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18

GENERAL LESLIE COMBS

thought they could at the next election cer- tainly carry the county against him; their leader, General McCalla, having only failed bv some nine or ten votes at the previous election. It was under these circumstances that Mr. Combs was urged to become a candidate for the Legislature. From his early boyhood he had been devoted in feel- ing to that illustrious man, looking upon him, as he ever since has done, as the “foremost man of the age,” as well as the most vilely pursued, persecuted and calum- niated by his enemies. Although, in a man- ner a stranger to him—for Combs’ youth, and Mr. Clay’s almost continued absence from Kentucky in theapublic service, had given the latter no opportunity to know, the former except as a passing acquaint- ance—Mr. Combs determined to enter upon his defense and support ; and for three sec- cessive years he canvassed the county from end to end, meeting Mr. Clay's ene- mies every where before the people; lite- rally taking his life in his hand, and defying them. The first year he was elected by nearly one hundred majority, and the last by about five hundred; thus placing the party in an impregnable majority. He then returned to his profession, and soon not only regained his lost cliants, but also ob- tained many new ones.

But it was contrary to Mr. Combs' nature to be an idler, or an humble follower of any man. When, therefore, he entered upon the public service, he went earnestly to work, as he had previously done in his profession. Kentucky was at that time flooded with a depreciated paper currency, worth about fifty cents to the dollar, issued by the “Bank of the Commonwealth,” an institution which owed its origin to what was then called the “Relief” party, and which afterward became the Democratic or Loco-foco party in that State. Of public improvements, the State could boast none; there were not five miles of turnpike-road within her wide borders; a railroad had not even been thought of west of the moun- tains. As Chairman of the Committee of Finance, at the second or third session of his membership, he digested and reported a bill, which, after a severe struggle, and some slight modification, suggested by Mr. James Guthrie, became a law, providing for the winding up, gradually and without oppression, of the whole paper system;           

and no attempt has since been made to renew it.

He also devoted himself to the cause of internal improvement, advocating turn ike charters, and proposing the first one Ihr s railroad, when even Massachusetts could only boast of one, some four miles long, from the granite quarries to Boston.

He was again a member of the Legisla- ture in 1833—4, and, as Chairman ofithe Committee on Internal Improvements, re- ported a volume of bills, under whose salu- tary influence that noble State has ever since been rapidly rising in wealth, com- fort, and power. His means, too, were freely contributed in taking stock; all of which has since been bestowed upon a public library in Lexington.

He was not again a candidate until 1845, when he was chosen without the trouble of a canvass, and was at that ses- sion elected Speaker of the House of Re- presentatives. The next year his name was again presented for the same office by a large majority of the Whigs of the Legisla- ture, but he positivery declined to have it used, inasmuch as there were several highly promising young Whigs who desired it, and he was satisfied with the honor pre- viously enjoyed. He has not since been a candidate for any State office.

Mr. Combs never asked for an executive appointment of any kind in his life, having an utter disgust to office-seeking, and being wholly averse in feeling to such self- abasement as is generally necessary to ob- tain favor at court.

His first demonstration as a politician and public speaker on a national scale was at the Harrisburg Whig Convention, in 1840, when Governor Metcalf and himself were the delegates for the State at large, from Kentucky. They were very desirous for Mr. Clay’s nomination; and it was, in Mr. Combs’ opinion, by a most unfortunate combination of circumstances and indivi- duals, that his nomination was defeated. His never-to-be-forgotten, self-sacrificing letter to the Convention, had been handed to Mr. Combs by Mr. Archer, of Virginia; and after General Harrison’s nomination, he read it to that body, with a heart full of sorrow and disappointment. The whole country was taken by surprise, and a large portion of the Whig party shocked by the injustice done to their great leader.
 

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