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President William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison

When was William Henry Harrison born?

William Henry Harrison was born in 1773.

Where was William Henry Harrison born?

Harrison was born in Charles City County, Virginia.

How old was William Henry Harrison when he became president?

William Henry Harrison was elected at the age of 67.

What years was William Henry Harrison president?

William Henry Harrison was president for a month from March 4th 1841.

When did William Henry Harrison die?

William Henry Harrison died at the age of 68 in 1841.

How did William Henry Harrison die?

He died from septic shock. 

The Presidency Of William Henry Harrison

Not all presidents of the United States go on to serve their potential full two terms. Some don’t even get to finish a single term due to assassinations, scandals, or just death by natural causes.

The story of William Henry Harrison is famous specifically because he had the shortest term ever as US President.

It is easy to see Harrison as merely the shortest-serving president with little to no achievements to his name.

But, is this an accurate representation of a man that was also a prominent politician and war hero?

Is William Henry Harrison known for more than just dying in 30 Days as President?

Portrait of President Harrison
Portrait of President William Henry Harrison from about 1831.

Every president has one or two moments attached to their legacy that won’t go away. It could be a key piece of legislation or a scandal. For Harrison, it is all about his decisions at his inauguration and subsequent death. He did die 30 days after taking office and this is what he is best known for.

However, there is a lot more to the life and achievements of Harrison than those 30 days. After all, he would have had to have a strong enough career in politics to be up for election in the first place.

There are other stories about William Henry Harrison and his political life that are just as important as the ones about his death.

William Henry Harrison’s Role In the United States Army.

There are two sides to Willian Henry Harrison’s service for the United States. There is the political side, but also a long career in the United States Army. During this time, Harrison would fight for the country and enhance his reputation as a leader.

Aspects of his post-war persona would also help in future election campaigns.

Harrison first served from 1791 to 1798, which included fighting as a lieutenant in the Battle of Fallen Timbers at the end of the Northwest Indian War.

He returned to the army in 1811 and helped in the 1812 war until 1814.

Why Is William Henry Harrison Old Tippecanoe?

The term Old Tippecanoe is a nickname for Harrison that has stuck around in history books. The term stems from his time in the US Army and the Battle of Tippecanoe. He was named Old Tippecanoe as an affectionate nod to this achievement and to enhance his public perception on the campaign trail.

The success at the Battle of Tippecanoe was significant for the US Army and for Harrison’s career. The Battle took place in 1811. Just a year later, he was promoted to the role of major general for the War of 1812. This included a victorious campaign at the Battle of the Thames in Canada.

William Henry Harrison’s Political Career.

Like so many other presidents, Harrison took a long route through the political landscape before his nomination. The start of his career saw him in some of the newly acquired territories of the United States, before becoming an elected official for Ohio.

It all started with Harrison’s appointment as Secretary of the Northwest Territory in 1798. The following year, he became their delegate for the House of Representatives. However, this was a non-voting role so his influence was as great as that of other representatives.

Two years on, Harrison was elected the governor of the Indiana Territory. This region had only just been established and needed a strong leader to handle its development within the United States. He took on this role in 1801 and would remain there until the end of 1812.

A lot of this work related to negotiations with the native tribes living on the land within the borders. He was responsible for getting them to sign over countless acres of land to the United States, which could later be developed by United States citizens. The treaties created vast new areas of land for settlers out to the West, helping the nation expand further.

Among his other political roles are those as the elected official for the state of Ohio. Harrison moved there after his time in the Indiana Territory and the War of 1812.

In 1816 he succeeded in becoming their member of the House of Representatives. Eight years on, he moved over to the Senate. This term was incomplete due to his appointment as Minister Plenipotentiary to Gran Colombia in 1828.

The Election Of 1836 And Harrison’s First Attempt At Power.

William Henry Harrison first ran for president in 1836. The idea here wasn’t so much to bring Harrison into power but to use strategic votes for the Whig Party to get President Van Buren out of office.

William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison

The idea was that by splitting the vote between candidates on a regional level, Van Buren would lose votes in the Electoral College, which could then cost him his victory. The House of Representatives would then take control of the decision and, hopefully, vote in favor of the Whigs.

So, Harrison was put on the ballot for a series of strategic states and the party hoped for the best.

Surprisingly, the campaign was almost a success. Van Buren ended up with 170 electoral votes and only needed 148 to win. But, this was only 22 votes above the target. There was a point where a small margin in Pennsylvania ended up deciding the election. The extra 4,000 votes in Van Buren’s favor gave him 30 Electoral College votes.

The Election of 1840 And A Second Chance To Oust Van Buren.

