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The life and works of henry clay

See Article History Alternative Titles: Clay was an unsuccessful candidate for president in three general elections, running first in 1824, then as a National Republican 1832and finally as a Whig 1844. Clay, HenryHenry Clay, mezzotint by H. Sadd, after a painting by J.

  • Harrison easily defeated Van Buren, who was discredited by the grim financial situation;
  • He clashed with Jackson amid a crowded field of candidates in which none garnered the required majority in the electoral college , thus leaving the election to be determined by the House of Representatives.

He was the fourth of five surviving siblings. Campaign biographies later portrayed him as rising from poverty, but that depiction ignored an adequate education and family connections that landed him a clerkship under the celebrated Virginia jurist George Wythethe judge of the state chancery court in Richmond.

Wythe introduced Clay to the law and arranged for his legal instruction under state attorney general and former governor Robert Brooke. Clay proved a quick study and was admitted to the bar in 1797. The glut of lawyers in Richmond persuaded him to follow his family to Kentucky, where they had moved in 1791. Clay settled in Lexington in 1797 and soon had a thriving law practice. In addition to handling lucrative cases dealing with disputed land titles, Clay developed a commanding courtroom presence that made him a formidable defense attorney.

He was also possibly the first attorney to use a successful plea of temporary insanity to save from the gallows a client accused of murder. Those strategies were among the innovations that marked him as a legal pioneer. As a new resident of Lexington, Clay joined leading citizens to promote civic improvements and support Transylvania University, a prestigious institution where he taught law.

He named the farm Ashland after its many blue ash trees Fraxinus quadrangulata. There he cultivated a variety of grains and bred sheep, blooded entirely or largely purebred cattle, and extraordinary race horses. He was a member of one of the first syndicates in the United States to purchase a Thoroughbred stallion for competition and stud service. Because Clay seemed eager for social advancement and Hart was apparently a plain girl, their marriage has been described as a cold arrangement to save her from spinsterhood while providing him social status and economic security.

If others thought their marriage devoid of passion, they could have disagreed. They had 11 children. Five were boys, but Clay especially doted on his daughters.

Those losses made Clay and Lucretia closer in grief. The law was a natural path to politics. Clay had a powerful presence, a rich baritone voice, and the agility to speak extemporaneously. He could also memorize long texts for speeches that were persuasive as well as hypnotic.

He enthusiastically promoted the abolition of slavery in Kentucky in the late 1790s, a distinctly unpopular and unsuccessful proposal. When Burr was later charged with treason, Clay was fortunate that his ties to Burr did not tarnish his national reputation just as it was being established.

Also, at some risk, Clay passionately opposed Federalist efforts designed to curb immigration and silence Republican dissent with the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Appointed twice to fill unexpired terms in the U. He much preferred the rough-and-tumble U. House of Representativesto which he won election in 1811 and where he became the youngest speaker of the House to that date. In addition to achieving this important post in his freshmen term, Clay transformed the speaker from a mere parliamentarian into a political force whose appointment power over committees and their chairmen increased his control of legislative agendas.

As speaker and one of the leaders of the faction called the War HawksClay was key in securing a declaration of war against Great Britain in June 1812. He also served on the American peace delegation at Ghent that negotiated the treaty signed December 24, the life and works of henry clay, which ended the War of 1812.

The experience on that peace commission made him a likely candidate to head Pres. Clay remained in the House of Representatives, where his hold on the speakership went largely unchallenged, allowing him to irritate and occasionally hector Monroe and Adams on such issues as establishing diplomatic relations with Latin American republics as they broke away from the Spanish empire.

Clay became an outspoken critic of Maj. Andrew Jackson for his unauthorized attack on Spanish forts in Florida in 1818, insisting that Jackson had usurped the exclusive war power of Congress. The amendment that was the linchpin of that measure was actually introduced by Sen.

Jesse Thomas of Illinois. On the other hand, Clay was the principal architect of the Second Missouri Compromise, which resolved objections over the proposed Missouri state constitution, an impasse that could have aborted the entire effort at compromise. For Clay, it was a departure from his earlier altruism when confronting slavery in Kentucky, and it would be years before he cast off political convenience to resume a commendable antislavery the life and works of henry clay at the end of his life.

He then openly condemned slavery and provided for the freedom of his slaves in his will. Clay was an unsuccessful candidate for the presidency in the election of 1824.

He clashed with Jackson amid a crowded field of candidates in which none garnered the required majority in the electoral collegethus leaving the election to be determined by the House of Representatives. The three candidates who won the most electoral votes—Jackson, Adams, and William H. Clay had early decided to support Adams because he thought Jackson unfit for the presidency, but his appointment to the State Department had the look of a cynical trade.

At first he tried to counter the accusation, even fighting a bloodless duel with eccentric Sen. Clay eventually resolved to ignore the attacks, but he was never resigned to them. American presidential election, 1824Results of the American presidential election, 1824Sources: Ironically, his alleged prize of the State Department proved a toxic mixture of unrewarding work and foiled initiatives.

