Henry Clay the Lawyer

Overview

Though he was best known as a politician, Henry Clay (1777-1852) maintained an active legal practice for more than fifty years. He was a leading contributor both to the early development of the U.S. legal system and to the interaction between law and politics in pre-Civil War America. During the years of Clay's practice, modern American law was taking shape, building on the English experience but working out the new rules and precedents that a changing and growing society required. Clay specialized in property ...

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Overview

Though he was best known as a politician, Henry Clay (1777-1852) maintained an active legal practice for more than fifty years. He was a leading contributor both to the early development of the U.S. legal system and to the interaction between law and politics in pre-Civil War America. During the years of Clay's practice, modern American law was taking shape, building on the English experience but working out the new rules and precedents that a changing and growing society required. Clay specialized in property law, a natural choice at a time of entangled land claims, ill-defined boundaries, and inadequate state and federal procedures. He argued many precedent-setting cases, some of them before the U.S. Supreme Court. Maurice Baxter contends that Clay's extensive legal work in this area greatly influenced his political stances on various land policy issues. During Clay's lifetime, property law also included questions pertaining to slavery. With Daniel Webster, he handled a very significant constitutional case concerning the interstate slave trade. Baxter provides an overview of the federal and state court systems of Clay's time. After addressing Clay's early legal career, he focuses on Clay's interest in banking issues, land-related economic matters, and the slave trade. The portrait of Clay that emerges from this inquiry shows a skilled lawyer who was deeply involved with the central legal and economic issues of his day.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"For the first time, we have an authoritative account of Clay's long and distinguished career as a lawyer. The volume is full of insights about law and the legal profession and of course about Clay himself." -- R. Kent Newmyer

"Thoughtfully stimulating and provides fresh insight on Clay's public career." -- Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"Readers will find many insights into the interplay of law, politics, and economic development in a formative period of American history." -- Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

"A useful little book, demonstrating Clay's legal prowess, often ignored, and the political and monetary success it brought him." -- Virginia Quarterly Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813121475
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 5.73 (w) x 8.84 (h) x 0.67 (d)

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