The American System

By: Shaal Joseph


A politician named Henry Clay made a speech about tariffs made to protect American business. He wanted protective tariff to be combined with a system of internal improvements that would help the home market grow and lessen U.S. dependence on overseas sources. It was a plan to strengthen and unify the nation.

Nationalism vs. Sectionalism

Nationalist were devoted to the economic development and political integration of the United States.

Sectionalist were people who cared more about the needs of one section rather than the needs of the whole nation.

Components of the American System

  • A new form of federalism
  • The first government-sponsored attempt to invigorate the national economy
  • Series of plans for strengthening the infrastructure and financial institution of the United States
  • The regimenting of high tariffs to protects american industries
  • A strong banking system that would make loans available for businessmen

Henry Clay

Leader of the Whig Party, Secretary of State under John Quincy Adams, and he was the Speaker of the House of Representatives longer than anyone else in the 19th century. He was the Speaker of the House in 1812, and was one of the "War Hawks", Clay was also a negotiators at the Ghent peace conference.

Henry Clay was called "the Great Compromiser" because he played a huge role in formulating the three landmark sectional compromises of his day, the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Tariff Compromise of 1833, and the Compromise of 1850. His main goal was to avoid a civil war and that was part of the reason why he started the American System but things didn't work of in his favor, he also ran for president five times and failed all five times. He created a new party called the Whig Party but it began to disappear later after he died in 1852.