Benjamin Harrison: the grandson of President William Henry Harrison, thank you for serving the presidency and being the president during the centennial of the presidency! remembering you after 110 years, may you rest in peace!
Benjamin Harrison (August 20, 1833 – March 13, 1901) was the 23rd President of the United States (1889-1893). Harrison, a grandson of President William Henry Harrison, was born in North Bend, Ohio, and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana at age 21, eventually becoming a prominent politician there. During the American Civil War, he served as a Brigadier General in the XX Corps of the Army of the Cumberland. After the war he unsuccessfully ran for the governorship of Indiana, and was later appointed to the U.S. Senate from that state.
Harrison, a Republican, was elected to the presidency in 1888, defeating Democratic incumbent Grover Cleveland. His administration is most remembered for 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, along with the growing unpopularity of the high tariff, to defeat the Republicans, both in the 1890 mid-term elections and in Harrison's bid for re-election in 1892. He also saw the admittance of six states into the Union.
Defeated by Cleveland in his bid for re-election in 1892, Harrison returned to private life in Indianapolis. He later represented the Republic of Venezuela in an international case against the United Kingdom. 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. He is to date the only U.S. president from Indiana and the only one to be the grandson of another president.
United States presidential election, 1888
Harrison, Republican candidate for president poster, 1888 NominationThe 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.
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. Blaine did not choose any of the candidates as a successor, so none entered the convention with a majority of the Blaine supporters.
Harrison-Morton campaign posterHarrison placed fourth on the first ballot, with Sherman in the lead, and the next few ballots showed little change. The Blaine supporters shifted their support around among the candidates they found acceptable, and when they shifted to Harrison, they found a candidate who could attract the votes of many delegates. He was nominated on the eighth ballot by 544 to 108 votes, winning the Republican presidential nomination. Levi P. Morton of New York was chosen as his running mate.
Election over Cleveland Harrison's opponent in the general election was incumbent President Grover Cleveland. He ran a front-porch campaign, typical of the era, in which the candidate does not campaign but only receives delegations and makes pronouncements from his home town. The Republicans campaigned heavily on the issue 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. Harrison and Cleveland split these four states, with Harrison winning by means of notoriously fraudulent balloting in New York and Indiana. Voter turnout was 79.3% because of a large interest in the campaign issue, and nearly eleven million votes were cast. Although Harrison received 90,000 fewer popular votes than Cleveland, he carried the Electoral College 233 to 168.
Results of the 1888 election, with states won by Harrison in red, and those won by Cleveland in blue.Although he had made no political bargains, his supporters had given many pledges upon his behalf.
When Boss Matthew Quay of Pennsylvania, who 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." Harrison was known as the Centennial President because his inauguration celebrated the centenary of the first inauguration of George Washington in 1789.
Inauguration:Harrison was sworn into office on Monday, March 4, 1889 by Chief Justice Melville Fuller. Harrison's Inauguration ceremony took place during a rainstorm in Washington D.C.. Cleveland attended the ceremony and held an umbrella over Harrison's head as he took the oath of office. His speech was brief and half as long as that of his grandfather, William Henry Harrison, who held the record with the longest Inaugural Address.
In his inaugural address 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. During his speech Harrison also urged early statehood for the territories and advocated pensions for veterans, a statement that was met with enthusiastic applause. In foreign affairs, Harrison pledged vigilance of national honor and reaffirmed the Monroe Doctrine as a mainstay of foreign policy, while also urging the building of a modern navy and a merchant marine force. He reaffirmed his commitment to international peace through noninterference in the affairs of foreign governments. John Philip Sousa's Marine Corps band played at the Inaugural Ball inside the Pension Building with a large crowd attending.
States admitted to the Union:
When Harrison took office, no new states had been admitted in more than a decade, owing to Congressional Democrats' reluctance to admit states that they believed would send Republican members. Early in Harrison's term, however, the lame duck Congress passed bills that admitted four states to the union: North Dakota and South Dakota on November 2, 1889, Montana on November 8, and Washington on November 11. The following year two more states held constitutional conventions and were admitted: Idaho on July 3 and Wyoming on July 10, 1890. The initial Congressional delegations from all six states were solidly Republican. More states were admitted under Harrison's presidency than any other since George Washington's.
After he left office, Harrison visited the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in June 1893,where the nation's first commemorative postage was introduced, an initiative of his Postmaster General, John Wanamaker. After the Expo, Harrison returned to his home in Indianapolis. From July 1895 to March 1901,
Harrison was on the Board of Trustees of Purdue University. Harrison Hall, a campus dormitory, was named in his honor. In 1896 he remarried, to Mary Scott Lord Dimmick, the niece of his deceased wife, and 25 years his junior. Harrison's 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. Benjamin and Mary had one child, Elizabeth (February 21, 1897 – December 26, 1955).
In 1899 Harrison went to the First Peace Conference at The Hague. He wrote a series of articles about the Federal government and the presidency, which were republished in 1897 as a book titled This Country of Ours.
For a few months in 1894, he moved to San Francisco, California, and taught and gave law lectures at Stanford University. In 1896 some of Harrison's friends in the Republican party tried to convince him to seek the presidency again, but he declined and openly supported William McKinley and traveled around the nation making appearances and speeches on McKinley's behalf.
In 1900 Harrison served as an attorney for the Republic of Venezuela in their boundary dispute with the United Kingdom.
The two nations disputed the border between Venezuela and British Guiana. An international trial was agreed upon and the Venezuelan government hired Harrison to represent them in the case. He filed an 800-page brief for them and traveled to Paris where he spent more than 25 hours arguing in court. Although he lost the case, his legal arguments won him international renown.
Harrison developed a heavy cold in February 1901. Despite treatment by steam vapor inhalation, his condition only worsened, and he died from influenza and pneumonia at his home on Wednesday, March 13, 1901, at the age of 67. Harrison is interred in Indianapolis's Crown Hill Cemetery, along with both of his wives.
As his successor grew less popular during the Panic of 1893, however, Harrison's popularity grew in retirement. His legacy among historians is scant, and "general accounts of his period inaccurately treat Harrison as a cipher". More recently, "historians have recognized the importance of the Harrison administration—and Harrison himself—in the new foreign policy of the late nineteenth century.
The administration faced challenges throughout the hemisphere, in the Pacific, and in relations with the European powers, involvements that would be taken for granted in the twentieth century." Harrison's presidency belongs properly to the nineteenth century, but he "clearly pointed the way" to the modern presidency that would emerge under William McKinley.
After his death, Harrison was memorialized on several postage stamps. The first was a 13-cent stamp issued on November 18, 1902, shortly after his death, and was based on a photo provided by Harrison's widow.
In all Harrison has been honored on six U.S. Postage stamps, more than most other U.S. Presidents. Harrison also appeared on the five-dollar National Bank Notes from the third charter period, beginning in 1902. A dollar coin with his image, part of the Presidential $1 Coin Program, is due to be issued in 2012.
A Liberty Ship launched in 1942, the SS Benjamin Harrison, was also named in his honor. The ship was scuttled a year later after being damaged in a U-boat attack. In 1951, Harrison's home was opened to the public as a library and museum after initially having been used as a dormitory for a music school after 1937. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964.