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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Benjamin Harrison

HARRISON, Benjamin, president-elect of the United States, born in North Bend, Ohio, 20 August, 1833. He is the third son of John Scott Harrison (who was a son of President Harrison), and was born in his grandfather's house. John Scott Harrison was a farmer, and in early life cared for his own little plantation and assisted his father in the management of the family property. This occupation he varied by boating to New Orleans, whither he went almost every year with a cargo of produce of his own raising. Benjamin passed his boyhood in the usual occupations of a farmer's son--feed-ink the cattle and aiding in the harvesting of the crops. He received his early education in an old-fashioned log school-house fronting on the Ohio river. Subsequently he was sent to a school called Farmer's college, on College hill, near Cincinnati, where he spent two years, and then went to Miami university, where he was graduated in 1852. While at college he formed an attachment for Miss Caroline L. Scott, whose father at that time was president of the Female seminary in Oxford. Among his classmates were Milton Sayler, who took first honors, and David Swing, who stood second, while Harrison was fourth. His graduating oration was on "The Poor of England." He entered the law office of Storer and Gwynne in Cincinnati, and on 20 October, 1853, before the completion of his studies and before attaining his majority, he was married. In March, 1854, he settled in Indianapolis, Indiana, which has since been his place of residence. He obtained desk-room with John It. Rea, and announced himself to the world as attorney at law. Through the kindness of friends, he was soon appointed crier of the Federal court, the salary of which in term-time was 8.2.50 a day. The money that he received for these services was the first that he earned. The story of his earliest case is typical of the man. An indictment for burglary had been found against an individual, and Harrison was intrusted with the making of the final argument. The court was held at night, and the room was dimly lighted with candles. He had taken full notes of the evidence, which he had intended to read from, and, after his opening' remarks, he turned to his papers, but, owing to the imperfect light, was unable to decipher them. A torment's embarrassment followed, but quickly cast-ink aside his notes and trusting to his memory, he continued. The verdict was in his favor, and with this first success came increased business and reputation. Soon afterward Governor Joseph A. Wright intrusted him with a legislative investigation, which he conducted successfully. In 1855 he was invited by William Wallace to become his partner. He is described at that time as "quick of apprehension, clear, methodical, and logical in his analysis and statement of a case." This connection continued until 1860, when it was succeeded by that of Harrison and Fishback In 1860 his first entry into active politics took place with his nomination by the Republicans for the office of reporter of the supreme court. He canvassed the state for his party, and in Rockville, Parke county, he spoke at a meeting where Thomas A. Hendricks, the Democratic candidate for governor, was his opponent. He had already attained reputation as an orator, but the ability with which he answered point after point in Governor Hendricks's address gained for him increased favor with the people, and he was elected by a majority of 9,688. While he held this office the civil war began, and in 1862 he assisted in raising the 70th Indiana regiment, in which he was made 2d lieutenant. When the regiment was completed, Governor Oliver P. Mot-ton appointed him colonel, and it was hurried forward to join the army under General Don Carlos Buell at Bowling Green, Kentucky, then opposed by the Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg. His first independent action was as commander of an expedition sent against a body of Confederate soldiers stationed at Russellville. Dividing his forces, he surrounded the camp and captured all their horses and arms, besides taking a number of prisoners. The 70th Indiana was given the right of the brigade under General William T. Ward, and continued so until the close of the war. Colonel Harrison's command was occupied chiefly in the west, guarding" railroads and in fighting guerillas. In this and similar duties he was occupied until January, 1864, when he was placed in command of his brigade, and added to the 1st division of the 11th army corps. Subsequently it was attached to the 3d division of the 20th army corps under General Joseph Hooker, and made the campaign from Chattanooga to Atlanta. His first engagement of importance was that of Resaea, on 14 Nay, 1864, where he led his command. A few days later he took part in the capture of Cassville, and then in the actions at New Hope church and Golgotha church. He participated in the battles of Kenesaw Mountain and Peach Tree Creek, at the latter of which his gallantry so pleased General Hooker that he wrote to the secretary of war " to call the attention of the department to the claims of Colonel Benjamin Harrison, of the 7Oth Indiana volunteers, for promotion to the rank of brigadier-general of volunteers." General Hooker also said : "My attention was first attracted to this young officer by the superior excellence of his brigade in discipline and instruction, the result of his labor, skill, and devotion. With more foresight than I have witnessed in any officer of his experience, he seemed to act upon the principle that success depended upon the thorough preparation in discipline and esprit of his command for conflict, more than on any influence that could be exerted upon the field itself, and when collision came his command vindicated his wisdom as much as his valor. In all of the achievements of the 20th corps in that campaign (from Chattanooga to Atlanta) Colonel Harrison bore a conspicuous part. At Resaea and Peach Tree creek the conduct of himself and command was especially distinguished." When. Gen Sherman reached Atlanta., Harrison was ordered to Indiana to obtain recruits, and he spent the time from September till November, 1864, in that work. Owing to the destruction of the railroads, he was unable to rejoin General Sherman before the army made its march to the sea, and he was transferred to Nashville. The winter of 1864-'5 he spent with General George H. Thomas in Tennessee, but in the spring he resumed command of his brigade in the 20th army corps, with which he remained until the close of the war. He then took part in the grand review in Washington: and was mustered out: on 8 June, 1865. The brevet of brigadier-general of volunteers was conferred upon him, to date from 23 January, 1865, " for ability and manifest energy and gallantry in command of the brigade." To his men he was familiarly known as " Little Ben," and many acts of kindness to his subordinates, expressive of his sympathy with them, have been related. General Harrison returned to Indianapolis and assumed the duties of his office as reporter of the supreme court, to which he had been re-elected in 1864 by