Henry Clay

Henry Clay by Matthew Harris Jouett [c.1818], courtesy of Wikipedia
Henry Clay by Henry F Darby [c. 1850s], courtesy of Wikipedia
Henry Clay [c. 1850s?], courtesy of Wikipedia

Starting in 2017, I did a series of episodes on the life of Henry Clay, a man whose public career spanned nearly a half century and took him to high positions both in the federal executive and legislative branches. Despite his many career successes and his reputation as the Great Compromiser, Clay ultimately was not able to ascend to the presidency despite multiple attempts and was not able to lead his contemporaries on a path to avoid the sectional conflict that would come to be known as the Civil War. I attempt to share his story so that we may learn from his successes and shortcomings in the following episodes:

 Harry of the West  Source Notes  Henry Clay gets his start in Virginia then moves out to Kentucky to begin his meteoric rise through state politics and into the national arena where he becomes the first (and to date, only) person elected Speaker of the House on his first day as a US Representative (1777-1811)
 Mr. Speaker to Mr. Diplomat  Source Notes  The United States goes to war, and Henry Clay goes off to Europe as part of a commission to seek a resolution to the conflict, but not before getting his first taste of presidential politics (1812-1815)
 No Fear, No More  Source Notes  Henry Clay returns to both the US and the Speaker’s dais with a determination to exert his influence to shape a new post-war America, even if it means challenging the incoming president (1815-1820)
 The Compromiser is Compromised  Source Notes  A four year long contest begins to see who will replace James Monroe with Clay throwing his hat in the ring and, though coming up short in the larger goal, ultimately holding good cards with which to bargain, or so they say (1820-1824)
 The Nation’s Chief Diplomat  Source Notes  Clay assumes office as Secretary of State, but the role is not all it’s cracked up to be as his faces setbacks in negotiations with the British as well as discontent at home (1825-1829)
 South of the Border  Source Notes  In order to understand the foreign policies towards Latin America crafted during Henry Clay’s tenure at the State Dept, this episode provides a high level overview of the Latin American Wars of Independence (1492-1825)
 Like a Not So Good Neighbor Source Notes  Clay’s pivot to more of a focus on strengthening diplomatic relations with new nations in the Western Hemisphere does not turn out so well due to overzealous diplomats, turbulent situations on the ground, and British intrigues (1825-1829)
 The Jacksonians Strike Back Source Notes  Jackson challenges Adams for the presidency in 1828, and Henry Clay works with Daniel Webster to organize the National Republican campaign effort. Following the election, Clay begins to consider his options, both personally and politically, moving forward (1828-1829)
 Years of Striving Source Notes  The National Republicans turn to Clay to carry the party banner towards victory. However, Clay will find that the presidential politics of the Jackson era are not quite as easy to navigate as the Anti-Masonic Party threatens to steal away support from Clay and open a path to reelection victory for the incumbent President. (1829-1833)
 With Friends Like These Source Notes  Clay is deterred in his presidential ambitions in 1836 and 1840 by fellow Whig challengers for the nomination and finds that the party that he had helped to establish was turning away from him (1833-1841)
 GTH: How Texas Kept Clay From the White House Source Notes  John Tyler assuming the presidency throws a wrench into the plans of Henry Clay and others who sought the presidency in 1844 as Texas becomes a major issue in the campaign (1841-1845)
 The Compromiser’s Last Bow Source Notes  Clay copes with ideological and personal concerns related to the Mexican-American War while also trying one more time for the presidency then, despite growing health issues, works to coordinate what ultimately becomes known as the Compromise of 1850 in order to save the nation from disunion (1845-1852)