The New International Encyclopædia/Harrison, William Henry

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The New International Encyclopædia
Harrison, William Henry
Edition of 1905. See also William Henry Harrison on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

HARRISON, William Henry (1773-1841). Ninth President of the United States. He was the son of Benjamin Harrison (1740-91); was born at Berkeley, Charles City County, Va., February 9, 1773; was educated at Hampden-Sidney College, and although the profession of medicine had been chosen for him, entered the army as an ensign in 1791, became a lieutenant in June, 1792, and served against the Indians as an aide-de-camp on the staff of General Wayne, taking part in the battle of the Maumee and in other engagements, and becoming a captain in May, 1797. Resigning in June, 1798, he was soon afterwards appointed Secretary of the Northwest Territory under Gen. Arthur Saint Clair, but in October, 1799, resigned that position to become a Territorial Delegate in Congress. In 1801 he was made Governor of the so-called Indiana Territory, which then comprised the region later embraced in the States of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and for a time subsequent to the treaty of 1803 his jurisdiction also extended over that part of the lands then acquired from France by the Louisiana Purchase (q.v.), which was known as the District of Louisiana, Harrison's executive work in the Northwest continued until 1813, and was marked by conspicuous success in a variety of difficult undertakings, in which he secured the hearty appreciation of the people affected by his administration and the marked approval of the National Government. He was largely instrumental in effecting a change of the organization nf Indiana from a Federal district to a Territory with representative government and with a Delegate in Congress, although by this arrangement his own power was appreciably diminished. He rendered effective and important service to the nation by early establishing friendly relations with a number of the Indian tribes, and by thus lessening the possibility of a continuation of British influence in that region. On September 17, 1802. he concluded a treaty at Vincennes, and in July of the following year negotiated the more important treaty of Fort Wayne. But while in some regions the questions of land rights and the allied problems arising from the ill-defined relations between the tribes and the newly organized government were being adjusted amicably, Harrison's force and ability were also tested by the necessity of meeting successfully conditions which required the use of arms. In this branch of the public service he was also active, his most important military campaign being that against Tecumseh's brother, the Prophet, in the region of the Wabash, culminating in his victory at the battle of Tippecanoe (q.v.), November 7, 1811. Upon the outbreak of the War of 1812 he became a major-general of Kentucky militia, and in August, 1812, was made a brigadier-general in the Regular Army, and soon afterwards was appointed to the chief command in the Northwest, in which capacity, with the rank, after March, 1813, of major-general, he was actively engaged during the Western campaigns of the war, becoming again conspicuous by his brave defense of Fort Meigs (q.v.) and by his complete victory over the British at the battle of the Thames, October 5, 1813. Harrison had thus repeatedly shown marked military talent, and the end of the war left him, next to Jackson, the most prominent military figure in American public life. Withdrawing, however, from the army, Harrison entered Congress as the representative of the district embracing Cincinnati, and served from 1816 to 1819, when he was elected to the State Senate, where he remained until 1821. In 1825 he returned to Washington as Senator from Ohio, retaining this position until 1828, when he was sent as Minister to Colombia. Upon returning from that post in the following year, he retired for several years from public life. In 1835 he was nominated for the Presidency by Whig conventions in Indiana, Ohio, and Maryland, and by an Anti-Masonic convention at Harrisburg, Pa., and in the ensuing election succeeded in carrying seven States, Vermont, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana, securing 73 electoral votes, as against 170 given to Van Buren and 51 divided among the three other candidates. Moreover, the popular vote for Harrison in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania approached very closely, and in Illinois and New York compared favorably with, that of Van Buren. When, finally, the financial policy of Jackson and Van Buren brought such disastrous results as to turn against the Administration a large portion of the people, the situation became particularly favorable for whoever might be nominated by the Whig Party in 1840. Although in many respects Henry Clay appeared as the leader of the party, he could not command its complete support as a Presidential candidate, and, accordingly, in the interest of harmony, he refrained from an active contest and left Harrison as the leading candidate for the nomination. The Whig Convention met at Harrisburg, December 4, 1839, and comprised 254 delegates. The ‘unit rule’ was introduced, and upon the first ballot Henry Clay received 103 votes, General Harrison 94, and General Scott 57. On the fifth ballot, during the third day of the convention, Harrison received 148 votes, Clay 90, and Scott 10, and Harrison was accordingly declared the nominee of the party. There forthwith began a political campaign which for popular enthusiasm and widespread activity has probably never been equaled in American polities. Throughout the country, meetings, processions, and a great variety of ‘demonstrations’ were held, and the general public took an energetic share in the contest. New campaign methods were introduced, and the log cabin and hard cider became especial emblems of the party of ‘Tippecanoe and Tyler too.’ The ‘stump speaker’ was a prominent feature of this new method of campaigning, even General Harrison himself making a series of addresses. The early State elections in some of the New England States and in Ohio and Kentucky resulted in Whig victories, and in the Presidential election Van Buren carried only seven States, of which but two were Northern States, with a total electoral vote of only 60, as against the 234 votes secured by Harrison. Although in good health at the time of his inauguration, General Harrison was taken ill, and died on April 4, 1841, the whole political situation being thus suddenly altered, and the Whig President being succeeded by John Tyler (q.v.), a former Democrat. William H. Harrison was the grandfather of President Benjamin Harrison. A Historical Narrative of Harrison's services was prepared by Moses Dawson (Cincinnati, 1824), a Memoir was written by James Hall (Philadelphia, 1836), and campaign biographies by C. S. Todd, S. J. Burr, Richard Hildreth, and I. R. Jackson were issued in 1840; but there is no adequate biography. Consult the sketch by Bostwick, in Wilson, Presidents of the United States (New York, 1894).