President William Harrison - History

President William Harrison - History


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

William Harrison

William Harrison died one month after assuming the office of President. He is probably best know for being the first President to die in office. Elected 1840


The Early Years

William Harrison was born on the Berkeley Plantation in Charles City County, Virginia. Harrison grew up during the Revolutionary War, during which his home was ransacked by the British. Harrison chose medicine as his desired profession. He studied premedical studies at Hampden Sydney College. In 1791 he enrolled in the Pennsylvania Medical School in Philadelphia. Upon his arrival in Philadelphia, he learned that his father had died. He remained for a year at school, but when his money ran out he decided to join the army. Harrison fought in the Indian War in the Northwest Territories.

For two years, in 1791-1800, Harrison served as the delegate of the Northwest territories to the US House. This was a non-voting position. From 1798-1799 he served as the Secretary of the Northwest Territories.

From 1800-1812 Harrison served as the Governor of Indiana Territory. He was appointed to this position by John Adams. As governor, he led 300 regulars and a 650-man militia against the Indian confederacy, led by the Shawnee brothers Tecumseh and the Prophet. The Indians attacked in a pre-dawn raid near Tippecanoe Creek. The Indians were repulsed and Harrison rallied his men to an overwhelming victory. The battle earned Harrison the nickname Old Tippecanoe.

Harrison fought in the war of 1812. He was commissioned Major General and led the attacks in the Northwest Territories against the British. He successfully recaptured Detroit, then pursued the fleeing British and at Catham, Ontario, in October of 1813, won the victory of the Battle of Thames. This overwhelming victory turned Harrison into a national hero.

From 1816-1819 Harrison served as Representative in the US House. For the next four years, he served as an Ohio state senator. From 1825-1828 he became a US Senator. In 1828 he was appointed by President Adams as Minister to Columbia. He was recalled when Jackson became President. He then retired to his farm.

Accomplishments in Office

Harrison, despite being the oldest President when inaugurated (68), insisted on giving a one and a half hour inaugural speech on a blustery March morning. He caught a cold and was bed-ridden from that day on. He died a month later.

The First Family

Father: Benjamin Harrison, V
Mother: Elizabeth Basset
Daughters: Elizabeth Betsy, Lucy Singelton, Mary Symmes, Ann Tuthill
Sons: John Cleves, William Henry Jr., John Scott, Benjamin Harrison

Major Events

None

The Cabinet

Secretary of State: Daniel Webster
Secretary of the Treasury: Thomas Ewing
Secretary of War: John Bell
Attorney General: John Crittenden
Secretary of the Navy: George Badger
Postmaster General: Francis Granger

Military

No Action

Did You Know?

First President to die in office.
Only President to have studied to be a doctor.
The shortest Presidency in American history.
The only President whose grandson became President.


William Harrison was born on the Berkeley Plantation in Charles City County, Virginia. Harrison grew up during the Revolutionary War, during which his home was ransacked by the British. Harrison chose medicine as his desired profession. He studied premedical studies at Hampden Sydney College. In 1791 he enrolled in the Pennsylvania Medical School in Philadelphia. Upon his arrival in Philadelphia, he learned that his father had died. He remained for a year at school, but when his money ran out he decided to join the army. Harrison fought in the Indian War in the Northwest Territories.

For two years, in 1791-1800, Harrison served as the delegate of the Northwest territories to the US House. This was a non-voting position. From 1798-1799 he served as the Secretary of the Northwest Territories.

From 1800-1812 Harrison served as the Governor of Indiana Territory. He was appointed to this position by John Adams. As governor, he led 300 regulars and a 650-man militia against the Indian confederacy, led by the Shawnee brothers Tecumseh and the Prophet. The Indians attacked in a pre-dawn raid near Tippecanoe Creek. The Indians were repulsed and Harrison rallied his men to an overwhelming victory. The battle earned Harrison the nickname Old Tippecanoe.

Harrison fought in the war of 1812. He was commissioned Major General and led the attacks in the Northwest Territories against the British. He successfully recaptured Detroit, then pursued the fleeing British and at Catham, Ontario, in October of 1813, won the victory of the Battle of Thames. This overwhelming victory turned Harrison into a national hero.

From 1816-1819 Harrison served as Representative in the US House. For the next four years, he served as an Ohio state senator. From 1825-1828 he became a US Senator. In 1828 he was appointed by President Adams as Minister to Columbia. He was recalled when Jackson became President. He then retired to his farm.


In 1798, Harrison left military service to be the secretary of the Northwest Territory. In 1800, Harrison was named the governor of the Indiana Territory. He was required to continue to acquire lands from the Native Americans while at the same time ensuring that they were treated fairly. He was governor until 1812 when he resigned to join the military again.

Harrison was nicknamed "Old Tippecanoe" and ran for president with the slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" due to his victory at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Even though he was still governor at the time, he headed a force against the Indian Confederacy which was led by Tecumseh and his brother, the Prophet. They attacked Harrison and his forces while they slept, but the future president was able to stop the attack. Harrison then burned the Indian village of Prophetstown in retaliation. This is the source of 'Tecumseh's Curse' which would later be cited upon Harrison's untimely death.


Contents

Harrison was born on August 20, 1833, in North Bend, Ohio, the second of Elizabeth Ramsey (Irwin) and John Scott Harrison's ten children. His paternal ancestors were the Harrison family of Virginia, whose immigrant ancestor, Benjamin Harrison, arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, circa 1630 from England. Harrison was of entirely English ancestry, all of his ancestors having emigrated to America during the early colonial period. [1]

Harrison was a grandson of U.S. President William Henry Harrison and a great-grandson of Benjamin Harrison V, a Virginia planter who signed the Declaration of Independence and succeeded Thomas Nelson, Jr. as governor of Virginia. [2] [3] [4] [a]

Harrison was seven years old when his grandfather was elected U.S. president, but he did not attend the inauguration. [5] His family was distinguished, but his parents were not wealthy. John Scott Harrison, a two-term U.S. congressman from Ohio, spent much of his farm income on his children's education. [6] [7] Despite the family's modest resources, Harrison's boyhood was enjoyable, much of it spent outdoors fishing or hunting. [8]

Harrison's early schooling took place in a log cabin near his home, [9] but his parents later arranged for a tutor to help him with college preparatory studies. [10] Fourteen-year-old Benjamin and his older brother, Irwin, enrolled in Farmer's College near Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1847. [11] He attended the college for two years [12] [b] and while there met his future wife, Caroline "Carrie" Lavinia Scott, a daughter of John Witherspoon Scott, the school's science professor, who was also a Presbyterian minister. [13]

Harrison transferred to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1850, and graduated in 1852. [14] [15] He joined the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, which he used as a network for much of his life. He was also a member of Delta Chi, a law fraternity that permitted dual membership. [16] Classmates included John Alexander Anderson, [17] who became a six-term U.S. congressman, and Whitelaw Reid, Harrison's vice presidential running mate in 1892. At Miami, Harrison was strongly influenced by history and political economy professor Robert Hamilton Bishop. [18] He also joined a Presbyterian church at college and, like his mother, became a lifelong Presbyterian. [19]

After his college graduation in 1852, Harrison studied law with Judge Bellamy Storer of Cincinnati, but before he completed his studies, he returned to Oxford, Ohio, to marry Caroline Scott [20] on October 20, 1853. Caroline's father, a Presbyterian minister, performed the ceremony. [17] The Harrisons had two children, Russell Benjamin Harrison (August 12, 1854 – December 13, 1936) and Mary "Mamie" Scott Harrison (April 3, 1858 – October 28, 1930). [21]

Harrison and his wife returned to live at The Point, his father's farm in southwestern Ohio, while he finished his law studies. Harrison was admitted to the Ohio bar in early 1854, [22] the same year he sold property that he had inherited after the death of an aunt for $800 (equivalent to $23,043 in 2020), and used the funds to move with Caroline to Indianapolis, Indiana. [23] [24] Harrison began practicing law in the office of John H. Ray in 1854 and became a crier for the federal court in Indianapolis, for which he was paid $2.50 per day. [21] He also served as a Commissioner for the U.S. Court of Claims. [25] Harrison became a founding member and first president of both the University Club, a private gentlemen's club in Indianapolis, and the Phi Delta Theta Alumni Club. [26] Harrison and his wife became members and assumed leadership positions at Indianapolis's First Presbyterian Church. [27]

Having grown up in a Whig household, Harrison initially favored that party's politics, but joined the Republican Party shortly after its formation in 1856 and campaigned on behalf of Republican presidential candidate John C. Frémont. [28] In 1857 Harrison was elected Indianapolis city attorney, a position that paid an annual salary of $400 (equivalent to $11,110 in 2020). [29] [30]

In 1858, Harrison entered into a law partnership with William Wallace to form the law office of Wallace and Harrison. [31] In 1860, he was elected reporter of the Indiana Supreme Court. [30] Harrison was an active supporter of the Republican Party's platform and served as Republican State Committee's secretary. After Wallace, his law partner, was elected county clerk in 1860, Harrison established a new firm with William Fishback, Fishback and Harrison. The new partners worked together until Harrison entered the Union Army after the start of the American Civil War. [32]

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for more recruits for the Union Army Harrison wanted to enlist, but worried about how to support his young family. [33] While visiting Governor Oliver Morton, Harrison found him distressed over the shortage of men answering the latest call. Harrison told the governor, "If I can be of any service, I will go." [34]

Morton asked Harrison if he could help recruit a regiment, although he would not ask him to serve. Harrison recruited throughout northern Indiana to raise a regiment. Morton offered him the command, but Harrison declined, as he had no military experience. He was initially commissioned as a captain and company commander on July 22, 1862. Morton commissioned Harrison as a colonel on August 7, 1862, and the newly formed 70th Indiana was mustered into federal service on August 12, 1862. Once mustered, the regiment left Indiana to join the Union Army at Louisville, Kentucky. [35] [36]

For much of its first two years, the 70th Indiana performed reconnaissance duty and guarded railroads in Kentucky and Tennessee. In 1864, Harrison and his regiment joined William T. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign and moved to the front lines. On January 2, 1864, Harrison was promoted to command the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division of the XX Corps. He commanded the brigade at the battles of Resaca, Cassville, New Hope Church, Lost Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain, Marietta, Peachtree Creek, and Atlanta. When Sherman's main force began its March to the Sea, Harrison's brigade was transferred to the District of Etowah and participated in the Battle of Nashville. [37]

On January 23, 1865, Lincoln nominated Harrison to the grade of brevet brigadier general of volunteers, to rank from that date, and the Senate confirmed the nomination on February 14, 1865. [38] He rode in the Grand Review in Washington, D.C. before mustering out on June 8, 1865. [37]

Indiana politics

While serving in the Union Army in October 1864, Harrison was once again elected reporter of the Indiana Supreme Court, although he did not seek the position, and served as the Court's reporter for four more years. The position was not a politically powerful one, but it provided Harrison with a steady income for his work preparing and publishing court opinions, which he sold to the legal profession. [39] [40] Harrison also resumed his law practice in Indianapolis. He became a skilled orator and known as "one of the state's leading lawyers". [24]

In 1869 President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Harrison to represent the federal government in a civil suit filed by Lambdin P. Milligan, whose controversial wartime conviction for treason in 1864 led to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Ex parte Milligan. [41] [42] The civil case was referred to the U.S. Circuit Court for Indiana at Indianapolis, where it evolved into Milligan v. Hovey. [43] Although the jury found in Milligan's favor and he had sought hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages, state and federal statutes limited the amount the federal government had to award to Milligan to five dollars plus court costs. [43] [44] [45]

With his increasing reputation, local Republicans urged Harrison to run for Congress. He initially confined his political activities to speaking on behalf of other Republican candidates, a task for which he received high praise from his colleagues. [46] In 1872, Harrison campaigned for the Republican nomination for governor of Indiana. Former governor Oliver Morton favored his opponent, Thomas M. Browne, and Harrison lost his bid for statewide office. [47] He returned to his law practice and, despite the Panic of 1873, was financially successful enough to build a grand new home in Indianapolis in 1874. [48] He continued to make speeches on behalf of Republican candidates and policies. [49]

In 1876, when a scandal forced the original Republican nominee, Godlove Stein Orth, to drop out of the gubernatorial race, Harrison accepted the party's invitation to take his place on the ticket. [50] [51] Harrison centered his campaign on economic policy and favored deflating the national currency. He was defeated in a plurality by James D. Williams, losing by 5,084 votes out 434,457 cast, [52] but Harrison built on his new prominence in state politics. When the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 reached Indianapolis, he gathered a citizen militia to make a show of support for owners and management, [24] [53] and helped to mediate an agreement between the workers and management and to prevent the strike from widening. [54]

When United States Senator Morton died in 1878, the Republicans nominated Harrison to run for the seat, but the party failed to gain a majority in the state legislature, which at that time elected senators the Democratic majority elected Daniel W. Voorhees instead. [55] [c] In 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Harrison to the Mississippi River Commission, which worked to develop internal improvements on the river. [56] As a delegate to the 1880 Republican National Convention the following year, [57] he was instrumental in breaking a deadlock on candidates, and James A. Garfield won the nomination.

U.S. Senator from Indiana

After Harrison led Indiana's Republican delegation at the 1880 Republican National Convention, he was considered the state's presumptive candidate for the U.S. Senate. He gave speeches in favor of Garfield in Indiana and New York, further raising his profile in the party. When the Republicans retook the majority in the state legislature, Harrison's election to a six-year term in the U.S. Senate was threatened by Judge Walter Q. Gresham, his intraparty rival, but Harrison was ultimately chosen. [58] After Garfield's election as president in 1880, his administration offered Harrison a cabinet position, but Harrison declined in favor of continuing his service in the U.S. Senate. [59]

In 1881, the major issue confronting Senator Harrison was the budget surplus. Democrats wanted to reduce the tariff and limit the amount of money the government took in Republicans instead wanted to spend the money on internal improvements and pensions for Civil War veterans. Harrison took his party's side and advocated for generous pensions for veterans and their widows. [61] He also unsuccessfully supported aid for the education of Southerners, especially children of the freedmen he believed that education was necessary to help the black population rise to political and economic equality with whites. [62] Harrison opposed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which his party supported, because he thought it violated existing treaties with China. [63]

In 1884, Harrison and Gresham competed for influence at the 1884 Republican National Convention the delegation ended up supporting James G. Blaine, the eventual nominee. [64] In the Senate, Harrison achieved passage of his Dependent Pension Bill, only to see it vetoed by President Grover Cleveland. His efforts to further the admission of new western states were stymied by Democrats, who feared that the new states would elect Republicans to Congress. [65]

In 1885 the Democrats redistricted the Indiana state legislature, which resulted in an increased Democratic majority in 1886, despite an overall Republican majority statewide. [66] In 1887, largely as a result of the Democratic gerrymandering of Indiana's legislative districts, Harrison was defeated in his bid for reelection. [24] Following a deadlock in the state senate, the state legislature eventually chose Democrat David Turpie as Harrison's successor in the Senate. [67] Harrison returned to Indianapolis and resumed his law practice, but stayed active in state and national politics. [68]

Nomination

The initial favorite for the Republican nomination was the previous nominee, James G. Blaine of Maine. After Blaine wrote several letters denying any interest in the nomination, his supporters divided among other candidates, with John Sherman of Ohio as the leader among them. [69] Others, including Chauncey Depew of New York, Russell Alger of Michigan, and Harrison's old nemesis Walter Q. Gresham, now a federal appellate court judge in Chicago, also sought the delegates' support at the 1888 Republican National Convention. [69] Blaine did not publicly endorse any of the candidates, but on March 1, 1888, he privately wrote that "the one man remaining who in my judgment can make the best one is Benjamin Harrison." [56]

