99 Facts About Henry Clay


Henry Clay was the seventh House speaker as well as the ninth secretary of state.


Henry Clay unsuccessfully ran for president in the 1824,1832, and 1844 elections.


Henry Clay helped found both the National Republican Party and the Whig Party.


Henry Clay was chosen as Speaker of the House in early 1811 and, along with President James Madison, led the United States into the War of 1812 against Great Britain.


In 1814, he helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent, which brought an end to the War of 1812, and then after the war, Henry Clay returned to his position as Speaker of the House and developed the American System, which called for federal infrastructure investments, support for the national bank, and high protective tariff rates.


Henry Clay finished with the fourth-most electoral votes in the multi-candidate 1824 presidential election, and he helped John Quincy Adams win the contingent election held to select the president.


Henry Clay won election to the Senate in 1831 and ran as the National Republican nominee in the 1832 presidential election, but he was defeated decisively by President Jackson.

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Henry Clay sought the presidency in the 1840 election but was passed over at the Whig National Convention by Harrison.


Henry Clay was one of the most important and influential political figures of his era.


Henry Clay was the seventh of nine children born to the Reverend John Clay and Elizabeth Clay.


Henry Clay was of entirely English descent; his ancestor, John Henry Clay, settled in Virginia in 1613.


However, the widow Elizabeth Clay married Captain Henry Watkins, who was an affectionate stepfather and a successful planter.


However, Henry Clay did not follow, as Watkins secured his temporary employment in a Richmond emporium, with the promise that Henry Clay would receive the next available clerkship at the Virginia Court of Chancery.


Henry Clay's father, Colonel Thomas Hart, was an early settler of Kentucky and a prominent businessman.


Henry Clay was greatly interested in gambling, although he favored numerous restrictions and legal limitations on it.


Henry Clay asked for $500 and waived the remainder of the debt.


Shortly afterward, Henry Clay fell into a debt of $60,000 whilst gambling with the same man, who then asked for the $500 back and waived the rest of the debt.


Henry Clay planted crops such as corn, wheat, and rye, as well as hemp, the chief crop of the Bluegrass region.


Henry Clay took a strong interest in thoroughbred racing and imported livestock such as Arabian horses, Maltese donkeys, and Hereford cattle.


Henry Clay soon established a reputation for strong legal ability and courtroom oratory.


In 1803, Henry Clay won election to the Kentucky House of Representatives.


Henry Clay clashed with legislators who sought to reduce the power of Henry Clay's Bluegrass region, and he unsuccessfully advocated moving the state capitol from Frankfort to Lexington.


Henry Clay frequently opposed populist firebrand Felix Grundy, and he helped defeat Grundy's effort to revoke the banking privileges of the state-owned Kentucky Insurance Company.


Henry Clay advocated for the construction of internal improvements, which would become a consistent theme throughout his public career.


In support of Jefferson's policy, which limited trade with foreign powers, Henry Clay introduced a resolution to require legislators to wear homespun suits rather than those made of imported British broadcloth.

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In early 1809, Henry Clay challenged Marshall to a duel, which took place on January 19.


Henry Clay quickly recovered from his injury and received only a minor censure from the Kentucky legislature.


In 1810, US Senator Buckner Thruston resigned to accept appointment to a position as a federal judge, and Henry Clay was selected by the legislature to fill Thruston's seat.


Henry Clay quickly emerged as a fierce critic of British attacks on American shipping, becoming part of an informal group of "war hawks" who favored expansionist policies.


Henry Clay advocated the annexation of West Florida, which was controlled by Spain.


Henry Clay was the first of only two new members elected speaker to date, the other being William Pennington in 1860.


Between 1810 and 1824, Henry Clay was elected to seven terms in the House.


Henry Clay's tenure was interrupted from 1814 to 1815 when he was a commissioner to peace talks with the British in Ghent, United Netherlands to end the War of 1812, and from 1821 to 1823, when he left Congress to rebuild his family's fortune in the aftermath of the Panic of 1819.


Henry Clay was exceptional in his ability to control the legislative agenda through well-placed allies and the establishment of new committees and departed from precedent by frequently taking part in floor debates.


Henry Clay's drive to increase the power of the office of speaker was aided by President James Madison, who deferred to Congress in most matters.


