Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin Harrison

Infobox President | name=Benjamin Harrison

order=23rd President of the United States
term_start=March 4, 1889
term_end=March 4, 1893
predecessor=Grover Cleveland
successor=Grover Cleveland
jr/sr2=United States Senator
term_start2=March 4, 1881
term_end2=March 3, 1887
predecessor2=Joseph E. McDonald
successor2=David Turpie
birth_date=birth date|1833|8|20|mf=y
birth_place=North Bend, Ohio
death_date=death date and age|1901|3|13|1833|8|20
death_place=Indianapolis, Indiana
spouse=Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison (1st wife) Mary Scott Lord Dimmick Harrison (2nd wife)
vicepresident=Levi P. Morton (1889-1893)
alma_mater=Miami University (Ohio)

Benjamin Harrison (August 20, 1833 – March 13, 1901) was the twenty-third President of the United States, serving one term from 1889 to 1893. Harrison was born in North Bend, Ohio, and at age 21 moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where he became a prominent state politician. During the American Civil War Harrison served as a Brigadier General in the XXI Corps of the Army of the Cumberland. After the war he unsuccessfully ran for the governorship of Indiana, but was later elected to the U.S. Senate.

Harrison, a Republican, was elected to the presidency in 1888, defeating the Democrat Grover Cleveland. He was the first, and to date only, president from the state of Indiana. His presidential administration is best known for its economic legislation, including the McKinley Tariff and the Sherman Antitrust Act, and for annual federal spending that reached one billion dollars for the first time. Democrats attacked the "Billion Dollar Congress", and used the issue to defeat the Republican Party, both in the 1890 mid-term elections and in Harrison's bid for reelection in 1892.

Harrison's wife died near the end of his presidential term. After failing to win reelection he returned to private life at his home in Indianapolis where he remarried, authored a book, and later represented the Republic of Venezuela in an international case against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1900 he traveled to Europe as part of the case and, after a brief stay, returned to Indianapolis where he died the following year, from complications arising from influenza.

Early life

Family and education

The Harrisons were among the First Families of Virginia, with the arrival of an Englishman, also named Benjamin Harrison, at Jamestown, Virginia in the Colony of Virginia in 1630. The future president Benjamin was born on August 20, 1833, in North Bend, Hamilton County, Ohio, as the second of eight children of John Scott Harrison (later a U.S. Congressman from Ohio) and Elizabeth Ramsey Irwin. Benjamin was a grandson of President William Henry Harrison and great-grandson of revolutionary leader and former Virginia governor Benjamin Harrison V. [Calhoun, pp. 7–8] [Moore, p. 15]

His early schooling took place in a one-room schoolhouse near his home. In 1845 he was provided with a tutor to help him with college preparatory studies. In 1847 he was enrolled in a newly built farmer's college called Gary's Academy, near Cincinnati, Ohio, which he attended for two years. [Moore, p. 19] In 1850 Harrison transferred to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he was a member of the fraternity Phi Delta Theta and graduated in 1852. [Moore, pp. 21–23] Harrison attended Miami with John Alexander Anderson,Calhoun, p. 23] who would become a six term congressman, and Whitelaw Reid, who would be Harrison's vice presidential candidate in his reelection campaign. While attending Miami University, Harrison joined a Presbyterian church and, like his mother, he would remain a member for the rest his life. [Wallace, p. 58] After completing college Harrison took up the study of law in the Cincinnati law office of Storer & Gwynne, but before completing his law studies he returned to Oxford to marry. [Calhoun, pp. 11–12, p. 23]

On October 20, 1853 Harrison, at the age of 20, married Caroline Lavinia Scott, 21, in Oxford, Ohio. She was the daughter of the University's president, Rev. John W. Scott, who performed the wedding ceremony. The Harrisons had two children, Russell Benjamin Harrison (August 12, 1854 - December 13, 1936) and Mary "Mamie" Scott Harrison McKee (April 3, 1858 - October 28, 1930).Calhoun, pp. 27 & 29]

Legal career

After marriage, Harrison returned to live on his father's farm where he finished his law studies. That same year, he inherited $800 after the death of an aunt, using the money to move to Indianapolis, Indiana in 1854. [Calhoun, pp. 26] He was admitted to the bar there, and began practicing law in the office of John H. Ray. The same year he became a crier for the Federal Court in Indianapolis, making $2.50 per day. He was responsible for passing through the streets and declaring announcements from the court. He was made an honorary member of Delta Chi, a legal professional fraternity at Michigan University.citation
title=Delta Chi Quarterly
place =
publisher=Delta Chi
pages=46, 54

