Henry Clay

by Michaela Lamb


The Great Compromiser, Henry Clay, delayed the Civil War for about ten years. Henry Clay participated in five presidential elections. Clay also helped to make three compromises. Clay helped the Union stay united during a troubled time.

Personal Background

Henry Clay was born on April 22, 1777 in Hanover County, Virginia. His father was a Baptist minister, and the father died when Clay was four years old. He then got a step father. Lucretia Hart was Clay's wife. Theodore was their oldest son, but the son went to a mental institution. Hart and Clay also had six daughters, who all had early deaths, and another son, Henry, who was killed in the Mexican War. Some other important people in Clay's life was George Wythe, who taught Clay how to read, and Robert Brooke, who taught Clay law. Henry Clay died in June of 1852, in Washington D.C., although he was buried in Lexington.

Clay had several jobs before and after his famous compromises. Clay was a lawyer and an orator. He was in the senate several times, in 1806-1807, 1810-1811, 1831-1842, and 1849-1852. Clay also had a term in the House of Representatives, from 1810 to 1814.

Presidential Elections

Clay unsuccessfully ran for president five times. Clay first ran for president in 1824, which also became known as the corrupt bargain. In the corrupt bargain, there were four candidates. There were not enough votes to elect the president, although Andrew Jackson was in the lead in the popular votes, with John Q. Adams behind him. Since there were not enough electoral votes, the House of Representatives had to vote to elect a president. Adams told Clay, since there was no way that Clay to win the election, to drop out of the election and have Clay and his followers' to change their votes to him. The House of Representatives voted after Clay left the presidential race. Adams was elected as the president. Since Clay dropped out of the race and Adams won, Adams made Clay his sectrary of state.

Clay also ran for president in 1832, 1840, 1844, and 1848. In Clay's campaign in 1824 and 1832, he ran in the Republican party. In 1840, 1844, and 1848, Clay changed to the Whig party.


Clay helped with three major compromises, which gave him the name "The Great Compromiser."

Clay's first compromise was the Compromise Tariff of 1833. This compromise was made to pacify South Carolina during the Nullification Crisis. The Nullification Crisis was when congress raised the tariff on foreign goods. This made the north happy since more people were buying their products, and not foreign countries' products, therefore the north made more money. The south did not like the tariff because other countries quit buying their raw materials, since few people in America were buying the foreign products. Since foreign countries were not buying the south's materials, the south did not earn much money. After South Carolina threatened to secede from the United States, congress lowered the tariff, through the Compromise Tariff of 1833. Clay helped promote this tariff.

The next compromise that Clay helped with was the Compromise of 1820, also known as the Missouri Compromise. Missouri wanted to become a state in the United States, but Missouri wanted to enter as a slave state. At this time, there were an equal number of slave and free states in the United States. The north did not want there to be another slave state, which would make the number of slave and free states unequal. In the Compromise of 1820, Missouri entered as a slave state, and Maine entered as a free state. The number of free and slave states in the United States remained equal. Another part of the Compromise of 1820 was that any state that entered the United States from a territory in the west would become free if it was north of the 36-30 North latitude line, and any state south of the 36-30 North latitude line would become free. Clay was an important part of this compromise.

The final compromise that Clay helped with was the Compromise of 1850. After the U.S.-Mexican War, the United States gained a part of land known as the Mexican Cession. Some sections of the territory wanted to become states, but it was undecided if the states would become slave states or free states. To satisfy the north and south, another treaty was made: The Compromise of 1850. There were five parts to the treaty. First, California entered the Union as a free state. Second, in New Mexico and Utah, the citizens could decide whether or not their state was free or slave by voting. Third, there would no longer be any slave trade in D.C. Fourth, the Fugitive Slave Law was enacted. (The Fugitive Slave Law was were northerners had to return escaped slaves to their owners in the south.) Fifth, the border between New Mexico and Texas was decided. Clay was the author of the Compromise of 1850. This compromise delayed the Civil War for ten years.

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Works Cited

"Clay, Henry." The Columbia Electronic EncyclopediaTM. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016. General OneFile. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

"Henry Clay." Briticanna School. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Howe, Daniel Walker. "Clay, Henry." The World Book Encyclopedia. 2006 ed. 2006. Print.

N.d. Examiner.com. Web. 22 Apr. 2016. https://www.examiner.com/article/the-compromise-of-1850-begins-the-march-to-civil-war>.

N.d. Pinterest Web. 22Apr. 2016. <https://pinterest.com/pin/37225134397865193/>.

N.d. SlideShare. Web. 22 Apr. 2016. <http://www.slideshare.net/mklopfenstein/nullification-crisis>.

N.d. Study.com Web. 22 Apr. 2016. <http://study.com/academy/lesson/henry-clay-compromise-lesson-quiz.html>.

Phillips. "Compromises." U.S. History Class. Jane Long Middle School, Bryan. Apr. 2016. Lecture.


Henry Clay had a huge impact on the United States. Clay ran for the president five times. Most importantly, Clay was the Great Compromiser.