In traditional history education, we are taught about the lives and accomplishments of our founding fathers and the great diplomats of this country. A few names come to mind: Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Lincoln, and Douglass. All these diplomats accomplished fantastic things and changed our country for the better. They get the recognition and praise they deserve. However, I’d like to turn the attention to the less appreciated, but just as accomplished figures in history. There is no better person in history to highlight than Henry Clay.
Henry Clay was an American diplomat and attorney for his entire life. He started practicing law from his hometown in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1797 and slowly began to gain attention. By 1803, Clay was elected into the Kentucky state legislature. He served his state faithfully for seven years in Kentucky until he was promoted to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1810. It didn’t take long for Clay to gain attention on a national level when in the House. Just one year after arriving in the House of Reps., he was chosen to be the Speaker of the House.
While Clay was the speaker of the house, he handled many great American crises and issues. Clay led the US into the War of 1812 but negotiated peace just two years later with the Treaty of Ghent. After the war was over, Clay decided it would be a good time to focus on American infrastructure. With the help of many other diplomats, Clay formulated a plan to create the American System. This would help the American economy in three different ways. The American System imposed heavy tariffs to promote and protect American industries, created a national bank to handle commerce, and improved the transportation systems in America. Federal subsidies allowed projects for canals, roads, and railways, improving the agricultural business.
Henry Clay may very well be one of the most underappreciated historical figures in American history. He contributed to the American economy in a way that no one else could have ever done. He loved his country and spent his life improving it. Not only was he one of the finest diplomats in American history, but he was also an altruistic and optimistic politician that truly cared for the American people.