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William Henry Harrison Edit Profile
Harrison was tutored at home in his early years. In 1787, at age fourteen, he entered Hampden-Sydney College for premedical studies, intending to become a doctor. In 1791, he enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School to study under Dr. Benjamin Rush, a noted physician. Later, following his father's death and without funds to continue school, Harrison decided to enlist in the Army.
Harrison received a commission in the U.S. Army in 1792. He served in the Ohio Territory and was aide-de-camp to Gen. Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers (1794), which temporarily destroyed Indian power in the Northwest Territory. Three years later he left the Army, having attained the rank of captain. He soon was appointed secretary of the Northwest Territory and elected representative to the U.S. Congress. In Congress, Harrison's Land Act of 1800 was a major contribution to the development of America's territorial policy. Under its terms the Federal government provided cheap land and extended each settler 5 years' credit to pay for his property.
President John Adams appointed the experienced Harrison as governor of the Indiana Territory in 1801, when it was carved out of the Northwest Territory. During his 12 years in that post, Harrison's main accomplishments were the establishment of a legal system, the settlement of land disputes, and the management of Indian affairs. Harrison gained a national reputation through his victory over an Indian confederation organized by Tecumseh and his brother, the "Prophet," at the Battle of Tippecanoe. This was one of the last efforts at resistance by Indians east of the Mississippi River.
When the War of 1812 started, Harrison received a major general's commission in the U.S. Army and, after Gen. William Hull surrendered at Detroit, took command of the Northwest forces. Although failing to achieve his primary military objectives—the recapture of Detroit and the conquest of Canada—Harrison was victorious at the battle on Canada's Thames River. After the war Harrison was one of the commissioners who negotiated the Spring Wells Treaty in 1815, which completed the Federal takeover of Indian lands in the Northwest.
Upon his return to Ohio, Harrison was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (1816-1819). In 1825 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served until 1828.
In 1828 Whig president John Quincy Adams appointed Harrison ambassador to Colombia. Having little knowledge of diplomacy, Harrison promptly tangled with Colombia's ruler, Simón Bolívar, who accused Harrison of complicity in an uprising. Incoming president Andrew Jackson, a Democrat, recalled him.
With the Whig party in temporary eclipse, Harrison returned to Ohio and went into political retirement until 1834. But the celebration that year of the twentieth anniversary of the Battle of the Thames returned him to prominence. A movement to make Harrison president gained strength in the Middle Atlantic states, where he had the backing of the leaders of the Antimasonic party, which by 1836 had largely combined with the Whigs. Since the Whig party was without a candidate for the 1836 contest and was composed of a number of discordant elements, several sectional candidates emerged to challenge the Democratic nominee, Martin Van Buren. They hoped collectively to throw the election into the House of Representatives, where one of the Whigs would emerge victorious. This strategy failed, but Harrison had proved the strongest contender.
Soon after Van Buren's inauguration the movement for Harrison picked up new steam. Aided by a decline in Van Buren's popularity as a consequence of the Panic of 1837, Harrison received the Whig party's nomination at its 1839 convention with John Tyler, of Harrison's native county in Virginia, as his running mate.
The Whigs used a purposely vague program to carry Harrison to victory. Harrison refused to take a stand during the course of the campaign. He was portrayed as a simple, hardworking western farmer who lived in a log cabin and loved farm work, as contrasted to Van Buren, who was described as an eastern aristocrat living in luxury. Although the campaign rhetoric may have influenced the election, the dire economic condition of the country led to a general desire for changes, which worked in Harrison's favor.
Between his election and inauguration, Harrison was beset by numerous party quarrels over patronage. On April 4, 1841, one month after he took office, amid signs that his party was breaking up, Harrison died of pneumonia. The nation was stunned, having witnessed the first death of a president in office.
He said in his inaugural address: "We admit of no government by divine right, believing that so far as power is concerned the Beneficent Creator has made no distinction amongst men; that all are upon an equality, and that the only legitimate right to govern is an express grant of power from the governed."
He was thorough conviced that sound morals, religious liberty, and a just sense of religious responsibility are essentially connected with all true and lasting happiness: "To that good Being who has blessed us by the gifts of civil and religious freedom, who watched over and prospered the labors of our fathers and has hitherto preserved to us institutions far exceeding in excellence those of any other people, let us unite in fervently commending every interest of our beloved country in all future time."
