NINE

William Henry Harrison
1841

When the Whigs nominated William Henry Harrison ( 1773-1841) for President in 1839, Thomas Hart Benton, Democratic Senator from Missouri, sniffed disdainfully that "availability was the only ability sought by the Whigs." 1 The Baltimore Republican was even more derisive. "Give him a barrel of hard cider and a pension of two thousand a year," sneered the editor, "and, our word for it, he will sit the remainder of his days in a log cabin by the side of a 'sea coal' fire and study moral philosophy." 2 But the Whigs quickly transformed the slur into an asset, jubilantly launching one of the most colorful campaigns in American history: the log-cabin, hardcider campaign of 1840.

Harrison was an unlikely log-cabin candidate. Son of a wealthy Virginia planter, he had gone to college; enlisted in the army and risen to major-general; fought in the Battle of Tippecanoe, against the Indians of the Northwest in 1811, and the Battle of the Thames, during the War of 1812; and served as Congressman and Senator from Ohio after leaving the army. He was living with his family on a beautiful estate in North Bend, Ohio, when he received the nomination. But the Whigs presented him to the voters as the "Farmer of North Bend," born in a log cabin, who had worked his way up from humble beginnings to high distinction in civil and military life by his own efforts and whose tastes and habits were far closer to those of the ordinary citizen than those of his Democratic

-90-

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