Cassius Clay Haiku

Stop bad man with gun

With good man slicing him in

Goddamn eyes with knife.

Well, good-ish. Cassius Clay (no, not Muhammed Ali) died 115 years ago today. He was an odd duck.

Born to a slaveholding plantation family in 1810, he became an abolitionist in 1832 while attending Yale. And not a paper one like Jefferson – as soon as he inherited the family slaves, he freed them all and paid wages to all who opted to stay. Yet he still pursued political and newspaper careers in his native Kentucky. You might recall that, while the state was theoretically neutral during the then-future Civil War, it wasn’t exactly a hotbed of anti-slavery fervor.

Read: being an outspoken dude like Clay was fucking dangerous and people kept trying to kill him. But he was the sort to fight back, such as when he sliced a hired gun’s eyes, nose, and ears with a Bowie knife when shot in the damned chest with what he thought was his last breath. And beating shit out of six brothers who ganged up on him, killing one of them. This is in addition to innumerable duels, because, well, southern gentleman in the 19th century.

Being buds with Abraham Lincoln, he naturally supported his bid for the presidency. Lincoln paid him back by making him Minister to Russia, which proved an exciting time for him. He saw the Tsar free the serfs, secured Russian support for the Union… and carried on an affair with a ballerina. When he returned to the States, he had his ‘adopted’ son in tow, which I’m sure his wife was pleased about.

Speaking of which, he later split with wife Mary as she cruelly abandoned him… because after 45 years, she got sick of him sleeping around. 16 years after THAT, he got hitched to a girl who was still in utero during his divorce. Which even by the standards of the time was very gross. That lasted three years before young Dora got her own divorce and found a dude not old enough to be her great grandfather.

Daughters Laura and Mary became prominent suffragettes who also lobbied for the minimum age for marriage in Kentucky to be raised from 12 to 16. Gee, I wonder why.

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