Monday, April 4, 2011

170 years ago today: President William Henry Harrison died

William Henry Harrison: General, thank you for serving the presidency but sadly it was cut short only a month for 1841. remembering you after 170 years, may you rest in peace!
The campaign poster for President William Henry Harrison in 1840

  • William Henry Harrison (February 9, 1773 – April 4, 1841) was the ninth President of the United States (1841), an American military officer and politician, and the first president to die in office. The oldest president elected until Ronald Reagan in 1980, and last President to be born before the United States Declaration of Independence, Harrison died on his 32nd day in office of complications from pneumonia, serving the shortest tenure in United States presidential history. His death sparked a brief constitutional crisis, but that crisis ultimately resolved many questions about presidential succession left unanswered by the Constitution until passage of the 25th Amendment. Before election as president, Harrison served as the first territorial congressional delegate from the Northwest Territory, governor of the Indiana Territory and later as a U.S. representative and senator from Ohio. He originally gained national fame for leading U.S. forces against American Indians at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, where he earned the nickname "Tippecanoe" (or "Old Tippecanoe"). As a general in the subsequent War of 1812, his most notable contribution was a victory at the Battle of the Thames in 1813, which brought an end to hostilities in his region. After the war, Harrison moved to Ohio, where he was elected to the United States Congress, and in 1824 he became a member of the Senate. There he served a truncated term before being appointed as Minister Plenipotentiary to Colombia in May 1828. In Colombia, he spoke with Simon BolĂ­var about the finer points of democracy before returning to his farm in Ohio, where he lived in relative retirement until he was nominated for the presidency in 1836. Defeated, he retired again to his farm before being elected president in 1840. Private citizen After Harrison returned to the United States in 1829, he settled on his farm in North Bend, Ohio, his adopted home state. There, he lived in relative retirement after nearly 40 years of continuous government service. Having accumulated no substantial wealth during his lifetime, he subsisted on his savings, a small pension, and the income produced by his farm. Harrison cultivated corn and established a distillery to produce whiskey. After a brief time in the liquor business, he became disturbed by the effects of alcohol on its consumers, and closed the distillery. In a later address to the Hamilton County Agricultural Board in 1831, Harrison said he had sinned in making whiskey, and hoped that others would learn from his mistake and stop the production of liquors. In these early years, Harrison also earned money from his contributions to a biography written by James Hall, entitled 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, Harrison served as Clerk of Courts for Hamilton County. This was his job when he was elected president in 1840. By 1840, when Harrison campaigned for president a second time, more than 12 books had been published on his life. In many, he was hailed as a national hero. 1840 presidential campaign Harrison was the Whig candidate (and again faced Van Buren, now the incumbent president) in the 1840 election. The Whig party unified behind a single candidate, and Harrison was chosen over more controversial members of the party, such as Clay and Webster. Harrison based his campaign on his heroic military record and on the weak U.S. economy, caused by the Panic of 1837. In a ploy to blame Van Buren for the depressed economy, the Whigs nicknamed him "Van Ruin". The Democrats ridiculed Harrison by calling him "Granny Harrison, the petticoat general," because he resigned from the army before the War of 1812 ended. When asking voters whether Harrison should be elected, they asked them what his name backwards was, which happens to be "No Sirrah." Democrats cast Harrison 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 by Harrison and his vice presidential running-mate, John Tyler's adopting the log cabin and hard cider as campaign symbols. They used the images in banners and posters, and created bottles of hard cider that were shaped like log cabins, all to connect to the "common man". Poster of Harrison's accomplishments Although Harrison had come from a wealthy, slaveholding Virginia family, in this campaign he was promoted as a humble frontiersman in the style of the popular Andrew Jackson. A memorable example was the Gold Spoon Oration, delivered by a Whig representative. Van Buren, by contrast, was presented as a wealthy elitist. A Whig chant from the time of the election exhibited the difference between candidates: 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! People singing the chant would spit tobacco juice while singing "wirt-wirt". The Whigs boasted of Harrison's military record and reputation as the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe. Their campaign slogan, "Tippecanoe and Tyler too", became among the most famous in American politics.