USAF Academy’s Jeanne Heidler on Henry Clay & Congressional Statesmanship

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The Learning Curve Dr. Heidler

[00:00:00] Albert Cheng: Well, hello, everybody. This is Dr. Albert Cheng coming to you from the University of Arkansas with another episode of the Learning Curve podcast. I hope you’re doing well. And this week I’m joined by now retired Supreme Court Associate Justice. Barry Anderson, Justice. Well, should I call you Retired Justice, or how should I address you now, Barry?

[00:00:41] Barry Anderson: Yes, the Honorific of Justice is fine. I am effectively retired, as I might have mentioned earlier. You know that you’re retired because you get a note saying you’re no longer eligible to park in the state garage, so.

[00:00:55] Albert Cheng: Oh, yes.

[00:00:56] Barry Anderson: So, we’re off and running with retirement now and we’ll see how that goes, but I’m delighted to be with you here today and to be talking about some really interesting issues and we’ve got a really interesting guest here who is very knowledgeable about an American that we should know a great deal more about and that’s Henry Clay.

[00:01:13] Albert Cheng: That’s absolutely right. Well, before we get to that interview, let’s talk some news. So, Barry, I, I want to follow up on a story that we’ve been kind of following over the course of this podcast with Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott, as you know, endorsed. A few particular candidates in the Republican primaries, and particularly, he was endorsing ones that would support his school choice proposal.

[00:01:39] And so, the runoff elections were just last Tuesday, and it looks like, according to the governor, he’s got the votes he needs to pass his school choice legislation. Of course. We have to wait to see what happens in November. The general election’s still there, so who knows what can happen, but at least there’s a little bit of an update to what’s going on down in Texas.

[00:02:01] So, don’t know how much of a political junkie you are in retirement, but this is one of the things that are going on, particularly with school choice legislation. I don’t know if you have any thoughts about that, or I know you have a school choice story that you’d like to share as well.

[00:02:14] Barry Anderson: Yeah, to follow up to the point about Texas, what’s interesting about this, and it’s not really unique to Texas, you’ll often have resistance from representatives, both Republican and Democrat, but often Republican representatives in rural areas who are concerned about possible effects on, you know, the only school in the county, so to speak, which is the, uh, the Uh, an important center of community activity and also the competition aspect of it.

[00:02:40] So the Texas experience perhaps is a little more colorful as things often are in Texas, but it is actually not unusual and the movement to school choice is really beginning to gain steam and it’s gaining steam in places where there has been some resistance, which in fact takes me to the article that I wanted to talk about.

[00:02:58] which was a piece written by a college professor, Patrick Wolfe, in the Hill newspaper, entitled, With More States Supporting School Choice, It’s Time for the Movement to Go National. And he’s, of course, reflecting on this movement that we were just speaking of, and he notes that there are essentially 17 states that that don’t have any financial support to help parents access private schooling for their children.

[00:03:23] He describes these as school choice deserts, and of course it includes some of the largest states, California, New York, and he mentions Texas as well. And he suggests that a way to go at this is using the Federal Educational Choice for Children Act, ECCA, And there are other proposals that he doesn’t reference here to also involve the federal government in trying to mandate school choice.

[00:03:44] And you know, when we do these articles, often we’re citing an article that, you know, we’re favorably impressed with or makes a point that we agree with. Wolff does a really nice job here of outlining where the status of this issue is, but I come out a little differently on this question. It’s not entirely clear to me that even with his suggested use of the educational term Choice for Children Act, which is a bill introduced by a legislator in D.

[00:04:11] C. that that’s actually a good idea. I have some concerns about mandating policy, education policy from D. C. and if you’re looking for a cautionary tale here, look at the way disabilities legislation has developed over the years. What happens is you get a federal response. The federal response becomes frozen in amber, becomes very difficult to Chenge.

[00:04:34] You know, there were commitments made under the Disabilities Act to provide additional financial support. It happened. It’s very difficult to reform it because the minute you start talking about reforming it, the activists get all excited and conduct demonstrations and wave their arms and discuss how you hate disabled children and you don’t want to help them.

[00:04:52] So, I appreciate his candor and his interest in a reform at the federal level, but with only 17 states left moving in the direction of school choice, not yet having moved in the direction of school choice, perhaps we’re better off letting individual jurisdictions Individual states deal with this issue and not deal with it at the federal level.

