Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin Harrison 1896 photo by Pach Brothers

Benjamin Harrison 1896 photo by Pach Brothers

Benjamin Harrison was the twenty-third President of the United States. He served from 1889-1893. He was born on August 20, 1833 in North Bend, Ohio. He was named for his great-grandfather, who had been a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His father, John, was a farmer and Benjamin was one of nine children. Benjamin was seven years old when his grandfather, William Henry Harrison, was elected President in 1841.

Benjamin’s father lived too far from town to make schooling feasible, so he built a one room schoolhouse of his own and hired a teacher each winter to teach his children. When Harrison was fourteen, he was sent away to a college prep school and at sixteen, entered Miami University in Ohio. He studied hard and graduated in 1852 at the age of eighteen.

Harrison moved to Cincinnati and began to clerk and study law. In 1853, he married Caroline Scott, whose father was president of a girl’s school in Oxford, Ohio. They would have two children. After completing his law studies, Harrison moved to Indianapolis, Indiana and established a law practice in 1854.

Harrison did well and, in 1855, began a partnership with William Wallace. In 1860, he entered politics as a Republican and ran for the office of Reporter to the Supreme Court of Indiana. The speaking and debate skills that he developed in college paid off and he won the election easily.

Harrison entered the Civil War in 1862. The Governor offered him command of a regiment of volunteers as a Colonel. The regiment, 70th Indiana Volunteers, was involved in heavy fighting and “Little Ben” as he was known, showed bravery and leadership. In March of 1865, he was promoted to Brigadier General.

After the war, Harrison returned to Indianapolis. He had been re-elected to the Reporter position in his absence in 1864. He declined to run in 1866 and went back into private law practice with Governor Porter. The relationship was good and Harrison prospered, becoming a leading figure in the state.

Harrison reluctantly ran for governor as a Republican in 1876. He lost, but only by 5000 votes out of 434,000 cast. He led the Republican delegation to the National Convention in 1880 and helped Garfield win the nomination. When Garfield was elected, Harrison was offered a Cabinet post but declined, as he had been elected to the US Senate by the Indiana legislature.

Harrison served in the Senate from 1881 to 1887. His term was unremarkable as he tended to follow his party leaders. As such, he opposed the vetoes of pension bills, urged an increase in the size of the Navy. He also supported increases in tariffs.

In 1888, the Republican convention was again deadlocked. John Sherman of Ohio and Walter Gresham of Indiana were the frontrunners but neither could win outright. The Republican “kingmaker” James Blaine was on vacation in Scotland, but cabled back the words “Take Harrison”, and he was nominated on the eighth ballot. Blaine felt Harrison was “safe” and easy to control.

Harrison did not campaign all that actively. The feeling was that Cleveland had antagonized the electorate during his first term to the extent that the Republicans would beat him easily. In fact, Cleveland narrowly won the popular vote and, had it not been for Tammany Hall in New York hating Cleveland, Harrison would not have won.

Among his first moves after the election, Harrison appointed Blaine as Secretary of State. The Republicans controlled both houses, allowing Harrison and his friends almost free rein to pass what they wanted. They passed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, increasing the monthly amount of silver the government purchased, substantially raised tariffs, and increased veteran’s pensions, and so on.

Harrison also pursued a vigorous foreign policy under Blain. He pushed claims for Samoa, and established the Pan American Conference to develop better relationships within the Western Hemisphere. He also oversaw admission of six new states, all in the West, to the United Statrs, bringing the total to forty-four.

In 1890, the Democrats won big in the off year elections and established a majority of 235 to 88 Republicans. It was a repudiation of the weakened currency and the increasing prices brought about by Harrison. These policies would lead to the “Panic of ‘93”.

Harrison won renomination in 1892 and again ran against Cleveland. This time he lost to the former President quite decisively for many of the same reasons the Republicans lost in the elections of 1890. In his final address to Congress, Harrison defended his tariff system.

Harrison accepted an invitation to deliver lecturers at Stamford then returned to Indianapolis to practice law. His wife had died in 1892 and he remarried in 1896, at the age of sixty two, the thirty-seven year old niece of his first wife. They had a daughter. He continued his international law practice and wrote a book on the US government. He died on March 13, 1901 at the age of sixty-seven.

Benjamin Harrison Facts

  • President No.: 23rd
  • When did Benjamin Harrison serve? 1889-1893
  • What was Benjamin Harrison’s party? Republican
  • Where was Benjamin Harrison from? Indiana
  • Who was Benjamin Harrison’s wife? Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison
  • When was Benjamin Harrison born? August 20, 1833
  • Where was Benjamin Harrison born? North Bend, Ohio
  • When did Benjamin Harrison die? March 13, 1901
  • Where did Benjamin Harrison die? Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Which college did Benjamin Harrison attend? Miami University
  • What was Benjamin Harrison’s Jobs Before President? Lawyer, US Senator
  • What was Benjamin Harrison’s height? 5 feet, 6 inches
  • What was the population when Benjamin Harrison was president? 62,947,714
  • What hobbies did Benjamin Harrison have? Hunting
  • What pets did Benjamin Harrison have? Goat
  • What transportation did Benjamin Harrison use? Train
  • How did Benjamin Harrison communicate? Telephone, letter. telegram


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