Biography of Henry Clay


HENRY CLAY, "the silver-tongued Kentuckian," was born April 12th, I777, in Hanover county, Virginia. He early devoted himself to the law, and fixing his residence at Lexington, Kentucky, soon obtained a lucrative practice and political influence enough to be elected to the state legislature. In 1806, he was elected to Congress and again in 18O9 he was chosen senator for a term of two years, during which period he distinguished himself by several brilliant speeches. In 1811, he was sent to the House of Representatives, where he was immediately elected Speaker. He was a strenuous supporter of the War with Great Britain, and throughout that crisis sustained Mr. Madison's war measures with great zeal. In 1814, he was appointed one of the commissioners to negotiate the treaty of peace at Ghent, where his acuteness secured for America some advantages. Returning home in 1815, he was again elected to Congress, and again chosen Speaker. He retained this position by re-election till 1821. He exerted all his talents in favor of the independence of South America, and labored hard to eradicate all European influence from the American continent.

Clay, however, is best known as the author of the famous "Missouri Compromise," restricting slavery to the states south of 3030` N. lat., and the compromise of 1850, known as Clay's "Omnibus" measure, and his defence of the "American system of protection to native industry against the free-trade principles of Southern politicians." In the exciting contest for the presidency which took place in 1824, Mr. Clay was a candidate and received a small vote. The choice between the two highest candidates, Jackson and Adams, having devolved upon the House of Representatives, Mr. Clay, as speaker, gave the casting vote in favor of John Quincy Adams. In 1832, Mr. Clay was a candidate for the presidency, but was defeated by General Jackson. In 1839, his name was again prominent among the Whig candidates for the presidency, but General Harrison having received the nomination, Mr. Clay gave him a cordial support. In 1844, he was the Whig nominee for the presidency. Defeated by Mr. Polk, the Democratic candidate, he remained in retirement until after the election of General Taylor, when in 1849, he again took his seat in the Senate. His efforts during this session weakened his strength and hastened his death. As his disease was gaining the mastery; he sought for relief in a visit to Havana and to New Orleans, but with no permanent benefit. He died on the 29th of June, 1852, amid the scenes of his proudest and most glorious triumphs.