[00:05:11] I will say he is not the only one making this proposal. There have also been proposals to use the conditions, certain kinds of federal revenue, revenue sharing with states on having a state school choice program. Of course, it is always that basic principle, he who has the money calls the shots, and we might want to be careful about that.

[00:05:33] Albert Cheng: Yeah, yeah, I think those are fair points, and yeah, I encourage the listeners to read the article. I mean, I, my own disposition is similar to yours, Barry, to let federalism play out. Give credit to Patrick, uh, who’s actually my colleague. I mean, his office is just a couple doors down from me. He made a point that gave me some pause and further reflection.

[00:05:53] I mean, you know, he said, look, there’s wisdom in federalism, but federalism is about letting the 50 labs of democracy work. Well, if we figured out something works, why not try to do something nationally? And I thought that was a fair point. At least it got me to think through it a little bit more carefully.

[00:06:10] So anyway, you know, with that article, there’s plenty to think about, plenty of good debate to be had as we figure out what the wisest way forward is. But speaking of policy and figuring out the wisest way forward, stick around because after the break we’re going to have an interview with Gene Heidler, who’s going to talk to us about, as Barry said, a politician, a statesman really, that everyone should know, the great compromiser, Henry Clay.

[00:06:32] So stick around. Dr. Jeanne

[00:06:45] Heidler is Professor of History and Chief of the American History Division Emerita at the United States Air Force Academy. Along with her husband, Dr. David Heidler, is the co author of 12 books, including Old Hickory’s War, Andrew Jackson and the Quest for Empire, Henry Clay. The Essential American, and most recently, The Rise of Andrew Jackson, Myth, Manipulation, The Making of Modern Politics.

[00:07:11] Dr. Heidler has been interviewed by numerous radio, television, and print media, including C SPAN’s Q& A, BookTV, and NPR. She received her PhD in United States History from Auburn University. Dr. Heidler, thank you Pleasure to have you on the show. Welcome.

[00:07:27] Dr. Jeanne Heidler: Well, thank you so much for having me.

[00:07:30] Albert Cheng: Well, so I’m really looking forward to learning a lot more about Henry Clay.

[00:07:33] And so you and your husband, as we referenced in the bio, have written an excellent biography of this 19th century American statesman and probably one of the most influential U. S. legislatures of all time. Why don’t you help orient listeners to who Clay was? Just give us the big picture and why this quote Star of the West really is a timelessly important figure.

[00:07:56] Dr. Jeanne Heidler: Okay, well, in many ways, I think Clay embodied the age, certainly the first half of the 19th century. He was an important figure, really from the minute he stepped on the national stage as a congressman from Kentucky and became Speaker of the House in his first term. He also entered the diplomatic sphere in 1814, helping to negotiate the Treaty of Ghent.

[00:08:24] Ending the War of 1812, and then he returned to the House as Speaker. While serving as Speaker, sometimes he is erroneously credited with being the architect of the Missouri Compromise, which he was not, but he did use his parliamentary skill to usher it through the House. He also ran for President five times, never succeeding.

[00:08:50] But perhaps he is most famously remembered, I suppose, as the Great Compromiser or the Great Pacificator, though we have argued that perhaps that title is a bit misleading. Yes, he was instrumental. And drafting what became the Compromise of 1833, ending the Nullification Crisis, and more famously, the Compromise of 1850.

[00:09:16] There were things, however, that Clay would never compromise. Most importantly, the sanctity of the Union. Perhaps it was the belief in that sanctity. that best describes him as a great man.

[00:09:30] Albert Cheng: So in your book, you write that he’s a, quote, precocious, witty, and optimistic Virginia farm boy, who at the age of 20 transformed himself from bumpkin to attorney, a shrewd and sincere defender of the ordinary man, end quote.

[00:09:44] It’s a great line with great flourish. So unpack that a bit for us to discuss his family background, his early life, his education, Figures that he was mentored by. I know there’s a founding father and Virginia lawyer and educator George Wythe was a important figure. Talk about that. Well,

[00:10:02] Dr. Jeanne Heidler: Clay came from that class of Piedmont, Virginia, what were sometimes called yeoman farmers who had ties to the planter class, but were not quite there, what we might call today middle class.

[00:10:16] His father died when he was very young, and his mother, who was a young widow, married his, Clay’s cousin, Hal Watkins. Henry had older and younger siblings, ultimately half siblings. And you could say that he was somewhat lost in the shuffle. I would say that I don’t think that his mother or his stepfather neglected him in any way.

