"The Henry Clay Incident at Indiana Yearly Meeting, 1842," a Letter
- Bulletin of Friends' Historical Society of Philadelphia
- Friends Historical Association
- Volume 6, Number 3, Eleventh Month (November) 1915
- pp. 79-82
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HENRY CLAY INCIDENT AT INDIANA YEARLY MEETING. 79 " THE HENRY CLAY INCIDENT AT INDIANA YEARLY MEETING, 1842," A LETTER. BY CHARLES F. COFFIN. [The following letter regarding a paper in the Bulletin for Fifth month, 1915, is printed by permission of the writer and the addressee. A few non-essential sentences have been omitted. It is a rare occurrence that so clear a statement, or indeed any statement, could be written by an eyewitness seventy-three years after the events described. Our Friend of ninety-four will receive the best wishes of the readers of the Bulletin.—Editor.] Professor Harlow Lindley, Earlham College, Earlham P. O., Ind. My Dear Friend:—I have read with great interest your article in the Bulletin of Friends' Historical Society of Philadelphia, of which I am a member, on the Anti-Slavery Separation in Indiana and the Henry Clay incident in 1842. The article shows a great deal of research on your part, and as a whole gives a correct idea of the Separation and of Henry Clay's visit. Some parts of it, however, are quite objectionable, and the quotations you make from the newspapers of the time are wholly unreliable. . . . My brother, Wm. H. Coffin, of Pasadena, and myself are probably the only persons living who could give a full and detailed account of Henry Clay's visit to Indiana Yearly Meeting. I was a young man, twenty-one years of age, living with my father and mother, and my brother was two years younger. I have written a full account of Henry Clay's visit, and I think you will find a copy of it amongst my papers in your library [Earlham College]. It has been examined and endorsed by my brother William. The visit of Henry Clay was a notable occasion. He was then the most distinguished man in the United States, known by everyone. My father, Elijah Coffin, was a polished gentleman, and could not omit, when such an individual expressed a desire 8oBULLETIN OF FRIENDS' HISTORICAL SOCIETY. to attend our meeting for worship in the morning, to assist him in doing so without any regard to his future life or present view. My father did not keep a coachman, and I acted in that capacity on the occasion; I drove the horses in the carriage in which Henry Clay and my father rode to the meeting-house. When we arrived on the ground, it was a solid mass of human beings— thousands of them, being the Yearly Meeting Sunday and the additional fact of the presence of Henry Clay. It was very difficult for me to get through the crowd; I had to have the horses go on the slowest walk and be very careful to avoid running over someone, as there was a tendency to crowd around the carriage in order to see the distinguished visitor. I drove, however, directly to the north door of the old meeting-house, and my father helped Henry Clay out of the carriage, and was immediately joined by Pleasant Winston, a peculiar and eccentric but very respectable man, brought up in Virginia, but living at that time in Indiana, and a very ardent Whig and friendly to Henry Clay. He rushed forward and took hold of one of Henry Clay's arms, while father had the other, and they helped him through the crowd into the meeting-house. Father had previously consulted with some Friends, and they thought it best to seat him on the upper seat, where he could be readily seen by all the audience as well as be where he could hear the ministers. Two sermons were preached that day by able ministers —one John Meader, of Providence, and the other Stephen Grellet, an accomplished Frenchman of noble family, and both discourses were able and interesting. Henry Clay was immediately under the speakers, but turned around in his seat in order to see them. At the close of the meeting, instead of a prominent minister—as is stated in your article—introducing him, it was this same Pleasant Winston, who rushed forward and (very properly, I think) introduced Henry Clay to a number of Friends who desired to speak...