He was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates in 1776-1780 and again in 1787-1788, and in 1787 was a member of the convention that framed the Federal Constitution, and as one of its ablest debaters took an active part in the work.
By his contemporaries Clayton was considered one of the ablest debaters and orators in the Senate.
From then on he was one of the most eloquent and frequent debaters among his colleagues, and in 1859, almost without opposition, he was re-elected to the Senate as a member of the Republican party, in the organization of which he had taken an influential part.
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