[00:10:42] And perhaps his stepfather, also his cousin, realized his potential. And when the family, on the verge of moving to Kentucky, in the latter part of the 18th century, decided, they decided that using family connections, they decided to place him in what was called the Virginia Court of Chancery in Richmond, Virginia, as a clerk slash apprentice.

[00:11:09] And there, because of his impeccable penmanship, which you can argue that not a lot of people with that anymore, and also, yeah, and his nimble mind. He was noticed by George Wythe, who was a great legal scholar and was the Chancellor of the High Court of Chancery. Clay went to work directly for Wythe until Wythe found him a place in the home of former Virginia Governor Robert Brooke, where Clay studied law.

[00:11:41] And in less than a year, he had learned enough to pass the bar. And then he moved to join his family in Kentucky. So that’s pretty much his youth until he enters his profession.

[00:11:55] Albert Cheng: Let’s turn a little bit, maybe you could fill some gaps from his professional life to his political rise. I mean, you alluded to some of this in your overview of Clay.

[00:12:03] I mean, so he won the election to the U. S. House of Representatives in 1810, served as speaker, elected at least, or chosen for that role in early 1811. And then. You mentioned his diplomatic efforts along with President Madison to negotiate the Treaty of Ghent to end the War of 1812. Continue telling that story.

[00:12:24] So, you know, he becomes a lawyer, but then enters politics. You know, what explains his rise in American politics?

[00:12:32] Dr. Jeanne Heidler: Well, as I mentioned, he did become Speaker of the House in his first term, but it, I must point out that the job of Speaker was not an important one. When Clay took the position, he made it an important position, made it what it ultimately became.

[00:12:49] Before Clay, the Speaker did little more than call on members to speak. That was his primary job. Clay, though, took over committee appointments, made the committee structure crucial in driving legislation, and for the most part, he came to determine which legislation would reach the floor. And that made the position of Speaker a very powerful one.

[00:13:14] Though, some people would probably point out that most of the Speakers in the 19th century, even those who followed Clay, did not really use that power the way he did. It was going to be much later in the 19th century before Speakers really realized The power that they had. But he did use it, and used it very effectively.

[00:13:36] Now, with regard to the tensions with Great Britain, they were there when he came to the House. And he came into the House convinced that war was the answer. And he used that growing power as speaker to push the nation toward war. Which is something I think he would later regret. He became more of a, A peace loving man in his later years, but at that point he was certainly the leader of the Warhawks, as they were called in Congress.

[00:14:06] Well, in some ways, I do think it was ironic that Madison, President Madison, appointed him to the Peace Commission and get that he, along with John Quincy Adams, who he cordially despised, and Albert Gallatin, that they were the primary negotiators, though I think his willingness to gamble During those negotiations, and he was famous for his gambling, perhaps that led to very favorable terms for the U.

[00:14:34] S., as favorable as possible for the U. S. in those negotiations.

[00:14:39] Albert Cheng: Well, I’m going to ask you to unpack a couple more pivotal events, really. When Clay was serving as a, as a legislature and ask you, you know, how he really became a real central legislature of his era. So picking up where you’ve just left off, I mean, he returns to domestic politics in the US and really develops this quote unquote American system, which included supporting federal infrastructure, the national bank, trade tariffs.

[00:15:04] And, you know, in 1820, you mentioned the Missouri Compromise earlier, so say more about his role in some of these domestic events, and why we should care about Clay, in understanding these issues.

[00:15:17] Dr. Jeanne Heidler: Well, when he returned to the House after the war, he went back as Speaker, and he continued to exploit that growing power of the Speakership that he had created to implement the House What you just mentioned, what was later called the American system.

[00:15:35] He believed that the federal funding of what they called internal improvements, what we call infrastructure, a national bank to regulate currency and tariffs on foreign goods, particularly manufactured goods. He believed that Those things, together in a package, were the surest ways to unite the country, particularly in the face of the growing sectional differences.

[00:16:03] The controversy over admitting Missouri as a slave state was one indication of those growing differences. This issue became a crisis where, for the first time on the national stage, people were talking about a fire. Which seas of blood can only extinguish as early as 1820. People were talking that way.

[00:16:30] And as I pointed out before, even though Clay was not the author of the particulars of the Compromise itself, he did, using his parliamentary skills and power as speaker, push it through a very difficult time. Well,

[00:16:48] Albert Cheng: let’s move ahead a few years after the Missouri Compromise, and let’s talk about the 1824 presidential election.

