Benjamin Harrison (August 20, 1833 – March 13, 1901) was the 23rd President of the United States (1889–1893). Harrison, a grandson of President William Henry Harrison, was born in North Bend, Ohio, and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana at age 21, eventually becoming a prominent politician there.
In The Education, Henry Adams wrote that Benjamin Harrison "was an excellent President, a man of ability and force; perhaps the best President the Republican Party had put forward since Lincoln's death." Yet, Adams added, when Harrison was up for reelection in 1892, he "felt a shade of preference for President Cleveland." The comment said as much about Adams as it did about Harrison, but it also symbolizes the strange ambivalence, a compound of success and failure, that marked the presidency of Benjamin Harrison.
Exerting power required more weapons, and President Harrison enthusiastically backed his secretary of the navy, Benjamin F. Tracy, who wanted bigger, more modern ships. Harrison called for more steel cruisers and said, "The construction of a sufficient number of modern warships and of their necessary armament should progress as rapidly as is consistent with care and perfection." In 1892 Congress agreed to build two additional ships, including America's first battleship, the Iowa.
Benjamin Harrison was the twenty-third President of the United States, a United States senator from Indiana, a Civil War general, and a lawyer. He was respected not only for his legal skills and oratorical ability but also for his integrity and personal character. President Benjamin Harrison is one of several distinguished Harrison political leaders who gave years of service to the United States government.
This apparent hesitancy was also a manifestation of another trait of his character---carefulness that looks cautiously around, studies all the situation, and gains full command of forces, before striking. Any new situation is in the nature of things apt to confuse, and detract from the full command of ourselves. But Mr. Harrison's ability was known, and it was not long before his talents were in demand.
Throughout his administration of the Presidential office, Mr. Harrison has remained essentially an American citizen; simple, unaffected and approachable. On numerous occasions he has travelled about the country, mingling freely with the people, and making here and there the felicitous addresses for which he is famed
More than any previous Republican president, he committed his party to certain high financial and "big business" interests when, through his postmaster general, he systematized the solicitation of party funds. His administration sat during the "Billion Dollar Congress" elected in 1890, the first Congress ever to expend more than $1 billion. That famous Congress also passed a high tariff law containing reciprocity provisions (which Harrison largely wrote) that facilitated American economic expansion abroad, the landmark Sherman Antitrust Act, and the ill-fated Sherman Silver Purchase Act.
With regard to foreign policy, Harrison had an aggressive attitude and little patience for drawn-out diplomatic negotiations. He helped convince several European countries to lift their restrictions on the importation of U.S. pork products, thus increasing U.S. exports of pork from approximately 47 million pounds in 1891 to 82 million pounds in 1892. Harrison also played a part in solving disputes between the United States, England, and Canada regarding seal hunting in the Bering Sea. And his tenacity proved successful in avoiding a war with Chile in 1892.
Nominated for President on the eighth ballot at the 1888 Republican Convention, Benjamin Harrison conducted one of the first "front-porch" campaigns, delivering short speeches to delegations that visited him in Indianapolis. As he was only 5 feet, 6 inches tall, Democrats called him "Little Ben"; Republicans replied that he was big enough to wear the hat of his grandfather, "Old Tippecanoe."
International affairs engaged Harrison's administration more than any president since Lincoln. The first Pan-American conference was held in 1889. In the Pacific, Harrison established Samoa as an American protectorate with Germany and England as partners, and tried to annex Hawaii following a revolution (the Senate rejected the annexation). To the south, the president did not hesitate to use the new armored navy to pressure Chile to pay reparations for harm done to American sailors in Valparaiso.
He remained active in public life becoming an "elder statesman" lecturing on constitutional law at Stanford University and serving as chief counsel for Venezuela in a boundary dispute with British Guiana. Benjamin Harrison married his deceased wife's niece, Mary Lord Dimmick, a widow nearly thirty years his junior. The last Civil War general to serve as president, died from pneumonia in the bedroom at his home on Delaware Street in Indianapolis at age 67.