[57] On election day, Harrison won a landslide electoral college victory, though the popular vote was much closer, at 53% to 47% Tip and Ty What's the cause of this commotion, motion, motion, Our country through? It is the ball a-rolling on For Tippecanoe and Tyler too. For Tippecanoe and Tyler too. And with them we'll beat little Van, Van, Van, Van is a used up man. And with them we'll beat little Van. Shortest presidency When Harrison came to Washington, he wanted to show that he was still the steadfast hero of Tippecanoe. He took the oath of office on March 4, 1841, a cold and wet day. He wore neither an overcoat nor hat, and delivered the longest inaugural address in American history. It took him nearly two hours to read, although his friend and fellow Whig Daniel Webster had edited it for length. Harrison rode through the streets in the inaugural parade. The 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. As leader of the Whigs and a powerful legislator (as well as a frustrated Presidential candidate in his own right), Clay expected to have substantial influence in the Harrison administration. He ignored his own platform plank of overturning the "Spoils" system. Clay 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, saying "Mr. Clay, you forget that I am the President." The dispute intensified when Harrison named Daniel Webster, Clay's arch-rival for control of the Whig Party, as his Secretary of State, and appeared to give Webster's supporters some highly coveted patronage positions. Harrison's sole concession to Clay was to name his protegĂ© John J. Crittenden to the post of Attorney General. When Clay pressed Harrison on the appointments, the president told him not to visit the White House again, but to address him only in writing. Despite this, the dispute continued until the president's death. William Henry Harrison Clay was not the only one who hoped to benefit from Harrison's election. Hordes of office applicants came to the White House, which was then open to all comers who wanted a meeting with the President. Most of Harrison's business during his month-long presidency involved extensive social obligations—an inevitable part of his high position and arrival in Washington—and receiving visitors at the White House. They awaited him at all hours and filled the Executive Mansion. As he had with Clay, Harrison resisted pressure from other Whigs over patronage. When a group arrived in his office on March 16 to demand the removal of all Democrats from any appointed office, Harrison proclaimed, "So help me God, I will resign my office before I can be guilty of such an iniquity." Harrison's only official act of consequence was to call Congress into a special session. He and Henry Clay 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. 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. [edit] Administration and cabinet The Harrison Cabinet President William Henry Harrison 1841 Vice President John Tyler 1841 Secretary of State Daniel Webster 1841 Secretary of Treasury Thomas Ewing 1841 Secretary of War John Bell 1841 Attorney General John J. Crittenden 1841 Postmaster General Francis Granger 1841 Secretary of the Navy George E. Badger 1841 Death On March 26, Harrison became ill with a cold. According to the prevailing medical misconception of that time, it was believed that his illness was directly caused by the bad weather; however, Harrison's illness did not arise until more than three weeks after the inauguration. The cold worsened, rapidly turning to pneumonia and pleurisy.[66] He sought to rest in the White House, but could not find a quiet room because of the steady crowd of office seekers. His extremely busy social schedule made any rest time scarce. Harrison's doctors tried cures, applying opium, castor oil, leeches, and Virginia snakeweed. But the treatments only made Harrison worse, and he became delirious. He died nine days after becoming ill, at 12:30 a.m. on April 4, 1841, of right lower lobe pneumonia, jaundice, and overwhelming septicemia. He was the first United States president to die in office. His last words were to his doctor, but assumed to be directed at John Tyler, "Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more." Harrison served the shortest term of any American president: March 4 – April 4, 1841, 30 days, 12 hours, and 30 minutes. Harrison's funeral took place in the Wesley Chapel in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1841. His original interment was in the public vault of the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. He was later buried in North Bend, Ohio. The William Henry Harrison Tomb State Memorial was erected in his honor. Impact of death Statue of Harrison on horseback in Cincinnati, OhioThe untimely death of Harrison was a disappointment to Whigs, who hoped to pass a revenue tariff and enact measures to support Henry Clay's American System. John Tyler, Harrison's successor and a former Democrat, abandoned the Whig agenda, effectively cutting himself off from the party. Due to the death of Harrison, three presidents served within a single calendar year (Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler). This has happened on only one other occasion, in 1881, when Rutherford B. Hayes was succeeded by James A. Garfield, who was assassinated later in that year. With the death of Garfield, Chester A. Arthur stepped into the presidency. Harrison's death revealed the flaws in the constitution's clauses on presidential succession. Article II of the Constitution states that "In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President, ... and [the Vice President] shall act accordingly, until the disability be removed, or a President shall be elected". Scholars at the time disagreed whether the vice president would become President or merely Acting