[00:16:54] This was one of the most contentious and controversial in U. S. history. And just to remind folks, it was decided in the U. S. House of Representatives. And so as U. S. House Speaker Clay supported the ultimate winner, John Quincy Adams. In exchange for becoming Adams’s Secretary of State. Uh, and the loser, Andrew Jackson, I mean, his party, they sort of howled at this corrupt bargain that’s forever affixed to Clay’s reputation.

[00:17:19] So, talk more about the 1824 election, and Clay, and the relationship with John Quincy Adams, and their rival, Andrew Jackson.

[00:17:28] Dr. Jeanne Heidler: Like Jackson, Adams, and William Crawford, who was the Secretary of the Treasury, Clay. He, too, was a candidate in the 1824 election. That was the first time he ran for president. But he didn’t make the cut, so to speak.

[00:17:45] If no one received a majority in the Electoral College, only the top three vote getters, electoral vote getters, go to the House, and Clay came in fourth. So he was not one of the three that went before the House, but as speaker. Very powerful speaker. He had a lot of sway as to how the different state delegations would vote.

[00:18:10] He decided very early on to support Adams, even though, as I mentioned before, he did not like John Quincy Adams as a person, but he supported him because Adams most agreed with Clay. on policy issues, the American system being a prime example. There’s no real evidence that they made a deal to make Clay Secretary of State return for his support.

[00:18:37] There was no one else for Clay to support. He did not like Jackson. But he also feared Jackson. He feared Jackson as a military chieftain and a demagogue. And Crawford, he liked. He liked personally. But he disagreed with Crawford on policy. Again, particularly, Crawford didn’t support the American system. So to many people, they expected him to support Adams.

[00:19:05] And he was the logical person to become Secretary of State. He had diplomatic experience, he had seniority, though the accusation of corrupt bargain was going to follow him for the rest of his life. And he came to regret. Accepting the position because he believed it hurt his reputation, it hurt Adam’s reputation, and was going to follow him, as I said, for the rest of his life.

[00:19:31] Barry Anderson: Well, Professor, we, he may have regretted serving as Secretary of State, but he did in fact serve as Secretary of State. He did. It was a critical era for us. He was there from 1825 to 1829, and the Monroe Doctrine that we learned about in school was part of those discussions. Talk about his time as Secretary of State and, and the significance of his service in that role.

[00:19:52] Dr. Jeanne Heidler: Okay. Well, the, the Monroe Doctrine, as you all know, was as it later became known, they didn’t call it that initially had been formulated by John Quincy, Adam when he served as Secretary of State under James Monroe. But Clay as Adam’s Secretary of State was. Equally, if not more, committed to stabilizing the new Latin American republics.

[00:20:17] And to that end, he worked hard to normalize U. S. relations with those republics and to encourage commercial relations with them so as to strengthen the economies of those countries and to prevent particularly European powers from interfering in that development. And for that reason, he also encouraged increased trade with European countries, perhaps to distract them more than anything else.

[00:20:47] He was going to be opposed by the Jacksonians in Congress. With regard to these attempts to normalize those relations, primarily because the Jacksonians opposed everything that was put forward by the Adams administration. And Clay was a very convenient target. But he did succeed in some of those efforts and did increase trade with those countries.

[00:21:12] Barry Anderson: So, across the 1830s, an era that most Americans don’t know much about these days, and also the presidency of Edward Jackson, our politics were inundated with a variety of extraordinarily divisive issues. The bank war, battles over trade tariffs, which was, of course, the tariffs were the principal source of income for the federal government, the nullification crisis with South Carolina, Indian removal, and slavery, which we’ll talk about in a little greater detail here in a little bit.

[00:21:40] But, can you talk about Some highlights from these political conflicts that involved President Jackson, Henry Clay, and of course, John Calhoun.

[00:21:51] Dr. Jeanne Heidler: Yes. Well, I think of all of those events, Clay’s role in reaching a compromise in the nullification crisis, a compromise that even the author of Nullification, John C.

[00:22:03] Calhoun, could agree to, was perhaps the most important contribution Clay made during the 1830s. He could not stop Indian removal. He wasn’t in the Senate yet when the Indian Removal Act was passed, though he opposed the Indian Removal Act. It went forward even with that opposition. He could not stop Jackson’s destruction of the Second Bank of the U.

