Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Henry Clay

“The Old Coon”, “the Greatest Statesman never to be elected President”, “the Great Pacificator”, and “The Great Compromiser”: all titles that belong to Henry Clay. I just finished reading Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union by Robert Remini. A fantastic book. I have praised Mr. Remini’s writing style in past posts, so I will not recount it here.

Clay stands as the greatest Senator, and or Congressman that America has ever had. He was a man of principle, and he never wavered from them. Yet, he lost 3 attempts at the Presidency, and two more attempts at gaining his own party’s nomination, a party that he started. Both times that he lost the nomination, his party won the presidential election. Both were war heroes, and neither truly held Whig party beliefs. Despite all of that, Clay still has a legacy that will go unmatched as far as service to America. He formed the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise Tariff, and the Compromise of 1850, to name a few.

Yet, Remini does a good job of exposing the private side of Henry Clay. Remini is willing to flat out state that Clay was a bad father. His sons all were failures, drunks, or committed to mental institutions. Clay apparently often cheated on his wife, and his notoriously loose morality helped defeat his Presidential hopes many times. But, Remini lets us know that late in Clay’s life during a period of loss and grief, he joined the church, and never fell out of communion with it for the last decade of his life. Hopefully it was a true conversion.

The book is a good insight into the most influential man in the early 1800’s in America. If you like history, Henry Clay is worth a look.