Sunday, August 21, 2016
Opening paragraphs......Part 2
President Andrew Jackson called him a "profligate demagogue" - and that was among the more temperate of Old Hickory's pronouncements about Henry Clay. "The Judas of the West" came closer to expressing Jackson's real feelings about his rival. But the President's most vicious verbal assault by far characterized Clay as "the basest, meanest, scoundrel, that ever disgraced the image of his God - nothing too mean or low from him to condescend to, secretely to carry his cowardly and base purpose of slander into effect; even the aged and virtuous female, is not free from his secrete combination of base slander."
Friendlier voices had better opinions of this singular statesman, like "Star of the West," the "Great Compromiser," "Prince Hal," and "Harry of the West." Most agreed with John Quincy Adams, however, that in politics as well as his private life Henry Clay was "essentially a gamester," a western riverboat gamester, who frequently took wild chances in hopes of a spectacular "killing," just like riverboat gamblers. Sometimes he "won big," and sometimes he lost everything. As the Charleston Mercury wisely commented, "Mr. Clay is a gamester in politics, but not a cool one. His temper, unrestrained, exhibits frequent ebullitions from the excitement of the game ... and though he often wins a shrewd trick, and dips deeply into the bank, he loses in the long run."
-Robert V. Remini, from the first chapter of Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union