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Benjamin Harrison

By Charles W. Calhoun

Published by Times Books

hardcover
Publication date: 5/20/2005
ISBN: 0805069526

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Politics was in Benjamin Harrison's blood. His great-grandfather was a signer of the Declaration and his grandfather, William Henry Harrison, was the ninth president of the United States. Harrison, a leading Indiana lawyer, became a Republican Party champion, even taking a leave from his Civil War service to campaign for Lincoln. After a scandal-free term in the Senate -- no small feat in the Gilded Age -- the Republicans chose Harrison as their presidential candidate in 1888. Despite losing the popular vote, he trounced the incumbent, Grover Cleveland, in the electoral college.

In contrast to standard histories, which dismiss Harrison's presidency as corrupt and inactive, Charles W. Calhoun sweeps away the stereotypes of the age to reveal the accomplishments of our 23rd president. With Congress under Republican control, he exemplified the activist president, working feverishly to put the party's planks into law, including the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and approving the first billion-dollar peacetime budget. Six new states joined the Union during his term, and the United States began to hold dominance in the Americas. But the Democrats won Congress in 1890, and his race for reelection proceeded quietly since the First Lady was ill. (She died two weeks before the election.) In the end, Harrison's record could not beat Cleveland in their unprecedented rematch.

With dazzling attention to the president's life and the social tapestry of his times, Calhoun compellingly reconsiders Harrison's legacy.

 

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