Henry Clay led a successful effort in the House to declare war against Britain, complying with a request from President Madison.


The war started poorly for the Americans, and Henry Clay lost friends and relatives in the fighting.


In October 1813, the British asked Madison to begin negotiations in Europe, and Madison asked Henry Clay to join his diplomatic team, as the president hoped that the presence of the leading war hawk would ensure support for a peace treaty.


Henry Clay was reluctant to leave Congress but felt duty-bound to accept the offer, and so he resigned from Congress on January 19,1814.


Henry Clay left the country on February 25, but negotiations with the British did not begin until August 1814.


Henry Clay was part of a team of five commissioners that included Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin, Senator James Bayard, ambassador Jonathan Russell, and ambassador John Quincy Adams, the head of the American team.


Henry Clay returned to the United States in September 1815; despite his absence, he had been elected to another term in the House of Representatives.


Henry Clay eagerly embraced President Madison's ambitious domestic package, which included infrastructure investment, tariffs to protect domestic manufacturing, and spending increases for the army and navy.


Henry Clay supported the Bonus Bill of 1817, which would have provided a fund for internal improvements, but Madison vetoed the bill on constitutional concerns.


Henry Clay had a favorable opinion of both individuals, but he supported Monroe, who won the nomination and went on to defeat Federalist candidate Rufus King in the general election.

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Henry Clay became so bitter that he refused to allow Monroe's inauguration to take place in the House Chamber and subsequently did not attend Monroe's outdoor inauguration.


Henry Clay helped assemble a coalition that passed the Missouri Compromise, as Thomas's proposal became known.


In foreign policy, Henry Clay was a leading American supporter of the independence movements and revolutions that broke out in Latin America beginning in 1810.


Henry Clay frequently called on the Monroe administration to recognize the fledgling Latin American republics, but Monroe feared that doing so would derail his plans to acquire Spanish Florida.


Henry Clay was outraged, and he publicly condemned Jackson's decision to hang two foreign nationals without a trial.


Henry Clay was confident that he would prevail in a contingent held in the chamber he presided over, so long as he was eligible for election.


Henry Clay won Kentucky, Ohio, and Missouri, but his loss in New York and Louisiana relegated him to a fourth-place finish behind Adams, Jackson, and Crawford.


Henry Clay was humiliated that he finished behind the invalid Crawford and Jackson, but supporters of the three remaining presidential candidates immediately began courting his support for the contingent election.


For various reasons, supporters of all three candidates believed they had the best chance of winning Henry Clay's backing, but Henry Clay quickly settled on supporting Adams.


Henry Clay served as secretary of state from 1825 to 1829.


Henry Clay came to like Adams, a former rival, and to despise Jackson.


Adams and Henry Clay were both wary of forming entangling alliances with the emerging states, and they continued to uphold the Monroe Doctrine, which called for European non-intervention in former colonies.


Henry Clay had more success in negotiating commercial treaties with Latin American republics, reaching "most favoured nation" trade agreements in an attempt to ensure that no European country had a trading advantage over the United States.


Henry Clay was one of Adams's most important political advisers, but because of his myriad responsibilities as secretary of state, he was often unable to take part in campaigning.


The election result represented not only the victory of a man Henry Clay viewed as unqualified and unprincipled but a rejection of Henry Clay's domestic policies.


Henry Clay strongly opposed the 1830 Indian Removal Act, which authorized the administration to relocate Native Americans to land west of the Mississippi River.


Henry Clay returned to federal office in 1831 by winning election to the Senate over Richard Mentor Johnson in a 73 to 64 vote of the Kentucky legislature.


However, Henry Clay rejected overtures from the fledgling Anti-Masonic Party, and his attempt to convince Calhoun to serve as his running mate failed, leaving the opposition to Jackson split among different factions.


Henry Clay asked Congress to pass what became known as the Force Bill, which would authorize the president to send federal soldiers against South Carolina if it sought to nullify federal law.


Henry Clay proposed a compromise tariff bill that would lower tariff rates, but do so gradually, thereby giving manufacturing interests time to adapt to less protective rates.

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The term "Whig" originated from a speech Henry Clay delivered in 1834, in which he compared opponents of Jackson to the Whigs, a British political party opposed to absolute monarchy.


