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Henry Clay: The Great Compromiser of America

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It was a dark time in the history of the United States. A crisis was shadowing the country and had locked the North and the South at each other’s throats. Tensions were escalating and civil war seemed imminent. One brave man stood up to the challenge of resolving the conflict – Congressman Henry Clay of Kentucky. Despite his old age and illness, he managed to develop a set of compromise measures and convinced both sides to agree to it. This compromise, the Compromise of 1850, may have held off the Civil War for a decade, giving the North ample time to prepare (Remini). But, it wasn’t the only compromise Clay played a part in. Clay is well-known for developing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise Tariff of 1833, as well as the aforementioned Compromise of 1850. These compromises earned Clay the name of the “Great Compromiser” (Van Deusen), and saved the Union from falling into discord.
Henry Clay’s first major compromise was the Missouri Compromise of 1820, created after a huge debate regarding slavery that threatened to tear the Union apart. The dispute started in 1817, when Missouri applied for statehood. Congress decided to make a law to allow Missouri to frame a state constitution in 1819, and Representative James Tallmadge of New York wanted to add an antislavery amendment to the law to stop further introduction of slaves to the state and to free slaves already there at the age of twenty-five. This caused a huge uproar about the national government’s right to restrict slavery, resulting in Tallmadge’s bill passing in the House but failing in the Senate. When Congress received a request from Maine for statehood in December 1819, the Senate took the chance for compromise. It passed a bill to admit Maine as a free s...

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