[00:22:29] S. Try as he might, but thanks to Jackson’s desire to keep the revenue flowing from the tariffs, some measure of protection for U. S. industry was retained during that decade. But by formulating the compromise that kept some protection and increasingly reduced rates over a period of time, nine years. To be exact, that was going to diffuse that particular crisis.

[00:23:02] He was able to work privately with Calhoun, though the two were barely on speaking terms by that point in their lives, and secured Calhoun’s support. With that support, the compromise passed. Much to Jackson’s chagrin, not because he didn’t want some solution, but he hated that Clay was getting the credit.

[00:23:25] And, in addition, he insisted that Congress pass what became known as the Force Act, which gave the President the power to use military force if necessary if a state did not enforce or interfered with the enforcement of federal law. And a lot of people, including Clay, had to agree to that. In order to get the compromise through.

[00:23:54] Barry Anderson: In your biography, you discuss a figure that I frankly didn’t know much about, and that is Henry Clay’s wife, Lucretia Hart. They had 11 children, and as was not unusual in that era, six of those kids died at a young age. It was not a happy marriage, she disliked life in Washington, and I think spent much of her time in Kentucky.

[00:24:17] Would you talk a little bit about his domestic life, including his 600 acre plantation and the 122 slaves he held during his lifetime, and how his slave owning conflicted with his, as Lincoln pointed out, his anti slave reviews in public life?

[00:24:34] Dr. Jeanne Heidler: Well, first, I Somewhat disagree that Clay’s marriage was an unhappy one.

[00:24:40] I think they complimented one another. Lucretia was certainly an introvert. Clay was anything but an introvert. He respected her desire for a quiet home life, surrounded by her children, and ultimately her grandchildren. Initially, she did accompany him to Washington, where she impressed everyone with her quiet good sense and kindness, and became very popular with many of the ladies in Washington.

[00:25:11] But something that a lot of people don’t understand today is that it was unusual for wives to accompany their husbands to Congress. Congressmen were not paid very much, and that was expensive, especially if there were children involved. And so she wasn’t unusual in that later she did not accompany him.

[00:25:32] But again, she did initially go. She didn’t care for the social scene in Washington. Further, while she was there, she endured Some really heartbreaking events in the times that she did go with him. For instance, when Clay returned from Ghent and was once again presiding over the House in 1816, Lucretia and their younger children did go with him to Washington.

[00:25:59] But their infant daughter, Laura, died of whooping cough. And then in 1825 she went when he became Secretary of State, which everyone expected that. The Secretary of State hosts a lot of social gatherings, all the diplomatic events, for instance. And so he would need a hostess. And so she did go with him to Washington for his term as Secretary of State.

[00:26:24] But en route, their 12 year old daughter, Eliza. Became suddenly very ill. She was a healthy child, but became ill and died on the way to Washington. A few weeks later, after they were settled in in Washington, grieving for Eliza, they received a letter that their married daughter, Susan, had died of a fever in Louisiana.

[00:26:50] She left behind a grief stricken husband and two very small children. I think you could argue that to Lucretia, Washington came to mean grief and heartbreak. And after Clay’s term as Secretary of State, she never went back. But, instead, she ran the plantation when he wasn’t there. She raised her other children, and ultimately, she raised several grandchildren.

[00:27:18] Now, to talk about your question about slavery, the slaves who lived and worked there, when you think about them, it’s a very difficult topic to understand regarding Henry Clay. And I’m not sure we ever completely understood him. with regard to slavery, because he repeatedly said that he found the institution distasteful.

[00:27:41] He knew people who agreed with him that it was an evil institution, but had dealt with that belief by freeing their slaves. He did not. George Wythe is a perfect case in point regarding someone who freed his slaves, made sure that they were trained and educated for employment. He employed some of them himself.

[00:28:04] But Clay never took that step. He hoped and pretended to believe that slavery would die a natural death in the United States. But as we say in the book, that Henry Clay continued to own slaves while condemning slavery. It was nothing short of tragic. A fundamental flaw in an otherwise good and decent man.

[00:28:30] Barry Anderson: Clay was also the architect of the Compromise of 1850, which temporarily, and we’ve touched on this briefly, but temporarily diffused tensions between the slave and free states. And that whole conversation was about Perhaps three of the most significant members of the United States Senate during that era, Clay of Kentucky, Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, and, of course, John C.

