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Henry Clay, by Frederick and William Langenheim, 1850.—Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
(born April 12, 1777, Hanover county, Va., U.S.died June 29, 1852, Washington, D.C.) U.S. politician. He practiced law from 1797 in Virginia and then in Kentucky, where he served in the state legislature (1803–09). He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (1811–14, 1815–21, 1823–25); as House speaker (1811–14), he was among those who propelled the U.S. into the War of 1812. He supported a national economic policy of protective tariffs, known as the American System, a national bank, and improvements to internal transportation. His support of the Missouri Compromise earned him the nicknames The Great Pacificator and The Great Compromiser. After his bid for the presidency in 1824 fell short, Clay threw his support to John Quincy Adams, who made him his secretary of state (1825–29). He served in the U.S. Senate (1806–07, 1810–11, and 1831–42), where he supported the compromise tariff of 1833. He was the National Republican Party candidate for president in 1832 and the Whig Party candidate in 1844. In his last Senate term (1849–52) he argued strongly for passage of the Compromise of 1850.
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