Benjamin Harrison: 6 Major Achievements
From 1889 to 1893, Benjamin Harrison served as our nation’s 23rd president and commander-in-chief. It was not the first time a Harrison held the White House Office. About half a century prior to Benjamin Harrison’s election, his grandfather, William Henry Harrison, was elected as the ninth president of the United States.
Born in North Bend, Ohio (on August 20, 1833), Benjamin Harrison pursued a career in law and became a renowned attorney in Indianapolis. He also fought for the Union during the American Civil War, attaining the rank of brevet brigadier general in 1865. What other feats did Benjamin Harrison attain?
Below are 6 major achievements of Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States:
U.S. Court of Claims Commissioner
After understudying Judge Bellamy Storer of Cincinnati, Benjamin was able to gain admission into Ohio’s Bar in 1854. Two years prior to that, he had spent two years at the Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. After passing the bar, Harrison proceeded to practicing law in John H. Ray’s firm.
The young attorney also worked as a commissioner in the U.S. Court of Claims office. A former member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, Harrison is also credited with establishing the Phi Delta Theta Alumni Club in Indianapolis.
Indiana City Attorney
Upon the demise of the Whig Party in the 1850s, Harrison, like many other Whigs, joined the fledgling Republican Party. Harrison even supported John C. Frémont’s presidential bid. A year later, in 1857, the city of Indianapolis elected Harrison to the office of the Indiana City Attorney. The office proved very rewarding, both financially and career wise, for the budding politician and attorney.
As the Indiana City’s attorney, Harrison continued rising through the ranks of the Republican Party. At one point in time, he was the party’s secretary in Indiana.
Fought for the Union during the Civil War
After the Fort Sumter attack ushered in the American Civil War, Benjamin Harrison responded immediately to the Union’s call for volunteers. Harrison, 29, played a crucial role in recruiting volunteers to form a regiment in the Union’s army. Starting from the rank of captain and company commander, he was promoted to colonel in August 1862.
Harrison and the 70th Indiana carried out intelligence gathering missions for the Union army. He was also part of the group of soldiers who protected military and civilian installations in states such as Tennessee and Kentucky. The young army commander also served under William T. Sherman during the Atlanta Campaign. His hard work earned him a promotion to the rank of 1st Brigade of the 1st Division. Benjamin Harrison’s division featured heavily in many battles such as Cassville, New Hope Church and Peachtree Creek.
Harrison’s bravery was recognized by President Abraham Lincoln and the US Senate as he was promoted to the rank of brevet brigadier general of volunteers in 1865.
Elected to the U.S. Senate for six years
Harrison defeated Walter Q. Gresham to secure a six-year term (1881 to 1887) in the United States Senate. His first term of office in the Senate saw him serve as the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Transportation Routes to the Seaboard. In his second and third terms, he was the chair of U.S. Senate Committee on Territories.
Also as senator, Harrison was in favor of keep tariffs up in order for money to be available for internal improvements. The Democrats wanted tariffs to come down as they believed high tariffs were bad for businesses. He also pushed for the federal government’s surplus to be used in pensions for Civil War veterans.
Harrison was so dedicated to the Senate that he turned down President James Garfield’s appointment to serve in government.
23rd President of the United States
At the Republican National Convention in 1888, Harrison was able to secure the party’s ticket for the 1888 presidential election. He emerged victorious on the eight ballot, wining 544 to 108.
Supported by his running mate Levi P. Morton, Benjamin Harrison defeated incumbent president Grover Cleveland. Although he pulled 90,000 fewer popular votes, Harrison won the election by securing 233 Electoral College votes (as against Grover Cleveland’s 168).
Harrison was sworn into office as the 23rd President of the United States on 4th March 1889. The day was symbolic because it marked 100 years since the nation’s first president George Washington was sworn into office. As a result, President Benjamin Harrison was dubbed the Centennial President.
Other noteworthy achievements of Benjamin Harrison
- As senator, education of African Americans was very dear to his heart. He called for more funding for education in African American communities. He believed that education was crucial in bridging the economic and political gap between whites and blacks. Hence his support for so many federal-funded educational programs.
- He was involved in negotiating an amicable deal between labor and management during the Great Railroad Strike of 1877.
- The Land Revision Act of 1891 allowed Harrison to set up the National Forest Reserves. A staggering 13 million acres of land were devoted to this objective.
- His term of office saw the admission of six western states to the Union. In November 1889, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington were admitted. Idaho and Wyoming followed suit in July, 1890. No other president in our nation’s history had this number of states admitted during their tenure.
- America’s 23rd president Benjamin Harrison is fondly remembered for modernizing the U.S. Navy. By the time he left office, the Navy could boast of 22 steel warships. His administration increased the number of steel war ships from three to twenty two. Harrison also established the first US Coast Guard Academy land-based campus in Curtis Bay, Maryland.
- He made considerable effort to secure the enforcement of voting rights (the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution) for African Americans.
- President Benjamin Harrison had a very decent foreign policy. He was heavily involved in the organization of the Pan American Conference in 1889.
Compared to greats like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison is generally considered a pedestrian U.S. president at best. His White House tenure was miles from extraordinary. However, history fondly remembers Indiana’s only president for his decisiveness and value-driven leadership style. The former elder of the Presbyterian Church was also a great orator and scholar. He is the only US president to have appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court on five occasions to make an argument.