Born in Troy, New York, Clarke went into business for himself at the age of fifteen. He began his financial career as cashier of the Bank of Orleans, Albion, New York. He moved to Rochester, New York, in 1845.
He became director and president of banks, railroads, and telegraph and trust companies of Rochester and New York City, and later served as delegate to the Whig National Convention at Baltimore in 1852 and as vice president of the first Republican State convention of New York in 1854. He served as delegate to the State constitutional convention in 1867. Clarke was elected as a Republican to the Thirty-eighth Congress (March 4, 1863 – March 3, 1865).
He was Comptroller of the Currency from March 9, 1865, to February 6, 1867. Clarke was again elected to the Forty-second and Forty-third Congresses (March 4, 1871 – March 3, 1875). He died in Rochester, New York, on June 24, 1887 and was interred at Mount Hope Cemetery.
Member United States Ho.