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Dear Sir, I received your favor of the 9th. You mention that you have thought of becoming a candidate for the Senate, and, justly viewing me as one of your friends, you have asked my opinion.
In the first place, I beg leave to state that I have always felt a most lively and sincere interest in your welfare, and that it would give me, personally, much satisfaction to see you in the situation suggested. With respect to your prospect of success I am not a very good judge, having been so much of late years out of the State, and therefore knowing but little of the weight and standing of different individuals. I hinted at the subject to Barry, who seemed to think that, living in one extreme of the State, however much esteemed there, you were probably hardly well enough known at the other to comment with any certainty upon your success. I did not mention it to Breckenridge, because I am quite sure that he proposes to himself the career of politics, and I have heard, though not from him, nor from any one that as far as I know, was authorized by him, that he is looking himself to the situation. I should think the event would greatly depend upon the persons who might happen to be your competitors. Should Colonel Johnson offer, (he has been talked of, with what authority from himself I know not,>) or perhaps Breckenridge, you would probably fail.
I will now give you, in the frankness which is due from the friendship I feel for you, my opinion. I do not think yon ought to accept the situation, if you had a moral certainty of getting it. Although comfortable in your pecuniary condition, you are not rich, and you have a growing family. Instead of making additions to your fortune, you would most probably make annual subtractions from it, during your service. For if your pay should cover your expenses, while absent from your family, affairs would go on less profitably at home than they do now. Such, at least, is my experience ; and such I believe to be in the nature of things. Congress, too, has greater attractions at a distance than near. After the novelty wears off (which it commonly does in the course of two or three months), the interest which was at first felt is diminished, if not extinguished, with most of those, at least, who are not perfectly at their ease in their circumstances, or who are not in pursuit of place, and are willing to venture every thing on getting it, or, lastly, those few individuals whose great attainments give them a high degree of prominence in the body and in the nation.
With respect to yourself (I write, you see, with the frankness and freedom which you have invited,) your talents are of the most respectable kind ; but they are better adapted to the career which you have been wisely pursuing than to that of politics. While you would never fail to speak sensibly, your elocution would not perhaps procure for you that high degree of eminence which I am sure you would be ambitious of reaching. Besides, you have great reason to expect promotion in the judiciary of either the State or the United States, when vacancies shall occur. While judicial appointment might also be acquired in the situation to which we refer, it is perhaps not so direct a road to it as by a faithful and enlightened discharge of the duties of your present office. There is, moreover, always some risk (and it is greater as we are more advanced in life) in quitting an occupation with which one is familiar, and entering upon another with which he is less conversant. The intimate alliance between law and politics, and the habit which is so common in our country of participating in the consideration of its political affairs, diminishes but does not entirely remove this objection.
I have given you my candid sentiments. Your own better judgment will, at last, guide you, as it ought ; and that you may be successful and prosperous, however you may decide, is my sincere wish.
- Henry Clay