Benjamin Harrison: Facts, Presidency & Accomplishments

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  • 0:01 Roots in the Midwest
  • 0:58 Harrison's Presidency
  • 4:12 Other Facts
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Prokes

Chris is an instructional designer and college faculty member. He has a Master's Degree in Education and also umpires baseball.

Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd President of the United States. Learn about Harrison's term as chief executive and the many accomplishments he left as a legacy for those who followed. Conclude your discovery with a short quiz on some of the key concepts.

Roots in the Midwest

Benjamin Harrison was born on August 20, 1833, just north of Cincinnati, Ohio. His family had a political legacy dating back to the 1770s. He attended college in Ohio and studied law, entering the profession after graduation and moving to Indiana. Holding a number of local government positions, such as court reporter and county clerk, he enlisted in the Civil War and raised his own regiment to serve his country.

Though successful at the local level, Harrison was defeated in his first large-scale election, in which he ran for governor of Indiana. He would be elected to the US Senate in 1880, and in 1888 he declared his intention to run for president as a Republican. He used a front porch approach to campaigning to win the White House. This meant he remained in Indiana and made campaign speeches to those who came to see him, versus travelling the country to campaign. Totally different than today, don't you think?

Harrison's Presidency

When Harrison entered the White House, he was faced with many domestic and foreign policy issues that would define his presidency. Lasting from 1889-1893, Harrison's term saw moderate success and left an enduring legacy that would benefit future leaders more than it benefited him.

Though fought more than 20 years prior, the Civil War and its outcome plunged the nation into a long period of economic rebuilding. Harrison felt that international help was the best way to fully restart the American economy, given the Industrial Revolution that was improving the production of goods and services and making businesses a lot of money across the globe. And don't forget, money is a huge motivator!

Harrison pushed international cooperation to help the US recover and focused on two areas. First, pirates and other bandits threatened shipping routes, so Harrison built up the U.S. Navy into a fleet of mighty battleships for protection and to send a message. Second, he supported the 1890 McKinley Tariff Act, a law that heavily taxed imports from other countries and made the U.S. a significant amount of money.

Harrison used these two successes to create positive relationships with other nations in the Western Hemisphere, especially those in Latin America. This strong cooperation would enable future presidents to better protect American interests.

There were also domestic issues during Harrison's term. For example, immigration of foreigners to the U.S. was beginning to increase significantly. In fact, it would be this way for the next forty years, and many of us come from families that emigrated during that time.

But there was no consistent policy as to who was allowed in, where they entered the U.S., and what was done after they arrived. Harrison created standards for immigration that led to a consistent approach for entry into the U.S., one that would be continued under future presidents.

Place and location of arrival was one such standard. In 1892, Harrison opened Ellis Island as the main point of entry for those coming to the U.S. The reception center would see millions of immigrants pass through its gates and leave a lasting legacy of the American experience long past Harrison's term.

Two additional accomplishments would mark the legacy of Harrison domestically. The first involves National Parks that we know and enjoy today. Harrison pioneered the creation of such places as Casa Grande in Arizona, Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks in California, and Sitka National Historical Park in Alaska. Though Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President, is known for his work with protected lands and parks, his success can be traced to Harrison's efforts.

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