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Henry Clay: The Man Who Would Be President

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Charismatic, charming, and one of the best orators of his era, Henry Clay seemed to have it all. He offered a comprehensive plan of change for America, and he directed national affairs as Speaker of the House, as Secretary of State to John Quincy Adams--the man he put in office--and as acknowledged leader of the Whig party. As the broker of the Missouri Compromise and the Charismatic, charming, and one of the best orators of his era, Henry Clay seemed to have it all. He offered a comprehensive plan of change for America, and he directed national affairs as Speaker of the House, as Secretary of State to John Quincy Adams--the man he put in office--and as acknowledged leader of the Whig party. As the broker of the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850, Henry Clay fought to keep a young nation united when westward expansion and slavery threatened to tear it apart. Yet, despite his talent and achievements, Henry Clay never became president. Three times he received Electoral College votes, twice more he sought his party's nomination, yet each time he was defeated. Alongside fellow senatorial greats Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun, Clay was in the mix almost every moment from 1824 to 1848. Given his prominence, perhaps the years should be termed not the Jacksonian Era but rather the Age of Clay. James C. Klotter uses new research and offers a more focused, nuanced explanation of Clay's programs and politics in order to answer to the question of why the man they called "The Great Rejected" never won the presidency but did win the accolades of history. Klotter's fresh outlook reveals that the best monument to Henry Clay is the fact that the United States remains one country, one nation, one example of a successful democracy, still working, still changing, still reflecting his spirit. The appeal of Henry Clay and his emphasis on compromise still resonate in a society seeking less partisanship and more efforts at conciliation.


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Charismatic, charming, and one of the best orators of his era, Henry Clay seemed to have it all. He offered a comprehensive plan of change for America, and he directed national affairs as Speaker of the House, as Secretary of State to John Quincy Adams--the man he put in office--and as acknowledged leader of the Whig party. As the broker of the Missouri Compromise and the Charismatic, charming, and one of the best orators of his era, Henry Clay seemed to have it all. He offered a comprehensive plan of change for America, and he directed national affairs as Speaker of the House, as Secretary of State to John Quincy Adams--the man he put in office--and as acknowledged leader of the Whig party. As the broker of the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850, Henry Clay fought to keep a young nation united when westward expansion and slavery threatened to tear it apart. Yet, despite his talent and achievements, Henry Clay never became president. Three times he received Electoral College votes, twice more he sought his party's nomination, yet each time he was defeated. Alongside fellow senatorial greats Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun, Clay was in the mix almost every moment from 1824 to 1848. Given his prominence, perhaps the years should be termed not the Jacksonian Era but rather the Age of Clay. James C. Klotter uses new research and offers a more focused, nuanced explanation of Clay's programs and politics in order to answer to the question of why the man they called "The Great Rejected" never won the presidency but did win the accolades of history. Klotter's fresh outlook reveals that the best monument to Henry Clay is the fact that the United States remains one country, one nation, one example of a successful democracy, still working, still changing, still reflecting his spirit. The appeal of Henry Clay and his emphasis on compromise still resonate in a society seeking less partisanship and more efforts at conciliation.

43 review for Henry Clay: The Man Who Would Be President

  1. 5 out of 5

    James

    This presents a very well-known figure in an entirely different light. It is not exactly a cradle to grave biography, though there are heaps of that kind of info, but more of a political biography, on a case-by-case basis of one of the best known American politicians to run for president and never succeed.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David Bales

    Few Americans in history had more impact on events than Henry Clay did. From his first speech in favor of Kentucky's constitution in 1799 until his death in 1852, Clay's public career was dramatic, outspoken, principled and often courageous. It was also full of disappointment. Although he was variously a member of the Kentucky legislature, Congressman, Speaker of the House, Secretary of State and a U.S. Senator for nearly 50 years, his one great dream was to be president. He ran five times never Few Americans in history had more impact on events than Henry Clay did. From his first speech in favor of Kentucky's constitution in 1799 until his death in 1852, Clay's public career was dramatic, outspoken, principled and often courageous. It was also full of disappointment. Although he was variously a member of the Kentucky legislature, Congressman, Speaker of the House, Secretary of State and a U.S. Senator for nearly 50 years, his one great dream was to be president. He ran five times never fulfilled that goal. He watched as obscure men with little track records in politics rose to the the highest office while he was stymied in his quest. Klotter explores not only the events up to 1852 but the reasons why Clay never was president and yet is still worth remembering.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Blankenship

    More a political history of the United States through the lens of one of its transcendent figures than a biography, this is well-researched and informed account of the many turmoils of the post-revolutionary era that ultimately led to the Civil War. At times it was a bit too dense and not exactly an enjoyable book to read, but one that speaks to a time that has many parallels with our own.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    A personal hero, although also a flawed man. I admire his uncompromising desire to put the Union first, even though it cost him politically from all sides.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Anderson

  6. 5 out of 5

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  42. 5 out of 5

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    Seabeesharon77

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