A Democratic newspaper gibed, “Give him a barrel of hard
cider and settle a pension of two thousand a year on him, and my word for it, he
will sit ... by the side of a 'sea coal' fire, and study moral philosophy.”
This comment was the reason President William Henry Harrison was put as an
electoral candidate. He was a simple Indian Fighter, lived in a log cabin,
drank cider and was very different from the champagne sipping, aristocratic, Van
Harrison was the youngest of the seven children of Elizabeth Bassett and
Harrison V. His family was prominent at the Berkeley Plantation in Charles City
County Virginia and also politically active. His father, a Virginia planted
served as a member to the Continental Congress and one of the people to sign the
declaration of Independence in 1776.
Harrison studied history and classics at the Hampden-Sydney College and medicine
in Richmond. In the year 1791, he switched interests and obtained a commission
as a member of the First Infantry in the Regular Army and went to Northwest
where most of his days were spent.
Harrison served to the General “Mad Anthony” in the campaign against
the Indians in the battle of Fallen Timbers. This battle was the gateway to most
of the areas in Ohio for settlement. He resigned from the army in 1798 and
became the Secretary of Northwest Territory. He was the first delegate to
Congress from the area and obtained the legislation which divided the Territory
into the Indiana and the Northwest territories. He became the Governor of
Indiana Territory in 1801 and served there for 12 years.
Harrison became the candidate from the Northern Whig party in the elections of
1836, but lost to Martin Van Buren who had the support of Andrew Jackson. In
1840, he faced Van Buren again and the panic of 1837 helped him win the
elections and become the President.
Harrison was ridiculed in the Democrat’s election campaign as was cast as
a out-of-touch old man who would not be interested in the country’s
administration and rather sit in the log cabin, drinking hard cider. The
strategy backfired and the Harrison campaign was filled with posters of Hard
Cider bottles and log cabins.
The election results were heavily in favor of Harrison as they call it, it was a
landslide victory against Martin Van Buren. When Harrison came to Washington, he
was focused on projecting himself as the hero of Tippecanoe. His oath was on an
extremely wet and cold day and the speech the longest inaugural address
comprising of 8,444 words and taking nearly 2 hours.
He then rode on the streets for the inaugural parade and the carelessness lead
to development of Pneumonia and Pleurisy. He wanted to rest in the White House,
but never found a quiet room as he was always approached for one favor or
Harrison’s only official act was calling Congress for a special session on
May 31, 1841. The stress and volume of people and interviews further weakened
the situation of the already sick Harrison.
The doctors tried everything that was possible at that time, but the condition
just worsened and Harrison died a month later on April 4, 1841 in his office.
His Presidency term the shortest in American Politics – only thirty days,
twelve hours and thirty minutes.