[00:28:52] Calhoun of South Carolina. Can you talk a little bit about their political compromises and the tensions between this triumvirate and how they impacted the Union?

[00:29:03] Dr. Jeanne Heidler: Yes. Well, first of all, though they were called the great triumvirate, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun seldom worked together.

[00:29:14] They were all titans in one way or another, but personal, political, and sectional differences drove them apart. And by 1850, when the need to staunch the flow from what Clay called the Five Bleeding Wounds of the Nation, Clay, ill and frail, returned to the Senate. He had been retired for a number of years.

[00:29:38] Calhoun, by that point, had become such a rigid states writer. That there was no dealing with him. Seventeen years earlier, he had been willing to compromise regarding the tariff. There was no more compromising left in John C. Calhoun. Webster, So, was willing to abandon his ambition to become president to work with Clay, somewhat, to support the compromise that postponed the sectional crisis for a decade.

[00:30:10] It ruined Webster’s chances. To ever become president, but he was willing to make that sacrifice.

[00:30:18] Barry Anderson: You and your husband wrote, losing Henry Clay was a uniquely personal event for the nation because his life had been the mirror of his country and its aspirations. In that it was an extraordinary life. Maybe you could spend a couple of minutes here talking about his.

[00:30:36] Death, his legacy, what citizens and students today can learn from his political leadership that might help us strengthen our understanding of our public democratic institutions.

[00:30:49] Dr. Jeanne Heidler: Well, like Webster, for many years, Henry Clay had wanted to be president. That was his driving ambition for decades. But he ultimately abandoned that.

[00:31:01] That desire and return to private life in his family, only coming back into the Senate when called to do so to try to save the Union. When he died in Washington, D. C. in June of 1852, he was still a sitting United States Senator. And even though he’d been ill for a very long time, his death seemed to catch everyone by surprise.

[00:31:26] There was visible shock throughout the nation when the announcements were made. For Buildings were draped in black, church bells rang constantly, and shops closed. It was as if the American people and his fellow politicians had assumed he would always be there. After his death, he became the first person to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

[00:31:53] The second would be Abraham Lincoln, a tremendous admirer of Henry Clay. Congress then arranged for a bipartisan escort of congressmen and senators to take Mr. Clay home to Kentucky. They traveled up to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and then over to the Ohio River. And finally, overland to Lexington.

[00:32:18] All along the route, thousands, some people have even said millions, of Americans came out to pay their respects as the coffin went by. Finally, after nine days of travel, the escort bearing the remains of Henry Clay arrived at Ashland, his home. The coffin was taken into the dining room. Throughout the entire night, Lucretia Clay, that vigil next to her husband of 53 years.

[00:32:50] The next day, the funeral in Lexington was held, and it would be weeks before The American people, the press, and Congress were not still talking about the loss of Henry Clay.

[00:33:08] Barry Anderson: It’s been a remarkable career, and the book that you and your husband have written is a remarkable accounting of that career. I realize you’re probably sharing some of that language from the book with us now, but perhaps you have another paragraph or a selection from the book that you could share with us as we wrap up our interview today.

[00:33:26] And if you do, we’d love to hear it.

[00:33:29] Dr. Jeanne Heidler: Well, I’d be happy to. As you could probably tell from some of the things that I said, I have a great interest in Lucretia. I think she has been very misunderstood, though I think Henry Clay understood her, and I think her family did. So, I’m going to read just a short passage about the beginning of their relationship.

[00:33:54] Starting with the day in early 1799 when Henry Clay came courting Lucretia Hart, the youngest daughter of wealthy Lexington merchant Thomas Hart. Lucretia was a shy, plain, spare girl of 18 when 21 year old Henry Clay came to court. But there was, there was something about Lucretia Hart that people who took the trouble to know her.

[00:34:27] Or, more accurately, whom she took the trouble to know, found endearing, even captivating. Those who saw Henry Clay at all stages of his life reported that he, too, was physically unattractive, until he spoke or smiled, until something animated his features in a way that no portrait could really capture. For her part, Lucretia’s massive auburn hair, her soft eyes, small hands, and girlish feet were fetching in their own way.

[00:35:02] She was clever, educated like most girls of her social class, and especially fond of playing the piano for family and guests. As the years rolled by, she would be something of an enigma. To the outside world, but never to her family and friends, for Lucretia was kind, caring, and occasionally, troll. But she was also an intensely private woman, married to an intensely public man.

