“Henry Clay Songs”


Tunes in favor of "The Statesman, the Patriot, Clay" during his presidential campaigns. Sung to popular tunes such as "Rosin the Beau," they include "The Mill-Boy of the Slashes" and "Old Hal of the West"


This is a lumping entry, for all the various political songs associated with Henry Clay and his sundry campaigns for president. They're all of separate origin, but since they had tenuous hold on tradition (at best), it seemed easier to put them all here.

My old high school history text described the period of 1830-1850 as the era of Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Daniel Webster. This is a little unfair; no matter how weak Martin van Buren and John Tyler were, there is no questioning the importance of Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk!

Nonetheless, Clay was one of the greatest voices of the era, and the single most important force behind the Whig party -- one might almost say he *was* the Whig party, since it died almost the moment he did.

These days, he is usually remembered either for his many compromises, ending finally with the Compromise of 1850, or for his many presidential campaigns. But he was more. Michael F. Holt, in his massive _The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party_, p. 25, gives this description:

"Clay was five years the senior of Webster, his great rival in the anti-Jackson camp. Whereas the granite-like Webster inspired awe and admiration, the irresistably appealing Kentuckian inspired love, affection, and often rapturous adoration from virtually everyone he met... Clay was a brilliant conversationalist, sparkling, witty, playful. Tall and thin, with a sandy complexion, a shock of brunette hair... gray, laughing eyes, and a straight, thin-lipped mouth that broke readily into a smile, the gracious, fun-loving clay charmed both men and women wherever he went. Neither as profound nor as learned as Webster, he exuded emotion and charisma when he addressed public audiences." - RBW

Historical references

  • 1777 - Birth of Henry Clay in Hannover County, Virginia -- a region known as "The Slashes," hence the song title "The Mill-Boy [=miller-boy] of the Slashes"
  • 1824 - Clay's first campaign for President (in the first election where popular votes are recorded, Andrew Jackson is the clear winner in the voting, but no one wins in the Electoral College. John Quincy Adams is elected president by the House of Representatives, due mostly to backing from Clay)
  • 1832 - Clay's second campaign for President. He is defeated by Andrew Jackson
  • 1844 - Clay's third campaign for President, producing both ""The Mill-Boy of the Slashes," with its erroneous reference to Van Buren (who failed to earn the Democratic nomination) and "Old Hal o' the West." Clay is defeated by James K. Polk.
  • 1852 - Death of Henry Clay

Cross references


  1. Spaeth-ReadWeep, pp. 39-40, "The Mill-Boy of the Slashes" and "Old Hal o' the West" (2 texts, filed under "Old Rosin, the Beau," tune referenced)
  2. Hudson 84, p. 211, "Henry Clay" (1 short text, to the tune of "Old Dan Tucker," with many floating elements)
  3. ADDITIONAL: John Siegenthaler, _James K. Polk_, Times Books, 2003, p. 91, (A single stanza of a Clay campaign song beginning "Hurrah for Henry Clay" and ending "And Polk will soon burst his boiler")
  4. Roud #4495
  5. BI, SRW039


Author: unknown
Found in: US(So)