Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Presidential Character: Week Nine, He Won In One Respect

We simply cannot forget the man who served the shortest tenure as President of the United States.

William Henry Harrison.  "I died in 30 days!"

He's basically one of the easiest Presidents to remember in case of trivia games.

There are some historians who won't even review his Presidency much less put him on the unavoidable Best/Worst lists (Garfield, whose Presidency lasted at best six months, also gets excluded because the thought is he lacked impact).

Mind you, Harrison was still President long enough to physically kick Henry Clay out of the White House when Clay came calling about Spoils  - Jackson's legacy - and filling of government posts with his lackeys.  So that had to count towards SOMETHING when considering what kind of character Harrison would have used serving as President.

From what could be determined from his long inaugural speech given in wet cold early March weather - the source of the prolonged illness that developed into a deadly case of pneumonia - Harrison would have been something of an Active-Negative.  He had an agenda but felt the powers of the Presidency were - or at best should be - limited.  He argued, for example, that an amendment be added limiting a President to just one term fearing a Two-Termer aspires to monarchical powers (anti-Jacksonians accused Jackson of wanting to serve a third term and viewed Van Buren's tenure in such a light).  His refusal to bow to Clay and other Whig partisans seeking jobs via Spoils suggests he wouldn't have been Passive - malleable towards others - in his role.

But past that, there is honestly little else to say about William Henry Harrison as President.  Only that, with every new President sworn in, there's roughly 32 days that Harrison is no longer the shortest-serving.  Also that Harrison's death created a constitutional crisis that wouldn't be fully resolved until the passing of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment more than 100 years later.

Next up: This blogger's personal vote-getter for Worst President Ever.  Partly because everyone votes for Buchanan because he's too easy a target.

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