Benjamin Harrison: The 23rd Retrospective
“Whatcha got ain’t nothin new. This country’s hard on people, you can’t stop what’s coming, it ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity.” – Ellis, No Country for Old Men (2007)
Benjamin Harrison was the centennial president elected exactly 100 years after George Washington. While a very good speechmaker, he was not impressive to the public whom considered him a downturn from Washington in a short 100 years.
Harrison’s grandfather, William Henry Harrison, signed the declaration of independence and was president. They are still the only grandfather and grandson to serve as President. He was also the first president to install electricity in the White House, but he and the first lady were too scared too ever use it.
Does He Care?
He lost support of those within the party largely because of his indifferent demeanor. Particularly, he alienated Republican party political bosses whom felt they helped him get to the White House. While Benjamin Harrison did help out his fellow veterans, he nearly bankrupted the treasury in the process.
Dependent and Disability Pension Act
President Harrison presided over the first billion dollar Congress, and passed the first comprehensive pension legislation for Civil War veterans with the Dependent and Disability Pension Act becoming law on June 27 1890. This turned into a boondoggle as 14 year old girls were marrying 70 year old men with knowledge they would soon get their pensions.
At the insistence of party leaders, Harrison signed the McKinley Tariff, the highest, most protective import tax in history, named after the Congressman and future President, which became law on October 1, 1890. As a result, foreign manufacturers ceased to export products to America, and several American corporations gained monopolies on the manufacture of many essential goods. The lack of foreign competition caused consumer prices to skyrocket, and Harrison’s popularity with the common man plummeted.
Republicans had been saying the protective tariff had been primarily aimed at helping workers. Specifically, it would protect American workers from the products coming abroad from cheap labor. The increase in prices for goods outweighed those concerns. That’s what generally happens.
Harrison was considered by his contemporaries a decent and honest President who tried to do right, but whose policies were a failure. One of his harshest critics was Grover Cleveland.
You want to protect the middle class by proposing a tariff or taxes on foreign goods? This is generally what happens and has happened throughout history. Protectionism was a loser in the late 19th century and it’s still a loser now. You also had a President swept into power by monied interests who ultimately catered to their interests legislatively while still upsetting them politically. We also have the oligarchy in action with the grandfather and grandson both ascending to office. We also have support for veterans counterbalanced against responsible spending.
Grover Cleveland preceded him
Grover Cleveland would follow him.
The bitching started right at the very beginning with Washington.