Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Clay's willingness to abandon protection caused some men to question his motives and his commitment to principle. But the Kentuckian was never rigid in his ideological thinking. Like any intelligent politician, he understood that politics is not about ideological purity or moral self-righteousness. It is about governing, and if a politician cannot compromise, he cannot govern effectively. And Henry Clay know that only a true compromise - one in which both sides sacrifice something to achieve a greater benefit - could will over the nullifiers and draw them back from a determined course of self-destruction.
In presenting his compromise, Clay no doubt recognized that if he spared the nation the agony of bloodshed, he would reclaim his shattered image as a party leader. He would be hailed as a great statesman, nimble-witted enough to find the solution to resolve the conflicting sectional interests that threatened the nation. As an additional benefit, the abandonment of protection would surely swell his support in the South, where he desperately needed it. No doubt Clay's motives in deciding to lend his hand to the resolution of this crisis grew partly out of his pride and political ambition as well as his commitment to the Union and its republican ideals.
-Robert V. Remini, Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union