Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 1982

Department 1



The weather that January evening, 132 years ago, complicated the old man's plans, but failed to keep him at home. It was January 21, 1850, and snow was falling heavily in the nation's capital. This was not a night for casual travel, but Henry Clay, seventy-two years of age and in faltering health, was not venturing from his rooms in Washington for light exercise or socializing. He was heading, alone, several blocks away to the home of Daniel Webster on Louisiana Avenue, and his mission had the most portentous overtones. Clay meant to enlist Webster - his ally, rival, and peer in the Senate for so many years - in a campaign not for president, but to save the Union.


An abridged version of this article, without annotation, was published as "Crisis of the Union: 1850," Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, March 1982.