Harrison placed fifth on the first ballot, with Sherman in the lead, and the next few ballots showed little change. [70] The Blaine supporters shifted their support among candidates they found acceptable, and when they shifted to Harrison, they found a candidate who could attract the votes of many other delegations. [71] He was nominated as the party's presidential candidate on the eighth ballot, by a count of 544 to 108 votes. [72] Levi P. Morton of New York was chosen as his running mate. [73]

Election over Cleveland

Harrison's opponent in the general election was incumbent President Grover Cleveland. Harrison reprised a more traditional front-porch campaign, abandoned by his immediate predecessors he received visiting delegations to Indianapolis and made over 90 pronouncements from his hometown. [74] The Republicans campaigned heavily in favor of protective tariffs, turning out protectionist voters in the important industrial states of the North. The election focused on the swing states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Harrison's home state of Indiana. [75] Harrison and Cleveland split the four, with Harrison winning New York and Indiana. [76] Voter turnout was 79.3%, reflecting large interest in the campaign nearly eleven million votes were cast. [77] Harrison received 90,000 fewer popular votes than Cleveland, but carried the Electoral College 233 to 168. [78] Allegations were made against Republicans for engaging in irregular ballot practices an example was described as Blocks of Five. [79] On October 31 the Indiana Sentinel published a letter allegedly by Harrison's friend and supporter, William Wade Dudley, offering to bribe voters in "blocks of five" to ensure Harrison's election. Harrison neither defended nor repudiated Dudley, but allowed him to remain on the campaign for the remaining few days. After the election, Harrison never spoke to Dudley again. [80]

Harrison had made no political bargains, but his supporters had made many pledges on his behalf. When Boss Matthew Quay of Pennsylvania, who was rebuffed for a Cabinet position for his political support during the convention, heard that Harrison ascribed his narrow victory to Providence, Quay exclaimed that Harrison would never know "how close a number of men were compelled to approach. the penitentiary to make him president". [81] Harrison was known as the Centennial President because his inauguration celebrated the centenary of the first inauguration of George Washington in 1789. [82] In the congressional elections, Republicans increased their membership in the House of Representatives by 19 seats. [83]

Inauguration and cabinet

Harrison was sworn into office on Monday, March 4, 1889, by Chief Justice Melville Fuller. His speech was brief—half as long as that of his grandfather, William Henry Harrison, whose speech remains the longest inaugural address of a U.S. president. [84] In his speech, Benjamin Harrison credited the nation's growth to the influences of education and religion, urged the cotton states and mining territories to attain the industrial proportions of the eastern states and promised a protective tariff. Of commerce, he said, "If our great corporations would more scrupulously observe their legal obligations and duties, they would have less call to complain of the limitations of their rights or of interference with their operations." [85] Harrison also urged early statehood for the territories and advocated pensions for veterans, a call that met with enthusiastic applause. In foreign affairs, Harrison reaffirmed the Monroe Doctrine as a mainstay of foreign policy, while urging modernization of the Navy and a merchant marine force. He gave his commitment to international peace through noninterference in the affairs of foreign governments. [86]

John Philip Sousa's Marine Corps band played at the Inaugural Ball inside the Pension Building with a large crowd attending. [87] After moving into the White House, Harrison noted, quite prophetically, "There is only a door—one that is never locked—between the president's office and what are not very accurately called his private apartments. There should be an executive office building, not too far away, but wholly distinct from the dwelling house. For everyone else in the public service, there is an unroofed space between the bedroom and the desk." [88]

Harrison acted quite independently in selecting his cabinet, much to the Republican bosses' dismay. He began by delaying the presumed nomination of James G. Blaine as Secretary of State so as to preclude Blaine's involvement in the formation of the administration, as had occurred in President Garfield's term. [89] In fact, other than Blaine, the only Republican boss initially nominated was Redfield Proctor, as Secretary of War. Senator Shelby Cullom's comment symbolizes Harrison's steadfast aversion to use federal positions for patronage: "I suppose Harrison treated me as well as he did any other Senator but whenever he did anything for me, it was done so ungraciously that the concession tended to anger rather than please." [90] Harrison's selections shared particular alliances, such as their service in the Civil War, Indiana citizenship and membership in the Presbyterian Church. [91] Nevertheless, Harrison had alienated pivotal Republican operatives from New York to Pennsylvania to Iowa with these choices and prematurely compromised his political power and future. [92] His normal schedule provided for two full cabinet meetings per week, as well as separate weekly one-on-one meetings with each cabinet member. [93]

In June 1890, Harrison's Postmaster General John Wanamaker and several Philadelphia friends purchased a large new cottage at Cape May Point for Harrison's wife, Caroline. Many believed the cottage gift appeared improper and amounted to a bribe for a cabinet position. Harrison made no comment on the matter for two weeks, then said he had always intended to purchase the cottage once Caroline approved. On July 2, perhaps a little tardily to avoid suspicion, Harrison gave Wanamaker a check for $10,000 (equivalent to $288,037 in 2020) for the cottage. [94]

Civil service reform and pensions

Civil service reform was a prominent issue following Harrison's election. Harrison had campaigned as a supporter of the merit system, as opposed to the spoils system. [95] Although some of the civil service had been classified under the Pendleton Act by previous administrations, Harrison spent much of his first months in office deciding on political appointments. [96] Congress was widely divided on the issue and Harrison was reluctant to address the issue in hope of preventing the alienation of either side. The issue became a political football of the time and was immortalized in a cartoon captioned "What can I do when both parties insist on kicking?" [97] Harrison appointed Theodore Roosevelt and Hugh Smith Thompson, both reformers, to the Civil Service Commission, but otherwise did little to further the reform cause. [98]

Harrison quickly saw the enactment of the Dependent and Disability Pension Act in 1890, a cause he had championed while in Congress. In addition to providing pensions to disabled Civil War veterans (regardless of the cause of their disability), the Act depleted some of the troublesome federal budget surplus. Pension expenditures reached $135 million under Harrison (equivalent to $3.9 billion in 2020), the largest expenditure of its kind to that point in American history, a problem exacerbated by Pension Bureau commissioner James R. Tanner's expansive interpretation of the pension laws. [99] An investigation into the Pension Bureau by Harrison's Secretary of Interior John Willock Noble found evidence of lavish and illegal handouts under Tanner. [100] Harrison, who privately believed that appointing Tanner had been a mistake, due to his apparent loose management style and tongue, asked Tanner to resign and replaced him with Green B. Raum. [101] Raum was also accused of accepting loan payments in return for expediting pension cases. Harrison, having accepted a dissenting congressional Republican investigation report that exonerated Raum, kept him in office for the rest of his administration. [102]

One of the first appointments Harrison was forced to reverse was that of James S. Clarkson as an assistant postmaster. Clarkson, who had expected a full cabinet position, began sabotaging the appointment from the outset, gaining the reputation for "decapitating a fourth class postmaster every three minutes". Clarkson himself stated, "I am simply on detail from the Republican Committee . I am most anxious to get through this task and leave." He resigned in September 1890. [101]

Tariff

The tariff levels had been a major political issue since before the Civil War, and they became the most dominant matter of the 1888 election. [103] The high tariff rates had created a surplus of money in the Treasury, which led many Democrats (as well as the growing Populist movement) to call for lowering them. Most Republicans preferred to maintain the rates, spend the surplus on internal improvements and eliminate some internal taxes. [104]

Representative William McKinley and Senator Nelson W. Aldrich framed the McKinley Tariff that would raise the tariff even higher, including making some rates intentionally prohibitive. [105] At Secretary of State James Blaine's urging, Harrison attempted to make the tariff more acceptable by urging Congress to add reciprocity provisions, which would allow the president to reduce rates when other countries reduced their rates on American exports. [103] The tariff was removed from imported raw sugar, and sugar growers in the United States were given a two cent per pound subsidy on their production. [105] Even with the reductions and reciprocity, the McKinley Tariff enacted the highest average rate in American history, and the spending associated with it contributed to the reputation of the Billion-Dollar Congress. [103]

Antitrust laws and the currency

Members of both parties were concerned with the growth of the power of trusts and monopolies, and one of the first acts of the 51st Congress was to pass the Sherman Antitrust Act, sponsored by Senator John Sherman of Ohio. The Act passed by wide margins in both houses, and Harrison signed it into law. [106] The Sherman Act was the first Federal act of its kind, and marked a new use of federal government power. [107] While Harrison approved of the law and its intent, his administration was not particularly vigorous in enforcing it. [108] However, the government successfully concluded a case during Harrison's time in office (against a Tennessee coal company), [d] and had initiated several other cases against trusts. [108]

One of the most volatile questions of the 1880s was whether the currency should be backed by gold and silver, or by gold alone. [109] The issue cut across party lines, with western Republicans and southern Democrats joining together in the call for the free coinage of silver, and both parties' representatives in the northeast holding firm for the gold standard. Because silver was worth less than its legal equivalent in gold, taxpayers paid their government bills in silver, while international creditors demanded payment in gold, resulting in a depletion of the nation's gold supply. Owing to worldwide deflation in the late 19th century, however, a strict gold standard had resulted in reduction of incomes without the equivalent reduction in debts, pushing debtors and the poor to call for silver coinage as an inflationary measure. [110]

The silver coinage issue had not been much discussed in the 1888 campaign and Harrison is said to have favored a bimetallist position. [106] However, his appointment of a silverite Treasury Secretary, William Windom, encouraged the free silver supporters. [111] Harrison attempted to steer a middle course between the two positions, advocating a free coinage of silver, but at its own value, not at a fixed ratio to gold. [112] This failed to facilitate a compromise between the factions. In July 1890, Senator Sherman achieved passage of a bill, the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, in both houses. [112] Harrison thought that the bill would end the controversy, and he signed it into law. [113] The effect of the bill, however, was the increased depletion of the nation's gold supply, a problem that would persist until the second Cleveland administration resolved it. [114]

Civil rights

After regaining the majority in both Houses of Congress, some Republicans, led by Harrison, attempted to pass legislation to protect black Americans' civil rights. Harrison's Attorney General, William H. H. Miller, through the Justice Department, ordered the prosecutions for violation of voting rights in the South however, white juries often failed to convict or indict violators. This prompted Harrison to urge Congress to pass legislation that would "secure all our people a free exercise of the right of suffrage and every other civil right under the Constitution and laws". [115] Harrison endorsed the proposed Federal Elections Bill written by Representative Henry Cabot Lodge and Senator George Frisbie Hoar in 1890, but the bill was defeated in the Senate. [116] Following the failure to pass the bill, Harrison continued to speak in favor of African American civil rights in addresses to Congress. Most notably, on December 3, 1889, Harrison had gone before Congress and stated:

The colored people did not intrude themselves upon us they were brought here in chains and held in communities where they are now chiefly bound by a cruel slave code. when and under what conditions is the black man to have a free ballot? When is he in fact to have those full civil rights which have so long been his in law? When is that quality of influence which our form of government was intended to secure to the electors to be restored? … in many parts of our country where the colored population is large the people of that race are by various devices deprived of any effective exercise of their political rights and of many of their civil rights. The wrong does not expend itself upon those whose votes are suppressed. Every constituency in the Union is wronged. [117]

He severely questioned the states' civil rights records, arguing that if states have the authority over civil rights, then "we have a right to ask whether they are at work upon it." [116] Harrison also supported a bill proposed by Senator Henry W. Blair, which would have granted federal funding to schools regardless of the students' races. [118] He also endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling in the Civil Rights Cases (1883) that declared much of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional. None of these measures gained congressional approval. [119]

National forests

In March 1891 Congress enacted, and Harrison signed, the Land Revision Act of 1891. This legislation resulted from a bipartisan desire to initiate reclamation of surplus lands that had been, up to that point, granted from the public domain, for potential settlement or use by railroad syndicates. As the law's drafting was finalized, Section 24 was added at the behest of Harrison by his Secretary of the Interior John Noble, which read as follows:

That the President of the United States may, from time to time, set apart and reserve, in any State or Territory having public land bearing forests, in any part of the public lands wholly or in part covered with timber or undergrowth, whether of commercial value or not, as public reservations, and the president shall, by public proclamation, declare the establishment of such reservations and the limits thereof. [120]

Within a month of the enactment of this law Harrison authorized the first forest reserve, to be located on public domain adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming. Other areas were so designated by Harrison, bringing the first forest reservations total to 22 million acres in his term. [121] Harrison was also the first to give a prehistoric Indian Ruin, Casa Grande in Arizona, federal protection. [122]

Native American policy

During Harrison's administration, the Lakota Sioux, previously confined to reservations in South Dakota, grew restive under the influence of Wovoka, a medicine man, who encouraged them to participate in a spiritual movement called the Ghost Dance. [123] Many in Washington did not understand the predominantly religious nature of the Ghost Dance, and thought it was a militant movement being used to rally Native Americans against the government. On December 29, 1890, troops from the Seventh Cavalry clashed with the Sioux at Wounded Knee. The result was a massacre of at least 146 Sioux, including many women and children the dead Sioux were buried in a mass grave. [124] [125] In reaction Harrison directed Major General Nelson A. Miles to investigate and ordered 3,500 federal troops to South Dakota the uprising was brought to an end. [123] Wounded Knee is considered the last major American Indian battle in the 19th century. [124] Harrison's general policy on American Indians was to encourage assimilation into white society and, despite the massacre, he believed the policy to have been generally successful. [126] This policy, known as the allotment system and embodied in the Dawes Act, was favored by liberal reformers at the time, but eventually proved detrimental to American Indians as they sold most of their land at low prices to white speculators. [127]

Technology and naval modernization

During Harrison's time in office, the United States was continuing to experience advances in science and technology. Harrison was the earliest president whose voice is known to be preserved. That thirty-six-second recording ( help · info ) was originally made on a wax phonograph cylinder in 1889 by Gianni Bettini. [128] Harrison also had electricity installed in the White House for the first time by Edison General Electric Company, but he and his wife would not touch the light switches for fear of electrocution and would often go to sleep with the lights on. [129]

Over the course of his administration, Harrison marshaled the country's technology to clothe the nation with a credible naval power. When he took office there were only two commissioned warships in the Navy. In his inaugural address he said, "construction of a sufficient number of warships and their necessary armaments should progress as rapidly as is consistent with care and perfection." [130] Harrison's Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy spearheaded the rapid construction of vessels, and within a year congressional approval was obtained for building of the warships Indiana, Texas, Oregon, and Columbia. By 1898, with the help of the Carnegie Corporation, no less than ten modern warships, including steel hulls and greater displacements and armaments, had transformed the United States into a legitimate naval power. Seven of these had begun during the Harrison term. [131]

