23 - Benjamin Harrison
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Harrison is the grandson of William Henry Harrison.
He was the first president to use electricity in the White House. After he got an electrical shock, his family often refused to touch the light switches. Sometimes they would go to bed leaving all the White House lights on!
When North and South Dakota were admitted to the Union. Harrison covered the tops of the bills and shuffled them so that he could only see the bottom. He signed them and we will never know which state was the 39th or the 40th!
Harrison once made 140 completely different speeches in 30 days.
He was named after his uncle, Dr. Benjamin Harrison, and his great-grandfather Benjamin Harrison, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
This is one of “The American Presidents” series devised by Arthur Schlesinger and published by Time Books. It is a typically shorter, succinct treatment of an important life.
The short statured, 5’ 6”, handsome Benjamin Harrison was the son of a congressman, the grandson of a President, a very successful soldier during the Civil War, a successful lawyer and a US Senator before being called by his party to head the 1888 Republican ticket.
In 1889, in another screwed up election and after Grover Cleveland captured the plurality of the popular vote, the Presidency went Republican.
The administration was plagued by labor issues, a Tariff rate increase to 49.5%, a Chinese Exclusion Act, an attempt to declare war on Chile, Mormon amnesty, the opening of native lands and reservations to settlement, and the death of the First Lady.
After four years he was easily ousted and Cleveland was returned to the Executive Mansion. The Republicans had perpetrated one of their skewerings, used voter lethargy, and a polarizing man named William Jennings Bryan, to let the election go to democrats. At least that’s the way I see it from what I’ve been reading. It was a set-up for Democrats to really fail and to usher in a long period of Republican power.
Harrison seems to be not much remembered by history. However, he was remembered by Mr. McKinley. Many of Harrison’s methods and purposes were borrowed and used to devise a popular and successful way forward for the McKinley administration.
The author’s style is an easy one to read.
Five US Presidents served in the Civil War, starting with Grant through McKinley. All five were Republicans, all ended service as officers, all were Gilded Age Presidents with strong ties to the business world, two were assassinated. Perry's idea in Touched with Fire is that their individual experiences in the war not only gave them the exposure to voters and connections to win elections, but also formed their approaches to later life and governing. Maybe, but Perry really didn't make his case. The writing's good, and Perry tells a nice anecdote, but Perry's snarkiness sometimes distracts.
Generally, I thought Perry wrote a decent high level history, but the nature of his story limits how deep he can go into the lives of these men. Their experiences were fascinating, the war was horrific, but so many details had to be glossed over. As an appetizer, though, leading to deeper reading, it works just fine.
by Charles W. Calhoun
My local library only had this brief biography of our 23rd president, a book from The American Presidents series. As much as I would have preferred a longer, more in-depth book, I have to say that Professor Calhoun did a pretty good job. While Benjamin Harrison will never stand out as one of America's great presidents--indeed, the book states that Harrison's election (and subsequent defeat in 1892) owed as much to the political zeitgeist as to his abilities as a president and politician--he's portrayed as a shining example of a president who can work with Congress to accomplish a lot. (Well, that's assuming that the Congress is controlled by your own party....)
TITLE: Benjamin Harrison: America's 23rd President ★★★¼
AUTHOR: Jean Kinney Williams
DATE READ: January 7 - January 7
Granted it was only 102 pages, but having also just read Grover Cleveland's bio, I have a hard time understanding what was in the minds of men when they made the switch. This man seems to have one the election on name recognition and his war record, not for anything he did.
I understand why they re-elect Cleveland.