After retiring from the military, Harrison began a career in government to provide for his large family. His 1840 campaign for president featured catchy slogans and mass rallies, and cast the upper-class Virginian as a humble “log cabin” farmer. The spin worked: Harrison won in a landslide but then died of pneumonia after just one month in office.
As a two-term congressman and former territorial governor, William Henry Harrison could lay no claim to proven abilities in political leadership. But his reputation as a frontier Indian fighter and hero of the War of 1812 amply made up for that lack, and in 1840 the Whigs eagerly made him their presidential standard-bearer. In the so-called "hard cider" campaign that followed, Harrison's supporters celebrated his military prowess and combined it with homespun frontier imagery that was unprecedented for its carnival-like brouhaha. While discussion of real issues was avoided, that brouhaha proved sufficient in itself to win Harrison the presidency.
Harrison was the youngest son of a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, the planter Benjamin Harrison of the estate of Berkeley in Virginia, whose ancestors had come to the James in 1632. His grandson Benjamin Harrison was the twenty-third president of the United States. He was studying to become a physician in Philadelphia when his father died, and money became tight. Through family connections, he obtained a commission from President Washington as Ensign in the 1st Regiment, U.S. Army, on 16 August 1791, was posted to Fort Washington, on the site of the later city of Cincinnati. This was at the beginning of the Ohio War with the Shawnee, Delaware and Miami, who farmed and hunted the land and resisted being pushed off of it.
After the debacle of the one-party presidential campaign of 1824, a new two-party system began to emerge. Strong public reaction to perceived corruption in the vote in the House of Representatives, as well as the popularity of Andrew Jackson, allowed Martin Van Buren to organize a Democratic Party that resurrected a Jeffersonian philosophy of minimalism in the federal government. This new party opposed the tendencies of National Republicans such as John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay to invest more power in the federal government. Van Buren built a political machine to support Jackson in the 1828 election. Van Buren's skills helped give the Democrats a head start on modern-style campaigning and a clear advantage in organization. The Democrats and Jackson defeated the National Republicans in 1828 and 1832 and maintained their hold on the presidency when they bested the Whigs—a union of former National Republicans, Antimasons, and some states' rights advocates—in 1836. But a major economic depression in 1837 finally gave the Whigs their best chance to occupy the White House. They faced Andrew Jackson's political organizer, vice president, and handpicked successor, President Martin Van Buren, vying for a second term in the midst of hard times.
William Henry Harrison was the ninth American president. A war hero and master negotiator with Indian tribes, Harrison added 50 million acres to the fledgling United States.
As they prepared for the election of 1840, both Democrats and Whigs were organized for campaigning on a national scale. In an election that would turn out an astounding 80 percent of a greatly expanded electorate, campaigners sought to appeal to a wide range of voters in a variety of voting blocks. The contest between Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison marked the first truly modern presidential campaign, with methods today's students are sure to recognize.
Harrison's short term as president had one important effect: His death forced Congress and the nation to examine the way power is transferred from the president to the vice president. It also encouraged Americans to look more closely at the person running for Vice President.
On February 9th, 1773, the Harrison family of Charles City County, Virginia, welcomed their seventh and final child into the world. William Henry Harrison was born into a wealthy family. His mother, Elizabeth Bassett Harrison, came from an old and well-respected Virginia family. William's father, Benjamin, was a close friend of George Washington.
In Richmond, William began studying medicine. To further his education, he traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1790. There he intended t study under Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was a friend of his father. However, William's father died the following year. Benjamin Harrison's youngest child was left with little money. By that time, though, he had decided that a career in medicine was not for him. He wanted a life of fighting and adventure. At the age of eighteen, he joined the U.S. Army.
Delivered the longest inaugural address on March 4. It was an extremely cold day and Harrison did not wear a hat while delivering the 105 minute speech. He contracted pneumonia and died in the White House one month later.