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Henry Clay

Henry Clay
Artist
John B. Neagle, 4 Nov 1796 - 17 Sep 1865
Sitter
Henry Clay, 12 Apr 1777 - 29 Jun 1852
Date
1842
Type
Painting
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
Stretcher: 70.5 x 55.2 x 3.8cm (27 3/4 x 21 3/4 x 1 1/2")
Frame: 94.9 x 79.7 x 10.2cm (37 3/8 x 31 3/8 x 4")
Topic
Henry Clay: Male
Henry Clay: Law and Law Enforcement\Lawyer
Henry Clay: Politics and Government\Presidential Candidate
Henry Clay: Politics and Government\US Congressman\Speaker of the House
Henry Clay: Politics and Government\Cabinet Member\Secretary of State
Henry Clay: Politics and Government\US Congressman\Kentucky
Henry Clay: Politics and Government\State Legislator\Kentucky
Henry Clay: Politics and Government\US Senator\Kentucky
Portrait
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; frame conserved with funds from the Smithsonian Women's Committee
Restrictions & Rights
CC0
Object number
NPG.93.476
Exhibition Label
Born Hanover, Virginia
Henry Clay devoted his political career to unifying an increasingly divided nation. While representing Kentucky in the House of Representatives and the Senate, Clay invariably sought a middle course between polarized positions. He became known as the “Great Compromiser” after orchestrating the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which preserved the balance of power in Congress by simultaneously admitting into the Union the slave state of Missouri and the free state of Maine. Toward the end of his life, with the North and South on the verge of armed conflict over the extension of slavery into the new western territories, Clay attempted to resolve the conflict through an ambitious “omnibus bill” that became the Compromise of 1850.
Clay’s personal engagement with slavery presents his penchant for compromise in a less than flattering light. Although he condemned slavery as a “universally acknowledged curse,” he accepted the moral contradiction of being an enslaver himself.
Nacido en Hanover, Virginia
Henry Clay dedicó su carrera política a unificar una nación cada vez más dividida. Representando a Kentucky en la Cámara y en el Senado, Clay siempre buscó un punto medio entre posturas polarizadas. Se le conoció como el “gran conciliador” después de orquestar el Compromiso de Misuri de 1820, que conservaba el balance de poder en el Congreso admitiendo simultáneamente en la Unión al estado esclavista de Misuri y al estado libre de Maine. Hacia el fin de su vida, con el norte y el sur al borde del conflicto armado por el debate de extender la esclavitud a los nuevos territorios del oeste, Clay trató de resolver el problema mediante una ambiciosa “ley ómnibus” que se convirtió en el Compromiso de 1850.
No obstante, su participación en la práctica de la esclavitud resta lustre a su talento conciliador. Si bien afirmaba que era “una maldición reconocida como tal universalmente”, aceptaba la contradicción moral de ser un esclavizador.
Provenance
(F.O.Bailey, Portland, Maine); purchased 1993 by (Philip Mould, Historical Portraits Ltd., London); purchased 1993 NPG
Joy Piscapo at F.O.Bailey said that the painting came from the McMichael family. Brandon Fortune, memo of phone conversation 17 December 1993, NPG curatorial file
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
Exhibition
2022 Rehang of Out of Many: Portraits from 1600 to 1900
On View
NPG, East Gallery 110a