Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin Harrison: A Statesman's Legacy

Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States, left an indelible mark on the nation during his term from 1889 to 1893. A distinguished figure in American politics, Harrison’s legacy extends beyond his presidency, encompassing his legal career, military service, and advocacy for civil rights. This article by Academic Block delves into the life and accomplishments of Benjamin Harrison, shedding light on the man behind the presidency.

Early Life and Education:

Benjamin Harrison was born on August 20, 1833, in North Bend, Ohio, into a prominent political family. His grandfather, William Henry Harrison, was the 9th President of the United States. Growing up in a family with a strong tradition of public service, young Benjamin was exposed to politics from an early age. He attended Farmer’s College and later enrolled at Miami University in Ohio, where he developed a keen interest in law.

Harrison’s legal education culminated at the Cincinnati Law School, and in 1854, he was admitted to the bar. His legal prowess and dedication to justice soon earned him a reputation as a skilled attorney, laying the foundation for his future contributions to American jurisprudence.

Military Service:

As the United States grappled with the issue of slavery and the onset of the Civil War loomed, Benjamin Harrison felt a sense of duty to his country. In 1862, he enlisted in the Union Army and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Harrison’s military service included notable engagements, such as the Battle of Resaca and the Battle of Peachtree Creek.

His leadership skills and bravery on the battlefield did not go unnoticed, and he rose through the ranks to become a brevet brigadier general by the war’s end. Harrison’s military service left an indelible mark on him, shaping his perspective on the importance of preserving the Union and fostering national unity.

Legal Career and Political Ascent:

Following the Civil War, Benjamin Harrison returned to Indiana and resumed his legal practice. His reputation as a capable attorney and his family’s political influence propelled him into the realm of politics. In 1876, he was elected to the United States Senate, marking the beginning of a distinguished political career.

As a senator, Harrison championed civil rights and supported legislation aimed at protecting the rights of African Americans in the post-Reconstruction era. His commitment to justice and equality was evident in his advocacy for the Civil Rights Act of 1875, a landmark piece of legislation that sought to eliminate racial discrimination in public facilities.

Presidential Campaign and First Term:

In 1888, Benjamin Harrison emerged as the Republican nominee for the presidency, facing the incumbent, Grover Cleveland. The election was characterized by heated debates on economic issues, particularly tariffs, and Harrison’s advocacy for protective tariffs resonated with many voters.

In a closely contested election, Harrison secured victory in the Electoral College, becoming the 23rd President of the United States. His presidency, which began in 1889, marked a period of significant economic and social changes in the country.

Harrison’s administration focused on economic policies, including the passage of the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890, which raised tariffs on imported goods. While the act aimed to protect domestic industries, it also faced criticism for potentially increasing consumer prices.

Additionally, Harrison signed the Sherman Antitrust Act into law in 1890, signaling the government’s commitment to addressing monopolistic practices and promoting fair competition in the marketplace.

Foreign Policy and Expansion:

Benjamin Harrison’s presidency also witnessed developments in foreign affairs, particularly in the realm of territorial expansion. The administration played a pivotal role in the annexation of Hawaii, setting the stage for the United States’ increased involvement in the Pacific.

Harrison’s commitment to expanding the country’s influence extended to Latin America, where the United States sought to strengthen its economic and strategic interests. His administration supported the Pan-American Conference of 1889, fostering diplomatic ties and economic cooperation among nations in the Western Hemisphere.

Legacy of Civil Rights Advocacy:

While economic and foreign policy issues dominated much of Harrison’s presidency, his commitment to civil rights remained a consistent theme throughout his career. As president, he appointed African Americans to federal positions, challenging prevailing racial prejudices and advocating for greater inclusion in government.

Harrison’s dedication to civil rights was exemplified in his efforts to combat voter suppression and ensure that all citizens had the right to participate in the democratic process. His support for the Lodge Bill, which aimed to address issues of electoral fraud and voter suppression, underscored his commitment to protecting the rights of African American voters in the South.

End of Presidency and Post-Presidential Years:

Despite his achievements, Benjamin Harrison faced a challenging re-election campaign in 1892. The economic downturn and a shifting political landscape contributed to his defeat at the hands of Grover Cleveland, marking the only instance in U.S. history where an incumbent president lost to the same opponent in non-consecutive elections.

Following his presidency, Harrison returned to his legal practice in Indianapolis and continued to be actively involved in political and public affairs. His commitment to civic engagement and public service remained unwavering, as he contributed to discussions on key issues of the day, including the role of the United States in global affairs.