Foreign policy

Latin America and Samoa

Harrison and Secretary of State Blaine were often not the most cordial of friends, but harmonized in an aggressive foreign policy and commercial reciprocity with other nations. [132] Blaine's persistent medical problems warranted more of a hands-on effort by Harrison in the conduct of foreign policy. In San Francisco, while on tour of the United States in 1891, Harrison proclaimed that the United States was in a "new epoch" of trade and that the expanding navy would protect oceanic shipping and increase American influence and prestige abroad. [133] The First International Conference of American States met in Washington in 1889 Harrison set an aggressive agenda including customs and currency integration and named a bipartisan delegation to the conference, led by John B. Henderson and Andrew Carnegie. The conference failed to achieve any diplomatic breakthrough, due in large part to an atmosphere of suspicion fostered by the Argentinian delegation. It did succeed in establishing an information center that became the Pan American Union. [134] In response to the diplomatic bust, Harrison and Blaine pivoted diplomatically and initiated a crusade for tariff reciprocity with Latin American nations the Harrison administration concluded eight reciprocity treaties among these countries. [135] On another front, Harrison sent Frederick Douglass as ambassador to Haiti, but failed in his attempts to establish a naval base there. [136]

In 1889, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the German Empire were locked in a dispute over control of the Samoan Islands. Historian George H. Ryden's research indicates Harrison played a key role in determining the status of this Pacific outpost by taking a firm stand on every aspect of Samoa conference negotiations this included selection of the local ruler, refusal to allow an indemnity for Germany, as well as the establishment of a three power protectorate, a first for the U.S.. These arrangements facilitated the future dominant power of the U.S. in the Pacific Secretary of State Blaine was absent due to complication of lumbago. [137]

European embargo of U.S. pork

Throughout the 1880s various European countries had imposed a ban on importation of United States pork out of an unconfirmed concern of trichinosis at issue was over one billion pounds of pork products with a value of $80 million annually (equivalent to $2.3 billion in 2020). Harrison engaged Whitelaw Reid, minister to France, and William Walter Phelps, minister to Germany, to restore these exports for the country without delay. Harrison also successfully asked the congress to enact the Meat Inspection Act to eliminate the accusations of product compromise. The president also partnered with Agriculture Secretary Rusk to threaten Germany with retaliation – by initiating an embargo in the U.S. against Germany's highly demanded beet sugar. By September 1891 Germany relented, and was soon followed by Denmark, France and Austria-Hungary. [138]

Crises in Aleutian Islands and Chile

The first international crisis Harrison faced arose from disputed fishing rights on the Alaskan coast. Canada claimed fishing and sealing rights around many of the Aleutian Islands, in violation of U.S. law. As a result, the United States Navy seized several Canadian ships. [139] In 1891, the administration began negotiations with the British that would eventually lead to a compromise over fishing rights after international arbitration, with the British government paying compensation in 1898. [140] [141]

In 1891, a diplomatic crisis emerged in Chile, otherwise known as the Baltimore Crisis. The American minister to Chile, Patrick Egan, granted asylum to Chileans who were seeking refuge during the 1891 Chilean Civil War. Egan, previously a militant Irish immigrant to the U.S., was motivated by a personal desire to thwart Great Britain's influence in Chile [142] his action increased tensions between Chile and the United States, which began in the early 1880s when Secretary Blaine had alienated the Chileans in the War of the Pacific.

The crisis began in earnest when sailors from USS Baltimore took shore leave in Valparaiso and a fight ensued, resulting in the deaths of two American sailors and the arrest of three dozen others. [143] Baltimore ' s captain, Winfield Schley, based on the nature of the sailors' wounds, insisted the sailors had been bayonet-attacked by Chilean police without provocation. With Blaine incapacitated, Harrison drafted a demand for reparations. The Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs Manuel Matta replied that Harrison's message was "erroneous or deliberately incorrect," and said that the Chilean government was treating the affair the same as any other criminal matter. [144]

Tensions increased to the brink of war – Harrison threatened to break off diplomatic relations unless the United States received a suitable apology, and said the situation required, "grave and patriotic consideration". The president also remarked, "If the dignity as well as the prestige and influence of the United States are not to be wholly sacrificed, we must protect those who in foreign ports display the flag or wear the colors." [145] The Navy was also placed on a high level of preparedness. [144] A recuperated Blaine made brief conciliatory overtures to the Chilean government which had no support in the administration he then reversed course, joined the chorus for unconditional concessions and apology by the Chileans, who ultimately obliged, and war was averted. Theodore Roosevelt later applauded Harrison for his use of the "big stick" in the matter. [146] [147]

Annexation of Hawaii

In the last days of his administration, Harrison dealt with the issue of Hawaiian annexation. Following a coup d'état against Queen Liliuokalani, the new government of Hawaii led by Sanford Dole petitioned for annexation by the United States. [148] Harrison was interested in expanding American influence in Hawaii and in establishing a naval base at Pearl Harbor but had not previously expressed an opinion on annexing the islands. [149] The United States consul in Hawaii, John L. Stevens, recognized the new government on February 1, 1893, and forwarded their proposals to Washington. With just one month left before leaving office, the administration signed a treaty on February 14 and submitted it to the Senate the next day with Harrison's recommendation. [148] The Senate failed to act, and President Cleveland withdrew the treaty shortly after taking office. [150] [151]


Marriage and Children

Many Harrison biographers state that when Harrison first met Anna Tuthill Symmes, he was in his early 20s. The two quickly hit it off. However, there was some initial rejection from Anna’s father, Judge John Cleves Symmes. As a result of this, Harrison and Anna decided to marry in secret. The marriage took place at North Bend, Ohio on November 25, 1795.

Harrison’s father-in-law later changed his opinion about Harrison. The land that Harrison and his wife Anna Harrison built a home on was sold to them by Anna’s father. The size of the land was 160 acres.

Although Anna’s health was a bit on the downside, Harrison and Anna went on to have 10 children. Many experts believe that her health issues were caused by the frequent nature of her pregnancies. However, she did go on to live into her late 80s. She died on February 25, 1864 – 23 years after the death of her husband, Harrison.


Contents

Harrison was the seventh and youngest child of Benjamin Harrison V and Elizabeth (Bassett) Harrison, born on February 9, 1773 at Berkeley Plantation, the Harrison family home along the James River in Charles City County, Virginia. He was a member of a prominent political family of English descent whose ancestors had been in Virginia since the 1630s [7] [8] and the last American president not born as an American citizen. His father was a Virginian planter, who served as a delegate to the Continental Congress (1774–1777) and who signed the Declaration of Independence. His father also served in the Virginia legislature and as the fifth governor of Virginia (1781–1784) in the years during and after the American Revolutionary War. [9] [10] [11] Harrison's older brother Carter Bassett Harrison represented Virginia in the House of Representatives (1793–1799). [8] [12]

Harrison was tutored at home until age 14 when he entered Hampden–Sydney College, a Presbyterian college in Virginia. [13] He studied there for three years, receiving a classical education which included Latin, Greek, French, logic, and debate. [14] [15] His Episcopalian father removed him from the college, possibly for religious reasons, and he briefly attended a boys' academy in Southampton County, Virginia before being transferred to Philadelphia in 1790.

He boarded with Robert Morris and entered the University of Pennsylvania in April 1791, where he studied medicine under Doctor Benjamin Rush and William Shippen Sr. [16] [17] His father died in the spring of 1791, shortly after he began his medical studies. He was only 18 and Morris became his guardian he also discovered that his family's financial situation left him without funds for further schooling, so he abandoned medical school in favor of a military career after being persuaded by Governor Henry Lee III, a friend of Harrison's father. [15] [18] [17]

Early military career

On August 16, 1791, Harrison was commissioned as an ensign in the Army in the 1st Infantry Regiment within 24 hours of meeting Lee. He was 18 years old at the time. He was initially assigned to Fort Washington, Cincinnati in the Northwest Territory where the army was engaged in the ongoing Northwest Indian War. [19] [20]

Harrison was promoted to lieutenant after Major General "Mad Anthony" Wayne took command of the western army in 1792 following a disastrous defeat under Arthur St. Clair. In 1793, he became Wayne's aide-de-camp and learned how to command an army on the American frontier he participated in Wayne's decisive victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794, which ended the Northwest Indian War. [19] [21] Harrison was a signatory of the Treaty of Greenville (1795) as witness to Wayne, the principal negotiator for the U.S. Under the terms of the treaty, a coalition of Indians ceded a portion of their lands to the federal government, opening two-thirds of Ohio to settlement. [19] [8] [22] [23]

Following his mother's death in 1793, Harrison inherited a portion of his family's Virginia estate, including approximately 3,000 acres (12 km 2 ) of land and several slaves. He was serving in the Army at the time and sold his land to his brother. [24]

Harrison was promoted to Captain in May 1797 and resigned from the Army on June 1, 1798. [2]

Marriage and family

Harrison met Anna Tuthill Symmes of North Bend, Ohio in 1795 when he was 22. She was a daughter of Anna Tuthill and Judge John Cleves Symmes, who served as a colonel in the Revolutionary War and a representative to the Congress of the Confederation. [8] [25] Harrison asked the judge for permission to marry Anna but was refused, so the couple waited until Symmes left on business. They then eloped and were married on November 25, 1795 [26] at the North Bend home of Dr. Stephen Wood, treasurer of the Northwest Territory. They honeymooned at Fort Washington, since Harrison was still on military duty. Judge Symmes confronted him two weeks later at a farewell dinner for General Wayne, sternly demanding to know how he intended to support a family. Harrison responded, "by my sword, and my own right arm, sir." [27] Harrison won over his father-in-law, who later sold the Harrisons 160 acres (65 ha) of land in North Bend, which enabled Harrison to build a home and start a farm. [28]

The Harrisons had ten children: Elizabeth Bassett (1796–1846), John Cleves Symmes (1798–1830), Lucy Singleton (1800–1826), William Henry (1802–1838), John Scott (1804–1878) father of future U.S. president Benjamin Harrison, Benjamin (1806–1840), Mary Symmes (1809–1842), Carter Bassett (1811–1839), Anna Tuthill (1813–1865), James Findlay (1814–1817). [29] Anna was frequently in poor health during the marriage, primarily because of her many pregnancies, yet she outlived William by 23 years, dying on February 25, 1864 at 88. [14] [30]

Prof. Kenneth R. Janken claims, in his biography of Walter Francis White, that Harrison had six children by an enslaved African-American woman named Dilsia. The assertion is undocumented and is based on White’s oral family history. [31] The story is considered unlikely, given Harrison's continued residence in predominantly non-slaveholding areas from age seventeen. [32]

Harrison began his political career when he resigned from the military on June 1, 1798 [19] [33] and campaigned among his friends and family for a post in the Northwest Territorial government. His close friend Timothy Pickering was serving as Secretary of State, and he helped him to get a recommendation to replace Winthrop Sargent, the outgoing territorial secretary. President John Adams appointed Harrison to the position in July 1798. He also frequently served as acting territorial governor during the absences of Governor Arthur St. Clair. [19] [34]

U.S. Congress

Harrison had many friends in the eastern aristocracy and quickly gained a reputation among them as a frontier leader. He ran a successful horse-breeding enterprise that won him acclaim throughout the Northwest Territory. Congress had legislated a territorial policy which led to high land costs, and this became a primary concern for settlers in the Territory Harrison became their champion to lower those prices. The Northwest Territory's population reached a sufficient number to have a delegate in Congress in October 1799, and Harrison ran for election. [35] He campaigned to encourage further migration to the territory, which eventually led to statehood. [36]

Harrison defeated Arthur St. Clair Jr. by one vote to become the Northwest Territory's first congressional delegate in 1798 at age 26. He served in the Sixth United States Congress from March 4, 1799 to May 14, 1800. [8] [39] He had no authority to vote on legislative bills, but he was permitted to serve on a committee, to submit legislation, and to engage in debate. [40] He became chairman of the Committee on Public Lands and promoted the Land Act of 1800, which made it easier to buy land in the Northwest Territory in smaller tracts at a low cost. The sale price for public lands was set at $2 per acre, [41] and this became an important contributor to rapid population growth in the Territory. [42]

Harrison also served on the committee that decided how to divide the Territory into smaller sections, and they recommended splitting it in two. The eastern section continued to be known as the Northwest Territory and consisted of Ohio and eastern Michigan the western section was named the Indiana Territory and consisted of Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, a portion of western Michigan, and the eastern portion of Minnesota. [41] [43] The two new territories were formally established in 1800 following the passage of 2 Stat. 58. [44]

On May 13, 1800, President John Adams appointed Harrison as the governor of the Indiana Territory, based on his ties to the west and seemingly neutral political stances. Harrison was caught unaware and was reluctant to accept the position until he received assurances from the Jeffersonians that he would not be removed from office after they gained power in the upcoming elections. [45] [46] His governorship was confirmed by the Senate and he resigned from Congress to become the first Indiana territorial governor in 1801. [41] [47]

Indiana territorial governor

Harrison began his duties on January 10, 1801 at Vincennes, the capital of the Indiana Territory. [48] [49] Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were both members of the Democratic-Republican Party, and they reappointed him as governor in 1803, 1806, and 1809. [41] He resigned on December 28, 1812 to resume his military career during the War of 1812. [50]

Harrison was assigned to administer the civilian government of the District of Louisiana in 1804, a part of the Louisiana Territory that included land north of the 33rd parallel. In October, a civilian government went into effect and Harrison served as the Louisiana district's executive leader. He administered the district's affairs for five weeks until the Louisiana Territory was formally established on July 4, 1805, and Brigadier General James Wilkinson assumed the duties of governor. [51] [52]

In 1805, Harrison built a plantation-style home near Vincennes that he named Grouseland, alluding to the birds on the property the 13-room home was one of the first brick structures in the territory, and it served as a center of social and political life in the territory during his tenure as governor. [25] [30] The territorial capital was moved to Corydon in 1813, and Harrison built a second home at nearby Harrison Valley. [53] He founded Jefferson University at Vincennes in 1801 which was incorporated as Vincennes University on November 29, 1806. [54]

Harrison had wide-ranging powers in the new territory, including the authority to appoint territorial officials and to divide the territory into smaller political districts and counties. One of his primary responsibilities was to obtain title to Indian lands that would allow future settlement and increase the territory's population, which was a requirement for statehood. [8] He was eager to expand the territory for personal reasons, as well, as his political fortunes were tied to Indiana's eventual statehood.

