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Benjamin Harrison

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Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin Harrison, head and shoulders bw photo, 1896.jpg
23rd President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1889 – March 4, 1893
Vice President Levi P. Morton
Preceded by Grover Cleveland
Succeeded by Grover Cleveland
United States Senator
from Indiana
In office
March 4, 1881 – March 4, 1887
Preceded by Joseph McDonald
Succeeded by David Turpie
Personal details
Born (1833-08-20)August 20, 1833
North Bend, Ohio, U.S.
Died March 13, 1901(1901-03-13) (aged 67)
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
Resting place Crown Hill Cemetery
Indianapolis, Indiana
Political party Republican Party (1856–1901)
Other political
Whig Party (Before 1856)
  • Caroline Scott
    (1853–1892; her death)
  • Mary Scott
    (1896–1901; his death)
  • Russell
  • Mary
  • Elizabeth
Alma mater
  • Farmer's College
  • Miami University
Profession Lawyer
Religion Presbyterianism
Signature Cursive signature in ink
Military service
Service/branch Union Army
Rank Brigadier General
Unit Army of the Cumberland
  • 70th Regiment Indiana Infantry
  • 1st Brigade of the 1st Division of the XX Corps
Battles/wars American Civil War

Benjamin Harrison (August 20, 1833 – March 13, 1901) was the 23rd President of the United States (1889–1893). Harrison, a grandson of President William Henry Harrison, was born in North Bend, Ohio, and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, at age 21, eventually becoming a prominent politician there. During the American Civil War, he served the Union as a brigadier general in the XX Corps of the Army of the Cumberland. After the war, he unsuccessfully ran for the governorship of Indiana and was later elected to the U.S. Senate by the Indiana legislature.

Harrison, a Republican, was elected to the presidency in 1888, defeating the Democratic incumbent Grover Cleveland. His administration is remembered most for economic legislation, including the McKinley Tariff and the Sherman Antitrust Act, and for annual federal spending that reached one billion dollars for the first time. Democrats attacked the " Billion Dollar Congress." They used the issue, along with the growing unpopularity of the high tariff, to defeat the Republicans, in both the 1890 mid-term elections and in Harrison's bid for re-election in 1892. Harrison advocated, although unsuccessfully, for federal education funding and legislation to protect voting rights for African Americans. He also saw the admittance of six states into the Union.

Defeated by Cleveland in his bid for re-election in 1892, Harrison returned to private life in Indianapolis. He later represented the Republic of Venezuela in an international case against the United Kingdom. In 1900, he traveled to Europe as part of the case and, after a brief stay, returned to Indianapolis.

He died the following year from complications from influenza. He is to date the only U.S. president from Indiana and the only one to be the grandson of another president.

Early life

Family and education

Harrison's paternal ancestors, the Harrisons, were among the First Families of Virginia. Their immigrant ancestor was Benjamin Harrison, who arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1630. The future president Benjamin was born on August 20, 1833, in North Bend, Ohio, as the second of eight children of John Scott Harrison from Ohio) and Elizabeth Ramsey (Irwin). Benjamin was a grandson of President William Henry Harrison and the great-grandson of Benjamin Harrison V, a Virginia governor and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Harrison was seven years old when his grandfather was elected President, but he did not attend the inauguration. Although Harrison's family was distinguished, his parents were not wealthy. John Scott Harrison spent much of his farm income on his children's education. Despite the meager income, Harrison's boyhood was enjoyable, with much of it spent outdoors fishing or hunting.

Benjamin Harrison's early schooling took place in a one-room schoolhouse near his home, but his parents later arranged for a tutor to help him with college preparatory studies. Harrison and his brother Irwin enrolled in Farmer's College near Cincinnati, Ohio in 1847. Harrison attended the college for two years. While there, he met Caroline Scott, one of the daughters of the science professor, John Witherspoon Scott.

In 1850, he transferred to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He joined the fraternity Phi Delta Theta, which he used as a network for much of his life. He graduated in 1852. He was also a member of Delta Chi, then a law fraternity, which permitted dual membership. Classmates included John Alexander Anderson, who became a six-term congressman; and Whitelaw Reid, who ran as Harrison's vice presidential candidate in his presidential reelection campaign. At Miami, Harrison was strongly influenced by his professor Robert Hamilton Bishop, who instructed him in history and political economy. Harrison joined a Presbyterian church at college and, like his mother, remained a member for the rest of his life.

