Henry Clay Campaign Medal

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An American Classic

Henry Clay, Sr. (April 12, 1777 -- June 29, 1852) was an American lawyer and planter, politician, and skilled orator who represented Kentucky in both the United States Senate and House of Representatives. He served three non-consecutive terms as Speaker of the House of Representatives and served as Secretary of State under President John Quincy Adams from 1825 to 1829. Clay ran for the presidency in 1824, 1832 and 1844, while also seeking the Whig Party nomination in 1840 and 1848. He never successfully ran for president.

 

This is a campaign medal for his last unsuccessful bid. The obverse features a portrait of Clay with the date below. The reverse has a representation of industry and sailing and in my unbiased opinion is stunning. This medal is graded NGC MS 62. This piece comes from the famous Dr. James McClure Collection.

Clay was a dominant figure in both the First and Second Party systems. As a leading war hawk in 1812, he favored war with Britain and played a significant role in leading the nation into the War of 1812. In 1824 he ran for president and lost, but maneuvered House voting in favor of John Quincy Adams, who appointed him as Secretary of State. Opposing candidate Andrew Jackson denounced the actions of Clay and Adams as part of a "corrupt bargain." Clay ran for president again, and lost the general election in 1832, as the candidate of the National Party, and in 1844 as the candidate of the Whig Party. He was a strong proponent of the American System, fighting for an increase in tariffs to foster industry in the United States, the use of federal funding to build and maintain infrastructure, and a strong national bank. He opposed the annexation of Texas and "Manifest Destiny" policy of , fearing it would inject the slavery issue into politics. This cost him votes in the close presidential election of 1844. Clay later opposed the Mexican-American War.

Known as "The Great Compromiser", Clay brokered important agreements during the Nullification Crisis and on the slavery issue. As part of the "Great Triumvirate" or "Immortal Trio," along with his colleagues Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun, he was instrumental in formulating the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Compromise Tariff of 1833, and the Compromise of 1850 to ease sectional tensions. He was viewed as the primary representative of Western interests in this group, and was given the names "Henry of the West" and "The Western Star." As a plantation owner, Clay held slaves during his lifetime, but freed them in his will.

Abraham Lincoln, the Whig leader in Illinois, was a great admirer of Clay, saying he was "my ideal of a great man." Lincoln wholeheartedly supported Clay's economic programs. In 1957, a Senate Committee selected Clay as one of the five greatest U.S. Senators, along with Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Robert La Follette, and Robert A. Taft.

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