William Henry Harrison

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William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison (February 9, 1773April 4, 1841) was the ninth president of the United States. Harrison first gained national fame as a war hero, defeating American Indians at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 and earning the nickname "Tippecanoe" (or "Old Tippecanoe"). Harrison died exactly one month into his term, making his presidency briefer than any before or since. He was also the first U.S. president to die in office.


  • The strongest of all governments is that which is most free.
    • Letter to Simón Bolívar (27 September 1829). Quoted in James Hall, A Memoir of the Public Services of William Henry Harrison, of Ohio (Philadelphia, PA: Key & Biddle, 1836).
  • ...there is nothing more corrupting, nothing more destructive of the noblest and finest feelings of our nature, than the exercise of unlimited power.
    • Letter to Simón Bolívar (27 September 1829). Quoted in The Life of Major-General William Henry Harrison: Comprising a Brief Account of His Important Civil and Military Services (Philadelphia, PA: Grigg & Elliot, 1840)
  • It is necessary, therefore, to watch, not the political opponents of the administration, but the administration itself, and to see that it keeps within the bounds of the Constitution and the laws of the land. The executive of the Union has immense power to do mischief if he sees fit to exercise that power. He may prostrate the country. Indeed this country has been already prostrated. It has already fallen from pure republicanism to a monarchy in spirit if not in name.
    • Speech at Fort Meigs (11 June 1840). Quoted in A B Norton, The Great Revolution of 1840: Reminiscences of the Log Cabin and Hard Cider Campaign. (Mount Vernon, OH and Dallas, TX: A B Norton & Co, 1888). p.186
  • ...all the measures of the Government are directed to the purpose of making the rich richer and the poor poorer
    • Speech given on October 1, 1840
  • Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.
    • Last words to John Tyler. Quoted in Jebediah Whitman, "A Memorial to Our Dear Departed President" (New Ark, DE: Printed by the Author, 1841).

Inaugural address (March 4, 1841)[edit]

  • The only legitimate right to govern is an express grant of power from the governed.
  • …it is preposterous to suppose that a thought could for a moment have been entertained that the President, placed at the capital, in the center of the country, could better understand the wants and wishes of the people than their own immediate representatives, who spend a part of every year among them, living with them, often laboring with them, and bound to them by the triple tie of interest, duty, and affection.
  • There is no part of the means placed in the hands of the Executive which might be used with greater effect for unhallowed purposes than the control of the public press.
  • The people of the District of Columbia are not the subjects of the people of the States, but free American citizens.
  • It may be observed, however, that organized associations of citizens requiring compliance with their wishes too much resemble the recommendations of Athens to her allies, supported by an armed and powerful fleet.
  • Fellow-citizens, being fully invested with that high office to which the partiality of my countrymen has called me, I now take an affectionate leave of you. You will bear with you to your homes the remembrance of the pledge I have this day given to discharge all the high duties of my exalted station according to the best of my ability, and I shall enter upon their performance with entire confidence in the support of a just and generous people.

Quotes about Harrison[edit]

  • William Henry Harrison's death marked the first time in American history that presidential power abruptly transferred from one man to another. It is a testament to the American system that without precedent or clarity in the Constitution, power transferred so seamlessly and swiftly through a seminal historic moment of ambiguity. This particular transfer of power was made all the more remarkable by the extraordinary set of circumstances that led to the annexation of Texas in 1844 and precipitated war with Mexico. The war, which was fought by Tyler's successor, James K. Polk, failed to win popular support from a population that supported admission of Texas, but preferred not to fight.
    • Jared Cohen, Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America (2019), p. 81
  • A plain-spoken man, Harrison was good-natured, affable, and accessible. The Reverend Timothy Flint, a frequent visitor to his home at North Bend, Ohio, described him as urbane, hospitable, kind, and utterly unpretentious.
    • William A. DeGregorio, The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents (1984), p. 137
  • Yelping at the scent of a wounded fox, the Whigs threw everything into the campaign of 1840. It is still remembered as one of the great campaigns, and yet "great" seems too majestic a word for what was basically the cynical triumph of advertising over substance. After nominating the elderly military hero William Henry Harrison, the Whigs fell into paroxysms of excitement over the rumor that their candidate lived in a log cabin and had a fondness for hard cider. In fact, neither claim was true. Harrison was born into a considerably more substantial dwelling, an old brick mansion on the James River in Virginia. But that did not matter in the least. When in doubt, print the legend- and the image of an impoverished boy running around a log cabin entered the popular folklore, well before Lincoln ever figured out that modesty was a path to power. The great irony, of course, is that the log-cabin-and-hard-cider slogan was much truer of van Buren's life than his opponent's, and that he was being outsmarted by a ruthless opposition that had mastered all of his techniques. But no one was interested in the truth in 1840- only in the result.
    • Ted Widmer, Martin Van Buren (2005), p. 136-137

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External links[edit]

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