Henry Clay, Sr.
(April 12, 1777 – June 29, 1852), was a nineteenth-century American
statesman and orator
who represented Kentucky
in both the Senate
and the House of Representatives
, where he served as Speaker
. He also served as Secretary of State
from 1825 to 1829.
He was a dominant figure in both the First
and Second Party Systems
. As a leading war hawk
, he favored war with Britain
and played a significant role in leading the nation to war in 1812
He was the foremost proponent of the American System
, fighting for an increase in tariffs to foster industry in the United States, the use of federal funding to build and maintain infrastructure, and a strong national bank. He opposed the annexation of Texas, fearing it would inject the slavery issue into politics. Clay also opposed the Mexican-American War
and the "Manifest Destiny
" policy of Democrats, which cost him votes in the close 1844 election. Dubbed the "Great Compromiser," he brokered important compromises during the Nullification Crisis
and on the slavery issue
, especially in 1820
, during which he was part of the "Great Triumvirate
" or "Immortal Trio," along with his colleagues Daniel Webster
and John C. Calhoun
. He was viewed as the primary representative of Western interests in this group, and was given the names "Henry of the West" and "The Western Star."
In 1957, a Senate committee chaired by Sen. John F. Kennedy
named Clay as one of the five greatest Senators in U.S. history. Abraham Lincoln
, Whig leader in Illinois, was a great admirer of Clay, saying he was "my beau ideal of a great man." Lincoln wholeheartedly supported Clay's economic programs.