Slavery in the Nineteenth Century

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Identify a question that a pro-abolitionist would ask Henry Clay to elicit his point of view on the subject.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think that one of the most significant questions that anyone, pro- slavery or otherwise, could ask "The Great Compromiser" that Clay was would be how one can negotiate convictions.  Henry Clay fervently believed that everything can be subject to negotiation.  Yet, what ended up tarnishing most of the compromises that he formulated was the basic tenet that convictions, deeply held and passionately held beliefs, cannot be negotiated.  Abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and John Brown were not going to be placated through compromise.  Slavery was seen as a moral evil, something unholy and unjust.  Clay believed that compromise and negotiation was a part of the legislative process in the new nation.  To him, it was simply business.  Yet, I think that a good question to Clay would be how one could negotiate the convictions that existed behind slavery.  The Southern desire to keep it was matched by the abolitionist desire to remove it.  Neither side could compromise that away.  I think that an appropriate question and interesting one to put to Clay would be about this idea, in terms of how negotiation can exist with sides that have passionate beliefs that are not going to be compromised away.

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