The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Harrison, William Henry

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Edition of 1879. See also William Henry Harrison on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

HARRISON, William Henry, ninth president of the United States, born in Berkeley, Charles City co., Va., Feb. 9, 1773, died in Washington, April 4, 1841. He was the third and youngest son of Governor Benjamin Harrison. At the age of 19 years, with the commission of ensign, he joined the army employed first under St. Clair, and afterward under Wayne, against the western Indians, becoming aide-de-camp of the latter. In 1795 he was made captain and placed in command of Fort Washington, on the site of the present city of Cincinnati, laid out on grounds owned by John Cleves Symmes, whose daughter Capt. Harrison married. In 1797 he resigned his commission and was appointed secretary of the territory N. W. of the Ohio, from which in 1799 he was chosen a delegate to congress. The Northwestern territory having been divided, Harrison was appointed in 1801 governor of the new territory of Indiana, embracing the present states of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Almost the whole of it was then in possession of the Indians, with whom as superintendent he made several important treaties in which large cessions of territory were obtained. The agitation among the Indians caused by Tecumseh and his brother the prophet having resulted in hostilities, Harrison in the autumn of 1811 advanced against the prophet's town at the head of 800 men, partly regulars and partly volunteers. His camp at Tippecanoe was unsuccessfully attacked on the night of Nov. 7. The defeated Indians were at first inclined to treat, but the breaking out of the war with Great Britain made them again hostile. After Hull's surrender, Harrison was appointed, in September, 1812, to the command of the N. W. frontier, with a commission as brigadier general. It was not till the next year, by which time he was promoted to the rank of major general, that he was able to commence active operations. Several mishaps grew out of the inexperience of his subordinate officers, but the victory of Perry on Lake Erie enabled him to recover from the British the American territory which they had occupied, and to pursue them into Canada, where on Oct. 5 they were totally routed in the battle of the Thames. A peace with the N. W. Indians soon followed. Not long after, in consequence of misunderstandings with Armstrong, the secretary of war, Harrison resigned his commission in the army. In 1816 he was elected from the Cincinnati district a member of congress, in which body he sat for three years. In 1819 he was elected a member of the state senate of Ohio, and in 1824 United States senator. He was appointed chairman of the military committee in place of Gen. Jackson, who had just resigned his seat in the senate. In 1828 he was appointed by President John Q. Adams minister plenipotentiary to Colombia, but was recalled immediately on Jackson's accession to the presidency in 1829. For several years after his return he took no active part in political affairs, but lived retired on his farm at North Bend on the Ohio, a few miles below Cincinnati, and was for 12 years clerk of the county court. In 1836, as the close of Jackson's second term of office drew near, the opposition were somewhat at a loss for a candidate for the presidency. The success of Gen. Jackson gave rise to the idea of adopting a candidate who had military reputation. Harrison, while in command of the N. W. department during the war of 1812, had enjoyed a high popularity in the west, and was now brought forward as a presidential candidate. He received 73 electoral votes, a greater number than Clay had obtained four years before, though Massachusetts, which now voted for Mr. Webster, then voted for him. The financial crisis which followed the election of Mr. Van Buren greatly strengthened the opposition. The prospect of defeating his reëlection was very strong if the opposition could unite upon a candidate. Mr. Clay was again brought forward and strongly urged. Gen. Scott was also proposed. In the national convention which met at Harrisburg, Dec. 4, 1839, Gen. Harrison received the nomination. A very ardent and exciting canvass followed. On the part of the supporters of Harrison every means was employed to arouse the popular enthusiasm. Mass meetings and political processions were now first brought into general use, and this canvass marks an era in the style of conducting elections. The slur which had been cast upon Harrison that he lived in a “log cabin,” with nothing to drink but “hard cider,” was seized upon as an electioneering appeal. Log cabins became a regular feature in political processions, and “hard cider” one of the watchwords of the party. Harrison received 234 electoral votes to 60 for Van Buren. He was inaugurated president, March 4, 1841. His cabinet was judiciously composed, and great expectations were formed of his administration; but within a month, and before any distinctive line of policy could be established, he died, after an illness of eight days, brought on, it was supposed, by fatigue and excitement incident to his inauguration.