Ninth President of the United States: William Henry Harrison (1841)

William Henry Harrison Sr. (February 9, 1773 – April 4, 1841)

As President of the United States little can be said of Harrison. He was the oldest man elected and was the first to die in office, a month into his term.

President Harrison was born in Charles County, Virginia. His career was unquestionably military in nature. A hero of the then Northwest Territory with a rallying cry of “Tippecanoe and Tyler , Too!” emphasized his involvement with the young United States in its struggle to expand the Midwestern United States in battle with the Native American inhabitants at the Battle of Tippecanoe and the name of his Vice President John Tyler who would succeed him in office.

The Northwest Territory

This area of the United States consisted of over 260,000 square miles of what would become the states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and parts of Minnesota which had the natural boundaries of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. This had been William Henry Harrison’s battleground and when nominated by the Whig Party in 1840 was where he was serving as county clerk in the Indiana Territory.

The Panic of 1837 under the administration of President Martin Van Buren of New York set the stage for a military hero to again take command of the nation as had been the case of George Washington and Andrew Jackson. The nation needed a military leader who could lead the county out of a sever economic depression.

The Whig Party in 1840

The Whig Party in 1840 was faced with a choice in between Harrison and the popular Senator from Kentucky, Henry Clay. Senator Clay had made a number of unpopular votes in the United States Senate which had angered party leaders in respect to trade tariffs, so the decision was made to nominate Harrison.

Harrison faced Van Buren in the election of 1840 and carried the nation by an electoral vote count of 234 to 60, although the popular vote count had been much closer with a plurality of just over 6% of the votes cast. Van Buren even failed to carry his home state of New York.

William Henry Harrison was inaugurated in Washington, D.C. On March 4th, 1841 on a cold and blustery day. This Inaugural Address was the longest on record and his Presidency was destined to be the shortest. He developed pneumonia and died on April 4th.

The Legacy of William Henry Harrison

President Harrison served the shortest term of office of any United States President, was up until that time and for almost a century and a half the oldest person inaugurated, the first president to die in office, and had delivered the longest inaugural address.

The Constitution of the young nation was fallowed and his Vice President, John Tyler succeeded him in office, yet it would not be until the passage of the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution (1967) that plans for presidential succession were fully stated.

As his tenure in office was so short it is difficult to conjecture what his Presidency could have accomplished. Speculation may that the presumed “Doctrine of Manifest Destiny” would continue with opening new lands to the nation.