[00:05.75]VOA Learning English presents America’s Presidents.
[00:12.18]Today we are talking about Benjamin Harrison.
[00:16.27]His family name may sound familiar. That is because he was the grandson of President William Henry Harrison.
[00:26.85]That situation is unique in U.S. history so far.
[00:32.04]Harrison played an unusually active role as president at a time when most chief executives saw themselves as simply administrators.
[00:44.83]As a result, American writer and intellectual Henry Adams said Harrison was the best president since Lincoln.
[00:55.26]But most Americans remember little about him, except his connection to the previous President Harrison, who himself died after only a month in office.
[01:16.01]Benjamin Harrison grew up on a farm in the Midwestern state of Ohio as one of eight children.
[01:25.11]His grandfather was not the only famous political Harrison.
[01:30.22]His great-grandfather signed the Declaration of Independence.
[01:34.99]And his father had been a congressman.
[01:38.93]Young Benjamin Harrison respected these men and believed he had a role to play in history, too.
[01:47.44]He received a good education, and even outside of school he read many books.
[01:54.05]His hard work and intelligence carried him to Miami University in Ohio, and then to a career as a lawyer.
[02:04.09]Along the way, he married a woman he had known since he was a teenager, Caroline Lavinia Scott.
[02:13.19]The couple settled in another Midwestern city, Indianapolis, Indiana, and had a son and daughter.
[02:20.44]Over time, Harrison steadily built a career as a public official.
[02:26.98]But his political path was interrupted by the American Civil War.
[02:33.50]Harrison rose to the rank of general in the Union Army.
[02:38.77]He fought under General William T. Sherman, and was one of the first soldiers to enter Atlanta, Georgia after the city surrendered.
[03:01.41]After the war, he returned home to Indiana and continued his legal and political career.
[03:09.60]In 1881, he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
[03:14.65]But six years later he lost his seat when Democrats came to power in his state.
[03:21.28]Harrison’s loss of his Senate seat soon turned to a victory.
[03:27.54]The Republican Party nominated him as their candidate to run against Grover Cleveland in the 1888 presidential election.
[03:39.11]Cleveland’s economic policies had become unpopular, and Republicans worked hard to support their candidate.
[03:48.74]They succeeded. Although Cleveland won the popular vote, Harrison won the Electoral College.
[03:56.72]In 1889, he followed his grandfather’s footsteps all the way to the White House.
[04:26.77]Harrison’s election was a major victory for his Republican Party.
[04:34.87]In addition to winning the White House, Republicans gained seats in the House of Representatives, held a majority in the Senate, and appointed several Republican justices to the Supreme Court.
[04:49.39]Harrison and other Republican lawmakers used their power to take action on issues at home and internationally.
[04:59.25]One act was to preserve forests. Harrison identified 17 protected natural areas, and helped create Yosemite National Park in California.
[05:13.22]His government also established Ellis Island in New York to make immigration to the U.S. a more orderly process.
[05:23.76]Internationally, Harrison’s administration sought to build ties with Latin American countries.
[05:31.37]His government established what would, in time, become the Organization of American States.
[05:39.84]His administration also increased the United States’ global trade – as well as the country’s navy.
[05:47.87]But, for the most part, the most pressing issues of the day were economic.
[05:54.63]The federal government at that time had an unusually large surplus.
[06:00.99]Some argued that the surplus was hurting business.
[06:04.89]In answer, Harrison’s government placed a high protective tariff on imported goods.
[06:12.86]The legislation was known as the McKinley Tariff of 1890.
[06:18.27]Officials also aimed to limit the power of large corporations to control important markets in the U.S.
[06:26.98]Finally, they agreed to require the government to buy silver to use as currency.
[06:34.55]These actions pleased some of his supporters.
[06:38.66]But, they may have contributed to the severe economic depression that followed Harrison’s term.
[06:46.37]And in general, voters disapproved of the amount of money Republican lawmakers were spending.
[06:55.37]Although the country was at peace, the 51st Congress appropriated $1 billion.
[07:02.62]At the midterm elections, many lawmakers paid for all the spending with their seats.
[07:10.38]Two years later, voters turned Harrison out of the White House, too.
[07:15.46]They returned Grover Cleveland to the presidency.
[07:19.91]Harrison did not express much disappointment.
[07:24.95]He had worked hard to become president like his grandfather.
[07:29.69]But he found he did not like being the chief executive.
[07:35.23]He said when he left the White House, it was like being released from prison.
[07:58.47]Among U.S. presidents, Harrison does not have one of the most dramatic biographies.
[08:06.20]The facts of his life show an intelligent, disciplined man who tried to live by his beliefs.
[08:14.45]But he was not considered passionate about many things, except perhaps his enjoyment of nature.
[08:21.89]And he did not have an easy way with people.
[08:26.09]Even his staff called him “the human iceberg” because he could be aloof and act coldly toward people.
[08:36.26]Yet Harrison’s family brought some warmth to his administration.
[08:41.05]His wife, Caroline, was known to be a lively, social person.
[08:47.18]She was the first to install a Christmas tree in the White House.
[08:52.57]Some of Harrison’s grandchildren also lived in the White House.
[08:57.93]Harrison permitted them to play on the grounds with their pet animals.
[09:01.94]During Harrison’s term, the family kept a goat, which the children called “Old Whiskers.”
[09:10.26]Harrison’s time in the White House saw sorrow, too.
[09:14.88]Toward the end of her husband’s term, the first lady became seriously ill with tuberculosis.
[09:22.57]For months, Benjamin Harrison divided his attention between his wife and his job, and yet in the end lost both.
[09:33.70]After his term as president ended, Benjamin Harrison returned to his home in Indianapolis.
[09:40.69]He did some work as a teacher and lawyer, and kept a good public image in his community.
[09:46.46]He also re-married.
[09:49.84]His second wife was a widow herself, as well as his first wife’s niece.
[09:57.67]He and Mary Scott Lord Dimmick Harrison had a daughter together.
[10:03.51]The child was only four when Harrison died from pneumonia at age 67.
[10:16.89]I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.