After completing college, Harrison took up the study of law as a legal apprentice in the Cincinnati, Ohio law office of Storer & Gwynne.

Marriage and family

Before completing his law studies, Harrison returned to Oxford to marry Caroline Lavinia Scott. She was the daughter of the college president, John Witherspoon Scott, a Presbyterian minister. On October 20, 1853, they married with Caroline's father performing the ceremony.

The Harrisons had two children, Russell Benjamin Harrison (August 12, 1854 – December 13, 1936), and Mary "Mamie" Scott Harrison (April 3, 1858 – October 28, 1930).

Harrison birth site marker, North Bend, Ohio

Early legal career

Harrison returned to live on his father's farm while finishing his law studies. That same year, he inherited $800 after the death of an aunt. He used the money to move with Caroline to Indianapolis, Indiana in 1854. There he was admitted to the bar and began practicing law in the office of John H. Ray. The same year he became a crier for the Federal Court in Indianapolis, for which he was paid $2.50 per day. He walked around while making announcements from the court.

While in Indianapolis, Harrison became a founding member and first president of both the University Club, a private gentlemen's club; and the Phi Delta Theta Alumni Club of Indianapolis, the fraternity's first such club. Having grown up in a Whig household, he favored that party's politics while young.

He joined the Republican Party shortly after its formation in 1856, and that year campaigned on behalf of the Republican presidential candidate John C. Frémont. Harrison was elected as the Indianapolis City Attorney that year, a position that paid an annual salary of $400.

In 1858 Harrison entered into a law partnership with William Wallace, and they opened their office called Wallace & Harrison. In 1860, Harrison ran as the Republican candidate for reporter of the Indiana Supreme Court, his first in partisan politics. Although this office was not political, he was an active supporter of his party's platform. During the election, he represented the Republican Party in debating Thomas Hendricks, the Democratic candidate for governor. (He was a future Vice President of the United States.) His law partner Wallace was elected as county clerk in 1860, and Harrison opened a new firm with William Fishback, named Fishback & Harrison. They worked together until he entered the Army after the start of the American Civil War.

Civil War

Colonel Benjamin Harrison

Harrison wanted to enlist, but worried about how to support his young family. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for more recruits. While visiting Governor Oliver Morton, Harrison found him distressed over the shortage of men answering the latest call. Harrison told the governor, "If I can be of any service, I will go".

Morton asked Harrison if he could help recruit a regiment, though he would not ask him to serve. Harrison recruited throughout northern Indiana to raise a regiment. Morton offered him the command, but Harrison declined, as he had no military experience. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant. In August 1862, when the regiment left Indiana to join the Union Army at Louisville, Kentucky, Harrison was promoted by Morton to the rank of colonel, and his regiment was commissioned as the 70th Indiana Infantry.

For much of its first two years, the 70th Indiana performed reconnaissance duty and guarded railroads in Kentucky and Tennessee. In 1864, Harrison and his regiment joined William T. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign and moved to the front lines. On January 2, 1864, Harrison was promoted to command the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division of the XX Corps. He commanded the brigade at the Battles of Resaca, Cassville, New Hope Church, Lost Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain, Marietta, Peachtree Creek and Atlanta. When Sherman's main force began its March to the Sea, Harrison's brigade was transferred to the District of Etowah and participated in the Battle of Nashville. On March 22, 1865, Harrison earned his final promotion, to the rank of brigadier general. He rode in the Grand Review in Washington, D.C. before mustering out on June 8, 1865.

Post-war career

Indiana politics

While serving in the army in October 1864, Harrison was reelected reporter of the Supreme Court of Indiana and served four more years. Although not politically powerful, the position provided Harrison a steady income. President Grant appointed him to represent the federal government in a civil claim brought by Lambdin P. Milligan, whose wartime conviction for treason had been reversed by the Supreme Court. Due to Harrison's advocacy, the damages awarded against the government were minimal.

With his increasing reputation, local Republicans urged Harrison to run for Congress. He initially confined his political activities to speaking on behalf of other Republican candidates, a task for which he received high praises from his colleagues.

