TWENTY-THREE

Benjamin Harrison
1889-93

One day in the fall of 1856, when Benjamin Harrison ( 1833-1901) was hard at work in his law office, some Republican friends dropped by and asked him to speak at a political gathering in the street outside. Harrison refused. He needed time, he said, to prepare a speech. But his friends persisted; and when he continued to say no, they simply picked him up, carried him downstairs, and deposited him on a box in front of the crowd. Then one of them introduced him grandiloquently as the grandson of President William Henry Harrison. Quick as a flash, young Ben cried out: "I want it understood that I am the grandson of nobody. I believe that every man should stand on his own merits." 1 Years later, when he was running for President, he was still exasperated by references to his grandfather; but to no avail. During the 1888 campaign Democratic cartoonists pictured him as a little fellow standing in the shadow of his grandfather's gigantic beaver hat, while the Republicans campaigned for him with the song "Grandfather's Hat Fits Ben!" 2

Harrison was a Senator from Indiana when he received the Republican nomination for President in 1888. The Des-Moines Register praised him as "calm, cool, deliberate, polished, candid, dignified and strong," but most people found him something of a cold fish. 3 His handshake, it was said, was "like a wilted petunia." 4 One of Harrison's friends, before introducing some people to him, warned them beforehand: "Don't think he means to insult you; it is his

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