Henry Clay Fact File Biography: 1777 – 1852 *** Full Name: Henry Clay was also known as Henry Clay, Sr.*** Date of Birth (Birthday): He was born on April 12, 1777 *** Place of Birth: Henry Clay was born in Hanover County, Virginia *** Family background: His father was Reverend John Clay *** Early life and childhood: Henry Clay grew up and spent the majority of his life in Kentucky *** Education: Henry Clay was admitted to the bar in 1797 *** Henry Clay died on June 29, 1852 ***
Henry Clay Fact 1: Henry Clay was born on April 12, 1777 in Hanover County, Virginia, United States.
Henry Clay Fact 2: He was an American politician, lawyer and public speaker who represented Kentucky in the United States Senate and House of Representatives. The United States Senate together with the House of Representatives forms the U.S. Congress.
Henry Clay Fact 3: His father was a slaver owner and Baptist minister called Reverend John Clay, and his mother's name was Elizabeth. His father's nickname was Sir John and he died when Henry Clay was four years old.
Henry Clay Fact 4: He had eight brothers and sisters of which he was the seventh born. Following his father's death in 1781, each child was left two slaves and their mother, Elizabeth, inherited a great deal of land as well as eighteen slaves. His mother later married Capt. Henry Watkins and they went on to have seven more children.
Henry Clay Fact 5: He moved to Richmond, Virginia with his family following his mother's marriage to Capt. Henry Watkins. His stepfather was a kind man and helped Henry Clay find a job at the office of the Virginia Court of Chancery.
Henry Clay Fact 6: During his employment at the Virginia Court of Chancery, Henry Clay met George Wythe (1726-1806) and became both his secretary and friend. George Wythe was the first American law professor and he mentored several future American leaders including Henry Clay, John Marshall and Thomas Jefferson.
Henry Clay Fact 7: He was secretary to George Wythe for four years. During his employment, Henry Clay studied law and was mentored closely by George Wythe who was very influential and showed great interest in his future. He arranged another position for Henry Clay working with the Virginia attorney general, Robert Brooke (1760-1800).
Henry Clay Fact 8: He moved to Lexington, Kentucky in 1797 to begin his law career. He established a very credible reputation for his legal expertise which earned him a substantial amount of land and property including the Kentucky Hotel.
Henry Clay Fact 9: In 1797, he was admitted to the bar to practice law. He married Lucretia Hart on April 11, 1799 at her family home in Lexington, Kentucky. They had 11 children together; their names were Henrietta, Theodore, Thomas, Susan, Anne, Lucretia, Henry, Jr., Eliza, Laura, James Brown Clay, and John Morrison Clay.
Henry Clay Fact 10: Henry Clay outlived 7 of his 11 children who died young due to various causes including childbirth complications, yellow fever and whooping cough. His son, Henry Clay, Jr. (1811-1847) was killed in the Mexican-American War during the Battle of Buena Vista.
Henry Clay Fact 11: His wealth and success had grown so much by 1812 that he'd established a large plantation known as Ashland. The plantation consisted of 600 acres of land and most likely produced tobacco. Henry Clay owned a number of slaves who worked at the plantation for him.
Henry Clay Fact 12: He was appointed a representative of Fayette County in Kentucky Legislature (Kentucky General Assembly) in 1803. He greatly influenced many of the state politics, and despite being a slave owner, he showed support for the gradual emancipation of slavery which eventually led to slaves being freed. Henry Clay Fact 17: He became an important member of the cabinet when he was made Secretary of State from 1825 to 1829. The Secretary of State is appointed by the United States President, and as a senior official of the United States of America's federal government, they are mainly concerned with foreign policy.
Henry Clay Fact 13: He was elected to the Senate seat of Jon Breckinridge and was sworn in on December 29, 1806. However, he only maintained the position for a few months as they'd initially failed to notice that Henry Clay was just below the constitutionally required age of thirty. He was selected again in 1810 following the resignation of Bucker Thurston.
Henry Clay Fact 14: He was elected as Speaker to represent Kentucky in the House of Representatives in 1807, and in 1811 he was appointed to the House of Representatives and was selected as Speaker of the House. He was re-elected five times during the next 14 years to the House of Representatives.
Henry Clay Fact 15: He was a prominent political figure, especially during the First and Second Party System which refer to the political party systems operating in the United States from approximately 1792-1824 and 1828-1854. He supported war against Great Britain and became a great influence over the nation with regards to the War of 1812.
Henry Clay Fact 16: Henry Clay ran for presidency in 1824, 1832 and 1844, each time losing the election. After losing the 1824 election, President John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) appointed him Secretary of State.
Henry Clay Fact 18: He was known by many nicknames throughout his life including The Great Compromiser, Henry of the West, and The Western Star. He became known as part of the Great Triumvirate which refers to Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun. Henry earned these names following his involvement in important agreements such as the Nullification Crisis.
Henry Clay Fact 19: He devised the Missouri Compromise which regulated slavery in western territories. The Missouri Compromise prohibited the practice of slavery in the former Louisiana Territory, excluding boundaries within Missouri. The compromise was reached between anti-slavery and pro-slavery groups. When Henry Clay died, his slaves were freed as per the wishes set out in his will.
Henry Clay Fact 20: He died as a result of tuberculosis at the age of 75 on June 29, 1852. His wife, Lucretia Hart Clay, died at the age of 83 in 1864. Her body was interred with Henry Clay's in the vault of his monument at Lexington Cemetery, Kentucky, United States. Henry Clay's sons, Theodore, Thomas, James Brown Clay and John Morrison Clay inherited his estate.
Influence & Legacy: Henry Clay was a highly influential American lawyer and politician. During his lifetime, he represented Kentucky in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. He served as Secretary of State for four years and ran for presidency three times.