Benjamin Harrison Home in Indianapolis

In 1872, Harrison campaigned for the Republican nomination for governor of Indiana. Former governor Oliver Morton favored his opponent, Thomas M. Browne, and Harrison lost his bid for statewide office. He returned to his law practice and, despite the Panic of 1873, he was financially successful enough to build a grand new home in Indianapolis in 1874. He continued to make speeches on behalf of Republican candidates and policies.

In 1876 the original Republican nominee for governor dropped out of the race. Harrison accepted the Republicans' invitation to take his place on the ticket. He based his campaign on economic policy and favored deflating the national currency. He was ultimately defeated by a plurality to James D. Williams, losing by 5,084 votes out of a total 434,457 cast. Following his defeat, Harrison was able to build on his new prominence in the state. When the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 reached Indianapolis, he helped to mediate between the workers and management and to preserve public order.

When Senator Morton died in 1878, the Republicans nominated Harrison to run for the seat, but the party failed to gain a majority in the state legislature. The Democratic majority elected Daniel W. Voorhees instead. (Senators were not popularly elected at the time. In 1879 President Hayes appointed Harrison to the Mississippi River Commission; it worked to develop internal improvements on the river. As a delegate to the 1880 Republican National Convention the following year, he was thought to have been instrumental in breaking a deadlock on candidates. James A. Garfield won the nomination.

United States Senator

Walter Q. Gresham, Harrison's rival within the Indiana Republican Party

After Harrison led the Republican delegation at the National Convention, he was discussed as a possible Senate candidate. He gave speeches in favour of Garfield in Indiana and New York, further raising his profile in the party. When the Republicans retook the state legislature, Harrison's election to the Senate was threatened by his intra-party rival Judge Walter Q. Gresham, but Harrison was ultimately chosen. After Garfield's election as president in 1880, his administration offered Harrison a cabinet position. He declined as he preferred to serve as senator.

Harrison served in the Senate from March 4, 1881, to March 4, 1887. He was chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Transportation Routes to the Seaboard ( 47th Congress) and U.S. Senate Committee on Territories ( 48th and 49th Congresses).

In 1881 the major issue confronting Senator Harrison was the budget surplus. Democrats wished to reduce the tariff and limit the amount of money the government took in; Republicans instead wished to spend the money on internal improvements and pensions for Civil War veterans. Harrison took his party's side and advocated for generous pensions for veterans and their widows. Harrison also supported, unsuccessfully, aid for education of Southerners, especially the children of the freedmen. He believed that education was necessary to help the black population rise to political and economic equality with whites. Harrison opposed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which his party supported, as he thought it violated existing treaties with China.

In 1884, Harrison and Gresham competed for influence at the 1884 Republican National Convention. The delegation ended up supporting James G. Blaine, the eventual nominee. In the Senate, Harrison achieved passage of his Dependent Pension Bill, only to see it vetoed by President Grover Cleveland. His efforts to further the admission of new western states were stymied by Democrats, who feared that the new states would elect Republicans to Congress.

In 1885, the Democrats redistricted the Indiana state legislature, which resulted in an increased Democratic majority in 1886, despite an overall Republican majority statewide. Harrison was defeated in his bid for reelection, the result being determined against him after a deadlock in the state senate, with the legislature eventually choosing Democrat David Turpie. Harrison returned to Indianapolis and his law practice, but stayed active in state and national politics.

Election of 1888

Harrison-Morton campaign poster


The initial favorite for the Republican nomination was the previous nominee, James G. Blaine of Maine. After Blaine wrote several letters denying any interest in the nomination, his supporters divided among other candidates, with John Sherman of Ohio as the leader among them. Others, including Chauncey Depew of New York, Russell Alger of Michigan, and Harrison's old nemesis Walter Q. Gresham, now a federal appellate court judge in Chicago, also sought the delegates' support at the 1888 Republican National Convention. Blaine did not choose any of the candidates as a successor, so none entered the convention with a majority of the Blaine supporters.

Harrison placed fourth on the first ballot, with Sherman in the lead, and the next few ballots showed little change. The Blaine supporters shifted their support around among the candidates they found acceptable, and when they shifted to Harrison, they found a candidate who could attract the votes of many delegates. He was nominated on the eighth ballot by 544 to 108 votes, winning the Republican presidential nomination. Levi P. Morton of New York was chosen as his running mate.

Election over Cleveland

Results of the 1888 election, with states won by Harrison in red, and those won by Cleveland in blue.

