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No, Harrison, born in 1833, grew up in Ohio and attended Miami University. However, after obtaining a law degree, he moved to Indianapolis to begin a law practice. But, he’s still Benjamin Harrison from Indiana! Did you know that his grandfather became President of the US in 1841? And he died 32 days later. Significantly, his great-grandfather signed the Declaration of Independence! Of course, I visited his home in Indianapolis while I was there. But, due to COVID, I couldn’t get into the house but did take a few pictures outside. Here are the pictures and information about Harrison. And, here’s a link to the discussion of all US Presidents.
Harrison Presidential Home – Benjamin Harrison from Indiana
Benjamin Harrison from Indiana lived in this house from the early 1870s until his death in 1901. Since he moved to Indianapolis in 1854, he occupied several other residences. But, none of them stand to this day. And this house became the property of the Arthur Jordan School of Music upon his wife’s death in 1939. She stipulated that the house must remain a museum. Today, the Arthur Jordan Foundation leases the house to the Benjamin Harrison Foundation. And they maintain the entire house as a museum. Link to the Harrison House.
Harrison’s law and military career
The citizens of this state do embrace Benjamin Harrison from Indiana as their own. In addition to his law career, he focused on local and state politics in his younger years. In the late 1850s, he formed a law partnership with William Wallace, Also, he held several offices, such as Reporter of the Indiana Supreme Court and Commissioner for the U.S. Court of Claims.
In 1862, while visiting the Governor of Indiana, he found that Indiana remained short of volunteers for the Union Army. So, Harrison took to recruiting throughout northern Indiana. Since he proved successful at recruiting, the governor offered him a command. He turned it down due to his lack of military experience. However, he became a captain and company commander.
Soon, Harrison’s leadership skills earned him a promotion to colonel. He participated in several Civil War battles in Kentucky and Tennessee. His troops respected him due to his loyalty to them and his strong will to stay with them in the face of the enemy.
And, he served under General Sherman’s Atlanta campaign.
And by 1865, Lincoln nominated him for General. His unqualified successes at the Battles of Resaca and Peachtree Creek earned him the promotion. General Sherman said that he served with “foresight, discipline, and a fighting spirit”.
Benjamin Harrison from Indiana – Political Career before Presidency
Following the Civil War, Harrison limited his political activities to supporting other candidates in his party and taking several appointed positions. And, in 1872, he ran for Governor of Indiana but lost. Again, when one of the incumbent Senators died, the party nominated him for the appointment. However, at that time, Senators were elected by the state legislature and his party lost its majority.
Finally, by 1880, he successfully ran for the Senate office again. Afterward, he served a six-year term in the US Senate. President Garfield offered him a cabinet position, but Harrison declined in favor of continuing to serve in the Senate. However, in 1886, his party again lost the majority in the state legislature and he left office.
In the 1884 Presidential election, he played an active role in nominating Senator James G. Blaine for President. However, Grover Cleveland defeated him in the general election. In 1887, Harrison declared his candidacy for President.
In 1888, Harrison became one of 17 candidates. Although he still looked like a “dark horse”, he finished fifth on the first ballot. Soon, the field narrowed to seven. Harrison became nearly everyone’s second choice. As several more candidates dropped out, Senator John Sherman of Ohio still led. However, Sherman started faltering and on the eighth ballot, Harrison won the nomination.
As you can see above, he returned from the Chicago convention to a triumphant celebration in his hometown. The celebration continued much of the night, until the wee hours of the morning! Harrison returned to an early tradition of “front porch” campaigning. For much of the campaign, he stayed home and politicians, reporters, business leaders, and regular citizens come to his house. He made many speeches from his front porch.
In the general election, he defeated incumbent president Grover Cleveland. And, he became one of five presidents to lose the popular vote but win the electoral college. Harrison made no political bargains, but his supporters made many pledges on his behalf. The Indiana Sentinel published a letter allegedly by Harrison’s friend and supporter, William Dudley, offering bribes to voters. Although Harrison kept him on the campaign staff for the remaining few days prior to the election, he never spoke to him again.
