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This detailed study of Henry Clay and the American System—a program of vigorous economic nationalism dependent on active government and constitutional aspects of what was perhaps Clay’s greatest contribution to national policy, a contribution that has received surprisingly little study until now.

During the first half of the nineteenth century the new United States experienced rapid material growth, transforming a largely agrarian, pre-modern economy into a diversified, industrializing one. As Speaker of the House in the years following the War of 1812, and later as founder of the Whig party, Clay argued strongly for the development of a home market for domestic goods so that Americans would not be dependent on foreign imports. This “American System” was originally little more than a protective tariff on foreign goods, but it soon came to encompass a collection of policies that included a national banking system and distribution of federal funds to improve transportation. Baxter reveals the inner workings of Clay’s program and offers the first careful analysis of its successes and failures. This lively and incisive account will appeal to anyone interested in American history and the processes that shaped modern America

Maurice G. Baxter is professor emeritus of history at Indiana University. He is the author of numerous books, including One and Inseparable: Daniel Webster and the Union.

A fine study by a first-rate historian, well-written, thoughtful, and interesting throughout. -- Journal of the Early Republic

A long-needed addition to the literature on Jacksonian Era politics. -- Southern Historian

Clearly written and deals with an important topic that has surprisingly escaped book-length treatment until now. -- American Historical Review

Now we have a thoroughly researched, carefully crafted study of Clay's major contribution to national policy. Maurice G. Baxter, professor emeritus at Indiana University, has written a comprehensive study of Clay's system, 'a biographical perspective upon economic history.' -- Journal of American History

It is refreshing to read a history that grounds Jacksonian debate over political economy in realities and prospects as Clay and his contemporaries understood them. -- Journal of Southern History

Here is a book that has long been needed for the antebellum period of American history: an excellent, detailed and sharply focused study of Henry Clay's American System. Dr. Baxter provides us with a balanced, objective and highly readable account of one of the most interesting, important and controversial subjects of the early nineteenth century. -- Robert V. Remini, author of Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Henry Clay, Kentucky, American system, United States, Economic policy, Politics, Government


Political History

Henry Clay and the American System
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