Guide to the C. C. Clay Papers, 1811-1925


Clement Claiborne Clay (1816-1882) was a lawyer, U. S. Senator, Confederate diplomat, and planter from Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama. He was married to Virginia Carolina (Tunstall) Clay (1825-1915). His father, Clement Comer Clay (1789-1866) was a U.S. Congressman and Governor of Alabama. Collection includes personal, business, and political correspondence, accounts, diaries, memoranda, college notes, scrapbooks, and clippings of Clement Claiborne Clay, and of his father, Clement Comer Clay; his mother, Susanna Claiborne Withers Clay; his wife, Virginia Caroline Tunstall Clay; and brothers, Hugh Lawson Clay and John Withers Clay. Letters deal with family matters, including Alabama and Washington, D.C., social life, education, the management of cotton plantations, civic affairs in Huntsville; state and national politics and elections; Clay Sr.'s governorship; Clay Jr.'s service in both the U.S. and Confederate senates; ante-bellum politics; the organization of the Confederacy; Reconstruction politics, including Clay Jr.'s arrest, imprisonment, and his wife's efforts to obtain his release; Clay Jr.'s efforts to retrieve his property and re-establish farming operations, and to settle his father's estate; Virginia Clay's dissatisfaction with Reconstruction period social life, her tour of Europe, 1884-1885, and her efforts to operate the plantation after her husband's death.

Collection Details

Collection Number
C. C. Clay papers
Clay, C. C. (Clement Claiborne), 1816-1882
20 Linear Feet, 8,568 Items
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Material in English

Collection Overview

Personal, business, and political correspondence, accounts, diaries, memoranda, college notes, scrapbooks, and clippings of Clement Claiborne Clay (1816-1882), lawyer, U.S. senator, Confederate diplomat, and planter; of his father, Clement Comer Clay (1789-1866), lawyer, planter, U.S. congressman and senator, and governor of Alabama; of his mother, Susanna Claiborne (Withers) Clay (1798-1866); of his wife, Virginia Caroline (Tunstall) Clay (1825-1915), who wrote A Bell of the Fifties: Memoirs of Mrs. Clay, of Alabama, covering Social and Political Life in Washington and the South, 1853-1866: Put into Narrative Form by Ada Sterling (New York: Doubleday, 1904); and of his brothers, Hugh Lawson Clay and John Withers Clay, and of their wives.

Letters deal with family matters, including education of the elder Clay's three sons at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville; management of two or more cotton plantations and approximately fifty slaves; civic affairs in Huntsville; state politics, 1819-1860; Democratic and Whig party alignments, rivalries, and disputes; presidential elections, especially in 1844, 1852, and 1856; Clement Comer Clay's governorship, 1835-1837. the Creek War, 1836; the panic of 1837, Clement Claiborne Clay's election as a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 1853 and his reselection in 1857. Other political matters referred to include the Compromise of 1850; Kansas-Nebraska difficulty; break with Stephen A. Douglas; Democratic Convention of 1860; secession; and organization of the Confederate government. Personal letters refer to social life in Alabama and in Washington, D.C.; visits to springs and health resorts; and Clement Claiborne Clay's travels for his health through Florida, 1851, and later to Arkansas and Minnesota.

Subjects of the Civil War years include Clement Claiborne Clay's political activities in the Confederate States Senate; his relations with Jefferson Davis; Federal raids on and occupation of Huntsville, consequent disruption of civilian life, and demoralization of slaves; J. W. Clay's publication of the Huntsville Democrat in various towns; Clay's defeat in the election of 1863 for the Confederate Senate; his and other agents' work in Canada, assisting in the return of escaped Confederate prisoners to Confederate territory; plots of a general revolt in the Northwestern states designed to join these states to the Confederacy; the Democratic Convention of 1864; Horace Greeley's efforts for peace, 1864; plans and execution of the Confederate raid on St. Albans, Vermont, 1864; Clay's return from Canada, and the final days of the Confederacy.

Material relating to the aftermath of the Civil War concerns accusations against Clay for complicity in Lincoln's assassination, Clay's surrender to Federal authorities, his imprisonment at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, and the efforts of Virginia (Tunstall) Clay to obtain her husband's release. Papers for the period 1866-1915 generally pertain to personal matters, principally Clay's poverty, his attempts to retrieve his confiscated property, the settlement of his father's estate, efforts to re-establish farming operations, and his years in the insurance business, 1871-1873, with Jefferson Davis; and Virginia (Tunstall) Clay's dissatisfaction with a restricted social life, her tour of Europe, 1884-1885, and her efforts in later years to operate the plantation. There are occasional references to political affairs.

