Welcome! » Log In » Create A New Profile
US Biography Project

Clarke, James

Posted by MarthaCrossSargent 
Clarke, James
March 16, 2007 02:09PM
HISTORY OF KENTUCKY, by Lewis Collins, and J.A. & U.P. James, published
1847. Reprinted by Henry Clay Press, Lexington, Ky., 1968, pp. 235-236
[Clark county].

Among the most distinguished citizens of Clark county was the Hon. JAMES
CLARKE, late governor of the commonwealth. Our materials for a sketch of
his life are exceedingly meagre [sic], and we can attempt nothing more
than a bare ennumeration of the most prominent incidents in his career.
He was the son of Robert and Susan Clarke, and was born in 1779, in
Bedford county, Virginia, near the celebrated Peaks of Otter. His
father emigrated from Virginia to Kentucky at a very early period, and
settled in Clark county, near the Kentucky river. The subject of this
notice received the principal part of his education under Dr. Blythe,
afterwards a professor in Transylvania university. He studied law with
his brother, Christian Clarke, a very distinguished lawyer of Virginia.
When he had qualifed himself to discharge the duties of his profession,
he returned to Kentucky, and commenced the practice of the law in
Winchester, in 1797.
He remained here, however, but a short time, before he set out in
search of a more eligible situation, and traveled through what was then
the far west, taking Vincennes and St. Louis in his route; but failing
to find a place to suit his views, he returned to Winchester, where, by
his unremitting attention to business, and striking displays of
professional ability, he soon obtained an extensive and lucrative
At this period of his life, he was several times elected a member
of the State legislature, in which body he soon attained a high and
influential position. In 1810, he was appointed a judge of the court of
appeals, and acted in that capacity for about two years. In 1812, he
was elected to congress, and served from the 4th of March, 1814, until
March, 1816. In 1817 he received an appointment as judge of the circuit
court, for the judicial district in which he resided, which station he
filled with great ability, and to the general satisfaction of the
public, till the year 1824, when he resigned. During his term of
service as judge, occurred that great and exciting struggle betwen the
relief and anti-relief parties, which has left its traces on the
political and social condition of Kentucky, in deep and indelible
characters, to be seen even at the present day. In May, 1823, Mr. Clarke
rendered an opinion in the Bourbon circuit court, in which he decided
that the relief laws were unconstitutional. This decision produced
great excitement, and was the cause of his being arraigned and impeached
before the legislature. But, notwithstanding the temporary
dissatisfaction it excited in the breasts of the relief party, there was
probably no act of his life which inspired his fellow citizens with
greater confidence in his integrity, firmness, independence, and
patriotism, than this decision. It was given just before the election,
and he must have forseen a temporary injury it would inflict upon the
party with which he acted, and which he regarded as the bulwark of the
constitution. But his was a nature which knew not the possibility of
making a compromise between his principles and policy.
In 1825, he was elected to congress to fill the vacancy occasioned
by Mr. Clay's appointment as secretary of state, and continued to
represent the Fayette district in that body until 1831. In 1832, he was
elected to the senate of Kentucky, and was chosen speaker in the place
of Mr. Morehead, who was then acting as governor, in the place of
Governor Breathitt, deceased. He was elected governor of Kentucky, in
August, 1836, and died on the 27th of August, 1839, in his sixtieth
Governor Clarke was endowed by nature with great strength of mind,
and a fine vein of original wit. His literary attainments were
respectable, ranking in that respect with most of his contemporaries of
the legal profession at that day. A fine person, a cheerful and social
disposition, an easy address, and fascinating manners, made him the life
of every circle in which he mingled. He was full of fun, fond of
anectdotes, and could tell a story with imimitable grace. To these
qualities, so well calculated to display the amiable traits of his
character in their most attractive light, he added all those stern and
manly virtues which inspire confidence and command respect. His death
made a vacancy in the political and social circles of Kentucky, which
was very sensibly felt and universally deplored.

Clarke Blythe Clay Morehead Breathitt
Bedford-VA IN St._Louis-St._Louis-MO Bourbon-KY Fayette-KY

Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.

Click here to login

(c) 1997 - 2011 US Biographies Project

Return to the US Biographies Project