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Henry Clay

Introduction

Henry Clay was an American lawyer and politician. Born on the 12th of April 1777 in Hanover County in the state of Virginia, he represented the state of Kentucky in both the senate and the House of Representatives. He was a three time speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives as well as a secretary of state between 1825 and 1829. Clay lost his bid to become president of the U.S., thrice in 1824, 1832 and 1844. Henry Clay was noted for being a skilled orator and a pacifist. In fact, he was commonly referred to as the ‘Great Pacificator.’ Henry was born the seventh of nine children to the Reverend John Clay and Elizabeth Clay. His father had more than 22 slaves working in his plantation but died four years after Henry was born leaving two slaves to Henry and his brothers and 18 slaves to his wife as well as 464 acres of land. Clay studied law under George Whyte in The Virginia Count of the Chancery and was called to the bar in 1797.

Henry Clay and His Political Career

After he was called to the bar, Henry relocated to Lexington Kentucky in the same year and quickly established a reputation as a skilled lawyer and orator. There he prospered and was able to own a 660 acre plantation and many slaves working for him. He was able to achieve several high profile successes in court and garnered a reputation which made him to be appointed as a representative of Fayette County in the Kentucky general assembly though he was ineligible to be elected at that time by reason of age. His stature in Kentucky politics grew so much that he was appointed to the senate in 1806 in place of John Breckinridge who had earlier resigned his seat on being appointed as the U.S., Attorney General.

Henry Clay was the leader of the war hawks and the first proponent of the American system which proposed a system of tariffs to protect American industry, a strong central bank to guide against collapse of weak or suspect American banks and other financial institutions as well as subsidies, and grants to build national infrastructure. Henry Clay supported the war against Britain in 1812, especially as a member of the war hawks. The war hawks detested British violations against American maritime rights and how they treated U.S., sailors. Later as one of the commissioners for peace he helped to negotiate The Treaty of Ghent, which he signed in 1814. Clay was a leading advocate of independence movements in Latin America.

 

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