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Who is William Henry Harrison?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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William Henry Harrison was the ninth United States president, and is perhaps best known for setting some records during his presidential career. He was the oldest president to be elected up until the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan’s election at the age of 69 broke Harrison’s record by a year. He was also the first president to die in office, developing pneumonia from complications of a cold virus. He served as President for just a month.

Due to his short presidential term, William Henry Harrison is best known for his personal history prior to his election in 1840. He was initially a citizen of the England, the last president to have lived through the transition from English rule to American control. His father was a noted Virginia politician who was very active in this change. Benjamin Harris signed the Declaration of Independence, and was a delegate to the Continental Congress.

William Henry Harrison initially intended to become a doctor, but instead joined the US Military after the death of his father, when he sorely needed money and had little to continue medical training. His position toward Native Americans is clearly defined — they were enemies of the US. From this position, Harrison was vehement in defeating them. Later when he served as governor for the newly created territory of Indiana, William Henry Harrison would continue to push a pro-settler, anti-Indian agenda, in the hopes that settler expansion would not be met with Native American opposition.

Perhaps one of the most memorable actions of William Henry Harrison was his participation in the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe. The attack here was on a federation of Native Americans led by Tecumseh, a leader of the Shawnee Indians, and it briefly disorganized the Indian federation. In 1812, William Henry Harrison actively participated in the beginning of the War of 1812, and in 1813, he defeated Tecumseh, who was being backed by the combined British/Indian force.

The future ninth president resigned while the war of 1812 still raged, causing some of his political opponents to question his bravery and commitment. William Henry Harrison then returned to private life, and very soon to political life. He was a House Representative for Ohio from 1816-1819, and a member of the Ohio State Senate from 1819-1821. As a representative of Ohio, he became part of the US Senate in 1824, and served for four years.

William Henry Harrison ran twice for the office of President, losing in 1836 to Marin Van Buren, and winning in 1840. His election energized the Whig party, of which Harrison was an avid member. They were an offshoot of the Republican Party, especially interested in granting more powers to congress and weakening the executive branch of the US. Harrison’s successor, and Vice President, John Tyler was a Whig too, but was expelled from the party after he succeeded Harrison as President.

Our 23rd President, Benjamin Harrison, should not be confused with William Henry Harrison, but the two were related. Benjamin Harrison was William’s grandson. Unlike William Henry Harrison serving only a tithe of his term as president due to his untimely death, President Benjamin Harrison was able to serve four years as president.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a PublicPeople contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By SnowyWinter — On Nov 05, 2010

@CarrotIsland: It is said that Indian Chief Tecumseh placed a curse on the Presidents of the United States and that every twenty years a President would die in office.

This was to begin when President William Henry Harrison took office in 1840. Harrison had angered Chief Tecumseh by the way he had treated his people years before and his successful victory in the Battle of Tippacanoe.

This is just a legend, but, surprisingly enough, every President being in 1840 until 1980 did die or was assassinated while in office.

By CarrotIsland — On Nov 05, 2010

What is Tecumseh’s Curse?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a PublicPeople contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
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