32 days: The Unfortunate Presidency of William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison was the oldest American President to be elected at the time, but his presidency was cut short by pneumonia in 1841. He holds the memorable record as the shortest term president in the U.S. history as well as few other records of note.

Every president sworn into power has a special prayer to live long in office and deliver the best services to their citizen. But unfortunately for Harrison, his prayers of longevity were not answered. William Henry Harrison was the ninth U.S. President, and during his short tenure, was unable to have a major impact in the executive office. To this day he has the unfortunate distinction of the shortest term of office in the history of Presidency in America.

William Henry Harrison was born 1773. He was known as a soldier, and a General that led troops against the British-Native American alliances. Through the years he was best known for was his defeat of the Shawnee at the Battle of the Thammes and the Battle of Tippercanoe. The success he had from these battles gave rise to his famous campaign slogan “Tippercanoe and Tyler too.” This Battle of the Thames gave Harrison a special notoriety for leading troops against a British and Native American coalition where the legendary leader Tecumseh was present. Tecumseh was murdered during the battle, and this confrontation spawned Harrison as a legend that was commonly referred to as “Tecumseh’s Curse” and/or “The Curse of Tippecanoe.”

Not only was Harrison was the man with the shortest White House tenure, he also delivered the longest inaugural speech. His first presidential speech was delivered on a cold March morning, (precisely March 4, 1841) and lasted for almost two hours. Harrison gave the speech without wearing a jacket or hat and then attended three inauguration balls. Not surprisingly, he went to bed with a bad cold which ended up developing into a severe case of pneumonia. The cause of Harrison’s death is still debated and some historians say that a case of hepatitis that also contributed to his death.

Here are a few other interesting points of interest surrounding Harrison:

Harrison was the last President that emerged before the documentation of the Declaration of Independence (the American Revolution) was put in place.

He was also the oldest to be declared President until Ronald Reagan.

He was a native of Virginia who originally planned to become a medical doctor.

He attended the University of Pennsylvania, but opted out and then joined the U.S. Army.

President John Adams observed Harrison’s distinct and exemplary service in the wars at the time, most especially the Indian Wars of the Northwest Territories. It was Adams who appointed Harrison as Governor of the Northwest Territory in 1801. It was after then he fought the Battle of the Thames River in 1812; a time he gained his greatest fame as a military commander and recaptured Detroit from the British by defeating the combined force of Native and British Americans.

As time went on, Harrison became a congressman, as well as the ambassador to Colombia and later contested the presidential election of 1840 on the Whig Party ticket. Before then, Harrison was elected as part of the House of Representatives in 1816, and also to the Senate in 1825. During his epic inauguration speech, he boasted of his triumph in the wars, and he also emphasized that he would oblige to the will of the people. Unfortunately, his pneumonia quickly grew worse, and he died on April 4, 1841.

Williams Henry Harrison was survived by his wife, Anna, and three children. Notably, in 1889, his grandson, Benjamin became America’s 23rd president. Benjamin, unlike his grandfather completed his full term, but didn’t win his re-election.

Leave a Comment