Humphrey Marshall (1812-1872)

1809 –  . Senator Humphrey Marshall vs. Representative Henry Clay

At the Kentucky General Assembly, Clay introduces a resolution requiring members to wear homespun suits rather than import their duds from Britain. Only two members voted against the patriotic measure. One of them, Humphrey Marshall, was not a fan of Clay’s politics… or his fashion sense apparently. Clay challenges him to a duel. Clay grazes Marshall once just below the chest, while Marshall hit Clay once in the thigh. Both men live.


The papers of Humphrey Marshall (1812-1872) span the years 1771-2002, with the bulk of the material dating from 1846 to 1856. The papers are arranged alphabetically by type of material or topic and chronologically therein. All of the papers are photocopies and micofiche except for one 1867 letter.

The majority of the collection consists of the correspondence of Humphrey Marshall II (1812-1872), lawyer, army officer, United States representative from Kentucky, and Confederate States of America representative from Virginia. Most of the letters relate to slavery, states rights, steam safety of river boats, protectionism for the hemp industry, and Kentucky politics.

The collection also features letters between Marshall and Matthew Calbraith Perry, 1853-1854, pertaining to keeping American ships in Chinese waters to protect Western lives and property during the Taiping Rebellion. Marshall served as commissioner to China at the time. Other letters from the period contain references about American trade with China. Microfiche of executive documents in a House of Representatives file contain additional correspondence relating to Marshall’s stint in China as well as letters relating to Perry’s naval expedition to Japan.

The correspondence files also contain a few letters of other members of the Marshall family, including Marshall’s son, Humphrey Marshall III. He wrote several letters in 1921 in defense of his father’s reputation after an unflattering article appeared in the Louisville Herald. An item worthy of mention is a letter dating September 12, 1840, of I. H. Holman, who was present at the Battle of the Thames during the War of 1812, responding to the elder Marshall’s questions about the conduct of William Henry Harrison during that battle. Correspondents include John H. Aulick, John J. Crittenden, Jefferson Davis, Millard Fillmore, Walter Newman Haldeman, Isham G. Harris, George Law, John McLean, Matthew Calbraith Perry, William B. Reed, Alexander Hamilton Stephens, Bayard Taylor, and Daniel Webster.

Other papers in the collection treat Marshall’s service in the Mexican War, his legal career, and his speeches while serving as a member of the House of Representatives. The collection contains two diaries of Marshall. The first pertains to his tenure as commissioner in China, and the second documents his flight from Richmond on April 2, 1865, the day the Confederate capital fell, and his subsequent travels through the South. The collection also includes a few papers of Supreme Court Justice John McLean, including his autobiography. Marshall was interested in writing a history of McLean’s life. Featured as well is a file containing a letter of Patrick Henry to George Rogers Clark and a Virginia land grant issued by Henry while governor. Many of the items in the collection include notes and emendations by the donor, William E. McLaughry.


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