He was the Great Compromiser, a canny and colorful legislator whose life mirrors the story of America from its founding until the eve of the Civil War. Speaker of the House, senator, secretary of state, five-time presidential candidate, and idol to the young Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay is captured in full at last in this rich and sweeping biography.
David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler present Clay in his early years as a precocious, witty, and optimistic Virginia farm boy who at the age of twenty transformed himself into an attorney. The authors reveal Clay’s tumultuous career in Washington, including his participation in the deadlocked election of 1824 that haunted him for the rest of his career, and shine new light on Clay’s marriage to plain, wealthy Lucretia Hart, a union that lasted fifty-three years and produced eleven children.
Featuring an inimitable supporting cast including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay is beautifully written and replete with fresh anecdotes and insights. Horse trader and risk taker, arm twister and joke teller, Henry Clay was the consummate politician who gave ground, made deals, and changed the lives of millions.
Yet another hulking biography of an early American political giant, this one, unnecessarily clogged with detail, is still a fitting, up-to-date, and highly readable account of Henry Clay's life (1777 1852) and achievements. In vigorous prose, the Heidlers (coauthors, The War of 1812), experienced scholars of pre Civil War America, relate the emergence of the Kentuckian who served in the House (as Speaker) and Senate, as secretary of state, and as repeatedly failed presidential candidate. A man of enormous gifts the beloved "mirror of his country and its aspirations" Clay bestrode Washington and the Senate as member of the "Great Triumvirate" with John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster and did his best as the Great Compromiser to hold the nation together as it splintered over slavery. That he failed, as the authors show, was not his fault: even great congressional leadership couldn't save the Union. The authors bring verve and clarity to Clay's struggles, even if they add little to what's known. They also make one yearn for more statesmen and stateswomen, who, like Clay, could say, "I had rather be right than be president." 32 pages of b&w photos.