While in Indianapolis, Benjamin Harrison was both the first President of the University Club, a private gentlemen's club, and the first President of the Phi Delta Theta Alumni Club of Indianapolis, the fraternity's first such club. Both clubs were still in existence in 2008. [Calhoun, p. 22] Harrison's grew up in a Whig household and was himself a supporter of Whig politics in his early life. He joined the Republican Party shortly after its formation in 1856 and that year campaigned on behalf of the Republican presidential candidate John C. Fremont. He won election to become Indianapolis City Attorney in the same election, a position that paid an annual salary of $400. [Moore, p. 29]

In 1858 Harrison entered into a law partnership, opening an office as Wallace & Harrison. [Calhoun, p. 28] Harrison was Republican candidate for the position of reporter of the Indiana Supreme Court in 1860, his first foray into politics. Although this office was not political, he was an active supporter of his party's platform. During the election he debated Thomas Hendricks, the Democratic candidate for governor and future Vice President of the United States, on behalf of the Republican Party. [Calhoun, p. 59] After his law partner William Wallace was elected county clerk in 1860, Harrison opened a new firm with William Fishbank, named Fishback & Harrison, where he worked until his entry into the army. [Calhoun, p. 33]

Civil War

In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for more recruits to join the Union Army. While visiting Governor Oliver Morton, Harrison found him distressed over the shortage of men answering the latest call. Harrison is quoted as saying to the governor, "If I can be of any service, I will go". [Wallace, p. 180] [Calhoun, p. 34] Morton then asked Harrison if he could help to recruit a regiment, though he would not ask him to serve. Harrison then proceeded to raise a regiment, by recruiting throughout northern Indiana. He was offered its command by Morton, but he declined because of his lack of military experience, and instead was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. In August 1862, when the regiment left Indiana to join the Union Army at Louisville, Kentucky, Harrison was promoted by Morton to the rank of Colonel, and his regiment was commissioned as the 70th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment. [Wallace, pp. 180–181] [Calhoun, pp. 21–23, p. 41, p. 44]

The regiment first saw action in the Battle of Perryville. The unit performed reconnaissance duty and guarded railroads in Kentucky and Tennessee, until William T. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign in 1864. On January 2, 1864, Harrison was promoted to command the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division of the XXI Army Corps. He commanded the Brigade at Resaca, Cassville, New Hope Church, Lost Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain, Marietta, Peachtree Creek and Atlanta. Harrison was later transferred to the Army of the Cumberland and participated in the Battle of Nashville.Calhoun, pp. 36–44] [Wallace, pp. 209–225] On March 22, 1865 Harrison was officially promoted to the rank of Brigadier General by Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War, and marched in the Grand Review in Washington, D.C. before finally mustering out of the army on June 8, 1865.

Some years after the war Harrison's public profile was raised when President Grant appointed him to represent the US government in a civil claim brought by Lambdin P. Milligan, whose wartime conviction for treason had been reversed by the Supreme Court. Due to Harrison's advocacy, the damages awarded against the government were minimal. [Wallace, pp. 93—94, p. 119]

Political career

While in the army in October 1864, Harrison was reelected reporter of the Indiana State Supreme Court and served four more years. In 1872 he ran in the Republican primary election hoping win the nomination to run for governor. He was unable to get the support of former Governor Morton, who favored his opponent, and ultimately lost his bid. [Moore, p. 28] In 1876 Harrison again ran for the party's nomination for governor, and was successful. His campaign was based strongly on economic policy, and he was in favor of deflating the national currency. His policies proved popular with his base, but he was ultimately defeated by James D. Williams, losing by 5,084 votes. [Wallace, p. 266] [Calhoun, pp. 32 & 58] Harrison was appointed a member of the Mississippi River Commission, in 1879. In 1880 he rose to national prominence as a delegate at the Republican National Convention, and the same year was elected to the United States Senate. After President James Garfield's victory in 1880 Harrison was offered a cabinet position, which he declined in order to begin his term as senator. [Calhoun, p. 60]

Harrison served in the Senate from March 4, 1881, to March 4, 1887. He was chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Transportation Routes to the Seaboard (47th Congress) and U.S. Senate Committee on Territories (48th and 49th Congresses). [Wallace, pp. 265–267] [Calhoun, p. 59] In 1887 was defeated in his bid for reelection, the result being determined against him after a deadlock in the state senate. [Moore, p. 66]

Presidency 1889–1893

Election of 1888

After eight rounds of voting at the Republican National Convention, Harrison defeated John Sherman by 544 to 108 votes, winning the Republican presidential nomination. [Wallace, p. 271] Harrison was elected President of the United States in 1888 by means of notoriously fraudulent balloting in New York and Indiana.Calhoun, p. 43] In the presidential election, Harrison received 90,000 fewer popular votes than incumbent President Grover Cleveland, but carried the Electoral College 233 to 168. [Calhoun, p. 4]