His Works:

The Sherman Antitrust Act (1890): One of the most significant legislative achievements during Harrison’s presidency was the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Signed into law on July 2, 1890, the act aimed to curb the growth of monopolies and promote fair competition in the marketplace. It laid the groundwork for subsequent efforts to regulate and break up large corporations that engaged in anti-competitive practices. The Sherman Antitrust Act remains a landmark piece of legislation in the history of U.S. antitrust law.

The McKinley Tariff Act (1890) The McKinley Tariff Act was another major legislative initiative undertaken during Harrison’s administration. The act, named after Representative William McKinley, who would later become president, increased tariffs on a wide range of imported goods. While its primary goal was to protect domestic industries, especially those in the manufacturing sector, it faced criticism for potentially raising consumer prices and contributing to economic challenges.

Landmark Economic Policies: Harrison’s administration implemented various economic policies with the aim of fostering economic growth and stability. These policies included support for protective tariffs, which were intended to shield American industries from foreign competition. The administration’s economic agenda also included efforts to address currency issues and coinage reforms. However, these policies were met with mixed reactions, and the economic downturn in the early 1890s contributed to Harrison’s electoral defeat in 1892.

Civil Rights Advocacy: While not a traditional development project, Harrison’s advocacy for civil rights and equal representation during his presidency had a lasting impact on the nation. He supported the Lodge Bill, which aimed to address voter suppression and fraud in the South. Additionally, Harrison appointed African Americans to federal positions, challenging prevailing racial norms and contributing to the broader struggle for civil rights in the post-Reconstruction era.

The Pan-American Conference (1889): Harrison’s administration played a role in fostering diplomatic ties and economic cooperation in the Western Hemisphere. The Pan-American Conference of 1889 brought together nations from North, Central, and South America to discuss and promote mutual interests. While not a specific development project, the conference laid the foundation for future diplomatic relations and cooperation in the Americas.

Efforts Toward Naval Expansion: Recognizing the growing importance of naval power, Harrison’s administration took steps toward expanding the U.S. Navy. The Naval Appropriations Act of 1890 authorized the construction of new naval vessels, including battleships. This marked an early effort to modernize and strengthen the naval capabilities of the United States.

Hawaiian Annexation: Although the annexation of Hawaii occurred after Harrison left office, the groundwork for U.S. interest in the Pacific had been laid during his presidency. The administration supported efforts to annex Hawaii, and the strategic and economic considerations that began under Harrison would eventually lead to the annexation of Hawaii in 1898 during the presidency of William McKinley.

Legacy, Death and Impact:

Benjamin Harrison’s legacy extends beyond his time in office, encompassing his contributions to civil rights, economic policy, and the expansion of U.S. influence on the global stage. His commitment to justice and equality left an enduring mark on American society, influencing subsequent generations of leaders.

The Harrison administration’s economic policies, while controversial, reflected the ongoing debates about the role of government in the economy—a discussion that persists to this day. The Sherman Antitrust Act, in particular, laid the groundwork for future efforts to regulate business practices and ensure fair competition.

In the realm of civil rights, Harrison’s advocacy for equal voting rights and representation set a precedent for future leaders who would champion the cause of justice and equality. His appointments of African Americans to federal positions challenged societal norms and contributed to the gradual dismantling of racial barriers in government service.

On March 13, 1901, Benjamin Harrison passed away at the age of 67 due to pneumonia. His death marked the end of an era for a man who had witnessed and contributed to significant transformations in the United States. The nation mourned the loss of a statesman, soldier, and advocate for justice.

Final Years

Benjamin Harrison, a statesman of considerable influence, played a pivotal role in shaping the United States during a transformative period in its history. From his early days as a military officer to his tenure in the Senate and the presidency, Harrison’s commitment to justice, civil rights, and economic policies left an enduring legacy.

As the nation continues to grapple with issues of equality, economic policy, and global influence, Benjamin Harrison’s life and contributions serve as a source of inspiration and reflection. His story reminds us of the ongoing pursuit of a more perfect union and the crucial role that dedicated individuals play in shaping the course of a nation’s history. Please provide your comments below, it will help us in improving this article. Thanks for reading!

Benjamin Harrison
23th President of the United States
Personal Details
Date of Birth : 20th  August 1833
Died : 23th  March 1901
Place of Birth : North Bend, Ohio, U.S
Father : John Scott Harrison
Mother : Elizabeth Ramsey
Spouse/Partner : Caroline Scott
Children : Russell Benjamin, Mary “Mamie”, William Henry
Alma Mater : Miami University in Oxford, Ohio
Professions : Politician, Lawyer
Career History

Served As:       23rd President of the United States
Time Period:   March 4, 1889– March 4, 1893
Predecessor:  Grover Cleveland
Successor:     Grover Cleveland

Served As:       United States Senator from Indiana
Time Period:   March 4, 1881– March 3, 1887
Predecessor:   Joseph E. McDonald
Successor:      David Turpie

Famous quotes by Benjamin Harrison

“The bud of victory is always in the truth.”

