Although this plate desended in the Southworth & Hawes studio, the image is often attributed to Matthew Brady. Nearly identical plates in the New York Historical Society (marked Lawrence" and the Museum of Modern Art (attributed to Brady) support Pfister's (1978) claim that the Metropolitan print may be a copy.
Biography: Apolitician with over forty years of service at the state and national level, Henry Clay (1777-1852) was known for his propensity to compromise and his interest in preserving the Union. In 1821, he put forward legislation permitting slavery in Missouri while outlawing it in Louisiana Purchase territory north of Missouri. He argued for an "American System" that would strengthen the economy by tying together the North, South, East, and West through improved infrastructure and tariffs on foreign goods. He served as secretary of state under John Quincy Adams, then forteen years in the U.S. Senate. Clay made four unsuccessful runs for the presidency. In 1850, he outlined another compromise to save the Union: one that reduced the size of slaveholding Texas, admitted California to the Union as a free state, and toughened the Fugitive Slave Law.