Although he had made no political bargains, his supporters had given innumerable pledges upon his behalf. When Boss Matthew Quay of Pennsylvania, 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." [Calhoun, pp. 55, 60] He was inaugurated on March 4, 1889, and served through March 4, 1893. Harrison was known as the "centennial president", because his inauguration celebrated the centenary of the first inauguration of George Washington in 1789. Calhoun, pp. 47-54]

Domestic policies

Civil service reform was a prominent issue following Harrison's election. 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 popular political football of the time, and was immortalized in a cartoon captioned "What can I do when both parties insist on kicking?" [Moore, pp. 83, 86] Harrison appointed four justices to the Supreme Court of the United States: David Josiah Brewer in 1890, Henry Billings Brown in 1891, George Shiras, Jr., in 1892, and Howell Edmunds Jackson in 1893. Harrison also signed bills that admitted six states to the union. North Dakota and South Dakota were admitted on November 2, 1889, Montana was admitted on November 8, and Washington on November 11. The following year two more states were added, Idaho on July 3 and Wyoming on July 10, 1890.

A major domestic problem Harrison faced was the tariff issue. The high tariff rates had created a surplus of money in the Treasury. Low-tariff advocates argued that the surplus was hurting business and angered many. Its repeal was one of the Ocala Demands. Representative William McKinley and Senator Nelson W. Aldrich framed the McKinley Tariff that would raise the tariff even higher.Calhoun, pp. 100–104] Harrison attempted to make the tariff more acceptable by writing in reciprocity provisions, but some rates remained intentionally prohibitive. To cope with the Treasury surplus, the tariff was removed from imported raw sugar; sugar growers within the United States were given two cents per pound bounty on their production. In an attempt to battle trusts and monopolies, Harrison signed into effect the Sherman Antitrust Act in order to protect trade and commerce. This was the first Federal act of its kind. [Calhoun, pp. 92–93]

Foreign policy

Harrison had an active foreign policy during his presidency. The first Pan-American Congress met in Washington, D.C., in 1889, establishing an information center which later became the Pan American Union. [Moore, p. 108] At the end of his administration, Harrison submitted to the Senate a treaty to annex Hawaii; to his disappointment, President Cleveland later withdrew it. [Calhoun, p. 132] [Moore, p. 147]

The first international crisis Harrison had to face occurred over fishing rights on the Alaskan coast. Canada claimed fishing rights around many of the Aleutian Islands and continued fishing there despite warnings by the United States Navy, leading to the Navy seizing several Canadian ships. The Harrison administration initiated negotiations with the British that would lead to a compromise over fishing rights in the Bering Sea. [Moore, pp. 135–136]

In early 1891 Harrison ordered the navy to prepare for war against Chile after receiving an "offensive" letter from the President of Chile. A diplomatic crisis arose, later called the Itata Incident, fueled by the murder of a Chilean sailor by an American. Harrison gave a report to the Congress in the 1891 State of the Union Address. Ultimately the administration made peace overtures to the Chilean government after the "offensive" letter was withdrawn, and prosecution of the American murderer ensued. [Moore, p. 134]

Administration and Cabinet

thumb|right|Official_White House portrait of Benjamin Harrison]

Reelection campaign

Long before the end of the Harrison Administration, the treasury surplus had evaporated and prosperity seemed about to disappear. [Calhoun, pp. 107, 126–127] Congressional elections in 1890 went against the Republicans, several party leaders withdrew their support for President Harrison, although he had cooperated with Congress on party legislation, allowing him to bear the brunt of the public criticism. Nevertheless, his party renominated him in 1892 to run again for the presidency. [Calhoun, p. 162] Just two weeks earlier, on October 25, 1892, Harrison's wife, Caroline died after a long battle with tuberculosis. Harrison did not actively campaign on his own behalf during his reelection bid and remained with his wife. Their daughter, Mary Harrison McKee, continued the duties of the First Lady after her mother's death. [Calhoun, p. 156] [Moore, pp. 143–145]

Harrison's opponent, Grover Cleveland, also did not actively campaign during the election — the first time no candidate campaigned in a presidential election.Moore, p. 146] Cleveland ultimately won the election with 227 electoral votes to Harrison's 145. Cleveland also won in the popular vote, 5,556,918 to 5,176,108. Harrison's defeat is attributed to the lack of popularity of the McKinley Tariff and the labor unrest in the western United States.