Harrison's opponent in the general election was incumbent President Grover Cleveland. He ran a front-porch campaign, typical of the era, in which the candidate does not campaign but only receives delegations and makes pronouncements from his home town. The Republicans campaigned heavily on the issue of protective tariffs, turning out protectionist voters in the important industrial states of the North. The election focused on the swing states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Harrison's home state of Indiana. Harrison and Cleveland split these four states, with Harrison winning by means of notoriously fraudulent balloting in New York and Indiana. Voter turnout was 79.3% because of a large interest in the campaign issue, and nearly eleven million votes were cast. Although Harrison received 90,000 fewer popular votes than Cleveland, he carried the Electoral College 233 to 168.

Although he had made no political bargains, his supporters had given many pledges upon his behalf. When Boss Matthew Quay of Pennsylvania, who rebuffed for a Cabinet position for his political support during the convention, heard that Harrison ascribed his narrow victory to Providence, Quay exclaimed that Harrison would never know "how close a number of men were compelled to approach...the penitentiary to make him President." Harrison was known as the Centennial President because his inauguration celebrated the centenary of the first inauguration of George Washington in 1789.

Presidency 1889–1893

Inauguration of Benjamin Harrison, March 4, 1889. Cleveland held Harrison's umbrella.


Harrison was sworn into office on Monday, March 4, 1889 by Chief Justice Melville Fuller. Harrison's Inauguration ceremony took place during a rainstorm in Washington D.C.. Cleveland attended the ceremony and held an umbrella over Harrison's head as he took the oath of office. His speech was brief and half as long as that of his grandfather, William Henry Harrison, who held the record with the longest Inaugural Address. In his inaugural address Harrison credited the nation's growth to the influences of education and religion, urged the cotton states and mining territories to attain the industrial proportions of the eastern states and promised a protective tariff. During his speech Harrison also urged early statehood for the territories and advocated pensions for veterans, a statement that was met with enthusiastic applause. In foreign affairs, Harrison pledged vigilance of national honour and reaffirmed the Monroe Doctrine as a mainstay of foreign policy, while also urging the building of a modern navy and a merchant marine force. He reaffirmed his commitment to international peace through noninterference in the affairs of foreign governments. John Philip Sousa's Marine Corps band played at the Inaugural Ball inside the Pension Building with a large crowd attending.

Civil service reform and pensions

Political football

Civil service reform was a prominent issue following Harrison's election. Harrison had campaigned as a supporter of the merit system, as opposed to the spoils system. Although some of the civil service had been classified under the Pendleton Act by previous administrations, Harrison spent much of his first months in office deciding on political appointments. Congress was widely divided on the issue and Harrison was reluctant to address the issue in hope of preventing the alienation of either side. The issue became a political football of the time and was immortalized in a cartoon captioned "What can I do when both parties insist on kicking?" Harrison appointed Theodore Roosevelt and Hugh Smith Thompson, both reformers, to the Civil Service Commission, but otherwise did little to further the reform cause.

Harrison quickly saw the enactment of the Dependent and Disability Pension Act in 1890, a cause he had championed while in Congress. In addition to providing pensions to disabled Civil War veterans (regardless of the cause of their disability), the Act depleted some of the troublesome federal budget surplus. Pension expenditures reached $135 million under Harrison, the largest expenditure of its kind to that point in American history, a problem exacerbated by Pension Bureau commissioner James R. Tanner's expansive interpretation of the pension laws. Harrison, who privately believed that appointing Tanner had been a mistake, asked Tanner to resign and replaced him with Green B. Raum. Raum was also accused of accepting loan payments in return for expediting pension cases. Harrison, having accepted a dissenting Congressional Republican investigation report that exonerated Raum, kept him in office for the rest of his administration.


Harrison and the Billion-Dollar Congress are portrayed as wasting the surplus in this cartoon from Puck.

The issue of tariff levels had been a major point of contention in American politics since before the Civil War, and tariffs became the most prominent issue of the 1888 election. The high tariff rates had created a surplus of money in the Treasury, which led many Democrats (as well as the growing Populist movement) to call for lowering the rates. Most Republicans wished the rates to remain high, and to spend the surplus on internal improvements as well as the elimination of some internal taxes.