“Great lives never go out; they go on.”

“I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process.”

“God forbid that the day should ever come when, in the American mind, the thought of man as a ‘consumer’ shall submerge the old American thought of man as a creature of God, endowed with ‘unalienable rights.'”

“The disfranchisement of a single legal elector by fraud or intimidation is a crime too grave to be regarded lightly.”

“The home is the chief school of human virtues.”

“We Americans have no commission from God to police the world.”

“I knew that my staying up would not change the election result if I were defeated, while if elected I had a hard day ahead of me. So I thought a night’s rest was best in any event.”

“The law is the witness and external deposit of our moral life. Its history is the history of the moral development of the race.”

Controversies related to Benjamin Harrison

McKinley Tariff Act of 1890: Perhaps one of the most significant controversies of Harrison’s presidency was the passage of the McKinley Tariff Act in 1890. This legislation substantially increased tariffs on imported goods to protect domestic industries, particularly in the manufacturing sector. While it aimed to boost the economy, it led to higher consumer prices and became a focal point of political opposition. The Act was a contributing factor to the economic downturn of the early 1890s and played a role in the Republicans’ defeat in the 1890 midterm elections.

Economic Downturn and Unemployment: The latter part of Harrison’s term coincided with an economic downturn known as the Panic of 1893. This period of financial distress saw bank failures, a decline in industrial production, and widespread unemployment. The economic challenges were attributed to various factors, including the effects of the McKinley Tariff Act and the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. The severity of the economic downturn contributed to the dissatisfaction of voters and likely played a role in Harrison’s defeat in the 1892 presidential election.

Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890: The Sherman Silver Purchase Act, signed into law during Harrison’s presidency, required the U.S. government to purchase large amounts of silver. While the act aimed to boost the economy and help silver mining interests, it contributed to the depletion of the U.S. gold reserves. The ensuing economic strain and the debate over the gold and silver standards fueled controversies and debates over currency policy.

Civil Rights and Race Relations: While Harrison advocated for civil rights and appointed African Americans to federal positions, the broader context of race relations during this period was fraught with challenges. The Lodge Bill, which aimed to address voter suppression in the South, faced strong opposition from Democrats and did not pass. The era also saw the rise of Jim Crow laws and increased racial tensions, making progress on civil rights a contentious issue.

Failed Attempts at Hawaiian Annexation: Although the annexation of Hawaii did not occur during Harrison’s presidency, his administration laid the groundwork for the eventual annexation in 1898. Harrison supported efforts to annex Hawaii, but the controversy surrounding the issue persisted into subsequent administrations. The annexation debate raised questions about U.S. expansionism and influence in the Pacific.

Struggles with Populist Movements: The economic challenges of the time fueled the rise of populist movements, with farmers and laborers expressing discontent over perceived injustices. The People’s Party, also known as the Populist Party, gained traction during this period, advocating for economic reforms and challenging the political establishment. While the movement was not directly associated with Harrison, it reflected broader discontent with the status quo.

Electoral Defeat in 1892: Harrison’s bid for re-election in 1892 faced challenges due to the economic downturn and the controversies surrounding his administration’s policies. Grover Cleveland, the Democratic candidate, capitalized on the public dissatisfaction, and Harrison lost the election. This marked the only instance in U.S. history where an incumbent president lost to the same opponent in non-consecutive elections.

Academic References on Benjamin Harrison


“Benjamin Harrison: Hoosier Warrior” by Harry J. Sievers (1952)

“The Presidency of Benjamin Harrison” by Homer E. Socolofsky and Allan B. Spetter (1987)

“Benjamin Harrison: Centennial President” by Charles W. Calhoun (2005)

“Benjamin Harrison” by Charles H. Hackley (2016)

“Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series” by Charles W. Calhoun (2005)

“Benjamin Harrison and the Seizure of Federal Resources for His Home” by Charles M. Price (1991)

“Benjamin Harrison: Our Twenty-Third President” by Sandra Francis (1990)

“Benjamin Harrison: A Biography” by Nadine G. Meyer (2001)


“Benjamin Harrison: Forgotten Progressive” by Robert P. Sharkey (1971)

“Benjamin Harrison’s Uncommon War” by Richard A. Coski (1982)

“The Presidency of Benjamin Harrison: A Reappraisal” by Robert F. Jones (1980)

“Benjamin Harrison, the Elections of 1888 and 1892, and the Formation of the Republican State of Mind” by Richard A. Watson (1979)

“Benjamin Harrison and the Presidential Campaign of 1888” by Anne Firor Scott (1959)

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