Henry Clay (1777-1852) was one of the most powerful statesmen in America between 1811 and 1852. Born in Kentucky, Clay served briefly in state government before being elected to the Unites States House of Representatives in 1811. He served as Speaker for most of the twelve years he served in the House of Representatives (1811-1821, 1823-1825). He served on the diplomatic team that negotiated the Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812, and he served as Secretary of State under President John Quincy Adams between 1825 and 1829. He sat in the United States Senate from 1831 to 1842 and 1849 to 1852. He campaigned unsuccessfully for the presidency of the United States in 1824, 1832, 1840, and 1844.
As a member of Congress, Clay advocated a series of economic policies labeled the American System. These included protective tariffs on European imports, federal spending on internal improvements, and conservative land policies designed to limit urban flight to the west. Through these measures Clay hoped to strengthen America's manufacturing sector, foster more restrained growth of the nation's agricultural sector, and link the two together through improved roads and canals.