Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States, was not the first government official in his distinguished family. His father, John Scott Harrison, served in the United States House of Representatives, his grandfather was the 9th President of the United States, William Henry Harrison, and his great-grandfather, Colonel Benjamin Harrison V, was among the Continental Congress delegates who signed the Declaration of Independence.
Either by design or by choice, Benjamin Harrison pursued no other ambition as strongly as his desire to contribute to the growth of our young nation. He developed an effective public speaking style early on which served him well in law and as a Union brevet brigadier general in the Civil War. Harrison’s political career began with his election to Indianapolis city attorney in 1857. Later Benjamin Harrison ran unsuccessfully for Indiana governor and was appointed to the United States Senate where he served from 1881 to 1887.
BENJAMIN HARRISON - OUR 23RD PRESIDENT
Harrison proposed to Caroline Scott shortly after college. They married in 1853 and had two children, Russell Benjamin Harrison and Mary Scott Harrison. Mrs. Harrison was very outgoing and thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment opportunities that came with public life. It has been reported that she was the first to put up a Christmas tree at the White House.
During the presidential campaign of 1888, Benjamin Harrison and his opponent, incumbent President Grover Cleveland, used front porch receptions to communicate their campaign message to delegations and press reporters. This strategy proved very effective. Party organizers spread their message on their behalf. Although Harrison beat Cleveland in Electoral College votes, Cleveland won the popular vote. It was alleged that New York Electoral College Delegates had been bribed by Harrison supporters.
WHITE HOUSE CHINA CHOSEN BY FIRST LADY CAROLINE SCOTT HARRISON - ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION
Of the many things that Benjamin Harrison achieved in office, he is often remembered for:
- Contributing to America’s role as world leader by establishing the first Pan American Congress in 1889. This later became the Pan American Union.
- Responding to an incident involving an assault on American sailors by threatening military action on Chile. To resolve the conflict peacefully, Chile apologized and paid the US a sum of $75,000.
- Creating national forests with the Land Revision Act of 1891, the first of which was Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
- Designating Ellis Island in the New York Harbor as the official entry point of immigrants entering the United States during a time of significant population growth.
- Limiting the power of American corporations by supporting the Sherman Antitrust Act.
- Protecting and extending the rights of African Americans such as securing voting rights in the South. President Harrison also appointed Frederick Douglass as minister to Haiti.
- Standing up to Great Britain and Canada on the matter of overharvesting of fur seals in the Bering Sea.
- Supporting the highest protective tariff in the nation's history, via the McKinley Tariff of 1890 which raised rates nearly 50% and gave the President power to negotiate foreign trade without congressional approval.
- Lobbying for the passage of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 which required the US Treasury to either purchase 4.5 million ounces of silver at market price or the entire output of the nation's mines every month.
- Appropriating bills that exceeded one billion dollars, the first time that had occurred during peacetime.
- Sending federal troops to the Battle of Wounded Knee in a dispute with the Sioux Indians - to this day a horrendous result.
- Expanding the borders of the United States more than any previous administration with the addition of Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and the Dakotas.
Unlike many of his predecessors, President Benjamin Harrison had accomplished many different objectives while in office. Because some of his initiatives had been perceived to contribute to the nation’s unfavorable economic condition, it was not difficult for his opponent, former President Grover Cleveland, to claim a landslide victory over him in the election of 1892 when the Democratic Party had claimed presidency and a majority in both houses of Congress. The magnitude of Harrison’s loss was attributed, to some degree, to his focus on his wife who was critically ill and died in the following months. After leaving office, Benjamin Harrison spent the next decade as a respected statesman and public speaker before he passed away in 1901 from pneumonia.
HISTORIAN AND COLLECTOR RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX
World renowned collector Raleigh DeGeer Amyx has acquired pieces from President Benjamin Harrison and Caroline Scott Harrison’s official White House China Collection. Mr. Amyx’s passion for American historical memorabilia has been his sole focus for more than three decades. His collection is the second largest privately-owned collection of White House China in the world. If you would like to engage in a discussion with Mr. Amyx about White House China, please contact him through the button below.