The backdrop: Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky desperately wanted to become the nominee and win the presidential election of 1840. In an effort to appease both sides on the issue of slavery, he sang two songs on the subject depending on his crowd of listeners. On 07 Feb 1839, on the floor of the US Senate, in a speech geared to garner favor with pro-slavery Southerners, Clay proclaimed, “I would rather be right than be president!” To which Speaker of the House Thomas Brackett Reed famously quipped to the senator:
The gentleman need not trouble himself. He’ll never be either.
—Thomas Brackett Reed (by Mathew Brady; Public Domain)