Henry Clay

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Henry Clay: The Great Compromiser

Henry Clay is probably the most famous Congressman to have never been elected President. He was known as the Great Compromiser, and was a member of the Congress for 40 years. Clay was a member of the "Great Triumvirate" along with Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun. In his time in Washington he ran for president 5 times, but was never successful. He founded the Whig party, and was instrumental in defining the issues of the second party system. He also served as the Secretary of State and Speaker of the House of Representatives. In 1957 he was voted as one of the 5 greatest senators by a committee headed up by John F. Kennedy.(1)(

Henry Clay was born to the Reverend John Clay and Elizabeth Hudson Clay on April 12, 1777 in Handover County, VA. Three years later in 1780 his father died leaving his mother to care for Henry and his 8 brothers and sisters alone. She soon married CPT. Henry Watkins who became an affectionate step-father to young Henry Clay. He received his elementary education from a very formal British teacher. He then earned a job as a shop assistant in Richmond shortly after his family moved to Kentucky. He was placed in a boy's club where he was further educated and raised to manhood. Later he gained employment with the Court of the Chancery under Theodore Wythe, then the Chancellor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. where he proved himself adept at understanding the intricacies of the law. The Chancellor took an active interest in Clay's future and got him a position with Virginia's Attorney General Robert Brooke. Young Henry Clay then went on to the College of William and Mary to receive his formal legal education, and ...

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...ct. Clay had a problem with alcohol, gambling and on three occasions challenged a man to duel over a small insult. Thankfully for the nation all involved were horrible shots. He personally owned slaves, but worked to abolish slavery as a part of the American Colonization Society.

Henry Clay died on June 29, 1852 in Washington at the age of 75. He was not only one of the greatest orators of his time, but probably one of the three best senators in our history. There is no telling where our nation would be if it wasn't for the hard work and compromising ways of Henry Clay.

Works Cited



3) The American Nation: A History of the United States, Twelfth Edition; Mark C. Carnes, John A Garraty; 2006; Pearson Custom Publishing.
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