Representative William McKinley and Senator Nelson W. Aldrich framed the McKinley Tariff that would raise the tariff even higher, including making some rates intentionally prohibitive. At Secretary of State James Blaine's urging, Harrison attempted to make the tariff more acceptable by urging Congress to add reciprocity provisions, which would allow the President to reduce rates when other countries reduced their rates on American exports. The tariff was removed from imported raw sugar, and sugar growers in the United States were given a two cent per pound subsidy on their production. Even with the reductions and reciprocity, the McKinley Tariff enacted the highest average rate in American history, and the spending associated with it contributed to the reputation of the Billion-Dollar Congress.

Antitrust laws

Senator John Sherman worked closely with Harrison, writing bills regulating monopolies and monetary policy.

Members of both parties were concerned with the growth of the power of trusts and monopolies, and one of the first acts of the 51st Congress was to pass the Sherman Antitrust Act, sponsored by Senator John Sherman of Ohio. The Act passed by wide margins in both houses, and Harrison signed it into law. The Sherman Act was the first Federal act of its kind, and marked a new use of federal government power. While Harrison approved of the law and its intent, there is no evidence he ever sought to enforce it very vigorously. The government successfully concluded only one case during Harrison's time in office (against a Tennessee coal company), although it did pursue cases against several other trusts.


One of the most volatile issues of the 1880s was whether the currency should be backed by gold and silver, or by gold alone. The issue cut across party lines, with western Republicans and southern Democrats joining together in the call for the free coinage of silver, and both parties' representatives in the northeast holding firm for the gold standard. Because silver was worth less than its legal equivalent in gold, taxpayers paid their government bills in silver, while international creditors demanded payment in gold, resulting in a depletion of the nation's gold supply. Owing to worldwide deflation in the late 19th century, however, a strict gold standard had resulted in reduction of incomes without the equivalent reduction in debts, pushing debtors and the poor to call for silver coinage as an inflationary measure.

The silver coinage issue had not been much discussed in the 1888 campaign, so Harrison's exact position on the issue was initially unclear, but his appointment of a silverite Treasury Secretary, William Windom, encouraged the free silver supporters. Harrison attempted to steer a middle course between the two positions, advocating a free coinage of silver, but at its own value, not at a fixed ratio to gold. This served only to disappoint both factions. In July 1890, Senator Sherman achieved passage of a compromise bill, the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, in both houses. Harrison thought that the bill would end the controversy, and he signed it into law. The effect of the bill, however, was the increased depletion of the nation's gold supply, a problem that would persist until the second Cleveland administration resolved it.

Civil rights

Harrison with Secretary Blaine and Representative Henry Cabot Lodge off the coast of Maine, 1889

After regaining the majority in both Houses of Congress, some Republicans, led by Harrison, attempted to pass legislation to protect black Americans' civil rights. Harrison's Attorney General, William H. H. Miller, through the Justice Department, ordered the prosecutions for violation of voting rights in the South; however, white juries often failed to convict or indict violators. This prompted Harrison to urge Congress to pass legislation that would "secure all our people a free exercise of the right of suffrage and every other civil right under the Constitution and laws." Harrison endorsed the proposed Federal Elections Bill written by Representative Henry Cabot Lodge and Senator George Frisbie Hoar in 1890, but the bill was defeated in the Senate. Following the failure to pass the bill, Harrison continued to speak in favour of African American civil rights in addresses to Congress. In 1892, Harrison went before Congress and declared, "the frequent lynching of colored people is without the excuse...that the accused have an undue influence over courts and juries." While Harrison believed the Constitution did not permit him to end the practice of lynching, he did question the states' civil rights records, arguing that if states have the authority over civil rights, then "we have a right to ask whether they are at work upon it." Harrison also supported a bill proposed by Senator Henry W. Blair, which would have granted federal funding to schools regardless of the students' races. He also endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the 1883 Supreme Court rulings that declared much of the Reconstruction-era Civil Rights Acts unconstitutional. None of these measures gained congressional approval.