President Jefferson reappointed Harrison as the Indiana territorial governor on February 8, 1803, and he also granted him the authority to negotiate and conclude treaties with the Indians. [50] Between 1803 and 1809, he supervised 11 treaties with Indian leaders that provided the federal government with more than 60,000,000 acres (240,000 km 2 ), including the southern third of Indiana and most of Illinois. The 1804 Treaty of St. Louis with Quashquame required the Sauk and Meskwaki tribes to cede much of western Illinois and parts of Missouri to the federal government. Many of the Sauk greatly resented this treaty and the loss of lands, especially Black Hawk, and this was a primary reason that they sided with the British during the War of 1812. Harrison thought that the Treaty of Grouseland (1805) appeased some of the Indians, but tensions remained high along the frontier. The Treaty of Fort Wayne (1809) raised new tensions when Harrison purchased more than 2.5 million acres (10,000 km 2 ) inhabited by the Shawnee, Kickapoo, Wea, and Piankeshaw tribes he purchased the land from the Miami tribe, who claimed ownership. He rushed the treaty process by offering large subsidies to the tribes and their leaders so that it would be in force before Jefferson left office and the administration changed. [53] [55]

Harrison's pro-slavery position made him unpopular with the Indiana Territory's antislavery advocates, as he made several attempts to introduce slavery into the territory. He was unsuccessful due to the territory's growing anti-slavery movement. In 1803, he lobbied Congress to suspend Article VI of the Northwest Ordinance for 10 years, a move that would allow slavery in the Indiana Territory. At the end of the suspension period, citizens in the territories covered under the ordinance could decide for themselves whether to permit slavery. Harrison claimed that the suspension was necessary to encourage settlement and would make the territory economically viable, but Congress rejected the idea. [56] In 1803 and 1805, Harrison and the appointed territorial judges enacted laws that authorized indentured servitude and gave masters authority to determine the length of service. [57] [58]

The Illinois Territory held elections to the legislature's upper and lower houses for the first time in 1809. Lower house members were elected previously, but the territorial governor appointed members to the upper house. Harrison found himself at odds with the legislature after the anti-slavery faction came to power, and the eastern portion of the Indiana Territory grew to include a large anti-slavery population. [59] The Territory's general assembly convened in 1810, and its anti-slavery faction immediately repealed the indenturing laws enacted in 1803 and in 1805. [52] [60] After 1809, Harrison's political authority declined as the Indiana territorial legislature assumed more authority and the territory advanced toward statehood. By 1812, he had moved away and resumed his military career. [61]

Jefferson was the primary author of the Northwest Ordinance, and he had made a secret compact with James Lemen to defeat the nascent pro-slavery movement eventually led by Harrison. Even though he was a slaveholder himself. Jefferson did not want slavery to expand into the Northwest Territory, as he believed that the institution should end. He donated $100 to encourage Lemen, who donated those funds to other good works, and later another $20 to help fund the planting of the church later known as Bethel Baptist Church. Lemen planted churches in Illinois and Indiana to stop the pro-slavery movement. In Indiana, the planting of an anti-slavery church led to citizens signing a petition and organizing politically to defeat Harrison's efforts to legalize slavery in the territory. Jefferson and Lemen were instrumental in defeating Harrison's attempts in 1805 and 1807 to expand slavery in the territory. [62]

Tecumseh and Tippecanoe

An Indian resistance movement had been growing against American expansion through the leadership of Shawnee brothers Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa (The Prophet) in a conflict that became known as Tecumseh's War. Tenskwatawa convinced the tribes that they would be protected by the Great Spirit and no harm could befall them if they would rise up against the settlers. He encouraged resistance by telling the tribes to pay white traders only half of what they owed and to give up all the white man's ways, including their clothing, muskets, and especially whiskey. [63]

In August 1810, Tecumseh led 400 warriors down the Wabash River to meet with Harrison in Vincennes. They were dressed in war paint, and their sudden appearance at first frightened the soldiers at Vincennes. The leaders of the group were escorted to Grouseland, where they met Harrison. Tecumseh insisted that the Fort Wayne Treaty was illegitimate, arguing that one tribe could not sell land without the approval of the other tribes he asked Harrison to nullify it and warned that Americans should not attempt to settle the lands sold in the treaty. Tecumseh informed Harrison that he had threatened to kill the chiefs who signed the treaty if they carried out its terms and that his confederation of tribes was growing rapidly. [64] Harrison said that the Miamis were the owners of the land and could sell it if they so chose. He rejected Tecumseh's claim that all the Indians formed one nation. He said that each tribe could have separate relations with the United States if they chose to. Harrison argued that the Great Spirit would have made all the tribes speak one language if they were to be one nation. [65]

Tecumseh launched an "impassioned rebuttal", in the words of one historian, but Harrison was unable to understand his language. [65] A Shawnee friendly to Harrison cocked his pistol from the sidelines to alert Harrison that Tecumseh's speech was leading to trouble, and some witnesses reported that Tecumseh was encouraging the warriors to kill Harrison. Many of them began to pull their weapons, representing a substantial threat to Harrison and the town, which held a population of only 1,000. Harrison drew his sword, and Tecumseh's warriors backed down when the officers presented their firearms in his defense. [65] Chief Winamac was friendly to Harrison, and he countered Tecumseh's arguments and told the warriors that they should return home in peace since they had come in peace. Before leaving, Tecumseh informed Harrison that he would seek an alliance with the British if the treaty was not nullified. [66] After the meeting, Tecumseh journeyed to meet with many of the tribes in the region, hoping to create a confederation to battle the United States. [67]

Tecumseh was traveling in 1811 when Harrison was authorized by Secretary of War William Eustis to march against the confederation as a show of force. He led an army north with 950 men to intimidate the Shawnee into making peace, but the tribes launched a surprise attack early on November 7 in the Battle of Tippecanoe. Harrison defeated the tribal forces at Prophetstown next to the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers, and he was hailed as a national hero and the battle became famous. Although his troops had suffered 62 dead and 126 wounded during the battle and the Shawnee just 150 casualties, the Shawnee prophet's vision of spiritual protection had been shattered. Tecumseh's brother, “the Prophet”, and their forces fled to Canada and their campaign to unite the tribes of the region to reject assimilation and resume an indigenous lifestyle failed. [68] [69]

When reporting to Secretary Eustis, Harrison informed him that the battle occurred near the Tippecanoe River and that he feared an imminent reprisal attack. The first dispatch did not make clear which side had won the conflict, and the secretary at first interpreted it as a defeat the follow-up dispatch clarified the situation. When no second attack came, the Shawnee defeat was more certain. Eustis demanded to know why Harrison had not taken adequate precautions in fortifying his camp against attacks, and Harrison said that he had considered the position strong enough. The dispute was the catalyst of a disagreement between Harrison and the Department of War which continued into the War of 1812. [70]

The press did not cover the battle at first, and one Ohio paper misinterpreted Harrison's first dispatch to mean that he was defeated. [71] By December, however, most major American papers carried stories on the battle, and public outrage grew over the Shawnee. Americans blamed the British for inciting the tribes to violence and supplying them with firearms, and Congress passed resolutions condemning the British for interfering in American domestic affairs. Congress declared war on June 18, 1812, [72] and Harrison left Vincennes to seek a military appointment. [73]

War of 1812

The outbreak of war with the British in 1812 led to continued conflict with Indians in the Northwest. Harrison briefly served as a major general in the Kentucky militia until the government commissioned him on September 17 to command the Army of the Northwest. He received federal military pay for his service, and he also collected a territorial governor's salary from September until December 28, when he formally resigned as governor and continued his military service. [73]

The Americans suffered a defeat in the siege of Detroit. General James Winchester offered Harrison the rank of brigadier general, but Harrison also wanted sole command of the army. President James Madison removed Winchester from command in September, and Harrison became commander of the fresh recruits. The British and their Indian allies greatly outnumbered Harrison's troops, so Harrison constructed a defensive position during the winter along the Maumee River in northwest Ohio. He named it Fort Meigs in honor of Ohio governor Return J. Meigs Jr.. He received reinforcements in 1813, then took the offensive and led the army north to battle. He won victories in the Indiana Territory and in Ohio and recaptured Detroit, before invading Upper Canada (Ontario). His army defeated the British on October 5, 1813 at the Battle of the Thames, in which Tecumseh was killed. [73] [74] This pivotal battle is considered to be one of the great American victories in the war, second only to the Battle of New Orleans. [74] [75]

In 1814, Secretary of War John Armstrong divided the command of the army, assigning Harrison to a "backwater" post and giving control of the front to one of Harrison's subordinates. [2] Armstrong and Harrison had disagreed over the lack of coordination and effectiveness in the invasion of Canada, and Harrison resigned from the army in May. [75] [76] After the war ended, Congress investigated Harrison's resignation and determined that Armstrong had mistreated him during his military campaign and that his resignation was justified. Congress awarded Harrison a gold medal for his services during the War of 1812. [77]

Harrison and Michigan Territory's Governor Lewis Cass were responsible for negotiating the peace treaty with the Indians. [78] President Madison appointed Harrison in June 1815 to help in negotiating a second treaty with the Indians that became known as the Treaty of Springwells, in which the tribes ceded a large tract of land in the west, providing additional land for American purchase and settlement. [39] [79]

Ohio politician

John Gibson replaced Harrison as Indiana territorial governor in 1812, and Harrison resigned from the army in 1814 and returned to his family in North Bend. He cultivated his land and enlarged the log cabin farmhouse, but he soon returned to public life. [80] [81] He was elected in 1816 to complete John McLean's term in the House of Representatives, where he represented Ohio's 1st congressional district from October 8, 1816 to March 3, 1819. He declined to serve as Secretary of War under President Monroe in 1817. He was elected to the Ohio State Senate in 1819 and served until 1821, having lost the election for Ohio governor in 1820. [39] He ran for a seat in the House but in 1822 lost by 500 votes to James W. Gazlay. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1824, where he served until May 20, 1828. Fellow westerners in Congress called him a "Buckeye", a term of affection related to the native Ohio buckeye tree. [39] He was an Ohio presidential elector in 1820 for James Monroe [82] and for Henry Clay in 1824. [83]

Harrison was appointed in 1828 as minister plenipotentiary to Gran Colombia, so he resigned from Congress and served in his new post until March 8, 1829. He arrived in Bogotá on December 22, 1828 and found the condition of Colombia saddening. He reported to the Secretary of State that the country was on the edge of anarchy, including his opinion that Simón Bolívar was about to become a military dictator. He wrote a rebuke to Bolívar, stating that "the strongest of all governments is that which is most free" and calling on Bolívar to encourage the development of democracy. In response, Bolívar wrote that the United States "seem destined by Providence to plague America with torments in the name of freedom", a sentiment that achieved fame in Latin America. [84] Andrew Jackson took office in March 1829, and he recalled Harrison in order to make his own appointment to the position. [85]

Private citizen

Harrison returned to the United States from Colombia and settled on his farm in North Bend, Ohio, living in relative retirement after nearly four decades of government service. He had accumulated no substantial wealth during his lifetime, and he subsisted on his savings, a small pension, and the income produced by his farm. He cultivated corn and established a distillery to produce whiskey, but he became disturbed by the effects of alcohol on its consumers and closed the distillery. In an address to the Hamilton County Agricultural Board in 1831, he said that he had sinned in making whiskey and hoped that others would learn from his mistake and stop the production of liquors. [86]

In these early years, Harrison also earned money from his contributions to James Hall's A Memoir of the Public Services of William Henry Harrison, published in 1836. That year, he made an unsuccessful run for the presidency as a Whig candidate. Between 1836 and 1840, he served as Clerk of Courts for Hamilton County. This was his job when he was elected president in 1840. [87] About this time, he met abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor George DeBaptiste who lived in nearby Madison. The two became friends, and DeBaptiste became his personal servant, staying with him until his death. [88] Harrison campaigned for president a second time in 1840 more than a dozen books had been published on his life by then, and he was hailed by many as a national hero. [89]

1836 presidential campaign

Harrison was the Northern Whig candidate for president in 1836, one of only two times in American history when a major political party intentionally ran more than one presidential candidate (the Democrats ran two candidates in 1860). Vice President Martin Van Buren was the Democratic candidate, and he was popular and deemed likely to win the election against a single Whig candidate. The Whig plan was to elect popular Whigs regionally, deny Van Buren the 148 electoral votes needed for election, and force the House of Representatives to decide the election. They hoped that the Whigs would control the House after the general elections. This strategy would have failed, nonetheless, as the Democrats retained a majority in the House following the election. [90] [91]

Harrison ran in all the non-slave states except Massachusetts, and in the slave states of Delaware, Maryland, and Kentucky. Hugh L. White ran in the remaining slave states except for South Carolina. Daniel Webster ran in Massachusetts, and Willie P. Mangum in South Carolina. [92] The plan narrowly failed, as Van Buren won the election with 170 electoral votes. A swing of just over 4,000 votes in Pennsylvania would have given that state's 30 electoral votes to Harrison and the election would have been decided in the House of Representatives. [90] [91] [93]

1840 presidential campaign

Harrison was the Whig candidate and faced incumbent Van Buren in the 1840 election. He was chosen over more controversial members of the party, such as Clay and Webster, and based his campaign on his military record and on the weak U.S. economy caused by the Panic of 1837.

The Whigs nicknamed Van Buren "Van Ruin" in order to blame him for the economic problems. [94] The Democrats, in turn, ridiculed Harrison by calling him "Granny Harrison, the petticoat general" because he resigned from the army before the War of 1812 ended. They would ask voters what Harrison's name would be when spelled backwards: "No Sirrah". They also cast him as a provincial, out-of-touch old man who would rather "sit in his log cabin drinking hard cider" than attend to the administration of the country. This strategy backfired when Harrison and running mate John Tyler adopted the log cabin and hard cider as campaign symbols. Their campaign used the symbols on banners and posters and created bottles of hard cider shaped like log cabins, all to connect the candidates to the "common man". [95]

Harrison came from a wealthy, slaveholding Virginia family, yet his campaign promoted him as a humble frontiersman in the style popularized by Andrew Jackson, while presenting Van Buren as a wealthy elitist. A memorable example was the Gold Spoon Oration that Pennsylvania's Whig representative Charles Ogle delivered in the House, ridiculing Van Buren's elegant White House lifestyle and lavish spending. [95] [96] [97] The Whigs invented a chant in which people would spit tobacco juice as they chanted "wirt-wirt," and this also exhibited the difference between candidates from the time of the election: [98]

Old Tip he wore a homespun coat, he had no ruffled shirt: wirt-wirt,
But Matt he has the golden plate, and he's a little squirt: wirt-wirt!

The Whigs boasted of Harrison's military record and his reputation as the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe. The campaign slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too" became one of the most famous in American politics. [98] Harrison won a landslide victory in the Electoral College, 234 electoral votes to Van Buren's 60, although the popular vote was much closer. He received 53 percent of the popular vote to Van Buren's 47 percent, with a margin of less than 150,000 votes. [98] [99]

Shortest presidency

His major presidential accomplishments included forming a nationwide voter coalition that won the presidency for the Whigs, and selecting the first Whig cabinet. He balanced the party's multiple factions and prepared to pass the extensive Whig legislative agenda.

Harrison's wife Anna was too ill to travel when he left Ohio for his inauguration, and she decided not to accompany him to Washington. He asked his late son's widow Jane to accompany him and temporarily act as hostess but Harrison's death meant that Anna never went to Washington.

When Harrison came to Washington, he wanted to show that he was still the steadfast hero of Tippecanoe and that he was a better educated and more thoughtful man than the backwoods caricature portrayed in the campaign. He took the oath of office on Thursday, March 4, 1841, a cold and wet day. [100] He braved the cold weather and chose not to wear an overcoat or a hat, rode on horseback to the ceremony rather than in the closed carriage that had been offered him, and delivered the longest inaugural address in American history [100] at 8,445 words. It took him nearly two hours to read, although his friend and fellow Whig Daniel Webster had edited it for length. He rode through the streets in the inaugural parade, [101] stood for a three-hour receiving line at the White House, and attended three inaugural balls that evening, [102] including one at Carusi's Saloon entitled the "Tippecanoe" ball with 1,000 guests who had paid $10 per person (equal to $297 in 2020). [103]

The inaugural address was a detailed statement of the Whig agenda, essentially a repudiation of Jackson's and Van Buren's policies. Harrison promised to re-establish the Bank of the United States and extend its capacity for credit by issuing paper currency in Henry Clay's American system. He intended to defer to the judgment of Congress on legislative matters, with sparing use of his veto power, and to reverse Jackson's spoils system of executive patronage. He promised to use patronage to create a qualified staff, not to enhance his own standing in government. [104] [105]

Clay was a leader of the Whigs and a powerful legislator, as well as a frustrated presidential candidate in his own right, and he expected to have substantial influence in the Harrison administration. He ignored his own platform plank of overturning the "spoils" system and attempted to influence Harrison's actions before and during his brief presidency, especially in putting forth his own preferences for Cabinet offices and other presidential appointments. Harrison rebuffed his aggression: "Mr. Clay, you forget that I am the President." [106] The dispute intensified when Harrison named Daniel Webster as Secretary of State, who was Clay's arch-rival for control of the Whig Party. Harrison also appeared to give Webster's supporters some highly coveted patronage positions. His sole concession to Clay was to name his protégé John J. Crittenden to the post of Attorney General. Despite this, the dispute continued until the president's death.

