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Who is Benjamin Harrison?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 23, 2024
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Benjamin Harrison was a Civil War general, a senator, a grandson of President William Henry Harrison, and our country’s 23rd president. After winning the 1888 presidential election in electoral votes, though not popular vote, over incumbent Grover Cleveland, he was defeated in 1892 by Cleveland, who won both the popular and the electoral vote, for a second term in office.

Benjamin Harrison was born in Ohio in 1833, on an farm that abutted the estate of his grandfather. He attended Miami University in Ohio. He became a lawyer, moved to Indiana, and a supporter of the recently formed Republican Party and helping in Abraham Lincoln’s campaign in 1860. After the outbreak of the Civil War, Harrison joined with other Indiana volunteers in enlisting. His rank at the end of the war was brigadier general.

After the war, Benjamin Harrison’s interest in politics continued. He supported Rutherford B. Hayes and James A. Garfield for president, launched an unsuccessful bid for governor of Indiana, and was named to the United States Senate in 1880. In 1888, he declared himself to be a candidate for the presidency, and he became the Republican party’s nominee for president on the eighth ballot.

In his campaign, Harrison drew on his lineage, with the campaign slogan “Grandfather’s hat fits Ben.” He supported a protective tariff tax, antitrust laws, and statehood for Western territories. Cleveland supported reducing the import tariff, but he made no campaign appearances after accepting the Democratic nomination.

Key initiatives during Benjamin Harrison’s administration include:

• Supporting the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890) and the McKinley Tariff Act (1890)
• Convening the first Pan-American Conference (1889)
• Appointing Frederick Douglass minister to Haiti (1889)

After his defeat by Grover Cleveland for a second term in office, Benjamin Harrison returned to his law practice in Indiana. He represented the country of Venezuela in a boundary dispute with Great Britain, gave public lectures, and wrote two books: This Country of Ours (1897) and Views of an Ex-President (1901). Benjamin Harrison died of pneumonia in 1901.

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Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth , Writer
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for PublicPeople, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.

Discussion Comments

By taetae0509 — On Nov 11, 2008

What did benjamin harrison do as a kid?

Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth


Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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