Harrison angered some of his party members, as he chose cabinet members whom he felt were the best person for the job, regardless of political affiliation. He became known for his high moral character. Also, while he gave tremendous speeches, his personal manner seemed cold, aloof, and distant.
As I have noted below, he achieved many successes during his time in office. However, he also took several positions which led to his lower rankings as president.
Election of 1892 – Benjamin Harrison from Indiana
By 1892, some of Harrison’s policies started to show negative impacts on the economy. Several influential party leaders withdrew their support for him. Although some supporters clamored for James G. Blaine, Harrison received the nomination on the first ballot at the convention in Minneapolis.
For several reasons, former president Grover Cleveland prevailed in the general election. Since the 1888 election was a close contest, Cleveland kept a tight rein on the control of his party. In addition to some of Harrison’s unpopular policies, his wife fell ill during the campaign and died two weeks before the general election. He did relatively little campaigning due to his wife’s illness.
Cleveland deferred to the illness and also ran a low-profile campaign. In the end, Cleveland won by the widest margin in 20 years. Harrison returned to Indiana where he remained active in local politics and became a highly sought-after lecturer.
Benjamin Harrison from Indiana – Post Presidency
Upon returning home, he served as commander on the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States and as a trustee for Purdue University. Also, he continued his lifetime service to the Presbyterian Church. In 1896, he married his late wife’s niece and caretaker. Since Mary Scott Lord Dimmick was only 37 at the time, his adult children, both older than her, disapproved and did not attend the wedding.
And he lived in San Francisco for a few months while lecturing at Stanford University.
He died of pneumonia in February 1901.
Harrison’s Presidency and historical views
11 Benjamin Harrison Accomplishments as president
- Conservation of forest reserves
- Adventurous foreign policy including the Panama Canal construction
- Supported the Sherman Antitrust Act
- Endorsed bills to prevent southern states from denying African Americans the right to vote
- Appointed former slave, the eloquent Frederick Douglas, as minister to Haiti
- Convened the first Pan-American Conference in 1889
- Negotiated an American Protectorate over the Samoan Islands
- Continued to modernize the US Navy
- First president to recognize international trade as an essential part of American foreign policy
- Aggressively risked war with Chile over an assault on American sailors.
- And, six new states were admitted, more than any other president. They are North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming. Interestingly, he shuffled the bills making North and South Dakota states so no one knows which one became a state first! (North Dakota is recognized first as state #39 and South Dakota at #40. Likely for two reasons: First, alphabetical order, and second, North Dakota receive European settlers before South Dakota – 1812 vs 1859. That’s likely due to Lewis and Clark wintering over near modern-day Bismarck and the French fur traders.
6 factors tarnishing Benjamin Harrison’s legacy
- The federal government surplus vanished, partly due to enormous sums for soldiers’ pensions and business subsidies
- Too closely aligned with the wealthy
- Sherman Silver Purchase Act
- Support for the McKinley Tariff Act
- His cold and aloof personal manner alienated members of his own party
- And, insensitive or unaware of massive industrial changes taking place
Benjamin Harrison from Indiana – Historical comments
Since the 1960s, historians began looking at Harrison in a new light. Prior to that, he seemed mired in mediocrity. Today, he ranks among average to slightly above average presidents. Likely, his international accomplishments and the modern movement toward more globalization hit the mark for many recent historians.
He did emphasize “Benjamin Harrison from Indiana” by focusing on local and state issues after he left office.
And, please comment if you have questions about President Harrison or any other presidents.
Classic Rock Recollection
“Dark Horse” by George Harrison
I’m a dark horse
Running on a dark race course
I’m a blue moon
Since I stepped out of the womb
I’ve been a cool jerk
Who’s looking for the source
I’m a dark horse
Written by: George Harrison
(The last name matches. And some considered Benjamin Harrison a “Dark Horse”)