Indian policy

During Harrison's term, the Lakota Sioux, previously confined to reservations in South Dakota, grew restive under the influence of Wovoka, a medicine man, who encouraged them to participate in a spiritual movement called the Ghost Dance. Not understanding the exact nature of the religious beliefs surrounding the Ghost Dance, many in Washington thought it was a militant movement being used to rally Native Americans against American rule. On December 29, 1890, troops from the Seventh Cavalry clashed with the Sioux at the Battle of Wounded Knee. The result was a massacre of at least 146 Sioux, including many women and children. The dead Sioux were buried in a mass grave. Harrison was concerned and ordered Major General Nelson A. Miles to investigate. Harrison also ordered 3500 federal troops to South Dakota, and the uprising ended. Wounded Knee is considered the last major American Indian battle in the 19th century. Harrison's general policy on American Indians was to encourage assimilation into white society and, despite the massacre, he believed the policy to have been generally successful. This policy, known as the allotment system and embodied in the Dawes Act, was favored by liberal reformers at the time, but eventually proved detrimental to American Indians as most of their land was resold at low prices to white speculators.


In Harrison's time in office, the United States was continuing to experience advances in science and technology. Harrison was the earliest President whose voice is known to be preserved. That thirty-six-second recording was originally made on a wax phonograph cylinder in 1889 by Giuseppe Bettini. Harrison also had electricity installed in the White House for the first time by Edison General Electric Company, but he and his wife would not touch the light switches for fear of electrocution and would often go to sleep with the lights on.

Foreign policy

Harrison and Secretary of State Blaine were at times personally unfriendly, but were in perfect agreement on an active foreign policy and reciprocal trade. In San Francisco, while on tour of the United States in 1891, Harrison proclaimed that the United States was in a "new epoch" of trade and that the expanding navy would protect oceanic shipping and increase American influence and prestige abroad. The First International Conference of American States met in Washington in 1889, establishing an information centre that later became the Pan American Union. The conference failed to achieve any diplomatic breakthrough, but that failure led Blaine to focus on tariff reciprocity with Latin American nations, which was more successful. Harrison sent Frederick Douglass as ambassador to Haiti, but failed in his attempts to establish a naval base there.

The first international crisis Harrison had to face occurred over fishing rights on the Alaskan coast. Canada claimed fishing and sealing rights around many of the Aleutian Islands, in violation of U.S. law. As a result, the United States Navy seized several Canadian ships. In 1891, the administration began negotiations with the British that would eventually lead to a compromise over fishing rights after international arbitration, with the British government paying compensation in 1898.

Sailors from the USS Baltimore caused the major foreign affairs crisis of Harrison's administration.

In 1891, a diplomatic crisis arose in Chile, later called the Baltimore Crisis. The American minister to Chile, Patrick Egan, granted asylum to Chileans who were seeking refuge from 1891 Chilean Civil War. This raised tensions between Chile and the United States, and when sailors from the Baltimore took shore leave in Valparaiso, a fight broke out, resulting in the deaths of two American sailors and three dozen arrested. With Blaine out of town, Harrison himself drafted a demand for reparations. The Chilean minister of foreign affairs replied that Harrison's message was "erroneous or deliberately incorrect," and said that the Chilean government was treating the affair the same as any other criminal matter. Tensions increased as Harrison threatened to break off diplomatic relations unless the United States received a suitable apology. Ultimately, after Blaine returned to the capital, the administration made conciliatory overtures to the Chilean government. After the letter was withdrawn, war was averted.

In the last days of his administration, Harrison dealt with the issue of Hawaiian annexation. Following a coup d'état against Queen Liliuokalani, the new government of Hawaii led by Sanford Dole petitioned for annexation by the United States. Harrison was interested in expanding American influence in Hawaii and in establishing a naval base at Pearl Harbour but had not previously expressed an opinion on annexing the islands. The United States consul in Hawaii John L. Stevens recognized the new government on February 1, 1893 and forwarded their proposals to Washington. With just one month left before leaving office, the administration signed a treaty on February 14 and submitted it to the Senate the next day with Harrison's recommendation. The Senate failed to act, and President Cleveland withdrew the treaty shortly after taking office.


Harrison's cabinet in 1889
Front row, left to right: Harrison, William Windom, John Wanamaker, Redfield Proctor, James G. Blaine
Back row, left to right: William H. H. Miller, John W. Noble, Jeremiah M. Rusk, Benjamin F. Tracy
The Harrison Cabinet
Office Name Term
President Benjamin Harrison 1889–1893
Vice President Levi P. Morton 1889–1893
Secretary of State James G. Blaine 1889–1892
John W. Foster 1892–1893
Secretary of Treasury William Windom 1889–1891
Charles W. Foster 1891–1893
Secretary of War Redfield Proctor 1889–1891
Stephen B. Elkins 1891–1893
Attorney General William H. H. Miller 1889–1893
Postmaster General John Wanamaker 1889–1893
Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy 1889–1893
Secretary of the Interior John W. Noble 1889–1893
Secretary of Agriculture Jeremiah M. Rusk 1889–1893

Judicial appointments

Supreme Court

Harrison appointed four Supreme Court justices, including David Josiah Brewer.

