Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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CLAY, Henry, was born in Hanover county, Virginia, April 12, 1777, and died in Washington city, June 29, 1852. He was admitted to the bar in 1799, was a senator from Kentucky 1806-7 and 1809-11, and was a representative almost continuously 1811-25, being chosen speaker of the house six times. He was secretary of state 1825-9, and was again senator from Kentucky 1836-42, and from 1849 until his death. His first prominence was as one of the war leaders of the dominant party, (see DEMOCRATIC-REPUBLICAN PARTY), 1811-15. In 1825 he took part in the "scrub-race for the presidency" (see DISPUTED ELECTIONS, II.), out of which grew a charge of having sold his influence in the house to Adams in return for the position of secretary of state, which was commonly considered the stepping stone to the presidency. The reader will find the charge very fully considered in Colton's Life, referred to below. It never was supported by any proof; its only declared authority repudiated responsibility for it; and yet it was a considerable item in political argument for 25 years. Upon the formation of the whig party, whose distinctive principles of protection and internal improvements he had announced very clearly and ably in 1818-20, he became its beloved leader. He was nominated by the whigs for the presidency in 1831 (see WHIG PARTY, I.), and 1844 (see WHIG PARTY, II), and in other years the party unwillingly adopted other candidates, Harrison, Taylor and Scott, from considerations of political expediency. With the exception of Jefferson, no party leader in the United States has ever received such enthusiastic and devoted support as Henry Clay. The story, generally believed, that John Tyler, while a delegate to the whig national convention of 1839, could not restrain his tears at the failure to nominate Clay, may serve to show the intensity of the party's feelings toward its leader. Even in 1831 his private correspondence shows that active preparations were being made to bring him up again as a candidate in 1832. His name is most closely connected with the Missouri compromise and the compromise of 1830 (see COMPROMISES, IV., V.), which were both mainly of his contriving. (See DEMOCRATIC PARTY, III.; INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS; ADMINISTRATIONS, X.; DISPUTED ELECTIONS, II.; WHIG PARTY, COMPROMISES; CONSTRUCTION, II.; CONGRESS)


—See Mallory's Life and Speeches of Clay; Prentice's Life of Clay; Greeley's Life of Clay; Colton's Life and Times of Clay (to 1846), Private Correspondence of Clay, Last Seven Years of the Life of Clay, and Life, Correspondence, and Speeches of Clay; Ormsby's Whig Party; 1 von Holst's United States, 412.


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