Date of Award


Degree Type

Master's Essay - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




On Christmas Eve of 1814 five ministers from the youthful American republic signed a treaty of peace with the mighty British empire. The accord signed at Ghent brought to a conclusion the inglorious War of 1812. One of the most well known and outspoken of the United States' envoys at Ghent was Henry Clay. Clay's role in the peace negotiations is of interest for it reveals an often unseen element of the rugged Westerner's personality. Clay has gained much of his fame as the Great Compromiser. Most schoolboys immediately think of the Kentuckian as a prudent man of moderation. This picture of the sober mediator reveals only one side of the man. As a member of the peace team sent by President Madison to Europe, Clay was the antithesis of compromise. Defiant and unbending, the Kentuckian was the most inflexible member of the American delegation at Ghent. Clay went into the peace talks determined to win for his country the rights which belonged to any sovereign nation. If Britain attempted to humiliate her former colonies the Kentuckian was prepared to continue the war. There were certain fundamental national interests which had for Clay far greater importance than any temporary relief which a shameful peace might bring. The pages which follow will provide a broad overview of the negotiations which led to the Treaty of Ghent, focusing in particular on the part which Henry Clay played in the peace talks.