| Builders of Our Country: Book II|
|by Gertrude van Duyn Southworth|
| A lively account of American history told through 31 biographies, beginning with Patrick Henry at the start of the Revolution and ending with Andrew Carnegie at the close of the 19th century. The biographies are so chosen as to acquaint the reader with the chief personages and events in our national life, by including many vivid pictures of each. Ages 10-12 |
 HAVE you ever heard of the "Mill Boy of the Slashes"?
He was born in Virginia in 1777, in a part of the country
that had many low, swampy lands, called "The Slashes."
This "Mill Boy" was Henry Clay.
Henry Clay's father died when this boy of his was four
years old, and the care of the large family of children fell to
the mother. As soon as Henry
was old enough, he did his share
of work. The
saw him walking
a plow, or riding to the mill
seated on a bag of corn thrown
across his horse's back. The people all along the way
called him "The Mill Boy of the Slashes."
THE BIRTHPLACE OF HENRY CLAY.
Although the Clays were poor, Henry was sent to
school. Then, when he was fourteen, he went to
Richmond where he found employment as clerk in a small
store. Here he did the odd iobs which fell to him to do.
 By this time Mrs. Clay had married again, and the
stepfather was not satisfied to have Henry where he was. So
he secured for the boy a clerkship in the office of the High
Court of Chancery. The clerks in the office smiled when
they saw the awkward country lad, and imagined they
were going to have some fun with him. But he was ready
with a telling answer to all their jokes, and soon they
learned to respect him for his faithfulness in the office and
for his habits outside. He was forever reading, when not
at work. Much of his future character and success was
due to the fact that by so much reading he made up for
his lack of education.
Soon young Clay attracted the attention of Chancellor
Wythe, who asked him to be his private secretary. For
four years Clay worked for the Chancellor, and it was during
these years that he was inspired with the desire to become
a lawyer—a desire which he fulfilled when he was twenty.
Not alone by being associated with Chancellor Wythe,
had he had advantages. He had belonged to a debating
club, many of whose members became famous lawyers in
after days. Henry Clay himself was a chief spirit in the
club, and the practice he had in speaking before its
members told in his years of public life.
As there was little chance in Richmond, Clay, like
Jackson, concluded to go west when he had become a
full-fledged lawyer. So, when he was not quite twenty-one,
he set out for the land of Daniel Boone.
He settled down in Lexington, Kentucky, where he
hoped his profession as a lawyer would bring him fair
returns. And he was not mistaken. Before long he had
his hands full. He was unusually successful, whether his
case was defending a criminal or settling some dispute in
regard to land or money. Many a time did he give his
services free of charge to some poor widow or orphan,
 to slaves struggling for their freedom, to free negroes,
and to the poor and oppressed who came to him for
His success as a lawyer grew so fast that he soon had
money enough to enable him to marry; and in a few years
he bought an estate, which he called "Ashland."
Meanwhile, he was gaining popularity. The people
of Lexington and of the whole state loved and admired
him. He was not yet thirty years old when they sent
him to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate.
IN the Senate, Clay began at once to take part like an
old hand at the business. He was all attention and ready
to act whenever anyone made a resolution which had to
do with "internal improvements."
At this time America was at peace with foreign nations,
and the country was thriving. Thousands of people were
pouring over the mountains into the fertile regions beyond.
But the roads were poor; there were snags, sand bars, and
rapids in the rivers, and the hardships of a journey were
great. So, as the West grew, there was constant cry for
better roads and for canals and bridges between the East
and the West.
 Henry Clay knew how hard the journey was, because
he, too, had been an emigrant. And from the days of his
first term in the Senate he became a veritable champion
of the cause of internal improvements. One of the most
useful of these improvements was the famous Cumberland
Road, which in due time
was opened from the banks
of the Potomac at Cumberland, Maryland, over the
mountains and across the
country, until it almost
reached the Mississippi.
EMIGRANT AND FREIGHT WAGON OF PIONEER DAYS.
Clay's first term in the
Senate was soon over. But
in 1809 he was sent again to
fill the unexpired term of
another senator. He served
for two years, and when the
two years were up he was
elected a member of the
House of Representatives.
Late in 1811 Henry Clay
arrived in Washington to
take his place in the House. On his very first day of
service he was chosen Speaker.