[00:35:34] That contradiction in temperament made her and Henry Clay different, but not distant. He had undoubtedly first come calling that winter, looking for money. And status. In the end, he found Lucretia.

[00:35:52] Barry Anderson: Thank you, Professor, for the work that you and your husband have done in telling the remarkable story of Henry and Lucretia Clay.

[00:36:13] Albert Cheng: And I want to add my thanks to you, Dr. Heidler, for that fascinating interview. And this week’s Tweet of the Week comes from Education Week. It’s an article that’s entitled, Teachers are evenly divided on the best way to teach math. And so this article talks about a survey in which math teachers were asked a question, and they were asked to agree or disagree with the statement, Students learn math and science best through procedures, Not by solving big problems.

[00:36:38] Well, Barry, I would have you guess if teachers were more likely to agree or disagree. Do you have a hunch? I

[00:36:45] Barry Anderson: would say procedures.

[00:36:47] Albert Cheng: Well, you would agree with half the population, I guess. So, it turns out teachers, as the title suggests, are evenly divided on this question. You know, I really think it underscores that teachers aren’t really wedded to one side of the so called math wars, it seems.

[00:37:02] You know, at least the ones that are Really faced with the day-to-Day task of teaching mathematics. They see some value in introducing procedures and memorization and, and making sure kids know basic math facts while also at the same time, they recognized the importance of presenting application problems, solving problems, problem solving skills.

[00:37:21] So I thought it was a little bit encouraging to see how teachers are divided, but. And it doesn’t seem like they’re divided because they feel strongly about one side or the other. They seem to recognize merit and the importance of teaching math in a variety of ways.

[00:37:37] Barry Anderson: My only comment about this, and this ties into the fact that, as we discussed earlier, I’m now a retired justice, because if you do the math, speaking of math, or arithmetic probably more appropriately, that you’ll figure out that I was a student in the 1960s in elementary school, and we were beneficiaries of or victims, depending on your view, of the new mask.

[00:37:59] Yeah. I don’t think that experiment was entirely successful. So I guess the only comment I’ll make about this is to say that this is a long running conversation. I think the full resolution of this is not yet upon us.

[00:38:14] Albert Cheng: Well, let’s keep at it and figure it out. But until then, I want to thank everybody for joining us this week.

[00:38:21] Justice Anderson, or now retired Justice Anderson, thanks for being with us on the show. It was a pleasure to have you here.

[00:38:27] Barry Anderson: Delighted to be here and looking forward to future opportunities.

[00:38:31] Albert Cheng: And speaking about the future, make sure you join us next week. We’re going to have Sheldon Novick, who is the two volume biographer of the American British novelist Henry James.

[00:38:41] So make sure to tune in with us for that interview, and until then, I wish you well.

This week on The Learning Curve co-hosts U-Arkansas Prof. Albert Cheng and Ret. MN Justice Barry Anderson interview USAF Academy’s professor emerita, Jeanne Heidler. Dr. Heidler discusses Henry Clay’s legacy as a seminal figure in American history. She covers Clay’s early life, his transformation from a Virginia farm boy to a leading statesman, and his being mentored in the law by Founding Father, George Wythe. Dr. Heidler explores Clay’s key contributions to U.S. public service, including his diplomatic role in ending the War of 1812, as well as his legislative work during the Missouri Compromise, the Nullification Crisis, and the Compromise of 1850. She addresses Clay’s controversial role in the Election of 1824 and his tenure as secretary of state. She continues by discussing Clay’s private life, his wife Lucretia, his conflicting positions on slavery, and his enduring impact trying to preserve the Union. In closing, Dr. Heidler reads a passage from her co-authored book,  Henry Clay: The Essential American.

Stories of the Week: Albert shared an article from NBCDFW discussing Gov. Abbott’s new school choice votes in Texas; Barry reviewed an article from The Hill about the idea of the school choice movement going national.


Dr. Jeanne Heidler is Professor of History and Chief of the American History Division Emerita at the United States Air Force Academy. Along with her husband, Dr. David Heidler, is co-author or editor of 12 books, including Old Hickory’s War: Andrew Jackson and the Quest for EmpireHenry Clay: The Essential American, and most recently, The Rise of Andrew Jackson: Myth, Manipulation, and the Making of Modern Politics. Dr. Heidler has been interviewed by numerous radio, television, and print media, including C-SPAN’s Q&A, Book TV, and NPR. She received her Ph.D. in United States history from Auburn University.

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