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William Henry Harrison:


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William Henry Harrison, the ninth President of the United States, is perhaps most well-known by his nickname, "Tippecanoe." A successful soldier and lawmaker, he also has the distinction of serving the shortest term in presidential history.

Born the youngest of seven children on Feb. 9, 1773, to a prominent Virginia plantation family, William had a political pedigree as well. His father, Benjamin Harrison V, signed the Declaration of Independence and was a delegate to the Continental Congress. Carter Harrison, one of William's older brothers, represented Virginia in the House of Representatives.

Young William augmented his study of traditional subjects with a working knowledge of French and Latin. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, in 1790, on a course of medical study but found he did not like it. The following year, his father died and he had no money to continue his education. A friend of the family, Virginia Gov. Henry Lee, encouraged William to join the army. At age 18, William had his first assignment, in the Northwest Territory fighting in the Northwest Indian War.

Harrison worked his way up the ranks in the army, serving as aide-de-camp to General "Mad Anthony" Wayne in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, which ended the Northwest Indian War. The year before, in 1793, Harrison had inherited a part of his family's estate after his mother died. Two years later, he met Anna Symmes, daughter of a popular judge. The couple did not get the judge's blessing to wed and so eloped. They eventually had 10 children, nine of whom lived to be adults.

In 1797, Harrison resigned his commission in the army and began what would become a long political career by campaigning for a spot in the government of the newly formed Northwest Territory. He was named Secretary of the Territory and acted as governor when Gov. Arthur St. Clair was (frequently) absent. In 1799, at age 26, he won election to be a delegate of the Northwest Territory in Congress. He advocated low land prices and served on the committee tasked with dividing the Territory into states.

Congress accepted the committee's recommendation to divide the Northwest Territory into two new territories, Indiana and Ohio. Then-President John Adams nominated Harrison to become governor of the Indiana Territory, and Harrison resigned from Congress in order to accept the job. The Indiana Territory wasn't just the present-day state of Indiana but also contained the future states of Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as part of Minnesota.

Harrison moved to Vincennes, the capital of the Indiana Territory, and built a house he named Grouseland in reference to the large number of birds nearby. As governor, Harrison had wide-ranging powers, including driving American expansion by buying up or otherwise obtaining Native American land. He personally supervised the creation of 13 separate treaties with various tribes, including the Kickapoo, Sauk and Shawnee. The terms of these treaties didn't always favor both sides equally. Other lands American settlers just took for their own. This combination of land takeovers created enmity in a few Native American tribes in the area, notably the Sauk and the Shawnee, both of which sided with Great Britain in the War of 1812.

A year before that war began, though, Harrison gained his nickname. Harrison and Shawnee leader Tecumseh had exchanged angry words in a previous meeting regarding land-exchange treaties. In 1811, Tecumseh and many in his tribe and others took up arms against the Americans. A force under Harrison defeated Tecumseh's force at Prophetstown, near the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers. Harrison took his nickname from the Tippecanoe River.

Harrison ended up fighting Tecumseh again, two years later, at the Battle of the Thames. American forces under Harrison, after liberating Detroit (which had been handed over without a shot being fired) and winning battles in Indiana and Ohio, crossed into Canada and fought a combined Native American and British force in a fierce battle. Tecumseh was killed, and Harrison became even more of a war hero, as his victory basically ended fighting in the area. However, just as he was again famous, Harrison found himself without direction, as a dispute with Secretary of War John Armstrong ended in Harrison's resigning from the army.

Then-President James Madison counted on Harrison's experience dealing with Native Americans in assigning him to negotiate treaties in the Northwest. The treaties resulted in another large land assumption by the steadily growing U.S.

Harrison returned to politics. He won election to the House of Representatives in 1816 and then the Ohio State Senate in 1819. He lost the Ohio governor's race in 1820 and a subsequent race for Congress two years later but found success in an 1824 run for the U.S. Senate. Four years later, he accepted a nomination to be a representative to Colombia, where he had meetings with liberator Simon Bolivar. Harrison resigned his post in 1829 and retired to farm life, which at that point was in North Bend, Ohio. 

Not content to stay forever on the farm, Harrison agreed to run for the presidency as a representative of the newly formed Whig Party. He was the most well-known of the four Whig candidates on the ballot in 1836, and he got the most electoral votes of any of the four, but it was far short of what Democrat Martin van Buren got.

What van Buren got was an economy in tatters, as the Panic of 1837 hit the country hard. By the time it was time for van Buren to run for re-election, the Whig Party had unified behind a single candidate, Harrison, and had the bad economy to blame on van Buren. The Whigs played up Harrison's military experience, recalling his nickname from 1811. The election slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" has become one of the most famous in American history. The result was a big electoral win for the Whigs, and Harrison was ready to hold the highest office in the land.

On inauguration day, which in those days was on March 4, Harrison wanted to show that, despite his advanced years, he was still the hero of Tippecanoe and the Thames. On the 1841 inauguration day, the weather was cold and wet and Harrison, without coat or hat, delivered the longest inaugural address in the history of the country. Harrison spoke for nearly two hours and then rode through the streets, again without coat or hat, in the inaugural parade.

In his inaugural address, Harrison promised a new direction, away from the "spoils system" of Andrew Jackson and back to the Bank of the United States. He also embarked on a public spat with Whig legend Henry Clay. 

Three weeks after his inauguration, Harrison got sick. His condition worsened, and the cold turned to pneumonia. He died on April 4, just 30 days after he became President. Vice-president John Tyler became President.

5 Things
He was the first sitting President to have his photograph taken. This happened on his inauguration day, March 4, 1841.
He was one of only four Presidents who did not forward a Supreme Court nomination. In fact, he did not submit a judicial nomination to any court level.
He died nearly penniless.
His grandson, Benjamin Harrison, was elected President in 1888.
Many historians now hesitate to draw a straight line from Harrison's giving a two-hour speech in the cold and wet and his dying four weeks later of pneumonia.

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