Dec. 06 (Friday)

Old Tippecanoe
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 William Henry Harrison
Full Name: William Henry Harrison
Born: Feb. 9, 1773 in Charles City, Virginia Colony
Died: April 4, 1841 in Washington, D.C.

William Henry Harrison was the ninth President of the United States (1841). The last president born before the U.S. Declaration of Independence, he was the oldest president to take office until Ronald Reagan in 1981. Harrison was also the first president to die in office and served the shortest tenure — just one month. He has further been described as the first “packaged” presidential candidate, promoted as a simple soul from the American frontier when his roots were actually quite different.

Born at a Virginia plantation, Harrison was descended from two wealthy and well-connected Virginia families. His father, Benjamin Harrison, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a member of the Continental Congress. He was also the only U.S. president with a grandson (also named Benjamin Harrison) who also served as president.

Before his election as president, Harrison served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1816-19), the Ohio Senate (1819-21), the U.S. Senate (1825-28) and as minister to Colombia (1828-29). But he is best known for his earlier role in the great American war of genocide against Native Americans. In 1800, Harrison was appointed governor of the newly created Indiana Territory, where he appeased land-hungry whites by negotiating treaties that stripped local Indians of millions of acres. Harrison first gained fame after leading U.S. forces against American Indians at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, a feat inspiring his famous presidential campaign slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.” (John Tyler was Harrison’s vice president.) A Shawnee inter-tribal leader named Tecumseh organized an Indian uprising but was later killed by forces commanded by Harrison.

Ironically, the great Indian fighter urged the revered South American patriot Simón Bolívar to adopt American-style democracy. In fact, it was during Harrison’s stint as minister to Colombia that Bolívar wrote, “The United States ... seem[s] destined by Providence to plague America with torments in the name of freedom.”