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Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union

by Robert Remini
Published: October 1991

Of all the interesting non-presidents I met during my six-year odyssey through the best presidential biographies, two of the most interesting were Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay. So it should be no surprise that their most notable biographies received high priority when I was deciding what to read “next.”

I can think of no one in American history more politically ambitious or oratorically gifted than Henry Clay – or more spectacularly unsuccessful in his presidential ambitions. (He lost presidential races in 1824, 1832 and 1844…and failed to gain his party’s presidential nomination in 1840.) He was Andrew Jackson’s archrival and no less a “colorful” character.

Clay was a long-time U.S. Senator, Speaker of the House for more than a decade and JQA’s Secretary of State. A 1986 survey rated him the greatest senator in U.S. history and he was later ranked the most qualified of all the unsuccessful major party presidential nominees in American history.

And if you thought Alexander Hamilton’s life was interesting, just wait until you spend a day or two in Henry Clay’s shoes! To say I was looking forward to Robert Remini’s “Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union” would be an understatement…

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