Henry Clay

On this date in 1777, American statesman and orator Henry Clay was born in Hanover County, Virginia. Clay was the seventh of nine children born to John and Elizabeth Hudson Clay. After being admitted to the Virginia bar in 1797, Clay moved to Lexington, Kentucky, where he worked as a frontier lawyer. Clay was known for his enjoyment of drinking and gambling and as a horse aficionado. He married Lucretia Hart, the daughter of a wealthy Lexington businessman, in 1799. In their 50 years of marriage, they had 11 children.

Clay began his political ascendance in 1803, when he was elected to the Kentucky General Assembly. As a “Jeffersonian” politician, he began his career as an avid states’ rights advocate. Clay represented former Vice President Aaron Burr in 1806 after Burr was accused, and later found guilty, of plotting an expedition into Spanish Territory to create a new empire.

That same year, at age 29, Clay was appointed to the U.S. Senate. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1811, where he eventually served as speaker. Clay went on to serve multiple terms in both the House and Senate, later serving as President John Quincy Adams’ secretary of state in the 1820s.

Clay earned a reputation as a war hawk when he became one of the primary instigators for the War of 1812 against Britain. However, he was subsequently dubbed “The Great Pacifier” for his role in making amends with Britain after the war. He was selected as one of the five delegates to negotiate a peace treaty at Ghent, Belgium. Although he failed in his two presidential runs for the Whig Party in 1832 and 1844, Clay remained involved with politics until his final days.

His father was a Baptist preacher but Clay belonged to no church until 1847, when he was baptized as an Episcopalian. Although a theist he was a strong advocate for separation of state and church. D. 1852.

Freedom From Religion Foundation