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Clay Henry

Clay, Henry, the son of a Baptist minister in Virginia, U.S.A., was born in 1777. Left an orphan very early, he obtained a legal education after much difficulty, and soon won a large practice by his oratorical powers. He took an active interest in politics, urging the partial abolition of slavery in 1799, though later on he assented to the Missouri Compromise, and as late as 1850 supported the discretional retention of slavery in the territories acquired from Mexico. In 1803 he entered the Kentucky Legislature, of which he became speaker in 1808, fighting rather a memorable duel in that year. In 1811 he was returned to Congress, and became speaker. His energies were devoted chiefly to forcing on the war with England, and he assisted in 1814 in concluding the Treaty of Ghent, by which that brief struggle was terminated. In 1824 he was nominated for the Presidency, but transferred his votes to Adams, whose election was thus secured, Clay becoming Secretary of State, It was on this occasion that he fought his famous duel with John Randolph. He thrice contested the Presidency in after years, but was defeated. One of his chief political aims was the liberation of America from European control. Though he wavered at times, he was on the whole a Protectionist. After a brief withdrawal from public affairs he came back to the senate in 1848, and carried in 1850 his Omnibus Bill to avert the disruption of the States on the slavery question. He died in 1852.