Henry Clay

The Essential American

by David S. Heidler,

He was the Great Compromiser, a canny and colorful legislator whose life mirrors the story of America from its founding until the eve of the Civil War. Speaker of the House, senator, secretary of state, five-time presidential candidate, and idol to the young Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay is captured in full at last in this rich and sweeping biography.

David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler present Clay in his early years as a precocious, witty, and optimistic Virginia farm boy who at the age of twenty transformed himself into an attorney. The authors reveal Clay’s tumultuous career in Washington, including his participation in the deadlocked election of 1824 that haunted him for the rest of his career, and shine new light on Clay’s marriage to plain, wealthy Lucretia Hart, a union that lasted fifty-three years and produced eleven children.

Featuring an inimitable supporting cast including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay is beautifully written and replete with fresh anecdotes and insights. Horse trader and risk taker, arm twister and joke teller, Henry Clay was the consummate politician who gave ground, made deals, and changed the lives of millions.
  • Random House Publishing Group; May 2010
  • ISBN 9781588369956
  • Read online, or download in secure EPUB format
  • Title: Henry Clay
  • Author: David S. Heidler; Jeanne T. Heidler
  • Imprint: Random House

In The Press

"In this engaging biography of an important American lawmaker, David and Jeanne Heidler paint a revealing portrait of Henry Clay, a man who was critical to the life of the nation in the tumultuous 19th century.  Never president but always in the arena, Clay is a remarkable architect of the Union, and we owe the Heidlers a debt for bringing him to life in these pages."—Jon Meacham, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of American Lion

"Henry Clay's 49-year political career bridged the America of Alexander Hamilton and the America of Abraham Lincoln. Like them, he labored to strengthen and preserve the Union, and to secure its economic development through an enlightened alliance between private enterprise and public authority. Beautifully written, richly detailed, and wonderfully informative, David and Jeanne Heidler's account of Clay's life is deeply sympathetic, yet not uncritical. It should appeal to both academic and general audiences. These two accomplished historians have accorded a great statesman the biography he deserves."—Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

"Although Henry Clay ran three times for president and lost each time, he nevertheless dominated the American political scene during the first half of the nineteenth century.  His unparalleled combination of skill, charisma, and energy are on display in this biography by David and Jeanne Heidler, which offers new information and insights on the man whom Abraham Lincoln described as "my beau ideal of a statesman." "—James M. McPherson, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era




From the Hardcover edition.

About The Author

David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler have collaborated on books about the early American republic, the Antebellum period, and the Civil War. Their editorial work includes Encyclopedia of the War of 1812 and the award-winning Encyclopedia of the American Civil War. They are the authors of Henry Clay: The Essential American; Old Hickory’s War: Andrew Jackson and the Quest for Empire; The War of 1812; Manifest Destiny; Daily Life in the Early American Republic: Creating a New Nation,1790-1820; and The Mexican War. In addition to their work as authors, the Heidlers are general editors of monographs on U.S. civil-military relations, American soldiers’ lives, and life on the home front. Their next book with Random House, Washington’s Circle: The Creation of the President, is scheduled to hit shelves on March 24, 2015.


From the Hardcover edition.