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Henry Clay’s Law License – Pic of the Week

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We previously featured Senator Henry Clay’s law office as our picture of the week. Today, we bring you an image of his law license. I was fortunate to take a tour of Henry Clay’s estate, Ashland, and noticed his law license hanging on the wall.  Ashland was kind enough to send me the high resolution scan of the license that you see pictured below.

After his mother and step-father left for Kentucky, Clay found work in an emporium in Richmond, Virginia, until an assistant clerkship opened up at the Virginia High Court of Chancery. Within a year, Clay’s excellent handwriting allowed him to move up to the main Chancery office as an amanuensis, a position similar to a stenographer. His employer was the first law professor in the United States and the Judge of the High Court of the Chancery, George Wythe. Wythe, who had also mentored Thomas Jefferson, was impressed with Clay and began to loan him books. In time, Wythe arranged for Clay to study law under Robert Brooke, a former governor of Virginia who had just become the Commonwealth’s Attorney General.  Clay became a became a member of the Virginia Bar in 1797, and soon set out for Kentucky.  He found great success as an attorney in Kentucky before ascending to an exemplary career in state and federal politics, for which he is renowned. [1]

Henry Clay's Law License
Henry Clay’s Law License dated November 6, 1797 [Photo Courtesy of Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate, Lexington, Kentucky]

[1] David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler, Henry Clay: The Essential American (2010).

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