The Greatest Senator in Our Country's History.
Henry Clay (1777-1852)
He was one of the most partisan, hot headed, and polarizing politicians of his day. Yet he was also a statesman possessing an unsurpassed ability for brokering differences, for finding the middle ground, for soothing and consoling opposing passions into compromise and reconciliation. At one point in his career he was dubbed "The Dictator" by some of his Senate colleagues. But this political gut-fighter's most lasting fame and greatest contribution to his country was achieved in the role of "The Great Pacificator," the man who held together the Union.
Henry Clay failed in his all consuming ambition to become President of the United States. "I would rather be right than President," was his most famous remark, and probably one of the greatest utterances of political sour grapes of all time. Yet in failing in his fondest goal he became perhaps the foremost legislator America ever produced. He served as Speaker of the House longer than any man in the 19th Century, transforming the office from a mere presiding function into one of enormous power and influence. In 1957 a Senate committee, head by John F. Kennedy and charged with the task of honoring it's most distinguished past members, named Clay the greatest Senator in the country's history. His service to and impact on the country far exceeded, with one especially notable exception, that of nearly every President of his era.
John C. Calhoun once supposedly remarked, "I don't like Clay. He is a bad man, an imposter, a creator of wicked schemes. I wouldn't speak to him, but, by God, I love him." Along with Daniel Webster, Calhoun and Clay are known as "The Great Triumvirate" (ruling body of 3 men).
President Andrew Jackson stated near the end of his life that he only regretted that he had not shot Henry Clay and hanged John C. Calhoun.