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Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Presidents Day - William Henry Harrison

                                                     Keep It Short!

Presidents' Day! We all know about famous presidents such as Washington, Jefferson, the two Roosevelts, and JFK.

But the other presidents had interesting lives too. Today let's look at our ninth president, William Henry Harrison.  

William Henry's father was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. William Henry was the last President born as a British subject. His father wanted William to be a physician, but William chose army life. He became an Indian fighter in the northwest territory. He tried twice to make peace with Tecumuseh, the Creek chief, who allied with the British.

Finally, Harrison led the troops that killed Tecumseh and defeated the British at the junction of the Tippecanoe and Wabash Rivers. After the war, he served in the US Senate and later as an ambassador to Columbia. Columbians nearly threw him in jail as he supported the uprising against the Columbian government.

He belonged to the Whig Party, and it was considered crass to campaign for yourself in that day. But he was a maverick and the first presidential candidate to campaign for himself with speeches, parties, banners, and parades. This idea has been followed by all the succeeding candidates.

His opponent was Martin Van Buren, portrayed as a snob and a dandy. Harrison's running mate was John Tyler, so the slogan was 'Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too'.   Harrison said of himself, "Some folks are silly enough to have formed a plan to make a president of th the U.S. out of this Clerk and Clod Hopper. 

The prominent Whigs thought Harrison would be easy to dominate and get the people they wanted into important positions, but he spoiled their plans. He told them where they could 'stick their suggestions.'

He became President in 1841. His wife, Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison, was ill and could not travel to Washington.

He delivered his inaugural address on March 4th. It was a cold, windy day. He did not wear a coat or gloves. His speech was one hour and 45 minutes long ( It became the longest inaugural  speech ever given. So the moral is "Keep It Short.")

He came down with a cold and seemed to recover. Then he would go out to various government offices to look for inefficient Federal employees to fire. Also, early each morning, he left the White House to buy food at the local market. He did not wear a coat on these jaunts. A few days later, he had chills and a fever. The diagnoses were pneumonia and pleurisy. The doctors treated their patient with castor oil, calomel, ipecac, opium, camphor, and brandy. He soon had colitis, vomiting, and hepatitis. He died on April 4th, 1841, exactly one month after taking office.

The vice president became President. John Tyler was more challenging to dominate than Harrison.

Anna married William Henry against her father's advice. She lived with him on the frontier. They had ten children. A grandson, Benjamin Harrison, became the twenty-third President. Anna lived twenty years longer than her husband and devoted herself to church work. She was eighty-nine when she died peacefully.   

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