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Leaning About Lesser Known Presidents: William Henry Harrison

December 18, 2015 Hastings and Hastings

Some stars shine so bright they burn out before their time. Replace ‘burning out’ with ‘passing away suddenly from a cold,’ and this was arguably the case for the ninth President of the United States of America, William Henry Harrison.

William Henry Harrison took office as the President of the United States on March 4, 1841. This was following an illustrious career as a politician, senator, and military leader. Born in 1773, before America gained independence, President Harrison was the last individual to serve as president, who was also born as a British subject.

William Henry Harrison grew up and was educated in Virginia. During college he was influenced by both Quakers and Methodists and became staunchly anti-slavery. This cause immense family distress and led to his father banishing him to medical school. Not entirely un-ironically, Harrison’s father died shortly after from medical complications.

Harrison now found himself serving as an ensign in the U.S. Army. He quickly rose through the ranks until he gained national fame by leading U.S. forces in the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Following his military career, Harrison was elected as a member of Congress representing the Northwest Territory. In 1801 he moved to newly established Indiana Territory. When Indian later gained statehood, Harrison would serve as governor.

In 1841, William Henry Harrison was elected president running as a representative for the Whig party. The day President Harrison took office was a cold, dreary, wet day. In front of a crowd of thousands he delivered what is still the longest inaugural dress in the history of the United States Presidency. It was nearly 8,500 words long and took two hours to deliver.

30 days later, President Harrison died. The prevailing wisdom at the time, was that he had contracted a cold during his inaugural address. It developed into pneumonia. He was treated with opium, castor oil, and leeches to no avail. On April 4, 1841, William Henry Harrison passed away. His final words were “I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.”

His 30 day term as president was and still is the shortest ever served.