In this position Clay had great influence, and it was
largely due to his leadership that the War of 1812 was
brought on as soon as it was. He said that America must
stand up for the rights of her sailors, and not allow
England to seize them. He felt and preached that war
must come, and war came. New England was against
the war. But Clay insisted that a sailor who works or
fights for his country has a right to be protected by that
country. The flag under which he sails should be his
 protection. If a country cannot protect its sailors by
peaceable means, then it ought to do so by force.
The War of 1812 was not much of a success from a
military point of view. It was our plucky little navy
which taught England that she must keep her hands off
In 1814 Henry Clay was one of the men who went
to Europe to arrange the treaty of peace that put an
end to the war.
THE GREAT PACIFICATOR
IN the early days black slaves were brought by
shiploads from Africa and were sold to the colonists. No
matter how long or how hard the slave worked, he could
never earn his freedom; and he might, at any time, be
sold away from his family. Occasionally a master gave
a slave his freedom, but this happened rarely. Many of
the slaves were kindly treated and had comfortable homes;
but others had little to eat and wear, and many hardships
Before the Revolution all the states had slaves. But
in the years that followed the war, the North gradually
gave up slavery. The northern states were turning their
attention to manufacturing; for their swift flowing streams
gave excellent water power for mills and factories. The
negroes of those days were not educated enough to work
in the factories, so slave labor was no longer practicable
in the North. This fact doubtless made it easier for the
North to recognize the evils of slave-holding, and one by
one the northern states declared themselves free states—that
is, states opposed to slavery.
The South still held firmly to its slave system and
intended to do so. With their warm climate and broad
 stretches of fertile land, the southern states went on raising
cotton, rice, and tobacco. And it is in no way surprising
that they saw much good and little evil in the slave labor
which was so cheap and which served their purposes so well.
Thus, little by little, the difference in business interests
between the North and the South led to an ever-growing
difference of opinion in regard to slavery.
The laws that governed the interests of the North and
the South were made in Congress by the representatives
of the different states. So it was only natural that North
and South should each want on its side as many states
as possible, in order to increase the number of its votes
When Missouri asked to be taken into the Union as a
slave state, there were eleven free states and eleven slave
states—an arrangement of which neither side could
complain. Now, if Missouri came in as a slave state, it would
give the controlling votes in Congress to the South. Of
course the South was in favor of admitting Missouri. And
of course the North was set against such a step. For
nearly two years the matter was debated. Neither side
would give in to the other.
Then Henry Clay persuaded Congress to make a
compromise which promised satisfaction to both North and
South. By this compromise, Missouri was to be taken
into the Union as a slave state, on the express
understanding that any other states that might be formed from
the Louisiana Purchase land north of Missouri's southern
boundary should be free forever.
The Missouri compromise was adopted in 1820. But
even before Missouri succeeded in becoming the twelfth
slave state, Maine had been admitted as the twelfth free
state. And so neither North nor South could yet claim
the balance of power in Congress.
 In 1848 a short war between the United States and
Mexico came to an end. And at its close Mexico ceded
California and New Mexico to the United States. Here
was the old struggle back again. Should slavery be
allowed in this new land or not?
California wanted to enter the Union as a free state.
 Again there was the same number of free and slave states,
and again the state asking to come in would give one side
the advantage over the other. So again there were hot
disputes. These grew so bitter that the Union was in
danger of being broken up. Once more, as in the case of
Missouri, Henry Clay urged a compromise. This
compromise contained so many points that it was called the
According to Clay's plan, California was to be admitted
as a free state; the people in the rest of the new land were
to suit themselves as to how their territory should come
into the Union; and the North was to arrest, and send
back to their owners, all runaway slaves found in the free
states. For two days Clay spoke in the Senate. People
had come from far and near to hear him, and all his old
charm of voice and manner were used to convince his
audience of the advantages of the compromise. He asked
the North to yield, and appealed to the South for peace.
Then followed a debate which lasted for months, but
finally Clay's compromise was adopted. This was in
A fellow Kentuckian told Mr. Clay that this
compromise would injure his chances of ever becoming
president. "Sir, I would rather be right than be president,"
answered Mr. Clay.
In two short years after his struggle to keep the states
together by his compromise of 1850, Henry Clay died.
He has been called the great Pacificator. Though his
compromises failed to secure to the country the lasting
good he hoped for, they attest his patriotism—his pure
love for his country, and his desire to see the Union great
and glorious. The name of Henry Clay will always fill
a place in the list of America's honored statesmen.
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