Harrison's inaugural address was a detailed statement of the Whig agenda, essentially a repudiation of Jackson and Van Buren's policies. Harrison promised to reestablish the Bank of the United States and extend its capacity for credit by issuing paper currency (Henry Clay's American system); 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.
Harrison took his pledge to reform executive appointments seriously, 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 henceforth be considered grounds for dismissal.
Harrison's only official act of consequence was to call Congress into a special session. Henry Clay and he had disagreed over the necessity of such a session, and when on March 11 Harrison's cabinet proved evenly divided, the president vetoed the idea. When Clay pressed Harrison on the special session on March 13, the president rebuffed his counsel and told him not to visit the White House again, but to address him only in writing. 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 on March 17 proclaimed the special session in the interests of "the condition of the revenue and finance of the country". The session was scheduled to begin on May 31.
"Sir, I wish to understand the true principles of the Government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more."
"The chains of military despotism, once fastened upon a nation, ages might pass away before they could be shaken off."
"All the measures of the Government are directed to the purpose of making the rich richer and the poor poorer."
"I believe and I say it is true Democratic feeling, that all the measures of the Government are directed to the purpose of making the rich richer and the poor poorer."
"To Englishmen, life is a topic, not an activity."
A female observer once described his expression as “serene and engaging.”
Physical Characteristics: Harrison was slim, of average height, with thin brown hair that had grayed by the time he became president and that he combed rather carelessly straight down over his forehead or sloping slightly to the right. He had a long, thin, angular face, of fair complexion, distinguished by a long sharp-bridged nose, closely set eyes, thin lips, and a strong jaw.
Quotes from others about the person
“"A plain-spoken man, Harrison was good-natured, affable, and accessible. The Reverend Timothy Flint, a frequent visitor to his home at North Bend, Ohio, described him as urbane, hospitable, kind, and utterly unpretentious."
William A. DeGregorio, The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents (1984), p. 137
"Yelping at the scent of a wounded fox, the Whigs threw everything into the campaign of 1840. It is still remembered as one of the great campaigns, and yet "great" seems too majestic a word for what was basically the cynical triumph of advertising over substance. After nominating the elderly military hero William Henry Harrison, the Whigs fell into paroxysms of excitement over the rumor that their candidate lived in a log cabin and had a fondness for hard cider. In fact, neither claim was true. Harrison was born into a considerably more substantial dwelling, an old brick mansion on the James River in Virginia. But that did not matter in the least. When in doubt, print the legend- and the image of an impoverished boy running around a log cabin entered the popular folklore, well before Lincoln ever figured out that modesty was a path to power. The great irony, of course, is that the log-cabin-and-hard-cider slogan was much truer of van Buren's life than his opponent's, and that he was being outsmarted by a ruthless opposition that had mastered all of his techniques. But no one was interested in the truth in 1840- only in the result."
Ted Widmer, Martin Van Buren (2005), p. 136-137”
He married an Ohio girl, Anna Tuthill Symmes, in 1795. William and Anna Harrison had ten children.
- Benjamin Harrison
- Elizabeth Bassett
- James Findlay
- Anna Symmes
- Mary Symmes
- Anna Tuthill
- Lucy Singleton 1800–1826
- John Cleves Symmes 1798–1830
- Carter Bassett
- John Scott
- William Henry
- Elizabeth Bassett
- George DeBaptiste
- Mr. Jefferson's Hammer: William Henry Harrison and the Origins of American Indian Policy
- The Life and Times of William Henry Harrison
- William Henry Harrison: The American Presidents Series: The 9th President,1841
- Goodbye, Old Tippecanoe: William Henry Harrison and His One Month Presidency
- A Child of the Revolution: William Henry Harrison and His World, 1773-1798
- William Henry Harrison: Young Tippecanoe (Young Patriots series)
June 28, 1798 - October 1, 1799
March 4, 1799 - May 14, 1800
January 10, 1801 - December 28, 1812
October 8, 1816 - March 3, 1819
March 4, 1825 - May 20, 1828
May 24, 1828 - September 29, 1829
March 4, 1841 - April 4, 1841