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Representative Henry Clay’s Lesser-Known Special Election in 1815

October 30, 1815
Representative Henry Clay’s Lesser-Known Special Election in 1815 Henry Clay’s original special election certificate, Center for Legislative Archives, National Archives and Records Administration Representative Henry Clay of Kentucky returned from diplomatic duty to find himself no longer a Member of the House. He won a special election to re-instate his membership before being elected Speaker in 1815.
On this date, Henry Clay of Kentucky won a special election to occupy his own seat. In January 1814, Clay resigned from the 13th Congress (1813–1815) to accept a position as a commissioner to resolve the War of 1812 with Great Britain. While serving in Europe, Clay successfully won re-election to the 14th Congress (1815–1817) in August 1814. When Clay returned to the United States in October 1815 to begin his congressional service, he found himself no longer a Member of the House. Clay had signed a commercial treaty with Great Britain as a diplomatic representative of the United States. In doing so, he violated Article I, Section 6, Part 2 of the U. S. Constitution, which prohibits Members of Congress from simultaneously holding a position in the executive or judicial branches. As a result, Clay invalidated his membership in the House. Kentucky Governor Isaac Shelby declared the seat vacant, forcing Clay to run in a special election to reclaim his seat. Clay won and returned to Washington to serve as a Kentucky Representative and as Speaker of the House, when the chamber organized for the opening of the Congress in December 1815.

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