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.