Friday, July 2, 2010

The Bunning Seat -- Humphrey Marshall

Somehow the Federalists got control of the Kentucky legislature in 1794, or at least there were enough Federalist votes to send Humphrey Marshall, a Federalist, to the Senate. Marshall was another Virginian (Fauquier County, this time) who came to Kentucky in 1780. He was married to the sister of John Marshall -- the legendary Virginia Federalist who became Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He lived in Woodford County.

In the election of 1800, of course, the Democratic-Republicans (Jefferson's party), stomped the Federalists (John Adams's party) -- particularly in Kentucky, which had been outraged by Federalist support for laws that limited free speech. Not surprisingly, Humphrey Marshall was not selected to return to the Senate, and so his term ended on March 4, 1801.

Marshall later served in the Kentucky House of Representatives, where he got into a dispute with the most famous Kentucky politician of all -- Henry Clay. In January 1809, Clay was 32 years old and already a great power -- in fact, he was Speaker of the Kentucky House. Clay was always obsessed with the notion of promoting American-made goods, and he introduced a resolution requiring members of the Kentucky house to wear homespun American-made clothes rather than British clothes. Only two members voted against this measure -- and one of them was the old Federalist Marshall. By this point, the only remaining Federalists (at least in a place like Kentucky) were true, Thurston Howell-type snobs, so it's not surprising Marshall would have voted against Clay's measure.

Anyway, Clay and Marshall almost came to blows on the floor of the House, and Clay challenged Marshall to a duel, which was fought on January 9, 1809 in Shippingport, Indiana. (It was common practice for duelists to cross the nearest state line in order to fight their duels.) They each took three turns. Clay grazed Marshall once just below the chest, and Marshall hit Clay just below the thigh.

Marshall lived on until July 3, 1841, when he died near Frankfort. He wrote the first major history of Kentucky, which was published in 1812 and updated in 1824. His son, his grandson, and his nephew all represented Kentucky in Congress -- which just shows that aristocrats have always been somewhat popular in the Commonwealth.

No comments:

Post a Comment