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Civil War Encyclopedia >> People - Other
Henry Clay was a U. S. Senator from Kentucky and 4-time presidential contender known as "The Great Compromiser." He is generally credited with the Missouri Compromise (Compromise of 1820), the Compromise Tariff of 1833, and the Compromise of 1850.
Born on April 12, 1777, the son of a Baptist preacher, Henry Clay came from an area known as The Slashes, now part of Ashland, Virginia. He barely knew his father, who died when Clay was 5 years old. For 10 years his mother struggled to raise her children near the Pamunkey River. In 1792 Clay's mother remarried and moved to Kentucky, but without Henry. At 14, Henry had acquired a job in a Richmond, Virginia pharmacy. Later that year he secured a better job in the High Court of Chancery. Clay found himself well-suited for this job. One of his tasks was to copy documents by hand, and this proved to be the best way of learning for the apt young man.
By 1796 Henry Clay was so successful that he moved the attorney-general's office, where he began to study law. Near the end of 1797 Clay was awarded his license to practice law by the state of Virginia. With his family in Kentucky, Clay opted to begin his practice in Lexington, then a town of the western frontier of the United States. In a speech in June, 1842, Clay remembered his first fee (15 shilling) and his first year (100 pounds) as being lucrative.
During his time in Lexington, Henry Clay came up against some regionally recognized lawyers including John Breckenridge (future father of the U. S. Vice-President under James Buchanan, and Southern Democratic candidate for President in The Election of 1860, John Breckenridge, Jr.). In 1798 the federal government began passing the Alien and Sedition Acts, and this, according to Clay, started his desire to enter public office. He entered his first race in 1803 and was elected by acclamation (this was prior to the popular election of officials).
In 1955 the Senate decided to honor its most illustrious members. A committee chaired by John Fitzgerald Kennedy chose Clay and his contemporaries Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun from the 19th century.
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Henry Clay was last changed on - May 21, 2007
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