Clay was not the only one who hoped to benefit from Harrison's election. Hordes of office applicants came to the White House, which (at the time) was open to all who wanted a meeting with the president. Most of Harrison's business during his month-long presidency involved extensive social obligations and receiving visitors at the White House. Harrison had been advised to have an administrative system in place for his presidency before the inauguration he declined, wanting to focus on the festivities. As such, job seekers awaited him at all hours and filled the Executive Mansion, with no process having been instituted for organizing and vetting them. [101]

Harrison wrote in a letter dated March 10, "I am so much harassed by the multitude that calls upon me that I can give no proper attention to any business of my own." [107] U.S. marshal of the District of Columbia Alexander Hunter recalled an incident in which Harrison was besieged by office seekers who were preventing him from getting to a cabinet meeting when his pleas for their consideration were ignored, Harrison finally "accepted their petitions, which filled his arms and pockets". [108] Another anecdote of the time recounted that the halls were so full one afternoon that in order to get from one room to the next, Harrison had to be helped out a window, walk the length of the White House exterior, and be helped in through another window. [109]

Harrison took seriously his pledge to reform executive appointments, visiting each of the six executive departments to observe its operations and issuing through Webster an order to all departments that electioneering by employees would be considered grounds for dismissal. He resisted pressure from other Whigs over partisan patronage. A group arrived in his office on March 16 to demand the removal of all Democrats from any appointed office, and Harrison proclaimed, "So help me God, I will resign my office before I can be guilty of such an iniquity!" [110] His own cabinet attempted to countermand his appointment of John Chambers as Governor of Iowa in favor of Webster's friend James Wilson. Webster attempted to press this decision at a March 25 cabinet meeting, and Harrison asked him to read aloud a handwritten note which said simply "William Henry Harrison, President of the United States". He then announced: "William Henry Harrison, President of the United States, tells you, gentlemen, that, by God, John Chambers shall be governor of Iowa!" [111]

Harrison's only official act of consequence was to call Congress into a special session. He and Clay had disagreed over the necessity of such a session, and Harrison's cabinet proved evenly divided, so the president vetoed the idea. Clay pressed him on the special session on March 13, but Harrison rebuffed him and told him not to visit the White House again, but to address him only in writing. [112] A few days later, however, Treasury Secretary Thomas Ewing reported to Harrison that federal funds were in such trouble that the government could not continue to operate until Congress' regularly scheduled session in December Harrison thus relented, and proclaimed the special session on March 17 in the interests of "the condition of the revenue and finance of the country". The session would have begun on May 31 as scheduled if Harrison had lived. [113] [114]

Administration and cabinet

On March 26, 1841, Harrison became ill with cold-like symptoms. His doctor, Dr. Thomas Miller, prescribed rest Harrison was unable to rest during the day for the crowds in the White House, and that night chose instead to host a party with his army friends. The next day, he was seized with chills during a cabinet meeting and was put to bed by the morning of March 28 he had a high fever, at which time a team of doctors was called in to treat him. [115] The prevailing theory at the time was that his illness had been caused by the bad weather at his inauguration three weeks earlier. [116] Others noted that in his first few days in office, Harrison had personally walked in the mornings to purchase groceries (and a dairy cow for the White House) at Washington's markets, with the weather still cold and the markets in the midst of marshlands. (He ended the morning walks after the office-seekers began following him to the markets.) [115]

As soon as the doctors placed him in bed and undressed him, they diagnosed him with right lower lobe pneumonia, and placed heated suction cups on his bare body and administered a series of bloodlettings to draw out the disease. [117] Those procedures failed to bring about improvement, so the doctors treated him with ipecac, castor oil, calomel, mustard plasters, and finally with a boiled mixture of crude petroleum and Virginia snakeroot. All this only weakened Harrison further and the doctors came to the conclusion that he would not recover. [115]

Washington society noticed his uncharacteristic absence from either of the two churches he attended on Sunday, March 28. [108] Initially, no official announcement was made concerning Harrison's illness, which fueled public speculation and concern the longer he remained out of public view. By the end of the month, large crowds were gathering outside the White House, holding vigil while awaiting any news about the president's condition, which slowly worsened as time passed. [115] Harrison died on April 4, 1841, nine days after becoming ill [118] and exactly one month after taking the oath of office he was the first president to die in office. [117] Jane McHugh and Philip A. Mackowiak did an analysis in Clinical Infectious Diseases (2014), examining Dr. Miller's notes and records showing that the White House water supply was downstream of public sewage, and they concluded that he likely died of septic shock due to "enteric fever" (typhoid or paratyphoid fever). [119] [120] His last words were to his attending doctor, though assumed to be directed at Vice President John Tyler:

Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more. [121]

A 30-day period of mourning commenced following the president's death. The White House hosted various public ceremonies, modeled after European royal funeral practices. An invitation-only funeral service was also held on April 7 in the East Room of the White House, after which Harrison's coffin was brought to Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. where it was placed in the Public Vault. [122] Solomon Northup gave an account of the procession in Twelve Years a Slave:

The next day there was a great pageant in Washington. The roar of cannon and the tolling of bells filled the air, while many houses were shrouded with crape, and the streets were black with people. As the day advanced, the procession made its appearance, coming slowly through the Avenue, carriage after carriage, in long succession, while thousands upon thousands followed on foot—all moving to the sound of melancholy music. They were bearing the dead body of Harrison to the grave…. I remember distinctly how the window glass would break and rattle to the ground, after each report of the cannon they were firing in the burial ground. [123]

That June, Harrison's body was transported by train and river barge to North Bend, Ohio, and he was buried on July 7 in a family tomb at the summit of Mt. Nebo overlooking the Ohio River which is now the William Henry Harrison Tomb State Memorial. [124]

Impact of death

Harrison's death called attention to an ambiguity in Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution regarding succession to the presidency. The Constitution clearly provided for the vice president to take over the "powers and duties" of the presidency in the event of a president's removal, death, resignation, or inability, but it was unclear whether the vice president formally became president of the United States, or simply temporarily assumed the powers and duties of that office, in a case of succession. [125]

Harrison's cabinet insisted that Tyler was "Vice President acting as President". Tyler was resolute in his claim to the title of President and in his determination to exercise the full powers of the presidency. [126] The cabinet consulted with Chief Justice Roger Taney and decided that, if Tyler took the presidential oath of office, he would assume the office of president. Tyler obliged and was sworn into office on April 6, 1841. Congress convened in May and, after a short period of debate in both houses, passed a resolution which confirmed Tyler as president for the remainder of Harrison's term. [127] [128] The precedent that he set in 1841 was followed on seven occasions when an incumbent president died, and it was written into the Constitution in 1967 through Section One of the Twenty-fifth Amendment. [126]

More generally, Harrison's death was a disappointment to Whigs, who hoped to pass a revenue tariff and enact measures to support Henry Clay's American system. Tyler abandoned the Whig agenda, effectively cutting himself off from the party. [129] Three people served as president within a single calendar year: Martin Van Buren, Harrison, and Tyler. This has only happened on one other occasion, when Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, and Chester A. Arthur each served in 1881. [130]

Historical reputation

Among Harrison's most enduring legacies is the series of treaties that he either negotiated or signed with Indian leaders during his tenure as the Indiana territorial governor. [14] As part of the treaty negotiations, the tribes ceded large tracts of land in the west which provided additional acreage for purchase and settlement. [39] [131] [79]

Harrison's long-term impact on American politics includes his campaigning methods, which laid the foundation for modern presidential campaign tactics. [132] Harrison died nearly penniless. Congress voted his wife Anna a presidential widow's pension of $25,000, [133] one year of Harrison's salary (equivalent to about $627,000 in 2020). [134] She also received the right to mail letters free of charge. [135]

Harrison's son John Scott Harrison represented Ohio in the House of Representatives between 1853 and 1857. [136] Harrison's grandson Benjamin Harrison of Indiana served as the 23rd president from 1889 to 1893, making William and Benjamin Harrison the only grandparent-grandchild pair of presidents. [137]

Honors and tributes

On February 19, 2009, the U.S. Mint released the ninth coin in the Presidential $1 Coin Program, bearing Harrison's likeness. A total of 98,420,000 coins were minted. [138] [139]

Several monuments and memorial statues have been erected in tribute to Harrison. There are public statues of him in downtown Indianapolis, [140] Cincinnati's Piatt Park, [141] the Tippecanoe County Courthouse, [142] Harrison County, Indiana, [143] and Owen County, Indiana. [144] Numerous counties and towns also bear his name.

To this day the Village of North Bend, Ohio, still honors Harrison every year with a parade sometime around his February 9 birthday. [145]

The Gen. William Henry Harrison Headquarters in Franklinton (now part of Columbus, Ohio) commemorates Harrison. The house was his military headquarters from 1813 to 1814, and is the only remaining building in Ohio associated with him. [146]


Contents

Harrison was the seventh and youngest child of Benjamin Harrison V and Elizabeth (Bassett) Harrison, born on February 9, 1773 at Berkeley Plantation, the Harrison family home along the James River in Charles City County, Virginia. He was a member of a prominent political family of English descent whose ancestors had been in Virginia since the 1630s [7] [8] and the last American president not born as an American citizen. His father was a Virginian planter, who served as a delegate to the Continental Congress (1774–1777) and who signed the Declaration of Independence. His father also served in the Virginia legislature and as the fifth governor of Virginia (1781–1784) in the years during and after the American Revolutionary War. [9] [10] [11] Harrison's older brother Carter Bassett Harrison represented Virginia in the House of Representatives (1793–1799). [8] [12]

Harrison was tutored at home until age 14 when he entered Hampden–Sydney College, a Presbyterian college in Virginia. [13] He studied there for three years, receiving a classical education which included Latin, Greek, French, logic, and debate. [14] [15] His Episcopalian father removed him from the college, possibly for religious reasons, and he briefly attended a boys' academy in Southampton County, Virginia before being transferred to Philadelphia in 1790.

He boarded with Robert Morris and entered the University of Pennsylvania in April 1791, where he studied medicine under Doctor Benjamin Rush and William Shippen Sr. [16] [17] His father died in the spring of 1791, shortly after he began his medical studies. He was only 18 and Morris became his guardian he also discovered that his family's financial situation left him without funds for further schooling, so he abandoned medical school in favor of a military career after being persuaded by Governor Henry Lee III, a friend of Harrison's father. [15] [18] [17]

Early military career

On August 16, 1791, Harrison was commissioned as an ensign in the Army in the 1st Infantry Regiment within 24 hours of meeting Lee. He was 18 years old at the time. He was initially assigned to Fort Washington, Cincinnati in the Northwest Territory where the army was engaged in the ongoing Northwest Indian War. [19] [20]

Harrison was promoted to lieutenant after Major General "Mad Anthony" Wayne took command of the western army in 1792 following a disastrous defeat under Arthur St. Clair. In 1793, he became Wayne's aide-de-camp and learned how to command an army on the American frontier he participated in Wayne's decisive victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794, which ended the Northwest Indian War. [19] [21] Harrison was a signatory of the Treaty of Greenville (1795) as witness to Wayne, the principal negotiator for the U.S. Under the terms of the treaty, a coalition of Indians ceded a portion of their lands to the federal government, opening two-thirds of Ohio to settlement. [19] [8] [22] [23]

Following his mother's death in 1793, Harrison inherited a portion of his family's Virginia estate, including approximately 3,000 acres (12 km 2 ) of land and several slaves. He was serving in the Army at the time and sold his land to his brother. [24]

Harrison was promoted to Captain in May 1797 and resigned from the Army on June 1, 1798. [2]

Marriage and family

Harrison met Anna Tuthill Symmes of North Bend, Ohio in 1795 when he was 22. She was a daughter of Anna Tuthill and Judge John Cleves Symmes, who served as a colonel in the Revolutionary War and a representative to the Congress of the Confederation. [8] [25] Harrison asked the judge for permission to marry Anna but was refused, so the couple waited until Symmes left on business. They then eloped and were married on November 25, 1795 [26] at the North Bend home of Dr. Stephen Wood, treasurer of the Northwest Territory. They honeymooned at Fort Washington, since Harrison was still on military duty. Judge Symmes confronted him two weeks later at a farewell dinner for General Wayne, sternly demanding to know how he intended to support a family. Harrison responded, "by my sword, and my own right arm, sir." [27] Harrison won over his father-in-law, who later sold the Harrisons 160 acres (65 ha) of land in North Bend, which enabled Harrison to build a home and start a farm. [28]

The Harrisons had ten children: Elizabeth Bassett (1796–1846), John Cleves Symmes (1798–1830), Lucy Singleton (1800–1826), William Henry (1802–1838), John Scott (1804–1878) father of future U.S. president Benjamin Harrison, Benjamin (1806–1840), Mary Symmes (1809–1842), Carter Bassett (1811–1839), Anna Tuthill (1813–1865), James Findlay (1814–1817). [29] Anna was frequently in poor health during the marriage, primarily because of her many pregnancies, yet she outlived William by 23 years, dying on February 25, 1864 at 88. [14] [30]

Prof. Kenneth R. Janken claims, in his biography of Walter Francis White, that Harrison had six children by an enslaved African-American woman named Dilsia. The assertion is undocumented and is based on White’s oral family history. [31] The story is considered unlikely, given Harrison's continued residence in predominantly non-slaveholding areas from age seventeen. [32]

Harrison began his political career when he resigned from the military on June 1, 1798 [19] [33] and campaigned among his friends and family for a post in the Northwest Territorial government. His close friend Timothy Pickering was serving as Secretary of State, and he helped him to get a recommendation to replace Winthrop Sargent, the outgoing territorial secretary. President John Adams appointed Harrison to the position in July 1798. He also frequently served as acting territorial governor during the absences of Governor Arthur St. Clair. [19] [34]

U.S. Congress

Harrison had many friends in the eastern aristocracy and quickly gained a reputation among them as a frontier leader. He ran a successful horse-breeding enterprise that won him acclaim throughout the Northwest Territory. Congress had legislated a territorial policy which led to high land costs, and this became a primary concern for settlers in the Territory Harrison became their champion to lower those prices. The Northwest Territory's population reached a sufficient number to have a delegate in Congress in October 1799, and Harrison ran for election. [35] He campaigned to encourage further migration to the territory, which eventually led to statehood. [36]

Harrison defeated Arthur St. Clair Jr. by one vote to become the Northwest Territory's first congressional delegate in 1798 at age 26. He served in the Sixth United States Congress from March 4, 1799 to May 14, 1800. [8] [39] He had no authority to vote on legislative bills, but he was permitted to serve on a committee, to submit legislation, and to engage in debate. [40] He became chairman of the Committee on Public Lands and promoted the Land Act of 1800, which made it easier to buy land in the Northwest Territory in smaller tracts at a low cost. The sale price for public lands was set at $2 per acre, [41] and this became an important contributor to rapid population growth in the Territory. [42]

Harrison also served on the committee that decided how to divide the Territory into smaller sections, and they recommended splitting it in two. The eastern section continued to be known as the Northwest Territory and consisted of Ohio and eastern Michigan the western section was named the Indiana Territory and consisted of Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, a portion of western Michigan, and the eastern portion of Minnesota. [41] [43] The two new territories were formally established in 1800 following the passage of 2 Stat. 58. [44]

On May 13, 1800, President John Adams appointed Harrison as the governor of the Indiana Territory, based on his ties to the west and seemingly neutral political stances. Harrison was caught unaware and was reluctant to accept the position until he received assurances from the Jeffersonians that he would not be removed from office after they gained power in the upcoming elections. [45] [46] His governorship was confirmed by the Senate and he resigned from Congress to become the first Indiana territorial governor in 1801. [41] [47]

Indiana territorial governor

Harrison began his duties on January 10, 1801 at Vincennes, the capital of the Indiana Territory. [48] [49] Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were both members of the Democratic-Republican Party, and they reappointed him as governor in 1803, 1806, and 1809. [41] He resigned on December 28, 1812 to resume his military career during the War of 1812. [50]

Harrison was assigned to administer the civilian government of the District of Louisiana in 1804, a part of the Louisiana Territory that included land north of the 33rd parallel. In October, a civilian government went into effect and Harrison served as the Louisiana district's executive leader. He administered the district's affairs for five weeks until the Louisiana Territory was formally established on July 4, 1805, and Brigadier General James Wilkinson assumed the duties of governor. [51] [52]

In 1805, Harrison built a plantation-style home near Vincennes that he named Grouseland, alluding to the birds on the property the 13-room home was one of the first brick structures in the territory, and it served as a center of social and political life in the territory during his tenure as governor. [25] [30] The territorial capital was moved to Corydon in 1813, and Harrison built a second home at nearby Harrison Valley. [53] He founded Jefferson University at Vincennes in 1801 which was incorporated as Vincennes University on November 29, 1806. [54]

Harrison had wide-ranging powers in the new territory, including the authority to appoint territorial officials and to divide the territory into smaller political districts and counties. One of his primary responsibilities was to obtain title to Indian lands that would allow future settlement and increase the territory's population, which was a requirement for statehood. [8] He was eager to expand the territory for personal reasons, as well, as his political fortunes were tied to Indiana's eventual statehood.