After he left office, Harrison returned to Indianapolis. [Moore, 150] He married a widow, Mary Scott Lord Dimmick, on April 6, 1896, in New York City. She was the niece of his deceased wife, and 25 years younger than Harrison. His two adult children, Russell, 41 years old at the time, and Mary ("Mamie"), 38, did not attend the wedding because they disagreed with their father's marriage, which they viewed as inappropriate. Their mother had died only three and a half years earlier. Benjamin and Mary had one child, Elizabeth (February 21, 1897 – December 26, 1955). [Moore, 153] Harrison went to the First Peace Conference at The Hague. He served as an attorney for the Republic of Venezuela in the boundary dispute between Venezuela and the United Kingdom in 1900. [Moore, 155] He also wrote a book titled "This Country of Ours", about the Federal government and the presidency, that was published in 1918 after his death. [cite book|title=This Country of Ours|author=Benjamin Harrison|year=1918|publisher=Charles Scribner's Sons|url=]

Harrison developed a heavy cold in February 1901. Despite treatment by steam vapor inhalation, his condition only worsened. Harrison died from influenza and pneumonia on Wednesday, March 13, 1901, aged 67. Harrison is interred in the Crown Hill Cemetery, along with both of his wives. That cemetery also holds the remains of three United States Vice-Presidents: Charles W. Fairbanks, Thomas A. Hendricks, and Thomas R. Marshall. [Moore, 156]

Benjamin Harrison is the earliest President whose voice is known to be preserved. That Audio|Benjamin Harrison speech.ogg| thirty-six second recording was originally made on a wax phonograph cylinder in 1889 by Giuseppe Bettini. [cite web|url=|title=President Benjamin Harrison|publisher=Vincent Voice Library|accessdate=2008-07-24] Harrison had electricity installed in the White House for the first time by Edison Electric Company, but he and his wife reportedly would not touch the light switches for fear of electrocution and would often go to sleep with the lights on. [Moore, p. 96]

Harrison has had numerous institutions named in his honor, including the Benjamin Harrison Law School in Indianapolis, [cite web|url=|title=About IU School of Law|publisher=Indiana University|accessdate=2008-07-30] , a 1942 United States Liberty ship named the SS "Benjamin Harrison", [cite web|url=|title=Maritime News|publisher=Colton Company|accessdate=2008-07-30] and a United States Army post, Fort Benjamin Harrison, established in Indianapolis.

ee also

*List of American Civil War generals
*U.S. presidential election, 1888
*U.S. presidential election, 1892
*History of the United States (1865-1918)
*Itata Incident
*Baltimore Crisis


*cite book|title=Benjamin Harrison|author=Calhoun, Charles William|year=2005|isbn=0805069526|publisher=Macmillan|url=

*cite book|author=Moore, Chieko & Hale, Hester Anne |title=Benjamin Harrison: Centennial President|year=2006|publisher=Nova Publishers|isbn=160021066X|url=

*cite book|author=Wallace, Lew|title=Life and Public Services of Benjamin Harrison|year=1888|pubsliher=Edgewood Publishing Co.

Further reading

* Dewey, Davis R. [ " National Problems: 1880-1897"] (1907)
* Harrison, Benjamin. " [ Speeches of Benjamin Harrison, Twenty-third President of the United States] " (1892), compiled by Charles Hedges.
* Harrison, Benjamin., " [ This Country of Ours] " (1897)
* Morgan, H. Wayne, "From Hayes to McKinley: National Party Politics, 1877–1896" (1969)
* Sievers, Harry J., "Benjamin Harrison": v1 "Hoosier Warrior, 1833-1865"; v2: "Hoosier Statesman From The Civil War To The White House 1865–1888" (1959); v3: "Benjamin Harrison. Hoosier President. The White House and After" (1968) the major scholarly biography
* Socolofsky, Homer E., "The Presidency of Benjamin Harrison" (1987) (ISBN 0-7006-0320-4) detailed narrative of 1888-92
* Volwiler, Albert T., ed. [ "The Correspondence between Benjamin Harrison and James G. Blaine, 1882-1893"] (1940)

External links

*CongBio|H000263 Retrieved on 2008-08-15
* [ Official White House biography]
* [ Benjamin Harrison: Resource Guide, from the Library of Congress]
* [ Harrison's State of Union Addresses]
* [ The Indianapolis Home of Benjamin Harrison]
*gutenberg author|id=Benjamin+Harrison | name=Benjamin Harrison
* [ "Views of an ex-president " by Benjamin Harrison at]

NAME= Harrison, Benjamin
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Union Army General23rd President of the United States
DATE OF BIRTH=August 20, 1833
PLACE OF BIRTH=North Bend, Ohio
DATE OF DEATH=March 13, 1901, age 67
PLACE OF DEATH=Indianapolis, Indiana

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