President Benjamin Harrison

president benjamin_harrisonBenjamin Harrison is the only United States president from the State of Indiana. Not only was he the 23rd president (serving from 1889-1893), but he was also the centennial president, inaugurated 100 years after George Washington.

The time of Harrison's presidency was transitional. Issues that faced colonial America were still germane, but Harrison also faced issues that plague presidents today. In keeping with the attitude of colonial American expansion, President Harrison brought six states into the union. This was more than any other president in one term.

Benjamin Harrison was truly one of the first American presidents to succeed in foreign policy and matters beyond our shores. He increased the nation as a player in global trading and therefore dealt with the resulting tariff issues. Relations with Central America were established during his presidency. The Pan-American Games is a lasting institution created from this alliance. Our strength as a naval power and the build-up of all national armed forces can both be attributed to our 23rd president. Harrison was of the opinion that our army and navy should not be just a conscripted institution, but one that attracted competent, highly professional people who were interested in making the armed forces a career. Our role in global affairs expanded without a war or the sending of American troops to be stationed abroad.

Domestic policy is the one area that will forever haunt the memory of Harrison's presidency. During the Gilded Age, the spoils system ruled the day. The Republican Party was less than pleased with Harrison because he made his political appointments based upon ability, not as favors to the political machine. The House of Representatives was run with an iron fist by Speaker of the House Thomas Reed. Public business that ran counter to Reed's wishes was held hostage by faction and filibuster. The House became a vehicle of implementing the Speaker's wishes, and he gave little regard to Benjamin Harrison. For example, Benjamin Harrison wanted civil rights legislation addressed during his presidency. It was never prioritized and docketed due to a congress that would not budge from its own agenda.

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The White House during Harrison's Term

Many Republicans wanted to move from the gold standard to a new silver standard as a backing for the nation's currency. Many lending institutions and corporate powers balked, and the value of the U.S. dollar plummeted. During the "panic," many prominent people (including some of Harrison's own cabinet members) lost great fortunes. At about the same time, congress approved the McKinley Tariff into law. This would tax incoming goods at a higher rate and hopefully encourage people to buy American made products. U.S. businesses, feeling the sting of recessions, tried to compensate for lost revenue by raising the prices of goods. The backlash by consumers against the Republican Party was devastating, eventually removing the president and a significant number of congressmen in the 1892 election. In 1892, Benjamin Harrison lost more than an election; in October, his wife Caroline died in the White House due to complications from tuberculosis.

Benjamin Harrison paved the way for the future success of the Republican Party. He helped introduce civil rights legislation and established relations with Central America—resulting in the Pan-American games. But most importantly, he helped unite the factions of the Republican Party after the fallout created by Congress and helped to create a unified party that would win the White House back in 1896.

“An American citizen could not be a good citizen who did not have a hope in his heart.” ~ Benjamin Harrison

Share Harrison's passion for giving and become a member, donor or volunteer of the Benjamin Harrision Presidential Site.