President Jefferson reappointed Harrison as the Indiana territorial governor on February 8, 1803, and he also granted him the authority to negotiate and conclude treaties with the Indians. [50] Between 1803 and 1809, he supervised 11 treaties with Indian leaders that provided the federal government with more than 60,000,000 acres (240,000 km 2 ), including the southern third of Indiana and most of Illinois. The 1804 Treaty of St. Louis with Quashquame required the Sauk and Meskwaki tribes to cede much of western Illinois and parts of Missouri to the federal government. Many of the Sauk greatly resented this treaty and the loss of lands, especially Black Hawk, and this was a primary reason that they sided with the British during the War of 1812. Harrison thought that the Treaty of Grouseland (1805) appeased some of the Indians, but tensions remained high along the frontier. The Treaty of Fort Wayne (1809) raised new tensions when Harrison purchased more than 2.5 million acres (10,000 km 2 ) inhabited by the Shawnee, Kickapoo, Wea, and Piankeshaw tribes he purchased the land from the Miami tribe, who claimed ownership. He rushed the treaty process by offering large subsidies to the tribes and their leaders so that it would be in force before Jefferson left office and the administration changed. [53] [55]

Harrison's pro-slavery position made him unpopular with the Indiana Territory's antislavery advocates, as he made several attempts to introduce slavery into the territory. He was unsuccessful due to the territory's growing anti-slavery movement. In 1803, he lobbied Congress to suspend Article VI of the Northwest Ordinance for 10 years, a move that would allow slavery in the Indiana Territory. At the end of the suspension period, citizens in the territories covered under the ordinance could decide for themselves whether to permit slavery. Harrison claimed that the suspension was necessary to encourage settlement and would make the territory economically viable, but Congress rejected the idea. [56] In 1803 and 1805, Harrison and the appointed territorial judges enacted laws that authorized indentured servitude and gave masters authority to determine the length of service. [57] [58]

The Illinois Territory held elections to the legislature's upper and lower houses for the first time in 1809. Lower house members were elected previously, but the territorial governor appointed members to the upper house. Harrison found himself at odds with the legislature after the anti-slavery faction came to power, and the eastern portion of the Indiana Territory grew to include a large anti-slavery population. [59] The Territory's general assembly convened in 1810, and its anti-slavery faction immediately repealed the indenturing laws enacted in 1803 and in 1805. [52] [60] After 1809, Harrison's political authority declined as the Indiana territorial legislature assumed more authority and the territory advanced toward statehood. By 1812, he had moved away and resumed his military career. [61]

Jefferson was the primary author of the Northwest Ordinance, and he had made a secret compact with James Lemen to defeat the nascent pro-slavery movement eventually led by Harrison. Even though he was a slaveholder himself. Jefferson did not want slavery to expand into the Northwest Territory, as he believed that the institution should end. He donated $100 to encourage Lemen, who donated those funds to other good works, and later another $20 to help fund the planting of the church later known as Bethel Baptist Church. Lemen planted churches in Illinois and Indiana to stop the pro-slavery movement. In Indiana, the planting of an anti-slavery church led to citizens signing a petition and organizing politically to defeat Harrison's efforts to legalize slavery in the territory. Jefferson and Lemen were instrumental in defeating Harrison's attempts in 1805 and 1807 to expand slavery in the territory. [62]

Tecumseh and Tippecanoe

An Indian resistance movement had been growing against American expansion through the leadership of Shawnee brothers Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa (The Prophet) in a conflict that became known as Tecumseh's War. Tenskwatawa convinced the tribes that they would be protected by the Great Spirit and no harm could befall them if they would rise up against the settlers. He encouraged resistance by telling the tribes to pay white traders only half of what they owed and to give up all the white man's ways, including their clothing, muskets, and especially whiskey. [63]

In August 1810, Tecumseh led 400 warriors down the Wabash River to meet with Harrison in Vincennes. They were dressed in war paint, and their sudden appearance at first frightened the soldiers at Vincennes. The leaders of the group were escorted to Grouseland, where they met Harrison. Tecumseh insisted that the Fort Wayne Treaty was illegitimate, arguing that one tribe could not sell land without the approval of the other tribes he asked Harrison to nullify it and warned that Americans should not attempt to settle the lands sold in the treaty. Tecumseh informed Harrison that he had threatened to kill the chiefs who signed the treaty if they carried out its terms and that his confederation of tribes was growing rapidly. [64] Harrison said that the Miamis were the owners of the land and could sell it if they so chose. He rejected Tecumseh's claim that all the Indians formed one nation. He said that each tribe could have separate relations with the United States if they chose to. Harrison argued that the Great Spirit would have made all the tribes speak one language if they were to be one nation. [65]

Tecumseh launched an "impassioned rebuttal", in the words of one historian, but Harrison was unable to understand his language. [65] A Shawnee friendly to Harrison cocked his pistol from the sidelines to alert Harrison that Tecumseh's speech was leading to trouble, and some witnesses reported that Tecumseh was encouraging the warriors to kill Harrison. Many of them began to pull their weapons, representing a substantial threat to Harrison and the town, which held a population of only 1,000. Harrison drew his sword, and Tecumseh's warriors backed down when the officers presented their firearms in his defense. [65] Chief Winamac was friendly to Harrison, and he countered Tecumseh's arguments and told the warriors that they should return home in peace since they had come in peace. Before leaving, Tecumseh informed Harrison that he would seek an alliance with the British if the treaty was not nullified. [66] After the meeting, Tecumseh journeyed to meet with many of the tribes in the region, hoping to create a confederation to battle the United States. [67]

Tecumseh was traveling in 1811 when Harrison was authorized by Secretary of War William Eustis to march against the confederation as a show of force. He led an army north with 950 men to intimidate the Shawnee into making peace, but the tribes launched a surprise attack early on November 7 in the Battle of Tippecanoe. Harrison defeated the tribal forces at Prophetstown next to the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers, and he was hailed as a national hero and the battle became famous. Although his troops had suffered 62 dead and 126 wounded during the battle and the Shawnee just 150 casualties, the Shawnee prophet's vision of spiritual protection had been shattered. Tecumseh's brother, “the Prophet”, and their forces fled to Canada and their campaign to unite the tribes of the region to reject assimilation and resume an indigenous lifestyle failed. [68] [69]

When reporting to Secretary Eustis, Harrison informed him that the battle occurred near the Tippecanoe River and that he feared an imminent reprisal attack. The first dispatch did not make clear which side had won the conflict, and the secretary at first interpreted it as a defeat the follow-up dispatch clarified the situation. When no second attack came, the Shawnee defeat was more certain. Eustis demanded to know why Harrison had not taken adequate precautions in fortifying his camp against attacks, and Harrison said that he had considered the position strong enough. The dispute was the catalyst of a disagreement between Harrison and the Department of War which continued into the War of 1812. [70]

The press did not cover the battle at first, and one Ohio paper misinterpreted Harrison's first dispatch to mean that he was defeated. [71] By December, however, most major American papers carried stories on the battle, and public outrage grew over the Shawnee. Americans blamed the British for inciting the tribes to violence and supplying them with firearms, and Congress passed resolutions condemning the British for interfering in American domestic affairs. Congress declared war on June 18, 1812, [72] and Harrison left Vincennes to seek a military appointment. [73]

War of 1812

The outbreak of war with the British in 1812 led to continued conflict with Indians in the Northwest. Harrison briefly served as a major general in the Kentucky militia until the government commissioned him on September 17 to command the Army of the Northwest. He received federal military pay for his service, and he also collected a territorial governor's salary from September until December 28, when he formally resigned as governor and continued his military service. [73]

The Americans suffered a defeat in the siege of Detroit. General James Winchester offered Harrison the rank of brigadier general, but Harrison also wanted sole command of the army. President James Madison removed Winchester from command in September, and Harrison became commander of the fresh recruits. The British and their Indian allies greatly outnumbered Harrison's troops, so Harrison constructed a defensive position during the winter along the Maumee River in northwest Ohio. He named it Fort Meigs in honor of Ohio governor Return J. Meigs Jr.. He received reinforcements in 1813, then took the offensive and led the army north to battle. He won victories in the Indiana Territory and in Ohio and recaptured Detroit, before invading Upper Canada (Ontario). His army defeated the British on October 5, 1813 at the Battle of the Thames, in which Tecumseh was killed. [73] [74] This pivotal battle is considered to be one of the great American victories in the war, second only to the Battle of New Orleans. [74] [75]

In 1814, Secretary of War John Armstrong divided the command of the army, assigning Harrison to a "backwater" post and giving control of the front to one of Harrison's subordinates. [2] Armstrong and Harrison had disagreed over the lack of coordination and effectiveness in the invasion of Canada, and Harrison resigned from the army in May. [75] [76] After the war ended, Congress investigated Harrison's resignation and determined that Armstrong had mistreated him during his military campaign and that his resignation was justified. Congress awarded Harrison a gold medal for his services during the War of 1812. [77]

Harrison and Michigan Territory's Governor Lewis Cass were responsible for negotiating the peace treaty with the Indians. [78] President Madison appointed Harrison in June 1815 to help in negotiating a second treaty with the Indians that became known as the Treaty of Springwells, in which the tribes ceded a large tract of land in the west, providing additional land for American purchase and settlement. [39] [79]

Ohio politician

John Gibson replaced Harrison as Indiana territorial governor in 1812, and Harrison resigned from the army in 1814 and returned to his family in North Bend. He cultivated his land and enlarged the log cabin farmhouse, but he soon returned to public life. [80] [81] He was elected in 1816 to complete John McLean's term in the House of Representatives, where he represented Ohio's 1st congressional district from October 8, 1816 to March 3, 1819. He declined to serve as Secretary of War under President Monroe in 1817. He was elected to the Ohio State Senate in 1819 and served until 1821, having lost the election for Ohio governor in 1820. [39] He ran for a seat in the House but in 1822 lost by 500 votes to James W. Gazlay. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1824, where he served until May 20, 1828. Fellow westerners in Congress called him a "Buckeye", a term of affection related to the native Ohio buckeye tree. [39] He was an Ohio presidential elector in 1820 for James Monroe [82] and for Henry Clay in 1824. [83]

Harrison was appointed in 1828 as minister plenipotentiary to Gran Colombia, so he resigned from Congress and served in his new post until March 8, 1829. He arrived in Bogotá on December 22, 1828 and found the condition of Colombia saddening. He reported to the Secretary of State that the country was on the edge of anarchy, including his opinion that Simón Bolívar was about to become a military dictator. He wrote a rebuke to Bolívar, stating that "the strongest of all governments is that which is most free" and calling on Bolívar to encourage the development of democracy. In response, Bolívar wrote that the United States "seem destined by Providence to plague America with torments in the name of freedom", a sentiment that achieved fame in Latin America. [84] Andrew Jackson took office in March 1829, and he recalled Harrison in order to make his own appointment to the position. [85]

Private citizen

Harrison returned to the United States from Colombia and settled on his farm in North Bend, Ohio, living in relative retirement after nearly four decades of government service. He had accumulated no substantial wealth during his lifetime, and he subsisted on his savings, a small pension, and the income produced by his farm. He cultivated corn and established a distillery to produce whiskey, but he became disturbed by the effects of alcohol on its consumers and closed the distillery. In an address to the Hamilton County Agricultural Board in 1831, he said that he had sinned in making whiskey and hoped that others would learn from his mistake and stop the production of liquors. [86]

In these early years, Harrison also earned money from his contributions to James Hall's A Memoir of the Public Services of William Henry Harrison, published in 1836. That year, he made an unsuccessful run for the presidency as a Whig candidate. Between 1836 and 1840, he served as Clerk of Courts for Hamilton County. This was his job when he was elected president in 1840. [87] About this time, he met abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor George DeBaptiste who lived in nearby Madison. The two became friends, and DeBaptiste became his personal servant, staying with him until his death. [88] Harrison campaigned for president a second time in 1840 more than a dozen books had been published on his life by then, and he was hailed by many as a national hero. [89]

1836 presidential campaign

Harrison was the Northern Whig candidate for president in 1836, one of only two times in American history when a major political party intentionally ran more than one presidential candidate (the Democrats ran two candidates in 1860). Vice President Martin Van Buren was the Democratic candidate, and he was popular and deemed likely to win the election against a single Whig candidate. The Whig plan was to elect popular Whigs regionally, deny Van Buren the 148 electoral votes needed for election, and force the House of Representatives to decide the election. They hoped that the Whigs would control the House after the general elections. This strategy would have failed, nonetheless, as the Democrats retained a majority in the House following the election. [90] [91]

Harrison ran in all the non-slave states except Massachusetts, and in the slave states of Delaware, Maryland, and Kentucky. Hugh L. White ran in the remaining slave states except for South Carolina. Daniel Webster ran in Massachusetts, and Willie P. Mangum in South Carolina. [92] The plan narrowly failed, as Van Buren won the election with 170 electoral votes. A swing of just over 4,000 votes in Pennsylvania would have given that state's 30 electoral votes to Harrison and the election would have been decided in the House of Representatives. [90] [91] [93]

1840 presidential campaign

Harrison was the Whig candidate and faced incumbent Van Buren in the 1840 election. He was chosen over more controversial members of the party, such as Clay and Webster, and based his campaign on his military record and on the weak U.S. economy caused by the Panic of 1837.

