(9.) HENRY CLAY (1777-1852)
“The Cock of Kentucky”
A consistent loser from 1824 to 1848
Henry Clay was presidential candidate for three different parties: Democrats, National Republicans and Whigs. He was defeated first by John Quincy Adams, then by Andrew Jackson and later by James K. Polk. One writer says Clay figured in a four-year cycle, from one presidential campaign to another, systematically clearing the way to capture the next nomination after each defeat.
A dynamic speaker, after three years in the Kentucky legislature he was, at 19, appointed to an unexpired term in the U. S. Senate, to another a year later and in 1811 was elected to the House of Representatives and was Speaker on entry.
He served 14 years in the house, was among peace commissioners at Ghent, and was John Quincy Adams’ Secretary of State. He was serving as senator when he died. He was accused of being a straddler on the slavery question and any issue that fit into his plans he espoused, some of which benefited the country. He was known as the “Compromiser” in the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and the 1850 Omnibus Bill earned him the sobriquet of the “Great Pacificator.”
His campaigns were vigorous and vitriolic and there were retaliations by his opponents, but Clay always expected to win, never conceiving of being surpassed by other politicians.