Henry Clay was an American statesman, orator and political leader. He was born in 1777 at the 'Slashes', Virginia and died in 1852. He studied law, and at the age of twenty moved to Kentucky. Having served in the Legislature, he was, at a very early age, elected to the US Senate, and represented Kentucky at Washington from 1806 until 1807. He was soon attached to the cause of internal improvements, with which his name became identified. In rapid succession came his term as Speaker of the Kentucky Assembly, as US Senator again from 1809 until 1811 and as member of the House, which he entered in 1811. Although a newcomer, he was immediately chosen Speaker, and served until his resignation in 1814. He was a leader of the war party which forced Madison into the contest with Great Britain. His life in Congress was interrupted in 1814, as he had been chosen one of the envoys to treat for the peace finally negotiated at Ghent in December, 1814. In 1815 he was again in the House and served continuously as its Speaker until 1821. During this period he was a powerful advocate of the Spanish-American States in insurrection, and was instrumental in effecting the Missouri Compromise.
After a brief absence from Congress he was again Speaker of the House from 1823 until 1825. In 1824 he was a candidate for the Presidency, and received thirty-seven electoral votes. In the exciting contest in the House of Representatives Adams was finally chosen President, and his appointment of Clay as Secretary of State caused not unnaturally the groundless charge of a 'bargain' between the two. Clay had ardently supported the tariff of 1824, and denominated the protective the 'American System'. While he was Secretary the principal diplomatic matter which arose was the Panama Congress. He retired from office in 1829, but in 1831 he entered the Senate from Kentucky. For twenty years he was the natural leader of the great party known first as the National Republican, but soon as the Whig. He was nominated as its candidate for President in December 1831, but was overwhelmingly defeated by Jackson.
He was active in the bank controversy and other questions of the time, and brought about the tariff compromise of 1833, and the settlement with Prance in 1835. In 1840 he failed to receive the Whig nomination, and in 1843 he retired from the Senate. The Whig National Convention of 1844 nominated him by acclamation, but Clay's trimming 'Alabama Letter' tipped the scale in favour of Polk. He re-entered the Senate in 1849, and took the foremost part in the great compromise bill of 1850. Although by far the most popular man in the party, he never again received the nomination for President. In comparison with his great colleagues he shone chiefly as a brilliant debater, magnetic platform orator and contriver of compromise measures intended to preserve the Union.
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The Compromise of 1833 was an American tariff measure passed by Congress on March the 1st, 1833, as a compromise for the high tariff act of 1828, which had caused intense dissatisfaction through the South, and had brought about nullification by South Carolina and a threat of secession in the event of its being too strictly emorced. The compromise was proposed and passed in the House while Clay himself was endeavoring to get a compromise measure through the Senate. The bill as passed was in effect practically the same as that proposed by Clay in the Senate. It was designed to scale down periodically the high duties then existing, until after ten years a free-trade basis should be reached. The Verplanck low tariff measure, then under debate in the House, was thus thrown out.
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