Henry Clay: America's Greatest Statesman

Henry Clay: America's Greatest Statesman

Harlow G. Unger

Language: English

Pages: 334

ISBN: 2:00352238

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A compelling new biography of America's most powerful Speaker of the House, who held the divided nation together for three decades and who was Lincoln's guiding light

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Adams, and Madison hoped his presence would symbolize the importance the President placed on the peace talks. In a startling move to calm congressional war hawks and ensure political peace at home, Madison asked Henry Clay, the congressional architect of the war, to join Adams. Madison’s request surprised Clay; the decision to cede his power as Speaker of the House was not easy. “You will see that I am going to Europe,” Clay wrote to a friend in Lexington. Having a decided preference for a

of the War of 1812 . . . all in full dress.1 The gaiety of the reception, however, barely masked the devastation that surrounded them. With the presidential mansion a blackened shell gutted by fire, the Madisons had taken refuge in Octagon House, the magnificent town house of Virginia planter John Tayloe III, a few hundred yards west of the presidential mansion. With the Capitol gutted, Congress had been cramming members into a hotel, while the Supreme Court met in a private home. In January

of duties.4 In response to a Kentucky political supporter who urged him to run for governor, he wrote, “I am considering quitting public life altogether. . . . There is no conceivable state of things in which I would concur to serve as governor of Kentucky. I am tired of . . . public life. I most unaffectedly desire repose.”5 Three weeks later he remained as morose as ever, writing his wife that “I confine myself almost exclusively to my room except when I go to the Capitol. I see nobody except

of duties.4 In response to a Kentucky political supporter who urged him to run for governor, he wrote, “I am considering quitting public life altogether. . . . There is no conceivable state of things in which I would concur to serve as governor of Kentucky. I am tired of . . . public life. I most unaffectedly desire repose.”5 Three weeks later he remained as morose as ever, writing his wife that “I confine myself almost exclusively to my room except when I go to the Capitol. I see nobody except

conditions.” As the crowd listened in silence, Clay asked how Mendenhall would feel if he, Clay, showed up with a petition “to you to relinquish your farm or other property. Would you have thought it courteous?” Clay acknowledged that opponents of slavery denied the status of slaves as property, “but the law of my state and other states has otherwise ordained . . . and unless you can show some authority to nullify our laws, we must continue to respect them.” Clay then recognized the basis of

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