Date: Sun, 16 Nov 1997 20:07:52 -0500
From: "Barry A. Popik" Bapopik[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Subject: "I Would/Had Rather Be Right Than Be President"
I was cleaning out my files today for sin words when I found this. This
changes American history--a lot!
Bartlett's Familiar Quotations has "I would rather be right than be
President" (here it's "I would") by Henry Clay, _Speech in the Senate_, 1850.
The American Heritage Dictionary of American Quotations has "I had
rather be right than be president" (here it's "I had") by Henry Clay, speech,
U. S. Senate, 1850.
This is from The State Gazette (Trenton, NJ), 22 March 1839, pg. 3, col.
Our much respected contemporary, the Newark Daily, publishes in juxta
position with the Address of the Whigs of the legislature, Col. Preston's
remarks in Philadelphia, in favor of the nomination of Henry Clay. The
Address advised the Whigs to forbear "attempts to press forward particular
candidates"; but our cotemporary (sic) seems to suppose that he is not
disregarding wishes of the authors of the address in publishing articles in
favor of Clay. We suspect he judges correctly.
We publish below, the same article; and for the very reason that it
_does_ press the claims of a particular candidate. The Whigs cannot settle
so important a question, without discussion, and through the machinery of a
convention. "Collar-men" only can be managed in that way. (Anyone have
Col. Preston exhibits Mr. Clay's character in a very pleasing light.
Whatever we may think of some of his opinions, we cannot but feel the
liveliest admiration for the man who "would rather be _right_ than be
President." And although we have entertained the opinion that his nomination
would not be the best for the Whigs in this state, yet that is no reason why
we should not rejoice to publish his virtues, and unite cordially in his
cause if the _Whigs of the Union_ make him their candidate.
(...)(long article and speech--ed.)
I have heard him utter, said Mr. Preston, in his closet, sentiments
which, had they fallen from the lips of one of the ancients of Greece or
Rome, would have been repeated with admiration to the present day. On one
occasion said Mr. P., he did me the honor to send for and consult with me.
It was in reference to a step he was about to take, and which will, perhaps,
come to your minds without more direct allusions. After stating what he
proposed, I suggested whether there would not be danger in it--whether such a
course would not injure his own prospects, as well as those of the Whig party
in general. His reply was, "I did not send for you to ask what might be the
effects of the proposed movement on my _prospects_, but whether it was
_right_; I HAD RATHER BE RIGHT THAN BE PRESIDENT."