Harrison appointed four justices to the Supreme Court of the United States. His first nominee was David Josiah Brewer, a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Brewer, the nephew of Justice Field, had previously been considered for a cabinet position. Shortly after Brewer's nomination, Justice Matthews died, creating another vacancy. Harrison had considered Henry Billings Brown, a Michigan judge and admiralty law expert, for the first vacancy and now nominated him for the second. For the third vacancy, which arose in 1892, Harrison nominated George Shiras. Shiras's appointment was somewhat controversial because his age—sixty—was older than usual for a newly appointed Justice. Shiras also drew the opposition of Senator Matthew Quay of Pennsylvania because they were in different factions of the Pennsylvania Republican party, but his nomination was nonetheless approved. Finally, at the end of his term, Harrison nominated Howell Edmunds Jackson to replace Justice Lamar, who died in January 1893. Harrison knew the incoming Senate would be controlled by Democrats, so he selected Jackson, a respected Tennessee Democrat with whom he was friendly to ensure his nominee would not be rejected. Jackson's nomination was indeed successful, but he died after only two years on the Court.

Other courts

In addition to his Supreme Court appointments, Harrison appointed ten judges to the courts of appeals, two judges to the circuit courts, and 26 judges to the district courts. Because Harrison was in office when Congress eliminated the circuit courts in favour of the courts of appeals, he and Grover Cleveland were the only two Presidents to have appointed judges to both bodies.

States admitted to the Union

When Harrison took office, no new states had been admitted in more than a decade, owing to Congressional Democrats' reluctance to admit states that they believed would send Republican members. Early in Harrison's term, however, the lame duck Congress passed bills that admitted four states to the union: North Dakota and South Dakota on November 2, 1889, Montana on November 8, and Washington on November 11. The following year two more states held constitutional conventions and were admitted: Idaho on July 3 and Wyoming on July 10, 1890. The initial Congressional delegations from all six states were solidly Republican. More states were admitted under Harrison's presidency than any other since George Washington's.

Reelection campaign in 1892

Official White House portrait of Benjamin Harrison, painted by Eastman Johnson

The treasury surplus had evaporated and the nation's economic health was worsening with the approach of the conditions that would lead to the Panic of 1893. Congressional elections in 1890 went against the Republicans, and several party leaders withdrew their support for President Harrison, although he had cooperated with Congressional Republicans on legislation. It was clear that Harrison would not be re-nominated unanimously. Many of Harrison's detractors pushed for Blaine, but he announced that he was not a candidate in February 1892. Some party leaders still hoped to draft Blaine into running, and speculation increased when he resigned as Secretary of State in June. At the convention in Minneapolis, Harrison prevailed on the first ballot, but encountered significant opposition.

The Democrats renominated former President Cleveland, making the 1892 election a rematch of the one four years earlier. The tariff revisions of the past four years had made imported goods so expensive that now many voters shifted to the reform position. Many westerners, traditionally Republican voters, defected to the new Populist Party candidate, James Weaver, who promised free silver, generous veterans' pensions, and an eight-hour work day. The effects of the suppression of the Homestead Strike rebounded against the Republicans as well, although the federal government did not take action.

Two weeks before the election, on October 25, Harrison's wife Caroline died after a long battle with tuberculosis. Harrison did not campaign on his own behalf during his reelection bid and remained with his wife. Their daughter Mary Harrison McKee served as the First Lady after her mother's death.

Cleveland ultimately won the election with 277 electoral votes to Harrison's 145. Cleveland also won in the popular vote: 5,556,918 to 5,176,108.

Post-presidency and death

Grave of President Harrison and his two wives in Indianapolis, Indiana

After he left office, Harrison visited the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in June 1893, where the nation's first commemorative postage was introduced. It was an initiative of his Postmaster General, John Wanamaker. After the Expo, Harrison returned to his home in Indianapolis.