President. Further, the Constitution did not stipulate whether the vice president could serve the remainder of the president's term, until the next election, or if emergency elections should be held. Harrison's cabinet insisted that Tyler was "Vice President acting as President." After the cabinet consulted with the Chief Justice Roger Taney they decided that if Tyler took the presidential Oath of Office he would assume the office of President. Tyler obliged and was sworn in on April 6. In May, Congress convened. After a short period of debate in both houses, it passed a resolution that confirmed Tyler in the presidency for the remainder of Harrison's term. Once established, this precedent of presidential succession remained in effect until the Twenty-fifth Amendment was ratified in 1967. Following the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the succession of Lyndon B. Johnson to the presidency in 1963, the Twenty-fifth Amendment dealt with the finer points of succession. It defined in what situations the vice president was acting president, and in what situation the vice president could become president. As the shortest-serving president, Harrison was the only one not to appoint a single federal judge at any level.[75] No states were admitted to the union during his term. Legacy Harrison was the first sitting president to have his photograph taken. The original daguerreotype, made in Washington on his Inauguration Day, has been lost—although at least one copy exists in the archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His chief presidential legacy lies in his campaigning methods, which laid the foundation for the modern presidential campaign tactics. Harrison died nearly penniless. Congress voted to give his wife a Presidential widow's pension, a payment of $25,000, one year of Harrison's salary. This is equivalent to over $500,000 in 2009 dollars. She also received the right to mail letters free of charge. Harrison was the first of only four presidents who did not have an opportunity to nominate a judge to serve on the Supreme Court. Harrison's son John Scott Harrison served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio between 1853 and 1857. Harrison's grandson, Benjamin Harrison of Indiana, was the 23rd president, from 1889 to 1893, making them the only grandparent–grandchild pair of presidents. Numerous places were named after the military hero and president: Harrison, New Jersey; Harrison County, Indiana; Harrison County, Mississippi; Harrison County, Iowa; Harrison County, Ohio; and three schools named William Henry Harrison High School (in Evansville and Battle Ground, Indiana and Harrison, Ohio). Because of his short service, no military vessel was named after him as president. During the American Civil War, the Union Army named a post near Cincinnati Camp Harrison. A military fort in Montana was named for him. A statue of Harrison was erected on Monument Circle in Indianapolis. Inauguration of William Henry Harrison Participants William Henry Harrison Location Washington, D.C. U.S. Capitol Date March 4, 1841 The inauguration of William Henry Harrison as the ninth President of the United States took place on March 4, 1841. The inauguration marked the commencement of the only four-year term of William Henry Harrison as President and John Tyler as Vice President. Harrison's inauguration was marked by several novelties; he was the first president-elect to arrive in Washington, D.C. by train, and for the first time an official inaugural committee of citizens had formed to plan the day's parade and Inaugural ball. The day of Harrison's inauguration was overcast with cold wind and a noon temperature estimated to be 48 degrees Fahrenheit. Harrison chose to not wear an overcoat, hat, or gloves for the ceremony. Sworn-in by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney on the East Portico of the United States Capitol, Harrison proceeded to deliver the longest inaugural address in American history, running 8,445 words. Harrison wrote the entire speech himself, though it was edited by soon-to-be Secretary of State, Daniel Webster. Webster said afterwards that in the process of reducing the text, he had "killed seventeen Roman proconsuls." That evening Harrison attended three inaugural balls, including one at Carusi's Saloon entitled the "Tippecanoe" ball, which at a price of US$10 per person attracted 1000 guests. On March 26, Harrison developed a cold, then attributed to inauguration day exposure, a theory cast into doubt by modern medicine. Despite doctors' attempts at treating him, he died on April 4, making his 30-day tenure the shortest in history. President William Henry Harrison, 1841 Vice President John Tyler Inauguration Date Saturday, March 4, 1841 Location East Portico, U.S. Capitol Oath Administered By: Roger B. Taney, Chief Justice Bible Used: Unknown Length of Inaugural Address: 8,445 words Attire (what the president wore): Did not wear overcoat, hat, nor gloves during swearing-in ceremony Weather: Overcast with a cold wind. Estimated noon temperature of 48°F. Precedents, "firsts" or other interesting information: Harrison was the first President to arrive in Washington, D.C. by train. The first official Inaugural committee was formed by citizens of D.C. to plan the parade and Inaugural ball. Harrison delivered the longest Inaugural address on record. He died of pneumonia one month later, believed to have been brought on by prolonged exposure to bad weather at his March 4 Inauguration.

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