Sunday, June 17, 2012
The Assassination of the Sage of Ashland
The artist conveys some of the profound disappointment and anger among Henry Clay's many supporters at the nomination of Zachary Taylor at the June 1848 Whig convention in Philadelphia. The convention's act was seen as a betrayal of the elder Whig statesman. In a scene based on act 3, scene 1 of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," the artist portrays Clay's opponents as treacherous conspirators stalking the unsuspecting statesman. Clay is pictured seated in the library of his estate at Ashland in Kentucky, reading the New York "Tribune," whose editor Horace Greeley was a Clay stalwart. Ten men with raised daggers prepare to attack him from behind. These include various Whig powers Daniel Webster, editor James Watson Webb, former New York mayor William V. Brady, Pennsylvania congressman David Wilmot, Kentucky senator and former Clay ally John J. Crittenden, and New York state party boss Thurlow Weed. Webster: "How many times shall Caesar bleed in sport" Webb: "Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!!!" Wilmot: "Go to the Pulpit Brutus" Brady: "And you too Cassius" Crittenden: "Stand fast together, lest some friend of Caesar's Should Chance" Weed: "By the necessity of my Nature, Your Enemy".
Image and interpretation courtesy of Library of Congress