Sunday, July 18, 2010

william henry harrison


--Harrison was the last President born before the Declaration of Independence, the oldest to be elected until Ronald Reagan in 1980, and the first to die in office.

--The poor guy is best remembered as the President who caught a cold from a combination of a cold, wet day, the lack of a coat and hat, and an inaugural address that continues to be the longest in U.S. history.

However, his first signs of illness apparently occurred three weeks after the address, which would indicate a different cause for his sickness. Different remedies tried on Harrison included opium, castor oil, leeches, and Virginia snakeweed (quick someone, there's an original band name for you, no charge).

--He was only President for 31 days, twelve hours, and 30 minutes, the shortest term of any President to date. His death provoked some debate on how long exactly Vice-Presidential succession was due to last (the Constitution was vague on the finer points of this, until the 25th Amendment was ratified after the death of JFK).

--Before the circumstances of his death, Harrison was best known for the Battle of Tippecanoe (FYI: Tippecanoe is indeed in spellcheck), where he served as Army general against a sneak attack from Tecumseh's American Indian confederacy (Harrison's forces were attempting a preemptive strike before the attack). His slogan during the 1840 election was "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" (his running mate, John Tyler).

--When Governor of the Indiana Territory (which consisted of the future states Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota), Harrison attempted to make slavery legal in U.S. territories, but was defeated by the machinations of President Thomas Jefferson, who didn't want slavery to spread into the Northwest Territory.

--Harrison was broke when he died, so Congress voted to give his wife a Presidential widow's pension, a payment of $25,000, one year of Harrison's salary. This is equivalent to over $500,000 in 2009 dollars. She also received the right to mail letters free of charge, which is kind of a nifty perk, really.

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