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Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin Harrison (August 20, 1833 – March 13, 1901) was the 23rd (1889 – 1893) President of the United States.


Order: 23rd President
Term of Office: March 4 , 1889 – March 4 , 1893
Followed: Grover Cleveland
Succeeded by: Grover Cleveland
Date of Birth August 20 , 1833
Place of Birth: North Bend . Ohio
Date of Death: March 13 , 1901
Place of Death: Indianapolis , Indiana
First Ladies : Caroline Lavinia Harrison (wife)
Mary Harrison (daughter)
Occupation: lawyer
Political Party : Republican
Vice President : Levi P. Morton


A grandson of President William Henry Harrison , Benjamin was born in North Bend , Hamilton County, Ohio . He attended Miami University , Oxford, Ohio , where he was a member of the fraternity Phi Delta Theta , and graduated in 1852 . He studied law in Cincinnati then moved to Indianapolis in 1854 . He was admitted to the bar and became reporter of the decisions of the supreme court of the State.

Harrison served in the Union Army during the Civil War , brevetting as a brigadier general , and mustering out in 1865 . While in the field in October 1864 he was re-elected reporter of the State supreme court and served four years. He was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for Governor of Indiana in 1876 . He was appointed a member of the Mississippi River Commission in 1879 , and elected as a Republican to the United States Senate , where he served from March 4 , 1881 , to March 3 , 1887 . He was chairman of the Committee on Transportation Routes to the Seaboard (Forty-seventh Congress) and Committee on Territories (Forty-eighth and Forty-ninth Congresses).

Harrison was elected President of the United States in 1888 . In the Presidential election, Harrison received 100,000 fewer popular votes than Cleveland, but carried the Electoral College 233 to 168. Although Harrison had made no political bargains, his supporters had given innumerable pledges upon his behalf. When Boss Matt Quay of Pennsylvania heard that Harrison ascribed his narrow victory to Providence, Quay exclaimed that Harrison would never know “how close a number of men were compelled to approach… the penitentiary to make him President.” He was inaugurated on March 4 , 1889 , and served until March 4 , 1893 .

Harrison was proud of the vigorous foreign policy which he helped shape. The first Pan American Congress met in Washington in 1889, establishing an information center which later became the Pan American Union. At the end of his administration Harrison submitted to the Senate a treaty to annex Hawaii; to his disappointment, President Cleveland later withdrew it.  Even though American involvement in the Hawaiian Revolution was minimal, Cleveland attempted to use the matter to shed a negative light on Harrison’s foriegn policy.

Substantial appropriation bills were signed by Harrison for internal improvements, naval expansion, and subsidies for steamship lines. For the first time except in war, Congress appropriated a billion dollars. When critics attacked “the billion-dollar Congress,” Speaker Thomas B. Reed replied, “This is a billion-dollar country.” President Harrison also signed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act “to protect trade and commerce against unlawful restraints and monopolies,” the first Federal act attempting to regulate trusts. The most perplexing domestic problem Harrison faced was the tariff issue. The high tariff rates in effect had created a surplus of money in the Treasury. Low-tariff advocates argued that the surplus was hurting business. Republican leaders in Congress successfully met the challenge. Representative William McKinley and Senator Nelson W. Aldrich framed a still higher tariff bill; some rates were intentionally prohibitive.

Harrison tried to make the tariff more acceptable by writing in reciprocity provisions. To cope with the Treasury surplus, the tariff was removed from imported raw sugar; sugar growers within the United States were given two cents a pound bounty on their production.

Long before the end of the Harrison Administration, the Treasury surplus had evaporated, and prosperity seemed about to disappear as well. Congressional elections in 1890 went stingingly against the Republicans, and party leaders decided to abandon President Harrison although he had cooperated with Congress on party legislation. Nevertheless, his party renominated him in 1892 , but he was defeated by Cleveland.

He served as an attorney for the Republic of Venezuela in the boundary dispute between Venezuela and the United Kingdom in 1900 .

After he left office, Harrison returned to Indianapolis, and married the widowed Mrs. Mary Dimmick in 1896 . A dignified elder statesman, he died in 1901 and is interred in Crown Hill Cemetery .

Supreme Court appointments

  • David Josiah Brewer – 1890
  • Henry Billings Brown – 1891
  • George Shiras, Jr. – 1892
  • Howell Edmunds Jackson – 1893

Significant events during presidency

  • Sherman Antitrust Act (1890)
  • Sherman Silver Purchase Act (1890)
  • McKinley Tariff (1890)
  • Ocala Demands (1890)
  • Hawaiian Revolution (1893)

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