William Henry Harrison ran for office again in the following election of 1840. This time, the public opinion surrounding Van Buren was a lot less favorable and Harrison had a good chance of winning. He was nominated for the party with Tyler as his running mate. This time, the campaign played heavily on public image rather than simply policy.

There were attempts from Van Buren’s camp to smear Harrison and make him out to be a bad choice. They fixated on the idea of an old has-been that couldn’t connect with the people, ignoring his war record. A large part of the campaign was the idea that he would rather be drinking cider in his log cabin.

The Harrison campaign flipped this around as a sign that Harrison was more of a common man than the elitist and wealthy Van Buren. The campaign trail evolved with the Tippecanoe and Tyler Too song and imagery of log cabins.

The campaign worked and Harrison achieved an impressive victory at the polls. It was a landslide with 234 electoral votes to Van Buren’s 60 in the Electoral College results, which gave him 19 out of 26 states. The public vote was much closer with just a 150,000 vote margin. The result also meant that he was the first Whig to become president.

The Infamous Inauguration Of William Henry Harrison.

The legend of William Henry Harrison maintains the idea that it was his actions at his inauguration that killed him. The ceremony took place during bad weather but rather than cut down on his duties or take extra precautions, Harrison wanted to preserve his image and reputation.

Therefore, he decided to ride along the procession route on horseback with no hat or overcoat. He then proceeded to read the longest ever inaugural address for almost two hours. There are 8,445 words in this edited-down draft. He then got back on the horse to reach the White House and greeted guests for three hours, before attending three balls.

Those 30 Days In The White House.

They say that the first 100 days of a presidency are essential for determining what a president will be like and their agenda. There wasn’t a lot that Harrison could do in 30 days aside from getting settled with his new cabinet. There was an attempt to call a special session of Congress, but this was shot down and the final agreed date was after Harrison died. Therefore, Harrison had no real influence once finally in power.

The Death Of William Henry Harrison.

Harrison is famous for being in power for 30 days, although he was not able to carry out much in the way of his duties for nine days before his death. The original diagnosis was of cold-like symptoms, which were later upgraded to a diagnosis of pneumonia. The illness progressed from March 26th, 1841, with attempts at medical intervention in vain. He eventually died on the 4th of April, precisely a month after taking office.

At the time, the symptoms seemed to line up with his actions on that rainy March afternoon. All those hours in the cold and wet weather couldn’t have helped. This was also before the inauguration date was moved to January 20th, when riding in the rain without a coat could have been even more disastrous.

However, there is a theory that Harrison was one of many presidents to become ill due to the unsanitary water conditions in the capital. There is a cautious secondary diagnosis of typhoid. It may well have been a combination of factors. Either way, the presidency of William Henry Harrison was over before it had really begun.

What followed was a 30-day period of mourning – which ended up equating to one day for each of his days in office. The public could reflect on the death as the government figured out their next move. There were also memorials, public and private, for commemoration.

The funeral was invitation-only a few days after his death, but his coffin did find temporary rest in the public vault of the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. He was later transferred to North Bend, Ohio for burial.

The Legacy Of William Henry Harrison.

While there are plenty of jokes to be made about presidents with short or unmemorable “caretaker” reigns. This can overshadow the political importance of some figures.

Anna Harrison
Anna Harrison was the wife of William Henry Harrison. She was also the grandmother of the future President Benjamin Harrison

We immediately see William Henry Harrison as the one that died in 30 days. But, those 30 days as president were just a small part of a long political career with great influence. Historians still praise him for his role in the creation of the Northwest territories and his impact on modern election campaign tactics.

Then there is the fact that Harrison’s death was a catalyst for a crucial amendment to the United States Constitution. The 25th amendment is an important tool for determining the route of succession if a president leaves office mid-term. This could be due to impeachment, resignation, or death.

The 25th amendment states that the current vice president has the power to take over the role of president in these situations. Someone has to take over as soon as possible when that position is deemed vacant or presidents are in violation of their duties.

The most recent example of this is Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in on Airforce One following Kennedy’s assassination. The potential powers of the 25th amendment also came into the conversation at the end of the Trump presidency.

The 25th Amendment was only ratified in 1967, not long after Johnson took office. However, the ideas behind it have been in place since Tyler took over from Harrison in 1841. There was a debate at the time over Tyler’s title and role when filling in for Harrison. Some felt he should be acting president only while he wanted the full title and all that came with it.

How Important Was William Henry Harrison As The 9th President?

In short, we can’t underplay the significance of Harrison and his role in the political and geographical landscape of America. His influence on the country goes back much further than his 30 days in office to his time in the US Army and as an elected official for Ohio.

We can speculate about what may have happened if he had worn a coat, or if the water supply was more hygienic. But, his death was equally influential in the direction of the country and the 25th Amendment. He was a lot more important in the history of the US presidency than many give him credit for.

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