Benjamin Harrison

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Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin Harrison
Term of office March 4, 1889 – March 3, 1893
Preceded by Grover Cleveland
Succeeded by Grover Cleveland
Date of birth August 20, 1833
Place of birth North Bend, Ohio
Spouse Caroline Harrison
Political party Republican

Benjamin Harrison (August 20, 1833March 13, 1901) was the 23rd President of the United States (1889-1893).



A grandson of President William Henry Harrison, Benjamin was born at 8:57 pm, on Tuesday August 20, 1833 in North Bend, Hamilton County, Ohio to John Scott Harrison (later a U.S. Congressman from Ohio) and Elizabeth Ramsey Irwin. He attended Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, where he was a member of the fraternity Phi Delta Theta, (later in life, he joined another fraternity, Delta Chi) and graduated in 1852. He studied law in Cincinnati then moved to Indianapolis in 1854. He was admitted to the bar and became reporter of the decisions of the state supreme court.

Harrison served in the Union Army during the Civil War, brevetting as a brigadier general, and mustering out in 1865. While in the field in October 1864 he was re-elected reporter of the State supreme court and served four years. He was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for Governor of Indiana in 1876. He was appointed a member of the Mississippi River Commission in 1879, and elected as a Republican to the United States Senate, where he served from March 4, 1881, to March 3, 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).

Harrison was married twice. On October 20, 1853, he married Caroline Lavina Scott (1832-1892). They had two surviving children, Russell Benjamin Harrison (1854-1936) and Mary Scott Harrison (1858-1930). After Caroline Harrison's death of tuberculosis in 1892, while Harrison was in office, he married his wife's widowed niece and former secretary Mary Scott Lord Dimmick (1858-1948) on April 6, 1896. They had one daughter, Elizabeth Harrison (1897-1955).


Benjamin Harrison

Harrison was elected President of the United States in 1888. 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 Matthew 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." He was inaugurated on March 4, 1889, and served through March 3, 1893. Harrison was also known as the "centennial president" because his inauguration was the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington.

Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin Harrison

Harrison was proud of the vigorous foreign policy which he helped shape. The first Pan-American Congress met in Washington, D.C. 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 it.

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 Antitrust 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.

Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin Harrison

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. Just 2 weeks earlier, on October 25, 1892, Benjamin's wife, Caroline passed away after a long battle with tuberculosis.

He served as an attorney for the Republic of Venezuela in the boundary dispute between Venezuela and the United Kingdom in 1900.

After he left office, Harrison returned to Indianapolis and remarried. Harrison developed the flu and a bad cold in February of 1901. Despite treatement by steam vapor inhalation, Harrison's condition only worsened. Benjamin Harrison VI finally passed away from influenza and pneumonia on Wednesday, March 13, 1901 and is interred in Crown Hill Cemetery. The Benjamin Harrison Law School in Indianapolis, Indiana, was named in his honor. In 1944 Indiana University acquired the school and renamed it Indiana University School of Law Indianapolis.


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 the Treasury William Windom 1889–1891
  Charles Foster 1891–1893
Secretary of War Redfield Proctor 1889–1891
  Stephen B. Elkins 1891–1893
Attorney General William H. H. Miller 1889–1891
Postmaster General John Wanamaker 1889–1893
Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy 1889–1893
Secretary of the Interior John W. Noble 1889–1893

Harrison memorial
Harrison memorial

Supreme Court Appointments

Harrison appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

Significant Events

States Admitted to the Union


  • Benjamin Harrison might be the first President whose voice was recorded. This recording, which was originally made on a phonograph cylinder, can be accessed via the Internet.
  • Harrison was the last President to wear a beard while in office.


Recording of Harrison (info)
The only known recording of President Harrison, presumably made after his presidency sometime between 1894 and 1899 by Giuseppe Bettini.
Problems listening to the files? See media help.

See also

External links

Preceded by:
Joseph E. McDonald
U.S. Senator from Indiana
Succeeded by:
David Turpie
Preceded by:
James G. Blaine
Republican Party Presidential candidate
1888 (won), 1892 (lost)
Succeeded by:
William McKinley
Preceded by:
Grover Cleveland
President of the United States
March 4, 1889March 3, 1893
Succeeded by:
Grover Cleveland

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