Born: August 20, 1833 in North Bend, Ohio
Died: March 13, 1901 in Indianapolis,
Married to Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison
Nominated for President on the eighth ballot at the
1888 Republican Convention, Benjamin Harrison conducted one of the first "front-porch" campaigns,
delivering short speeches to delegations that visited him in Indianapolis.
As he was only 5 feet, 6 inches tall, Democrats called him "Little
Ben"; Republicans replied that he was big enough to wear the hat
of his grandfather, "Old Tippecanoe."
Born in 1833 on a farm by the Ohio River below Cincinnati, Harrison
attended Miami University in Ohio and read law in Cincinnati. He moved
to Indianapolis, where he practiced law and campaigned for the Republican
Party. He married Caroline Lavinia Scott in 1853. After the Civil War--he
was Colonel of the 70th Volunteer Infantry--Harrison became a pillar
of Indianapolis, enhancing his reputation as a brilliant lawyer.
The Democrats defeated him for Governor of Indiana in 1876 by unfairly
stigmatizing him as "Kid Gloves" Harrison. In the 1880's he
served in the United States Senate, where he championed Indians. homesteaders,
and Civil War veterans.
In the Presidential election, Harrison received 100,000
fewer popular votes than Cleveland, but carried the Electoral College
233 to 168. Although
Harrison had made no political bargains, his supporters had given innumerable
pledges upon his behalf.
When Boss Matt Quay of Pennsylvania 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 proud of the vigorous foreign policy which he helped shape.
The first Pan American Congress met in Washington in 1889, establishing
an information center which later became the Pan American Union. At the
end of his administration Harrison submitted to the Senate a treaty to
annex Hawaii; to his disappointment, President Cleveland later withdrew
Substantial appropriation bills were signed by Harrison for internal
improvements, naval expansion, and subsidies for steamship lines. For
the first time except in war, Congress appropriated a billion dollars.
When critics attacked "the billion-dollar Congress," Speaker
Thomas B. Reed replied, "This is a billion-dollar country." President
Harrison also signed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act "to protect trade
and commerce against unlawful restraints and monopolies," the first
Federal act attempting to regulate trusts.
The most perplexing domestic problem Harrison faced was the tariff issue.
The high tariff rates in effect had created a surplus of money in the
Treasury. Low-tariff advocates argued that the surplus was hurting business.
Republican leaders in Congress successfully met the challenge. Representative
William McKinley and Senator Nelson W. Aldrich framed a still higher
tariff bill; some rates were intentionally prohibitive.
Harrison tried to make the tariff more acceptable by writing in reciprocity
provisions. To cope with the Treasury surplus, the tariff was removed
from imported raw sugar; sugar growers within the United States were
given two cents a pound bounty on their production.
Long before the end of the Harrison Administration, the Treasury surplus
had evaporated, and prosperity seemed about to disappear as well. Congressional
elections in 1890 went stingingly against the Republicans, and party
leaders decided to abandon President Harrison although he had cooperated
with Congress on party legislation. Nevertheless, his party renominated
him in 1892, but he was defeated by Cleveland.
After he left office, Harrison returned to Indianapolis, and married
the widowed Mrs. Mary Dimmick in 1896. A dignified elder statesman, he
died in 1901.