Known as “The Great Compromiser” and “The Great Pacificator”, Henry Clay was an influential politician who had pronounced antislavery views. With his initiative, Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850 were passed.
Henry Clay Sr. was an American statesman who served as the 7th speaker of the United States House of Representatives and the 9th United States Secretary of State under John Quincy Adams. In 1797, he was admitted to the Virginia bar. Clay ran for Presidency numerous times, but he never won. Nonetheless, Clay is still considered among the greatest Senators in the United States ever.
So, let us check out the interesting facts below about Henry Clay Sr. and discover what made him the best!
Henry Clay Fun Facts
1. Clay was a frontier lawyer
In 1797, Henry Clay Sr. was admitted to the Virginia Bar under the guidance of Robert Brooke – a Virginia soldier and politician who served as the 10th Governor of Virginia. Thereafter, he transferred to Lexington, Kentucky where he started his legal career.
To improve his practice, he became an apprentice with several Kentucky attorneys. Among his mentors were George Nicholas, John Breckinridge, and James Brown. Thereafter, he started his own legal practice, starting with debt collections and land disputes.
2. Clay taught several prominent figures
Due to hard work and love for the law, Henry Clay Sr. emerged as a promising lawyer. He had established his profession through his amazing courtroom oratory skills, among other legal abilities. Consequently, in 1805, Clay became a part of the faculty of Transylvania University. Herein, he was able to teach upcoming future prominent figures as students, such as future Kentucky Governors Robert Letcher and Robert Todd, and the future father-in-law of Abraham Lincoln.
Indeed, Clay was able to shape the minds of some of the United States’ future leaders, a fun fact about Henry Clay.
3. Clay spearheaded the emancipation and resettlement of slaves
In 1819, James Tallmadge, a New York Congressman, presented an amendment that would eventually emancipate Missouri’s slaves. Despite Henry Clay’s similar call in Kentucky, he supported the proposal that would lead to Missouri Compromise.
Clay was in favor of the proposal of Senator Jesse B. Thomas wherein Missouri is to be a slave state while slavery would be forbidden in certain US northern territories. Eventually, With Clay’s assistance. a coalition was assembled to pass the Missouri Compromise.
Later, when the constitution of Missouri started prohibiting free blacks from entering Missouri, Clay came up with another compromise which granted Missouri as a state.
4. Clay was the Great Compromiser
Consequently, when the Tariff of 1828 and the Tariff of 1832 was implemented, the cost of imported goods became higher. Thus, many Southerners were outraged.
Eventually, the said tax impositions were proclaimed nullified Andrew Jackson – A statesman who served as United States’ 7th president. However, at the same time, he asked the Congress to pass the Force Bill which would allow the president to send federal military soldiers against South Carolina!
Thus, in order to avoid a possible civil war, Henry Clay Sr. proposed the Compromise Tariff of 1833. Basically, this compromise tariff will initially lower tariff rates but would gradually grow higher. Nonetheless, manufacture and consumers would be given ample time to adapt accordingly.
After the Compromise Tariff of 1833 was passed by Congress, the crisis was resolved. A fun fact about Henry Clay is that these events led him to receive the title “The Great Compromiser”.
5. Clay survived most of his children
Right after Henry Clay Sr. married his wife Lucretia Hart, they had eleven children – six daughters and five sons. However, all of his daughters had died before them, due to different conditions, such as yellow fever and childbirth complications. On the other hand, one of his sons, Henry Clay, Jr., died during the Mexican American War’s Battle of Buena Vista.
Eventually, when his wife died at the age of 83, she was Lexington Cemetery. They were great-grandparents of John C. Breckinridge – a statesman who became the Vice President of the United States during the presidency of James Buchanan.
6. Clay ranks among the most influential figures in the United States
Many political historians regarded Henry Clay Sr. as one of the most influential speakers of the house in the history of the United States. In fact, in 1957, a Senate Committee chose Clay as 1 of the 5 greatest senators of the United States, next to Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Robert La Follette, and Robert A. Taft, an interesting fact about Henry Clay. On the other hand, a recent 1986 survey actually selected him as the greatest US senator ever!
Despite not being an American president, he was nonetheless named among the most qualified unsuccessful major party presidential nominee in the United States in 2006 and among the most influential American politicians who became president in 2015.
Indeed, the influence of Clay was remarkable during his era.
7. The influence of Clay is immortalized
There are numerous monuments and memorials in the United States dedicated to honoring Henry Clay Sr. In fact, sixteen US countries are named after him, such as Clay County in Missouri and Clay County in Florida. Statues in Clay’s honor were established throughout the country too, one of which is located in Kentucky’s National Statuary Hall Collection. Further, the US Navy named one of its submarines after Clay in his memorial – the USS Henry Clay.
Interestingly, even places where he had lived became historical landmarks. The estate of Clay in Ashland and his Decatur House in Washington are not considered National Historic Landmark.
8. Clay was once a slave owner
Before Henry Clay Sr. adopted his antislavery views from his mentor George Wythe, he had slaves himself. Eventually, he advocated for the equal treatment of free blacks.
The president we never had – Henry Clay, Sr. was an influential American politician who advocated for the emancipation of black slaves and several compromise agreements. Today, he remains one of the best senators in the history of the United States.
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