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The Family Legacy of Henry ClayIn the Shadow of a Kentucky Patriarch$
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Lindsey Apple

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780813134109

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813134109.001.0001

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(p.24) Chapter 2 Parenting
The Family Legacy of Henry Clay

Lindsey Apple

University Press of Kentucky

Called a wretched father by biographer Robert Rimini, the records reveal Henry Clay as a father of prodigal sons instead. Exhibiting traditional values, he left the greatest responsibility to Lucretia, allowed children significant freedom, and married his daughters young. Education and the financial establishment of sons were his responsibility and he labored to accomplish them. Advice to his sons—avoid alcohol, gambling, and dissipation, shun bad company, and embrace “meaningful” work—would have surprised his critics given his own reputation. No perfect father, his frustrations with dissipation, lack of focus, and alcohol abuse by his oldest sons frequently showed. Yet, there is also evidence of a caring father. Blessed with five prodigal sons, at his best, Henry Clay knew his sons as individuals and sought to emphasize strengths and minimize weaknesses.

Keywords:   father, prodigal sons, traditional values, education, advice, work, alcohol abuse

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