Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison, sometimes nicknamed "Tippecanoe" or "Old Tippecanoe", (February 9, 1773 – April 4, 1841) was the ninth President of the United States. While Harrison was born at the family estate, Berkeley Plantation in Virginia, he gained fame as a statesman of the Northwest Territory, Indiana Territory, and Ohio and as a general on the northwestern frontier; thus both Ohio and Virginia claim him as a native son. Harrison, like many other early presidents, was a Virginia plantation owner. Born just before the Declaration of Independence as a British colonial subject, he would be the last non-natural born U.S. citizen to become President. He died within a month of taking office after having contracted pneumonia which then developed into pleurisy.
Birth and military career
Harrison was the third son of Benjamin Harrison V and Elizabeth Basset. His father was a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, and his brother, Carter Bassett Harrison, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia.
In 1791, at the age of 18, Harrison was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Army and was sent to the Northwest Territory, where he spent much of his life. Harrison served as aide-de-camp to General "Mad Anthony" Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, which brought the Northwest Indian War to a close and opened much of the area in Ohio to white settlement. He resigned from the army in 1798 to become Secretary of the Northwest Territory, and acted as governor when Governor Arthur St. Clair was absent. In 1799, he was elected as the first delegate representing the Northwest Territory in Congress, serving from March 4, 1799, to May 14, 1800, when he resigned to become governor of the newly formed Indiana Territory, a post he held for twelve years until 1813.
A primary responsibility as territorial governor was to obtain title to Indian lands so that white settlement could expand in the area. Because Native American peoples were not always willing to cede title to their lands and sometimes attacked what they saw as encroachment by white settlers, Harrison was also responsible for defending settlements from attacks. In 1809, the threat to settlers became more serious as the eloquent Shawnee leader Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa, known as "The Prophet", assisted and encouraged by the British, began to strengthen a confederation to resist further expansion of white settlement — a resistance sometimes known as "Tecumseh's War." In 1811, Harrison was authorized to attack the confederacy. On November 7, 1811, while Tecumseh was away, Harrison defeated Tenskwatawa's followers in the Battle of Tippecanoe, temporarily disrupting Tecumseh's efforts and gaining Harrison the nickname "Tippecanoe".
In the War of 1812, Harrison was given command of the Army in the Northwest with the rank of brigadier general. At the Battle of the Thames, north of Lake Erie, on October 5, 1813, he defeated the combined British and Indian forces. Tecumseh was killed in the battle, and the Indian tribes never again posed serious resistance in the Northwest Territory. Harrison retired from the army in 1814 with the rank of major general.
Early political career
After the war, he was elected to various political offices, including the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio serving from October 8, 1816, to March 3, 1819. He was defeated as a candidate for governor of Ohio in 1820, but served in the Ohio State Senate, 1819-1821. In 1824, he was elected to the U.S. Senate and served until May 20, 1828, when he resigned to become Minister to Colombia, 1828-1829. He was the Northern Whig candidate for President in 1836, but lost the election to Martin Van Buren. He was the candidate again in 1840, when he won largely because of his heroic military record and the fact that the United States had suffered a severe economic downturn. His vice president was John Tyler. Their campaign slogans of "Log Cabins and Hard Cider" and "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" are among the most famous in American politics. At 67, Harrison was the oldest man to be elected to the presidency until Ronald Reagan more than a century later, in 1980.
Harrison was a tall man, and when in Congress he was referred to by fellow westerners as a Buckeye, as were other tall pioneers on the Ohio frontier, as a term of endearment in respect of the Buckeye chestnut tree.
As Harrison arrived in Washington he focused on showing that he was still the stalwart hero of Tippecanoe he had campaigned as. It was an extremely cold and windy day, March 4, 1841, when Harrison was to take the oath of office. Nevertheless he faced the weather with no coat on, and delivered the longest inaugural address in American history, at nearly two hours (his friend and fellow Whig, Daniel Webster, had edited it for length). Around the time of the address he caught a cold, which developed into pneumonia and Pleurisy. He passed away a month later, becoming the first American president to die in office. Harrison served the shortest term of any American president, a total of only 31 days. John Tyler succeeded him to the Presidency shortly thereafter. According to some legends, Harrison's death was brought about by a curse placed on him by Tecumseh in his dying breath. Oddly enough, after Harrison every President elected on a year ending in a zero between 1840 and 1960 would die in office; this has been nicknamed "the zero factor." The streak was finally broken by Ronald Reagan who was elected in 1980 and lived to serve out two terms, although he himself was the subject of an assassination attempt while in office. In 1889, when Harrison's grandson, Benjamin, gave his inaugural address as America's 23rd president, he gave it in the rain. Understanding his grandfather's mistakes, he asked his outgoing predecessor (and later his successor), Grover Cleveland, to hold an umbrella above his head, since he gave quite a long inaugural address, the longest since his grandfather's.
Harrision's son, John Scott Harrison, was also elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio, 1853-1857. Harrison's grandson, Benjamin Harrison of Ohio, became the 23rd president in 1889, making them the only grandparent-grandchild pair of presidents to date (There have been two father-son pairs: John Adams - John Quincy Adams, and George H. W. Bush - George W. Bush). It was a Harrison family tradition to name the first born son of each generation Benjamin.
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