Clay grew to detest the clerical demands of directing diplomacy, and almost every project he mounted—whether it was U. His one notable success involved improved relations with Latin Americaan anticipation of Pres. Everyone, including Clay, expected it to be a temporary condition.

He returned to Washington, D. In 1957 a special committee headed by Sen. That outcome continued the pattern of triumph for Jackson and defeat for Clay, which went unbroken until Jackson retired from public life at the end of his second term as president in 1837.

  • Clay became an outspoken critic of Maj;
  • Jesse Thomas of Illinois;
  • Campaign biographies later portrayed him as rising from poverty, but that depiction ignored an adequate education and family connections that landed him a clerkship under the celebrated Virginia jurist George Wythe , the judge of the state chancery court in Richmond;
  • When Clay shepherded the passage of legislation to reestablish the Bank of the United States, Tyler vetoed it twice.

American presidential election, 1832Results of the American presidential election, 1832Sources: Clay did have his successes, however. After he lost both the fight over the bank and his second bid for the presidency, Clay addressed the South Carolina nullification crisis with his compromise tariff of 1833which gradually lowered tariffs over the following 10 years.

Clay was able to prevent a serious confrontation as defiant South Carolinians were taking up arms and Jackson was threatening force. The Whig Party years and disappointment During the 1830s Clay directed the emerging political coalition that eventually styled itself the Whig Partyits very name an indication of its perennially inchoate nature.

Beyond their shared hatred of Jackson, however, Whigs rarely agreed on a central governing philosophy and often divided along sectional lines.

Henry Clay

Clay was not one of them. Clay returned to the Senate. The Whigs, however, nominated former general William Henry Harrisonthe hero of the Battle of Tippecanoein an effort to emulate the success that Democrats had found with military icon Jackson.

Harrison easily defeated Van Buren, who was discredited by the grim financial situation. On the other hand, those enemies convinced Harrison that Clay was not his friend, which set the stage for a quarrelsome relationship in Congress.

The situation could have been politically calamitous, but Harrison died in April 1841, just a month after his inauguration. When Clay shepherded the passage of legislation to reestablish the Bank of the United States, Tyler vetoed it twice. Frustrated Whigs eventually forced President Tyler out of the party. In 1842, with the Whig program at a standstill, Clay resigned from the Senate and began to lay the groundwork for his presidential candidacy in 1844.

In that quest Clay left nothing to chance, and Whigs for once were finally committed to his cause. Yet Clay stumbled over the issue of annexing Texas and its implications for the expansion of slavery, the most-troubling political problem of the age. Clay repeatedly acknowledged that slavery was wrong while promoting gradual emancipation as a founder of the American Colonization Societywhich established Liberia as the life and works of henry clay home for freeborn blacks and emancipated slaves.

The Texas controversy was emblematic of his dilemma, and his efforts to tread the ground between annexation and antislavery satisfied nobody. The Democratic nominee, James The life and works of henry clay. Polk of Tennesseeopenly courted expansionist proponents of Manifest Destiny and won the presidency. American presidential election, 1844Results of the American presidential election, 1844Sources: Political cartoon depicting John Tyler, James K.

Library of Congress, Washington, D. LC-USZ62-1275 The defeat sent Clay into retirement again, and, because he was 67, it was thought that he had left politics for the final time. The Mexican-American Warhowever, raised his ire even as it shattered his life. His son Henry Clay, Jr. Clay had greatly desired the nomination for president but was denied it because of his age, his record of electoral defeat, and his opposition to slavery, expansion, and the Mexican-American War. The Compromise of 1850 and final years As several sectional disagreements edged toward critical mass in 1849, Clay was coping with rapidly advancing tuberculosis.

Nevertheless, he returned to the U. He revealed his plan to the Senate in a lengthy speech that consumed two days in the first week of February 1850. It was audacious in proposing a radical way to eliminate slavery in regions where slavery already existed and resolve sectional discord through compromise.

Southerners were wary about this and other elements of the proposal. As a consequence, others most notably Sen. Douglas of Illinois guided the Compromise of 1850 to passage when Clay left the fight, exhausted as well as exasperated.

Even so, his reputation and influence were crucial in calming passions and setting the stage for the settlement of 1850 that averted a likely civil war. In a speech to the United States Senate, Henry Clay outlines the principal features of what would become the Compromise of 1850. The compromise maintained the numerical balance between slave and free states and perhaps delayed the American Civil War by a decade.

His death was sobering for the country. Clay was the second member of the Great Triumvirate to pass Calhoun had died in March 1850, and Webster would outlive Clay by only a few monthsbut he alone was the most consistent nationalist of his age and the most durable symbol of the union.

He lay in state in the Capitol rotunda, the first American given that honour Abraham Lincoln would be the second 13 years laterand it is thought that millions of people turned out to view his funeral journey to Lexington by railroad and steamboat. His work at the start of 1850 sealed an exaggerated reputation of him as a pacificator for whom a brokered political deal was desirable above all other considerations.