and patriotic sons….  4
  That my nature is warm, my temper ardent, my disposition—especially in relation to the public service—enthusiastic, I am ready to own; and those who suppose that I have been assuming the dictatorship, have only mistaken for arrogance or assumption that ardor and devotion which are natural to my constitution, and which I may have displayed with too little regard to cold, calculating, and cautious prudence, in sustaining and zealously supporting important national measures of policy which I have presented and espoused….  5
  I go from this place under the hope that we shall mutually consign to perpetual oblivion whatever personal collisions may at any time unfortunately have occurred between us; and that our recollections shall dwell in future only on those conflicts of mind with mind, those intellectual struggles, those noble exhibitions of the powers of logic, argument, and eloquence, honorable to the Senate and to the nation, in which each has sought and contended for what he deemed the best mode of accomplishing one common object, the interest and the most happiness of our beloved country. To these thrilling and delightful scenes it will be my pleasure and my pride to look back in my retirement with unmeasured satisfaction….  6
  May the most precious blessings of Heaven rest upon the whole Senate and each member of it, and may the labors of every one redound to the benefit of the nation and to the advancement of his own fame and renown. And when you shall retire to the bosom of your constituents, may you receive the most cheering and gratifying of all human rewards,—their cordial greeting of “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  7
 
 
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