The Whigs nicknamed Van Buren "Van Ruin" in order to blame him for the economic problems. [94] The Democrats, in turn, ridiculed Harrison by calling him "Granny Harrison, the petticoat general" because he resigned from the army before the War of 1812 ended. They would ask voters what Harrison's name would be when spelled backwards: "No Sirrah". They also cast him as a provincial, out-of-touch old man who would rather "sit in his log cabin drinking hard cider" than attend to the administration of the country. This strategy backfired when Harrison and running mate John Tyler adopted the log cabin and hard cider as campaign symbols. Their campaign used the symbols on banners and posters and created bottles of hard cider shaped like log cabins, all to connect the candidates to the "common man". [95]

Harrison came from a wealthy, slaveholding Virginia family, yet his campaign promoted him as a humble frontiersman in the style popularized by Andrew Jackson, while presenting Van Buren as a wealthy elitist. A memorable example was the Gold Spoon Oration that Pennsylvania's Whig representative Charles Ogle delivered in the House, ridiculing Van Buren's elegant White House lifestyle and lavish spending. [95] [96] [97] The Whigs invented a chant in which people would spit tobacco juice as they chanted "wirt-wirt," and this also exhibited the difference between candidates from the time of the election: [98]

Old Tip he wore a homespun coat, he had no ruffled shirt: wirt-wirt,
But Matt he has the golden plate, and he's a little squirt: wirt-wirt!

The Whigs boasted of Harrison's military record and his reputation as the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe. The campaign slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too" became one of the most famous in American politics. [98] Harrison won a landslide victory in the Electoral College, 234 electoral votes to Van Buren's 60, although the popular vote was much closer. He received 53 percent of the popular vote to Van Buren's 47 percent, with a margin of less than 150,000 votes. [98] [99]

Shortest presidency

His major presidential accomplishments included forming a nationwide voter coalition that won the presidency for the Whigs, and selecting the first Whig cabinet. He balanced the party's multiple factions and prepared to pass the extensive Whig legislative agenda.

Harrison's wife Anna was too ill to travel when he left Ohio for his inauguration, and she decided not to accompany him to Washington. He asked his late son's widow Jane to accompany him and temporarily act as hostess but Harrison's death meant that Anna never went to Washington.

When Harrison came to Washington, he wanted to show that he was still the steadfast hero of Tippecanoe and that he was a better educated and more thoughtful man than the backwoods caricature portrayed in the campaign. He took the oath of office on Thursday, March 4, 1841, a cold and wet day. [100] He braved the cold weather and chose not to wear an overcoat or a hat, rode on horseback to the ceremony rather than in the closed carriage that had been offered him, and delivered the longest inaugural address in American history [100] at 8,445 words. It took him nearly two hours to read, although his friend and fellow Whig Daniel Webster had edited it for length. He rode through the streets in the inaugural parade, [101] stood for a three-hour receiving line at the White House, and attended three inaugural balls that evening, [102] including one at Carusi's Saloon entitled the "Tippecanoe" ball with 1,000 guests who had paid $10 per person (equal to $297 in 2020). [103]

The inaugural address was a detailed statement of the Whig agenda, essentially a repudiation of Jackson's and Van Buren's policies. Harrison promised to re-establish the Bank of the United States and extend its capacity for credit by issuing paper currency in Henry Clay's American system. He intended to defer to the judgment of Congress on legislative matters, with sparing use of his veto power, and to reverse Jackson's spoils system of executive patronage. He promised to use patronage to create a qualified staff, not to enhance his own standing in government. [104] [105]

Clay was a leader of the Whigs and a powerful legislator, as well as a frustrated presidential candidate in his own right, and he expected to have substantial influence in the Harrison administration. He ignored his own platform plank of overturning the "spoils" system and attempted to influence Harrison's actions before and during his brief presidency, especially in putting forth his own preferences for Cabinet offices and other presidential appointments. Harrison rebuffed his aggression: "Mr. Clay, you forget that I am the President." [106] The dispute intensified when Harrison named Daniel Webster as Secretary of State, who was Clay's arch-rival for control of the Whig Party. Harrison also appeared to give Webster's supporters some highly coveted patronage positions. His sole concession to Clay was to name his protégé John J. Crittenden to the post of Attorney General. Despite this, the dispute continued until the president's death.

Clay was not the only one who hoped to benefit from Harrison's election. Hordes of office applicants came to the White House, which (at the time) was open to all who wanted a meeting with the president. Most of Harrison's business during his month-long presidency involved extensive social obligations and receiving visitors at the White House. Harrison had been advised to have an administrative system in place for his presidency before the inauguration he declined, wanting to focus on the festivities. As such, job seekers awaited him at all hours and filled the Executive Mansion, with no process having been instituted for organizing and vetting them. [101]

Harrison wrote in a letter dated March 10, "I am so much harassed by the multitude that calls upon me that I can give no proper attention to any business of my own." [107] U.S. marshal of the District of Columbia Alexander Hunter recalled an incident in which Harrison was besieged by office seekers who were preventing him from getting to a cabinet meeting when his pleas for their consideration were ignored, Harrison finally "accepted their petitions, which filled his arms and pockets". [108] Another anecdote of the time recounted that the halls were so full one afternoon that in order to get from one room to the next, Harrison had to be helped out a window, walk the length of the White House exterior, and be helped in through another window. [109]

Harrison took seriously his pledge to reform executive appointments, visiting each of the six executive departments to observe its operations and issuing through Webster an order to all departments that electioneering by employees would be considered grounds for dismissal. He resisted pressure from other Whigs over partisan patronage. A group arrived in his office on March 16 to demand the removal of all Democrats from any appointed office, and Harrison proclaimed, "So help me God, I will resign my office before I can be guilty of such an iniquity!" [110] His own cabinet attempted to countermand his appointment of John Chambers as Governor of Iowa in favor of Webster's friend James Wilson. Webster attempted to press this decision at a March 25 cabinet meeting, and Harrison asked him to read aloud a handwritten note which said simply "William Henry Harrison, President of the United States". He then announced: "William Henry Harrison, President of the United States, tells you, gentlemen, that, by God, John Chambers shall be governor of Iowa!" [111]

Harrison's only official act of consequence was to call Congress into a special session. He and Clay had disagreed over the necessity of such a session, and Harrison's cabinet proved evenly divided, so the president vetoed the idea. Clay pressed him on the special session on March 13, but Harrison rebuffed him and told him not to visit the White House again, but to address him only in writing. [112] A few days later, however, Treasury Secretary Thomas Ewing reported to Harrison that federal funds were in such trouble that the government could not continue to operate until Congress' regularly scheduled session in December Harrison thus relented, and proclaimed the special session on March 17 in the interests of "the condition of the revenue and finance of the country". The session would have begun on May 31 as scheduled if Harrison had lived. [113] [114]

Administration and cabinet

On March 26, 1841, Harrison became ill with cold-like symptoms. His doctor, Dr. Thomas Miller, prescribed rest Harrison was unable to rest during the day for the crowds in the White House, and that night chose instead to host a party with his army friends. The next day, he was seized with chills during a cabinet meeting and was put to bed by the morning of March 28 he had a high fever, at which time a team of doctors was called in to treat him. [115] The prevailing theory at the time was that his illness had been caused by the bad weather at his inauguration three weeks earlier. [116] Others noted that in his first few days in office, Harrison had personally walked in the mornings to purchase groceries (and a dairy cow for the White House) at Washington's markets, with the weather still cold and the markets in the midst of marshlands. (He ended the morning walks after the office-seekers began following him to the markets.) [115]

As soon as the doctors placed him in bed and undressed him, they diagnosed him with right lower lobe pneumonia, and placed heated suction cups on his bare body and administered a series of bloodlettings to draw out the disease. [117] Those procedures failed to bring about improvement, so the doctors treated him with ipecac, castor oil, calomel, mustard plasters, and finally with a boiled mixture of crude petroleum and Virginia snakeroot. All this only weakened Harrison further and the doctors came to the conclusion that he would not recover. [115]

Washington society noticed his uncharacteristic absence from either of the two churches he attended on Sunday, March 28. [108] Initially, no official announcement was made concerning Harrison's illness, which fueled public speculation and concern the longer he remained out of public view. By the end of the month, large crowds were gathering outside the White House, holding vigil while awaiting any news about the president's condition, which slowly worsened as time passed. [115] Harrison died on April 4, 1841, nine days after becoming ill [118] and exactly one month after taking the oath of office he was the first president to die in office. [117] Jane McHugh and Philip A. Mackowiak did an analysis in Clinical Infectious Diseases (2014), examining Dr. Miller's notes and records showing that the White House water supply was downstream of public sewage, and they concluded that he likely died of septic shock due to "enteric fever" (typhoid or paratyphoid fever). [119] [120] His last words were to his attending doctor, though assumed to be directed at Vice President John Tyler:

Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more. [121]

A 30-day period of mourning commenced following the president's death. The White House hosted various public ceremonies, modeled after European royal funeral practices. An invitation-only funeral service was also held on April 7 in the East Room of the White House, after which Harrison's coffin was brought to Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. where it was placed in the Public Vault. [122] Solomon Northup gave an account of the procession in Twelve Years a Slave:

The next day there was a great pageant in Washington. The roar of cannon and the tolling of bells filled the air, while many houses were shrouded with crape, and the streets were black with people. As the day advanced, the procession made its appearance, coming slowly through the Avenue, carriage after carriage, in long succession, while thousands upon thousands followed on foot—all moving to the sound of melancholy music. They were bearing the dead body of Harrison to the grave…. I remember distinctly how the window glass would break and rattle to the ground, after each report of the cannon they were firing in the burial ground. [123]

That June, Harrison's body was transported by train and river barge to North Bend, Ohio, and he was buried on July 7 in a family tomb at the summit of Mt. Nebo overlooking the Ohio River which is now the William Henry Harrison Tomb State Memorial. [124]

Impact of death

Harrison's death called attention to an ambiguity in Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution regarding succession to the presidency. The Constitution clearly provided for the vice president to take over the "powers and duties" of the presidency in the event of a president's removal, death, resignation, or inability, but it was unclear whether the vice president formally became president of the United States, or simply temporarily assumed the powers and duties of that office, in a case of succession. [125]

Harrison's cabinet insisted that Tyler was "Vice President acting as President". Tyler was resolute in his claim to the title of President and in his determination to exercise the full powers of the presidency. [126] The cabinet consulted with Chief Justice Roger Taney and decided that, if Tyler took the presidential oath of office, he would assume the office of president. Tyler obliged and was sworn into office on April 6, 1841. Congress convened in May and, after a short period of debate in both houses, passed a resolution which confirmed Tyler as president for the remainder of Harrison's term. [127] [128] The precedent that he set in 1841 was followed on seven occasions when an incumbent president died, and it was written into the Constitution in 1967 through Section One of the Twenty-fifth Amendment. [126]

More generally, Harrison's death was a disappointment to Whigs, who hoped to pass a revenue tariff and enact measures to support Henry Clay's American system. Tyler abandoned the Whig agenda, effectively cutting himself off from the party. [129] Three people served as president within a single calendar year: Martin Van Buren, Harrison, and Tyler. This has only happened on one other occasion, when Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, and Chester A. Arthur each served in 1881. [130]

Historical reputation

Among Harrison's most enduring legacies is the series of treaties that he either negotiated or signed with Indian leaders during his tenure as the Indiana territorial governor. [14] As part of the treaty negotiations, the tribes ceded large tracts of land in the west which provided additional acreage for purchase and settlement. [39] [131] [79]

Harrison's long-term impact on American politics includes his campaigning methods, which laid the foundation for modern presidential campaign tactics. [132] Harrison died nearly penniless. Congress voted his wife Anna a presidential widow's pension of $25,000, [133] one year of Harrison's salary (equivalent to about $627,000 in 2020). [134] She also received the right to mail letters free of charge. [135]

Harrison's son John Scott Harrison represented Ohio in the House of Representatives between 1853 and 1857. [136] Harrison's grandson Benjamin Harrison of Indiana served as the 23rd president from 1889 to 1893, making William and Benjamin Harrison the only grandparent-grandchild pair of presidents. [137]

Honors and tributes

On February 19, 2009, the U.S. Mint released the ninth coin in the Presidential $1 Coin Program, bearing Harrison's likeness. A total of 98,420,000 coins were minted. [138] [139]

Several monuments and memorial statues have been erected in tribute to Harrison. There are public statues of him in downtown Indianapolis, [140] Cincinnati's Piatt Park, [141] the Tippecanoe County Courthouse, [142] Harrison County, Indiana, [143] and Owen County, Indiana. [144] Numerous counties and towns also bear his name.

To this day the Village of North Bend, Ohio, still honors Harrison every year with a parade sometime around his February 9 birthday. [145]

The Gen. William Henry Harrison Headquarters in Franklinton (now part of Columbus, Ohio) commemorates Harrison. The house was his military headquarters from 1813 to 1814, and is the only remaining building in Ohio associated with him. [146]


Constitution Daily

February 9, 2021 by NCC Staff

On February 9, 1773, future U.S. President William Henry Harrison was born in Virginia. The enigmatic Harrison is best known for his premature death in office after 30 days. Harrison is one of the more interesting early Presidents because of his pre-White House career.

Harrison was a legitimate military hero who had a popular 1840 campaign slogan: Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too. His grandson, Benjamin Harrison, later became a U.S. President in 1888.

Harrison was born into an aristocratic Virginia family, but he decided to forgo medicine for a military career. He then left the army to become Governor of the Illinois Territory for 12 years.

As Governor, Harrison led troops that defeated an attacking American Indian force at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, which made Harrison a national figure. Two years later, Harrison served as a General who led American forces to victory at the Battle of the Thames.

Following his military career, Harrison had mixed success as a political figure over the next 25 years. He briefly served in the House and Senate before gaining an appointment as ambassador to Colombia. President Andrew Jackson recalled Harrison, who had sided with Jackson&rsquos enemy, Henry Clay.

In an attempt to derail Jackson&rsquos hand-picked successor, Martin Van Buren, from winning the White House in 1836, the Whigs picked three regional leaders, including Harrison, in an attempt to divide the Electoral College. Harrison finished second to Van Buren.

The 1840 Whig convention saw the party unite behind Harrison after Clay failed to gain enough popular support to be a viable candidate.

The second contest between Harrison and Martin Van Buren was nasty, prolonged, and full of gamesmanship. It also featured stump speeches, smear campaigns, and dirty tactics. In the election of 1840, the Van Buren camp, knowing their candidate had been president during an economic depression, focused their campaign on attacking Harrison&rsquos character (who called him Martin Van Ruin among other things). One Democratic newspaper printed the following quote about Harrison: &ldquoGive him a barrel of hard cider and settle a pension of two thousand a year on him, and take my word for it, he will sit the remainder of his days in his log cabin.&rdquo

The image of Harrison as a hard-cider-drinking frontiersman was campaign gold for the Whigs. As it turned out, many Americans saw those attributes as positive character traits as part of their appeal to the &ldquocommon man&rdquo, and the Democrats&rsquo smear tactic became one of the worst campaign mistakes made in a presidential election.

The united Whigs used campaign slogans, music, and mass rallies (with lots of whiskey and hard cider) to get out the vote for Harrison. Harrison also took the unusual step of actually going out on the campaign trail. He took part in the new practice of stump speeches, where he spoke in front of mass audiences.

When the votes were counted in December 1840, Harrison had won the Electoral College vote easily, but the popular vote was very close. The Whigs had won with 240 electoral votes, compared with 60 for the Democrats. But Harrison only took the popular vote by about 150,000 votes.