For a few months in 1894, Harrison lived in San Francisco, California, where he taught and gave law lectures at Stanford University. In 1896 some of Harrison's friends in the Republican party tried to convince him to seek the presidency again, but he declined. In support of the candidate William McKinley, he traveled around the nation making appearances and speeches in his behalf.

Among the activities he became involved in, from July 1895 to March 1901, Harrison served on the Board of Trustees of Purdue University. Harrison Hall, a campus dormitory, was named in his honour.

In 1896 Harrison at age 62 remarried, to Mary Scott Lord Dimmick, the niece and former secretary of his deceased wife. A widow, she was 37, a full 25 years his junior. Harrison's two children were adults, Russell, 41 years old at the time, and Mary (Mamie) McKee, 38, disapproved of the marriage and did not attend the wedding. Benjamin and Mary had one child together, Elizabeth (February 21, 1897 – December 26, 1955).

In 1889 Harrison was elected an honorary member of the Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati. Harrison was also a veteran companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States and an honorary companion of the Military Order of Foreign Wars. His wife served as the first President General of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) from 1890-1891.

He wrote a series of articles about the Federal government and the presidency, which were republished in 1897 as a book titled This Country of Ours. In 1899 Harrison attended the First Peace Conference at The Hague.

In 1900 Harrison served as an attorney for the Republic of Venezuela in their boundary dispute with the United Kingdom. The two nations disputed the border between Venezuela and British Guiana. An international trial was agreed upon and the Venezuelan government hired Harrison to represent them in the case. He filed an 800-page brief for them and traveled to Paris where he spent more than 25 hours arguing in court. Although he lost the case, his legal arguments won him international renown.

Harrison developed what was thought to be influenza or grippe in February 1901. He was treated with steam vapor inhalation and oxygen, but his condition worsened. He died from pneumonia at his home on Wednesday, March 13, 1901, at the age of 67. Harrison is interred in Indianapolis's Crown Hill Cemetery, next to Caroline. After her death, Mary Dimmick Harrison was buried next to him.

Historical reputation and memorials

Benjamin Harrison Memorial Statue
Indianapolis, Indiana
Charles Niehaus & Henry Bacon, 1908

Following the Panic of 1893, Harrison became more popular in retirement. His legacy among historians is scant, and "general accounts of his period inaccurately treat Harrison as a cipher". More recently,

"historians have recognized the importance of the Harrison administration—and Harrison himself—in the new foreign policy of the late nineteenth century. The administration faced challenges throughout the hemisphere, in the Pacific, and in relations with the European powers, involvements that would be taken for granted in the twentieth century."

Harrison's presidency belongs properly to the 19th century, but he "clearly pointed the way" to the modern presidency that would emerge under William McKinley. Harrison's reputation for integrity was largely intact after leaving office in 1893. The bi-partisan Sherman Anti-Trust Act signed into law by Harrison remains in effect over 120 years later and was the most important legislation passed by the Fifty-first Congress. Harrison's support for African American voting rights and education would be the last significant attempts to protect civil rights until the 1930s. Harrison's tenacity at foreign policy was emulated by politicians such as Theodore Roosevelt.

Harrison was memorialized on several postage stamps. The first was a 13-cent stamp issued on November 18, 1902. The engraved likeness of Harrison was modeled after a photo provided by Harrison's widow. In all Harrison has been honored on six U.S. Postage stamps, more than most other U.S. Presidents. Harrison also was featured on the five-dollar National Bank Notes from the third charter period, beginning in 1902. Harrison was also distinguished as being the last U.S. president to have a beard.

In 1908, the people of Indianapolis erected the Benjamin Harrison memorial statue, created by Charles Niehaus and Henry Bacon, in honour of Harrison's lifetime achievements as military leader, U.S. Senator, and President of the United States.

In 1942, a Liberty Ship, the SS Benjamin Harrison, was named in his honour. In 1951, Harrison's home was opened to the public as a library and museum. It had been used as a dormitory for a music school from 1937-1950. The house was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964. In 2012, a dollar coin with his image, part of the Presidential $1 Coin Program, was issued.

Fort Benjamin Harrison, located in suburban Lawrence, Indiana, northeast of Indianapolis, was named in his honour. The base was closed and the site has been redeveloped to include residential neighborhoods and a golf course. Part of the property is within Fort Harrison State Park.

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