William H. Harrison (book review)

This book was published by Twenty-First Century Books, Minneapolis.  The Copyright is 2007.  I quite accidentally chose an author who is a descendent of Harrison.  Meg Greene is a resident of Virginia.  This book is in the juvenile section of our library although the readability is about sixth grade level.  It has 108 pages and has good supportive photographs intertwined.

I selected a juvenile book for Harrison because, oddly enough, our county library system is void of books on Harrison.  Since Harrison was the first territorial governor and had much to do about the settlement of our state, I was surprised.  Early in my teaching career, I was “volunteered” to teach Indiana History, so my research had already gained me information about Harrison’s military achievements in the Northwest Territory.

I learned some interesting personal information about Harrison in this edition that was fascinating.  Harrison was born (1773) on a Virginia plantation to aristocratic parentage.  He was of bright mind but all he really wanted was to be a good soldier.  His parents encouraged him to train as a medical doctor and would have paid handsomely for his education, but Harrison left home for the frontier and helped negotiate Indian treaties and establish my state of Indiana.  His wife was also from a family of means but she gave it up to move with him to Vincennes.  Together they had ten children.  There were times when they faced financial crisis because a soldier’s salary was not much but Anna also learned how to live off the land on a farm Harrison had purchased before they married.  Acquiring land had been reserved mostly for the wealthy.  Harrison changed that his first year as a delegate for the Northwest Territory with a bill called the Harrison Land Act.  Frontiersmen who had a dream had him to thank for being able to homestead land.  Harrison was also responsible for bringing a judicial system to the expanding West.

Harrison was also of the Whig persuasion and Fillmore (the previous book I read) was instrumental is seeing Harrison nominated to the Whig ticket.  Harrison was the first President to campaign on his own.  Up to his time, Presidents did not personally go on a campaign route, hold rallies, or have slogans.  That all started on the Harrison-Tyler ticket.  Sadly, Harrison was also the first President to die in office.  He had readied himself for office after winning with both electoral and popular vote over Van Buren.  He understood the political system since he had already served both in the House of Representatives and the Senate.  His wife, Anna, would have preferred that he retire on their Ohio farm.  She was not present for his inauguration for she was getting things in order to move to Washington.  The Inauguration was on March 4, 1840 and Harrison succumbed to pneumonia on April 4, 1841.  Although some historians say Harrison died because he delivered such a long-winded inaugural address without coat, hat, or gloves on a cold, windy day, the fact is, Harrison had been ill from the long river boat ride up the Ohio River and had a “cold” already.  Although he improved in health, he was caught in a rain storm a few days later at a Washington market and pneumonia set in.

This book was an enjoyable read and is perfect for the junior reader.  I highly recommend this age-level reading for getting just that facts without embellishments of opinion.  The book is well-documented with an extensive bibliography.  Harrison is usually known for his short Presidency.  He did so much more!

Harrison’s grandson, Benjamin, served as our twenty-third President.  I look forward to reading his biography later but next I am hopping to our thirtieth President, Calvin Coolidge.  Rather than being driven by order, I am allowing myself to be driven by curiosity.  I hope you are enjoying these book reviews as much as I enjoy sharing them with you.



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