But the staggering stat was the huge increase in voter turnout triggered by the new style of targeted campaign tactics. More than 80 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the 1840 race, a record turnout at the time and the third-best turnout in any presidential election. (By comparison, the previous election had a 57 percent turnout&mdashclose to the estimated 56 percent turnout of the 2016 election.)

After just over a month in office, Harrison died of complications from what was believed to be pneumonia (although a 2014 New York Times article theorized that Harrison died from typhoid fever related to Washington&rsquos bad water supply), giving him claim as not only the president with the shortest term but also the first president to die in office&mdashwhich raised important questions about presidential succession that would not be finally resolved until the passage of the 25th Amendment.

His vice president, John Tyler, did not fare well with the Whigs. For all their guile in running an election, the Whigs had focused little on the vice-presidential candidate. Tyler, a former Democrat, quickly antagonized the Whigs, and they eventually expelled him from their party while he was still President.


William Henry Harrison

Summary of President William Harrison for Kids: "Old Tippecanoe"
Summary: William Harrison (1773-1841), nicknamed the "Old Tippecanoe" , was the 9th American President and served in office in 1841. The Presidency of William Harrison spanned the period in United States history that encompasses the events of the Westward Expansion era. Harrison was deemed a hero following the Battle of Tippecanoe that disrupted the confederacy of Tecumseh.

President William Harrison represented the Whig political party but before he had been in office a month, William Henry Harrison caught a cold, that developed into pneumonia, and resulted in his death. William Harrison died on April 4, 1841, aged 68. He was the first president to die in office, serving the shortest tenure in U.S. Presidential history. The next president was John Tyler.

Life of William Harrison for kids - William Harrison Fact File
The summary and fact file of William Harrison provides bitesize facts about his life.

The Nickname of William Harrison: Old Tippecanoe
The nickname of President William Harrison provides an insight into how the man was viewed by the American public. The nickname "Old Tippecanoe" and his other nickname "Washington of the West" refers his strong leadership as a general during the Battle of Tippecanoe, on November 7, 1811, between the confederacy of native warriors led by the Shawnee chief Tecumseh. The meaning of his other famous nickname "General Mum" was due to his avoidance of speaking out on contentious or controversial issues.

Character and Personality Type of William Harrison
The character traits of President William Harrison can be described as outgoing, genial, kind, frank, good humored, humble and down to earth. It has been speculated that the Myers-Briggs personality type for William Harrison is an ESTJ (Extraversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judgment). An outgoing, practical, realistic and civic-minded character with a strong belief in rules and procedures, placing a high value on competence and efficiency. William Harrison Personality type: Decisive, hardworking, methodical and orderly.

William Harrison for kids: Inaugural Address
The presidency of William Harrison only lasted for one month. He was a member of the Whig Party who had a common dislike of Andrew Jackson and his policies. He delivered his two hour long inaugural message on a freezing cold March morning without wearing a hat or coat. He presented a detailed critique of the Constitution and criticized what he saw as the excess of power seized by the executive branch. In a thinly disguised reference to President Andrew Jackson and the Bank Wars he remonstrated that the veto power invested in the president should only be exercised if the president believed a law passed by Congress was unconstitutional. He assured the nation that he would be obedient to the will of the people as expressed through Congress. William Harrison was a slave owner and made it clear that he supported the right of states to make their own decisions in the matter of slavery, criticizing antislavery supporters as endangering states' rights.

President William Harrison Video for Kids
The article on the accomplishments of William Harrison provides an overview of the president who served less than one month in office before he died of pneumonia.

Accomplishments of President William Harrison

William Harrison - US History - Facts - Biography - Important Events - Accomplishments - President William Harrison - Summary of Presidency - American History - US - USA History - William Harrison - America - Dates - United States History - US History for Kids - Children - Schools - Homework - Important Events - Facts - History - United States History - Important Facts - Events - History - Interesting - President William Harrison - Info - Information - American History - Facts - Historical Events - Important Events - Death


1773 Feb. 9

Born, Charles City County, Virginia. His parents were Elizabeth Bassett Harrison and planter, merchant, and prominent politician Benjamin Harrison V (1726-1791). He was the youngest child and third son in a family of three boys and four girls. His wealthy slave-holding family owned Berkeley Plantation, a prosperous estate on the James River. His father Benjamin Harrison V served as Virginia delegate to both the first and second Continental Congresses.

William Henry Harrison birthplace “Berkeley” in Virginia. Samuel H. Gottscho, photographer. Gottscho-Schleisner Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-G613-77597.

First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and the American Revolution began, pitting the American colonies against Great Britain.

1776, Aug. 2

Father Benjamin Harrison V signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence as a member of the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia and became known within his family as “The Signer.” His son, William Henry Harrison, and his great-grandson, Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901), later became presidents of the United States.

During the American Revolution, the Harrison family home in Virginia was looted of valuables and sacked, but left standing, by the British.

1781-84

Father Benjamin Harrison V served as governor of Virginia.

1783, Sept. 3

Treaty of Paris officially ended the American Revolution.

The British surrendering their arms to General Washington after their defeat at Yorktown in Virginia October 1781. John Francis Renault, artist, c. 1819. Tanner, Vallance, Kearny & Co. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-45

Educated at home until the age of 14 when he entered Hampden-Sidney College. Enjoyed the study of Greek and Roman history.

1787, July

The Northwest Ordinance, an act of the Confederation Congress, provided for government of the Northwest Territory. Bordering the Great Lakes and Canada, the territory encompassed parts of what became the future states of Ohio (1803), Indiana (1816), Illinois (1818), Michigan (1837), Wisconsin (1848), and Minnesota (1858).

1788, July

Arthur St. Clair (1737-1818), former president of the Continental Congress and an aide-de-camp to George Washington during the American Revolution, was appointed the Northwest Territory’s first governor. He served until 1802.

Father Benjamin Harrison V was a delegate to the Virginia convention called to ratify the Federal Constitution. He decried the lack of a Bill of Rights.

George Washington became the first president of the U.S.

William Henry Harrison studied medicine with Dr. Andrew Leiper in Richmond, Virginia.

Learned of his father’s sudden April 1791 death back home, soon after arriving in Philadelphia to study at the Medical School of Pennsylvania. With his financial status altered, Harrison arranged a commission into the Army infantry, aided by his father’s friends and President George Washington.

1791, Nov.

In the Battle of the Wabash (also known as St. Clair’s Defeat) U.S. army forces under the command of Major General Arthur St. Clair were decisively defeated by a confederation of Indians led by Miami chief LittleTurtle and Shawnee chief Blue Jacket.

1791, Fall

Stationed at Fort Washington, a western stockade located at what would become Cincinnati, Ohio, in the Northwest Territory. Criticized the high rates of intoxication observed among U.S. troops.

1792-93

Became a lieutenant, then captain, and aide-de-camp and protégé under Revolutionary War hero General (“Mad Anthony”) Anthony Wayne (1745-1796). Wayne’s forces opposed the pan-tribal Western Indian Confederacy led by Shawnee chief Blue Jacket.

1794, Aug. 20

Fought in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, which ended the Northwest Indian War.

1795, Aug. 3

Present at negotiations of the Treaty of Greenville, a peace treaty with Indian leaders conducted at Fort Greenville. The treaty established a boundary line between Native American and Anglo-American settlement by which Indian signers ceded much of the modern-day state of Ohio to white control. Shawnee leader Tecumseh (1768-1813) boycotted the agreement and began to organize a pan-tribal confederation of Indians opposed to white encroachment and fostering retention of traditional Native American cultural and religious practices and ways of life.

C. 1795

Traded family land held in Virginia for title to land in Kentucky. This transaction signified a shift in regional identification from southerner to westerner.

1795, Nov.

Married Anna Tuthill Symmes (1775-1864), the well-read, boarding-school educated, daughter of wealthy western-land speculator Colonel John Cleves Symmes. An excellent horsewoman, Anna was well suited to frontier and military life. The couple first met in Lexington, Kentucky. The match was supported by Anthony Wayne. The Harrisons moved to a log-cabin home on a farm outside the village of North Bend (near Cincinnati), purchased from the bride’s father.

Mrs. William Henry Harrison (Anna T. Symmes Harrison) (1775-1864). Photograph of a watercolor. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-25820.

Eldest daughter Elizabeth born, the first of ten children.

1796-97

Invested in business, including a gristmill, whiskey distillery, and sawmill, in Indiana Territory. None of the ventures proved profitable. Meanwhile, commanded the quiet outpost of Fort Washington.

Became secretary of Indiana Territory.

1799-1800

As a delegate from the Northwest Territory to Congress, in Philadelphia, Harrison penned the Land Act of 1800. It reduced the size of tracts of federal land available to western white settlers and made land available on credit, increasing white settlement but also raising the number of foreclosures. The sociable Harrison enjoyed evenings at President John Quincy Adams’s residence.

1800, May-July

Appointed by President John Quincy Adams the first governor of the Indiana Territory, created when Congress subdivided the Northwest Territory. Served as governor of Indiana Territory for twelve years.

1800-11

Took up residence at Vincennes, a French and Indian settlement some 200 miles from Cincinnati. As governor, supported the creation of an agricultural society, circulating library, and a Vincennes college, the latter to be supported by public lottery, and encouraged founding of the Indiana Gazette. Indian policies superseded resident Native American populations in favor of white settlement and statehood. Elite whites prospered from land speculation. Shawnee leader Tecumseh and his brother The Prophet led an Indian confederation that opposed further succession of lands and resisted assimilation by Indians to hegemonic Anglo-American religious beliefs and cultural practices.

Ohio became the 17th state of the United States.

1804, Aug.

Gubernatorial mansion, Grouseland, completed. The well-constructed two-story brick home was a sensation in Vincennes.

Treaty of Grouseland negotiated on behalf of the United States with Native American military leaders Miami chief Little Turtle and Lenape chief Buckongahelas.

Treaty of Fort Wayne (the Twelve Mile Line Treaty) opened vast acreage to white settlement and sparked what became known as Tecumseh’s War.

1811, Nov. 7

In Tecumseh’s absence, Harrison’s U.S. soldiers overcame supporters of Tecumseh’s brother, Tenskwatawa (The Prophet) at the Battle of Tippecanoe (near present-day Lafayette, Indiana, and the confluence of the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers). The battle resulted in the temporary destruction of Prophetstown, the encampment and headquarters of the spiritual followers of Tenskwatawa , a setback for the Indian confederation. Indian resistance continued into the War of 1812.

The Battle of Tippecanoe. Kurz & Allison, print c. October 1889. Popular Graphic Arts collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-DIG-pga-01891

Commissioned as a general in the War of 1812. Took command of American forces in the northwest. Resigned as territorial governor of Indiana Territory.

1813, Sept.

American troops were victorious over the British and their allies at Detroit.

1813, Oct. 5

Battle of the Thames in Upper Canada pitted Harrison’s U.S. cavalry and infantry against the British and their Indian allies. The British retreated. Shawnee political and military leader Tecumseh was killed in battle, severely weakening the Indian alliance he headed. The U.S. army victory secured white control of the northwest frontier.

Tecumseh, Shawnee Chief. Hand-colored wood engraving, artist unknown. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZC4-3616 Prophet’s Rock, near Tippecanoe battleground. Detroit Publishing Co., 1902. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-DIG-det-4a09833

1814, July 22

Won pledges of support for the U.S. cause from pan-tribal Indian leaders in the Second Treaty of Greenville, with Governor Lewis Cass.

1814, Dec.

Treaty of Ghent officially ended the War of 1812.

1815-18

Member, U.S. House of Representatives, from Ohio.

1819-21

Elected to the Ohio state Senate and served two terms.

Unsuccessful candidate for governor of Ohio.

Unsuccessful candidate for U.S. House of Representatives.

1825-28

Member, U.S. Senate, from Ohio (until May 1828).

Log cabin anecdotes: Illustrated incidents in the life of Gen. William Henry Harrison. J. F. Trow, 114 Nassau St./New York: J. P. Gitting, Harrison Almanac, c. 1840. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZC4-2103

1828-29

Entrepreneur and businessman in Ohio.

Failed in a new election bid for the U.S. Senate.

1836-40

County court clerk, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Unsuccessful Whig Party candidate for the presidency of the U.S. The successful Democratic party opponent was Andrew Jackson’s political favorite son, Martin Van Buren of New York.

General William H. Harrison [campaign vignettes/montage]. George Endicott, lithographer, c. 1840. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-DIG-ds-00685

1839, Dec.

Nominated for president at the Whig Party convention in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. John Tyler nominated for vice president. Henry Clay had garnered the most votes in early balloting, but did not win a majority. Behind-the-scenes politicking led to a compromise Harrison-Tyler ticket, with Tyler of Virginia a pro-Clay delegate.

New England Convention Bunker Hill, 1840 [campaign badge, Whig Party convention, Boston]. Printed on silk. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-40700

The campaign of 1840 was a rematch between Harrison, the Whig of Ohio, versus Martin Van Buren, Democrat of New York and the incumbent president of the U.S. Van Buren was nominated unanimously at the Democratic National Convention, but Democrats balked at backing controversial incumbent Richard M. Johnson as vice president. Harrison’s campaign, meanwhile, was heavily infused by popular songs and by frontier iconography, including images of log cabins, coonskin caps, hard cider, and yeoman farmers at their plows. Harrison’s political nickname “Tippecanoe” appeared in lyrics of the Whig Log Cabin Song Book, and the Harrison campaign slogan remained famous into modern times: “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.”

Young Men’s Whig Convention, Baltimore Songbook, “Old Tippecanoe.” [Philadelphia?] : Leopold. Meignen & Co. Publishers & Importers of Music, 1840. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-91863 Harrison & Tyler Campaign Emblem. Woodcut, c. 1840. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-DIG-ds-00706 LC-DIG-ds-00706

1840, Nov.-Dec

Elected the ninth president of the U.S. in a landslide for the Whigs.

General Harrison’s marc and quick step [Whig Party sheet music]. Samuel Carusi, Edward Weber & Co., Baltimore, 1840. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress . LC-USZ62-4918 William Henry Harrison, 9th President of the U.S. New York: N. Currier (Currier & Ives), c. 1835-1856. Popular Graphic Arts collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZC2-3178

1841, Mar. 4

Sworn into office as president of the U.S. Harrison gave a long inaugural address, speaking for an hour and forty minutes and putting his interest in Roman history to good use in the speech. Harrison, at age 68, remained the eldest person inaugurated as president until 1981, when Ronald Reagan took office at age 69.

1841, Mar. 9

U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the captive-African mutineers in the Amistad case, following a rousing defense summation by John Quincy Adams.

1841, Mar. 17

With Henry Clay’s urging, called for a special session of Congress on the national economy.

Death of William Henry Harrison (1841). Kelloggs & Thayer, c. 1846. Popular Graphic Arts Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-51523

1841, April 4

After a short acute illness, the previously hearty president died only weeks after taking office, in Washington, D.C. Interned in William Henry Harrison State Memorial Park, adjacent to Congress Green Cemetery in North Bend, Ohio. Vice President John Tyler succeeded as U.S. president, quickly alienating Whig supporters.

1841, May 14

National day of mourning for the late president.

Widow Anna T. S. Harrison, died while the American Civil War was still in progress. Her grandson, Benjamin, became president of the U.S. in 1889.

Mrs. William Henry Harrison (Anna T. S. Harrison) (1775-1864). Photograph of a portrait. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-25778