Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ambassador Cassius Clay: American Lion and Russian Bear

I recently observed the lecture on Cassius Clay that was wonderfully done by Dr. Spock.  First and foremost, I must say that I found the lecture to be a delight and very much enjoyed learning about Madison County’s own historical celebrity.  Going into this lecture I knew absolutely nothing about Clay, save for the fact that he owned White Hall and had political ties.  So yes, I was a bit “wowed” when I heard about his interesting escapades with duels and such.  Aside from that, I was also highly intrigued by the bulk of what was covered.  I had no idea of how well tied Russia was to the U.S. during this time.  I did not know about the Russian fleet showing up to the American coast, nor did I know just about everything else that was said about Russia. 

I feel a bit disappointed in myself that I had not taken time to learn more about Cassius Clay.  Even though the majority of the information was based on his diplomatic missions to Russia, it was still enough to leave me wanting to know more.  I can honestly say that I have gained more from the lecture than just learning about the topic of the lecture.  It sparked an interest in me for Russian history and the histories of Europe around the time of the Civil War.  I had no idea that the Civil War was so internationally noticed “on the other side of the pond” so to speak.  The fact that Russia had an interest in the U.S. due to the relations between Britain and the C.S.A was something that jumped out at me.  I feel the urge to find books and other sources (more than likely secondary at the moment) on Europe around the 1860’s and learn.

Before I rant any much longer, I have to say that I am highly impressed with Clay.  He quite frankly makes me proud to say that I am a Kentuckian.  I must be an odd fellow when I say that I find people who brandish Bowie knives and duel to be people of high esteem but I retort that I am a product of my time, much as Clay was a product of his.  I’m also glad that I have a historical figure to admire who also had horrible hand writing.  After all, we Kentucky gentlemen with poor handwriting must stick together, even if we are eighty or so years apart.

1 comment:

  1. I was completely ignorant to the vast majority of the material Dr. Spock covered as well. What I enjoyed most were the paralells made between the Russian serfdom and American slavery, and how Clay was similarly opposed to both, but not in the way that most people would expect egalitarian attitudes to manifest. Clay opposed these institutions for economic reasons, taking a sort of utilitarian approach with his belief that the effective functioning and industrial progress of society was hindered by the presence of an oppressed and uneducated class existing within it. Although a concern for basic human rights is the more egalitarian approach, Clay's position is nonetheless admirable. It was refreshing to learn about this historically prominent, though eccentric, abolitionist Kentuckian.