He attended the local schools and the East Greenwich Seminary.
He then embarked on a business career, working initially as a bookkeeper. He eventually became an owner several manufacturing companies, banks and other enterprises, including serving as President of the Bank of North America in Providence, and operating the Harris Mill in the Harris. He served as Lieutenant Governor from 1846 until 1847.
In 1847 he became Governor, and he served one term, 1847 to 1849.
He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1848, and for election as Governor in 1850. Harris died in Coventry and was buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Coventry.
Henry Howard, who also served as Governor, was married to Harris"s daughter Catherine.
Active in politics as a Whig, Harris served several terms in the Rhode Island House of Representatives. Harris became a Republican when the party was founded in the mid-1850s, and he was a presidential elector in 1860.