Chapter

Legacy of Service

Lindsey Apple

in The Family Legacy of Henry Clay

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780813134109
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813135908 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5810/kentucky/9780813134109.003.0011
Legacy of Service

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Henry Clay felt a keen sense of duty to nation, state, and community. Generally shunning politics, his descendants served in the military—every engagement from the Mexican War through Vietnam—both as professional and citizen soldiers. Family members also supported progressive era reform, woman's suffrage, and the treatment of tuberculosis and mental illness. In the late nineteenth century, a duty to service developed as a sense of noblesse oblige, assuring philanthropic efforts and direct aid to the less fortunate, notably African Americans. Madeline McDowell Breckinridge might well have filled the shoes of her great grandfather had society given her the right to vote and hold office and if she had escaped the Clay legacy of illness and untimely death. Unfortunately, noblesse oblige also included a sense of paternalism. The Clay story reflects the tortured history of race relations in the United States.

Keywords: sense of duty; military; progressive era reform; woman's suffrage; tuberculosis; mental illness; noblesse oblige; philanthropy; African Americans; Madeline McDowell Breckinridge; race relations

Chapter.  13656 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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