The volumes consist of an executor's book of the estate of C. C. Clay, Sr., 1866-1869; letter books, 1864-1865; letterpress copy covering insurance business; memorandum books, 1853-1864, containing a mailing list of constituents and other notations; notebook, 1835-1841, containing college lecture notes; receipt books; legal fee book, 1814-1815; scrapbooks, ca. 1848-1903, one of which contains plantation accounts, 1870-1873, and minutes of the Madison County Bible Society, 1820-1830; and the diaries and scrapbooks, 1859-1905, of Virginia (Tunstall) Clay.

Correspondents include Jeremiah S. Black, E. C. Bullock, C. C. Clay, Sr., C. C. Clay, Jr., David Clopton [Virginia (Tunstall) Clay's second husband], W. W. Corcoran, J. L. M. Curry, Jefferson Davis, Varina Davis, Benjamin Fitzpatrick, U. S. Grant, Andrew Johnson, L. Q. C. Lamar, Clifford Anderson Lanier, Sidney Lanier, Stephen R. Mallory, Nelson A. Miles, James K. Polk, John H. Reagan, R. B. Rhett, E. S. Shorter, Leroy P. Walker, Louis T. Wigfall, and William L. Yancey.

Description above taken from Guide to Cataloged Collections in the Manuscripts Department of the William R. Perkins Library, Duke University (1980)

Using These Materials

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 2 full business days in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access to the Collection

Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

warning Use & Permissions

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

More copyright and citation information

How to Cite

[Identification of item], C. C. Clay Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

Contents of the Collection

Correspondence, 1811-1847
Box 1
Correspondence, 1848-1857 April
Box 2
Correspondence, 1857 May-1862 May
Box 3
Correspondence, 1862 June-1864 September
Box 4
Correspondence, 1864 October-1865 December

Fragments written in prison, 1865-1866.

Box 5
Correspondence, 1866

"Manufactured testimony" against Mr. Clay.

Box 6
Correspondence, 1867-1871 June
Box 7
Correspondence, 1871 July-1877 August
Box 8
Correspondence, 1877 September-1881
Box 9
Correspondence, 1882-1884
Box 10
Correspondence, 1885 January-1888 October
Box 11
Correspondence, 1888 November-1890 June
Box 12
Correspondence, 1890 July-1892 June
Box 13
Correspondence, 1892 July-1897
Box 14
Correspondence, 1898-1900
Box 15
Correspondence, 1901-1903
Box 16
Correspondence, 1904-1905
Box 17
Correspondence, 1906-1908 September
Box 18
Correspondence, 1908 October-1911 May
Box 19
Correspondence, 1911 June-1913
Box 20
Correspondence, 1914-1920s
Box 21
Correspondence, 1900s and undated
Box 22
Executor's Book (Estate of Clement Comer Clay), 1866-1869
Volume S:692
Letterbook, 1864 June 14-September 29

Correspondence from Canada. Copies of letters from C.C. Clay to: Judah Benjamin, Jefferson Davis, Horace Greeley, Slidell and Mason, George H. Pendleton, and S. R. Mallory.

Volume M:693
Letterbook, 1865 June 30-November 23

Correspondence fom Fortress Monroe. Copies of letters sent to E. M. Stanton and Andrew Johnson from C. C. Clay and copies of letters sent to Jefferson Davis, Jeremiah Black, and Robert Toombs by Virginia C. Clay.

Volume M:694
Letterpress copy book, 1871-1873
Volume M:695
Memorandum Book, 1853-1861

Mailing list for congressional documents

Volume M:696
Memorandum Book, 1853-1864
Volume M:697
Notebook, 1835-1841

College, personal, and legal notes.

Volume M:698
Receipt Book, 1860-1882
Volume S:699
Receipts, 1871-1873
Volume S:700
Scrapbook, circa 1866-1878
Volume S:701
Scrapbook, circa 1865-1890
Volume L:702
Scrapbook, circa 1866-1903
Volume M:703
Madison County (Ala.) Bible Society minutes, 1820-1830; and C. C. Clay Plantation accounts, 1870-1873
Volume F:705
Scrapbook, 1848-1853
Volume L:706
Fee book, 1814-1815
Volume S:707
Virginia Clay scrapbook, 1862-1896
Volume L:718
Virginia Clay scrapbook, 1886-1893
Volume L:719
Box 23
Box 23
Addresses and writings of Mrs. Virginia Clay-Clopton
Box 23
Addresses and writings of Mrs. Virginia Clay Clopton
Box 24
Calling and gift cards
Box 25
Photographs of members of Clay and related families
Box 26
Printed material
Box 26
Virginia Clay diary, 1859-1866
Box 26
Addresses of C. C. Clay
Box 26
Newspaper clippings
Box 27
Newspaper clippings
Box 28
Virginia Clay diaries, 1865-1909
(6 volumes)
Box 29

Related Material

  • Clement C. Clay papers, 1846-1972 (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)

Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.


The C. C. Clay Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift from 1933 to 1958.

Processing Information

Processed by Rubenstein Library Staff

Encoded by Noah Huffman, November 2010

Accessions from 1933 to 1958 were merged into one collection, described in this finding aid.