2009 Leadership Reception: Senator Mitch McConnell

Senator McConnell Recalls Clay-Jackson Rivalry

Senator Mitch McConnell said he knew Henry Clay was smiling down from heaven the day he removed the portrait of Andrew Jackson from his office suite and replaced it with one of Henry Clay. The Republican Leader shared this observation with members of the Capitol Committee’s Brumidi Society and Leadership Council at the USCHS Annual Congressional Leadership Reception held July 21st in the Capitol Visitor Center. Schering-Plough and Abbott Laboratories graciously supported the reception.

This was the seventh annual event which was created to give Members in Leadership positions an opportunity to share their thoughts on a subject of their choice. Society members, some with their children, gathered to listen to the Senator’s historic reflections.

Senate Republican Leader McConnell spoke of the spirited rivalry between Henry Clay of Kentucky and Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, beginning in the 1820s and lasting for some 25 years. They were on opposite sides of every issue, from creation of a national bank to funding of roads in Kentucky. Their political sparring gave birth to the two-party system of today.

The two men went head-to-head in the presidential election of 1832, and in Senator McConnell’s words, “Clay was creamed.” Nonetheless, Clay is held in esteem by historians and sons of Kentucky, such as McConnell. Clay is regarded as a central figure in the history of the Senate and the country, as evidenced by his likeness in Statuary Hall and several portraits in the Capitol, including the portrait recently hung in the Republican Leader’s Office. Although Clay was on the losing end of most conflicts with Jackson, “In my office, Clay has the last word,” McConnell said.

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