#23: Review of “Benjamin Harrison” by Charles Calhoun (1889-93)
Harrison? Where have I heard that name before? From this very Presidential History newsletter, silly! Benjamin’s grandfather, William Henry Harrison, was our 9th President in 1841 who died from some kind of fever 31 days into office. Benjamin Harrison made a point to not flaunt his connection to his grandfather. I respect that.
Harrison was a devout, born-again Christian. He was born in North Bend, OH just outside of Cincinnati. He was really smart graduating third in his class from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where he also met his wife, Caroline, of almost 40 years (she would eventually die during his last year in office which devastated him). Did any of you go to Miami or know someone that did? He then got into law, and eventually served for the Union in the Civil War.
He was a super active President setting some record for the most legislation passed during the 51st Congress. The author argues that Harrison’s efforts significantly contributed to who’s considered our first “modern” President, William McKinely. Some of the most significant legislation that took place during his time in office includes: the Sherman Antitrust Act, the McKinley Tariff, the Forest Reserve Act of 1891, which set aside a ton of land for public use, and the Chinese Immigration Act of 1891.
I really like Harrison the person, but I got bogged down big time in all the legislation. Reading all these books on Presidents has shown me how a lot of their jobs would, frankly, stink. So much of their energy is spent on hiring people. It seems like miserable work because it’s all about pleasing the right people and, of course, because we can’t please everyone you’re always going to upset someone. This would wear on me as it did Harrison and so many of our other Presidents.
5 fun facts about Benjamin Harrison from the book
- Harrison and his family were so skeptical about the recently installed electricity in the White House that they had an engineer come over every morning to turn the lights off (thus they kept the lights on all night).
- Harrison appointed Teddy Roosevelt to the Civil Service Commision during his Presidency.
- During a pretty big public celebration, Harrison’s secretary of State, James Blaine, dropped out at the last second from giving his speech, so Harrison (who had a knack for public speaking) jumped up there with no notes prepared. In his speech, he suggested flying the American flag over all schools in America. I did some research and couldn’t find when that was required by law, but it was in 1892 that Frances Bellamy, a magazine editor, wrote our pledge of allegiance. Cool!
- Towards the end of his Presidency, a cholera outbreak was avoided by extending quarantine on ships that had come in from overseas to 20 days and temporarily suspending immigration from places where the disease was present.
- On March 4,1893 (as was customary) the outgoing President (Harrison) rode with the incoming President (Cleveland) to the inauguration. This was an exact repeat of 1889 when Cleveland was the outgoing President and Harrison the incoming one. How weird would that have been to experience, especially if you’re Harrison!
- This is not related to Presidents, but maybe a few of you would enjoy listening to this podcast I listened to from The Gospel Coalition about the importance of apologetics today. The podcast is called Augustinian Apologetics. It was really helpful for me!
Shoutouts/updates FROM YOU:
- What’s your favorite piece of literature? I love fiction and am going to pick some up soon to counter all my non-fiction reading. I’ve been wanting to read Moby Dick for a while. Y’all got any other suggestions?
- One of my newest readers, Dan, was telling Grace and I all about James K. Polk’s home in Columbia, TN about an hour from us. I hope to go check it out at some point! Thanks, Dan! Have you been to any Presidential libraries/homes? Love to hear about it!
Also, if you like food (so hopefully everyone), get yourself some yum yum sauce which is that super delicious sauce at hibachi places. It’s life changing and while Grace was doing Whole30 this was my secret sauce that made every bland Whole30 meal taste like Firehouse subs!! Also, you can buy chickfila sauce on amazon. Do it.
Peace out to your haters,