Date: Sun, 16 Nov 1997 20:07:52 -0500 From: "Barry A. Popik" 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. 2: HENRY CLAY 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 "collar-men"?--ed.) 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."