Benjamin Harrison 1833-1901
President from 1889-1893
By Richard E. Noble
Benjamin Harrison is a victory for the old politically established, corrupt machine. He lost the popular vote by over a hundred thousand, but by graft and payoffs both in his home state of Indiana and in Grover's happy hunting ground back in New York he pulled out the Electoral College victory.
He is credited as being honest, but inept and without "charm." He hits the presidency on both popular barrels being a Civil War general and a lawyer. In 1862 he rousted up his own army of volunteers and was promptly placed in command as Colonel. By the end of the War he was a Brigadier General. He was a religious fellow. He taught a Bible school for men and was superintendent of a Sunday school. He was considered to be a moderately reasonable Republican, if such a thing is really possible. Tariffs and treasury surpluses were still plaguing the new post Civil War Government. Supporting Tariffs seems to be like being a Communist. At one time or another anyone with a heart, no matter what party, race, color, or creed seemed to be in favor of them. Only the consumer appeared to be universally opposed.
The alleged, corrupted James G. Blaine of New York and the extremely wealthy John Wanamaker of Philadelphia supported Benjamin. Blaine got Secretary of State and Wanamaker became the Postmaster General. Despite Harrison's Campaign promises of Civil Service reform, Wanamaker started firing Democrats. He fired over thirty thousand in the first year. They were all replaced by Republicans.
Harrison reversed Cleveland's Civil War pension ideas. He gave out pension dollars by the millions and passed a law making anyone who had served in the Union Army for ninety days or more, eligible.
Farmers, laborers and immigrants were pretty much ignored while businessmen, railroad tycoons, and industrialist were encouraged. The rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer once again.
A new concept in living was emerging ... the city. The Black Hand of the Mafia appears for the first time. Seven acquitted Mafioso are released and then lynched in New Orleans.
Lynching is rapidly becoming the most popular spectators sport in the South. The Civil War is over, slavery has been abolished, and suddenly nobody is concerned with blacks anymore. Certainly makes one think that the Civil War was a "white thing" doesn’t it?
Benjamin declared war on Chili. What the hell that was all about I have no idea. Queen Liliuokalani started acting up in Hawaii and Stanford Dole calls in the Marines.
The Populist Party appeared and among many other things demanded direct election by the people for Senators, rather than appointment by State Legislatures.
Benjamin capitalized on the "Old Log Cabin" campaign technique of his grandfather William Henry Harrison. It worked.
The Republican Party machine payoffs and train loads of wandering, itinerant fraudulent voters didn't hurt either.
By the time Benjamin left office the Treasury vaults were about empty.
Pensions, payoffs, and money problems over silver and gold continued to cause problems. I don't quite understand it but it seems that there was once a time when silver and gold had something to do with paper currency.
It does make one laugh to see what people in the olden days once concerned themselves with. In any case, by the time Grover Cleveland got back in office, the country is nearly bankrupt. The U.S. Treasury is on empty.
Interestingly enough Republican Herbert Hoover and Republican Ronald Reagan and Republican George Herbert Walker Bush and his son Republican George W. Bush all managed the same economic accomplishment. It does make one curious as to how the Republican Party gained a reputation for fiscal responsibility. My guess is that their personal financial status was in better shape after their “tour of duty” than the treasury of the nation they represented.