a majority of 19,913. At the expiration of his term of office he declined a renomination, and resumed his practice, which he has since followed successfully. During the presidential canvasses of 1868 and 1872 he travelled through Indiana and addressed large audiences, but did not again enter politics until 1876, when he declined the nomination for governor. Godlove S. Orth was then chosen, but during the canvass he withdrew, and General Harrison reluctantly allowed his name to be used, in the hope of saving Indiana to the Republican candidate for the presidency. The work was begun too late, and, although an energetic canvass was carried on, James D. Williams was elected by a plurality of 5,084, in a total vote of 484,457; but General Harrison was 2,000 stronger than his party. In 1879 President Hayes appointed him a member of the Mississippi river commission. He was chairman of the delegation from Indiana at the National convention held in Chicago in 1880, and on the ballot that nominated James A. Garfield he cast the entire vote of his state for that candidate. His own name was placed in nomination at the beginning of the convention, but, although some votes were cast in his favor, he persisted in withdrawing. He accompanied General Garfield on his trip to New York, and participated in the speech-making along the route. Subsequently he was offered a place in the cabinet of President Garfield, but declined it The Republicans regained control of the Indiana legislature in the election of 1880, and General Harrison was chosen United States senator, and took his seat as such on 4 March, 1881, holding it until 3 March, 1887. His career in the senate was marked by the delivery of numerous speeches on subjects of general interest. He pronounced in favor of a judicious tariff reform, advocated the rights of the working classes, opposed President Cleveland's vetoes of pension bills, advised the restoration of the American navy, and voted for civil-service reform. In 1884 he was a delegate-at-large from his state to the National Republican convention held in Chicago, and his name was again discussed in connection with the presidency. The Republican national convention of 1888 was held in Chicago in June. For some time previous he had been frequently referred to as a desirable candidate for the presidency, and on the first ballot he received 83 votes, standing fifth on the list, John Sherman standing first with 225. Seven more ballots were taken, during which Chauncey M. Depew withdrew and transferred his strength to General Harrison, who then received 544 votes on the eighth and final ballot. On 4 July following he received the formal notification of his nomination, and on 11 September signified his acceptance in a letter in which he said: " The tariff issue cannot now be obscured. It is not a contest between schedules, but between wide-apart principles. The foreign competitors for our market have, with quick instinct, seen how one issue of this contest may bring them advantage, and our own people are not so dull as to miss or neglect the grave interests that are involved for them. The assault upon our protective system is open and defiant. Protection is assailed as unconstitutional in law, or as vicious in principle, and those who hold such views sincerely cannot stop short of an absolute elimination from our tariff laws of the principle of protection. The Mills bill is only a step, but it is toward an object that the leaders of Democratic thought and legislation have clearly in mind. The important question is not so much the length of the step as the direction of it. Judged by the executive message of December last, by the Mills bill, by the debates in congress, and by the St. Louis platform, the Democratic party will, if supported by the country, place the tariff laws upon a purely revenue basis. This is practical free trade--free-trade in the English sense ... Those who teach that the import duty upon foreign goods sold in our market is paid by the consumer, and that the price of the domestic competing article is enhanced to the amount of the duty on the imported article--that every million of dollars collected for customs duties represents many millions more which do not reach the treasury, but are paid by our citizens as the increased cost of domestic productions resulting from the tariff laws--may not intend to discredit in the minds of others our system of levying duties on competing foreign products, but it is clearly already discredited in their own. We cannot doubt, without impugning their integrity, that, if free to act upon their convictions, they would so revise our laws as to lay the burden of the customs revenue upon articles that are not produced in this country, and to place upon the free list all competing foreign products. I do not stop to refute this theory as to the effect of our tariff duties. Those who advance it are students of maxims and not of the markets. The surplus now in the treasury should be used in the purchase of bonds. The law authorizes this use of it, and, if it is not needed for current or deficiency appropriations, the people, and not the banks in which it has been deposited, should have the advantage of its use by stopping interest upon the public debt. . . . The law regulating appointments to the classified civil service received my support in the senate, in the belief that it opened the way to a much-needed reform. I still think so, and therefore cordially approve the clear and forcible expression of the convention upon this subject. The law should have the aid of a friendly interpretation, and be faithfully and vigorously enforced All appointments under it should be absolutely free from partisan considerations and influence." The election resulted in Mr. Harrison's favor, who received 233 votes in the Electoral college, against 168 for Grover Cleveland. The above engraving is a view of his home in Indianapolis. His life has been written by General Lewis Wallace (Philadelphia, 1888).--His wife, Caroline Lavinia Scott, born in Oxford, Ohio, 1 October, 1832, is the daughter of John W. Scott, who was a professor in Miami university at the time of her birth, and afterward became president of the seminary in Oxford. She was graduated at the seminary in 1852, the same year that General Harrison took his degree at the university, and was married to him on 20 October, 1853. She is a musician, and is also devoted to painting, besides which she is a diligent reader, giving part of her time to literary clubs, of several of which she is a member. Mrs. Harrison is a manager of the orphan asylum in Indianapolis and a member of the Presbyterian church in that city, and until her removal to Washington taught a class in Sunday-school. They have two children. The. son, Russell, was graduated at Lafayette in 1877 as a mining engineer, and, in addition to other engineering work, has been connected with the United States mints at New Orleans and Helena as assayer. He is now a resident of Montana, where he has a cattle-ranch, and is also engaged in journalism. The daughter, Mary, married Robert J. McKee, a merchant of Indianapolis.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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