Clay and Calhoun and Their Really Tall Columns

Clay columnAs they were rivals in life, so, too, it seems, did senators Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun try to outrival each other in death—or at least their supporters did.

In 2014, as part of a post I wrote about Calhoun-related sites in his home city of Charleston, South Carolina, I mentioned the towering Calhoun monument on the edge of Marion Square. A statue of Calhoun stands atop a granite column measuring 80 feet high.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Clay’s gravesite in Lexington Cemetery in Kentucky. There, Clay likewise stands atop a column. His measures a total of 120 feet—a full forty feet taller than Calhoun’s. And as if to make an even stronger point, the gravesite/monument sits atop a tree-ringed hill.

If this isn’t a stereotypical machismo “my column is bigger than your column” story, I don’t know how else to interpret it….

Clay’s monument was started in 1857, Calhoun’s in 1858. Clay is buried on site, while Calhoun is buried elsewhere in Charleston. The Calhoun monument has been the subject of ongoing debate in Charleston for more than a year. You can read more about that controversy here and here.

Meanwhile, you can find more information about Clay’s grave from the National Park Service’s travel site.

Clay Plaque

By the way, their other main rival, Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster, does not have a column at all but, rather, a more traditional headstone in Winslow Cemetery in Marshfield, Mass.

1 Response to Clay and Calhoun and Their Really Tall Columns

  1. Henry Clay wrote the American System: (1) tariffs (2) national transportation and (3) national bank. This is the core of the Republican Party, at least in the 18th century. He deserves a higher tower.

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