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Favorable or Unfavorable #389: William Henry Harrison


Favorable or Unfavorable #389: William Henry Harrison  

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  1. 1. Did you read my first comment?

  2. 2. Favorable or Unfavorable #389: William Henry Harrison

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Pres. WH Harrison (OH-W) is quite an unusual president. He was the son of Founding Father and Gov of VA Benjamin Harrison V, said to have been taller and larger than George Washington. Harrison went out to the Northwest Territory as a soldier, resigned, and became a politician, serving as the Gov of IN Territory for about 12 years. He resigned to join the War of 1812 full-time, but resigned in protest over how the war was conducted. 

Despite his hero status, he had a hard time getting elected. By 1836, he was so poor that he was given a local government job as a means to bail him out. By this point, he was basically an answer to a trivia question until Whigs realized they needed a war hero who could win the Midwest in the 1836 election. Harrison was put up to run with other Whigs in the general election with the idea that they would force a presidential decision in the House. The hair-brained plan backfired but Harrison came out the strongest of the Whigs, which gave him momentum into 1840. While Harrison was mostly forgotted by 1836, campaigners did well in resurrecting his war career, although Harrison wasn't the same sort of celebrity as Jackson was. 

Harrison had the shortest presidency, but we do have some idea of what would have happened. He entered the presidency with the assumption, based on Harrison's own rhetoric, that he was be passive, let Congress rule, let the cabinet vote on executive decisions, and that Henry Clay would have a lot of pull. Once in the presidency, Harrison quickly became compative. He couldn't stand Henry Clay's attempt to control him and packed the cabinet with Webster allies and forbade Clay from entering the White House. Assuming, he wouldn't have isolated Webster, we can assume Harrison's presidency might have been like. Webster was liked by both John Tyler and Millard Fillmore. No Whig president really resembles Clay, although future-Whig John Quincy Adams probably comes closest in policy.

My own opinion is that Harrison probably would have ineffective as president. The Whigs were never as unified as the Democrats were and Clay was the closest figure to someone unifying, and a lot of that was based on him being an excellent politician. Harrison lacked the talent to take on both Clay and the Democrats. I also get the hunch he would have butted heads with Webster at some point. Harrison reads 19th century Jimmy Carter to me. Carter had notoriously bad relations with his own party members, especially Congress people. I think Harrison would have broken all of his promises to be passive, similar to how Tyler and Taylor did, and arguably Fillmore. No person desiring power is going to refrain from using it.  

His actions:

Harrison, William Henry 1800 Plays role in dividing up Northwest Territory into several territories
Harrison, William Henry 1801 Appt Gov of IN Terr by Adams, holding the position until Dec 1812
Harrison, William Henry 1801 Kept on as Gov of IN Terr by Jefferson
Harrison, William Henry 1809 Kep on as Gov of IN Terr by Madison
Harrison, William Henry 1811 Scores major victory at the Battle of Tippecanoe against Tecumseh's Confederacy
Harrison, William Henry 1812 Made major general in command of the Army of the Northwest during War of 1812
Harrison, William Henry 1813 Wins Battle of the Thames, killing Tecumseh and his Confederacy
Harrison, William Henry 1814 Resigns from the army in protest over Sec of War Armstrong's planning of invasion of Canada
Harrison, William Henry 1817 Fails in attempt to be Monroe's Sec of War; passed over for Amb of Russia too
Harrison, William Henry 1820 Future pres loses bid for Gov of OH
Harrison, William Henry 1822 Furue pres loses bid for US House
Harrison, William Henry 1824 Backs Clay for pres; elected US Sen
Harrison, William Henry 1828 Appt Amb to Gran Columbia by Adams, but removed by Jackson the next year
Harrison, William Henry 1836 A Whig Pres nominee
Harrison, William Henry 1840 Wins 1840 election, becoming the first Whig president
Harrison, William Henry 1841 Longest Inaug Address; calls for US Bank and a restrained presidency
Harrison, William Henry 1841 Clashes with Clay who hoped to influence Harrison; sides w/ Clay rival Webster
Harrison, William Henry 1841 Dies in office
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