Partly due to grief over the death of his daughter, Anne, Henry Clay chose not to run in the 1836 presidential election, and the Whigs were too disorganized to nominate a single candidate.


Henry Clay personally preferred Webster, but he threw his backing behind Harrison who had the broadest appeal among voters.


Henry Clay initially viewed Webster as his strongest rival, but Henry Clay, Harrison, and General Winfield Scott emerged as the principal candidates at the 1839 Whig National Convention.


Henry Clay faced opposition in the North due to his ownership of slaves and lingering association with the Freemasons, and in the South from Whigs who distrusted his moderate stance on slavery.


Henry Clay won a plurality on the first ballot of the Whig National Convention, but, with the help of Thurlow Weed and other backers, Harrison consolidated support on subsequent ballots and won the Whig presidential nomination on the fifth ballot of the convention.


Henry Clay was disappointed by the outcome but helped Harrison's ultimately successful campaign by delivering numerous speeches.


President-elect Harrison asked Henry Clay to serve another term as Secretary of State, but Henry Clay chose to remain in Congress.


In early 1842, Henry Clay resigned from the Senate after arranging for Crittenden to succeed him.


Henry Clay argued that the country needed "union, peace, and patience," and annexation would bring tensions over slavery and war with Mexico.


Henry Clay was surprised by Van Buren's defeat but remained confident of his chances in the 1844 election.


Henry Clay attacked Polk for fomenting the conflict with Mexico and urged the rejection of any treaty that added new slave territory to the United States.


Henry Clay presented a strong challenge to Taylor at the 1848 Whig National Convention, but Taylor won the presidential nomination on the fourth ballot.


Henry Clay was embittered by his failure at the convention, and he did not campaign on behalf of Taylor.


Increasingly worried about the sectional tensions arising over the issue of slavery in newly acquired territories, Henry Clay accepted election to the Senate in 1849.


President Taylor, who favored the immediate admission of California and New Mexico as free states without any attached conditions, opposed the plan, and Henry Clay openly broke with the president in May 1850.


In December 1851, at the age of 74, with his health declining, Henry Clay announced that he would resign from the Senate the following September.


Henry Clay never recovered from his illnesses, and died of tuberculosis aged 75 in his room at the National Hotel in Washington, DC, on June 29,1852.


Henry Clay was the first person to lie in state in the United States Capitol rotunda.


Henry Clay sought to ensure a stable financial system through support for the national bank, which regulated the country's banking system and helped ensure a consistent supply of credit.

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Henry Clay inherited slaves as a young child, and he continued to own slaves throughout his life.


Early in his career, Henry Clay favored gradual emancipation in both Kentucky and Missouri, but each state rejected plans that would have provided for gradual emancipation.


Henry Clay continued to support gradual emancipation throughout his career and published an open letter in 1849 calling for gradual emancipation in Kentucky, though he qualified this view by stating he would only support emancipation if it included a plan for colonizing free blacks outside of the state.


In 1816, Henry Clay helped establish the American Colonization Society, a group that wanted to establish a colony for free American blacks in Africa.


On his 600 acre plantation, Henry Clay owned 122 people throughout his lifetime.


Henry Clay dismissed Mendenhall out of hand, stating his petition was no different than one demanding he give up his farm.


Clay considered himself to be a "good" master, and biographer James C Klotter concludes that Clay took actions, such as keeping families together, to mitigate the harshness of slavery.


Klotter concludes that there is no evidence that Henry Clay ever had an affair with any of his slaves.


Henry Clay was not freed at the time of Clay's death, but rather after the Civil War.


Henry Clay secured the aid of Vermont resident Delia Webster and Oberlin College student Rev Calvin Fairbank through the assistance of John Mifflin, AME minister and Oberlin OH resident.


Lewis Richardson, Henry Clay's self-emancipated slave, gave a speech that belies Henry Clay's self-portrayal as a "good" master.


Henry Clay is generally regarded as one of the important political figures of his era.


Several statues honor Henry Clay, including one of Kentucky's two statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection.


The Decatur House, Henry Clay's home in Washington, DC during his tenure as secretary of state, is a National Historic Landmark.