I Heart Indies

Sunday, February 12, 2012

February 12 Presidential Losers: William Henry Harrison and Hugh Lawson White

William Henry Harrison and Hugh Lawson White, 1836

William Henry Harrison

Hugh Lawson White

In 1836, Andrew Jackson, deciding not to seek a third term, gave his support to Martin van Buren.  Republicans, disaffected Democrats, rag-ends of the Federalist Party, and a few hold-outs from the Anti-Masonic Party formed a coalition party, the Whigs.  The problem with the Whig coalition is it never really coalesced, and they wound up with not one, but two presidential candidates: William Henry Harrison and Hugh Lawson White.  If it had been tag-team wrestling, the Whigs would have whipped some serious booty; unfortunately, it was a presidential race, so they only wound up splitting what support they had.  Hugh Lawson White was a former judge and career politician known for his firm and steadfast principles.  (BOR-ing!)  But Harrison was a man of action and daring-do, a man’s man, no matter how sissy he might look in the picture, an old Indian fighter (the new Indians were too tough) who had won himself the nickname of Tippecanoe after a decisive battle of the same name.  He’d gone to fight the fierce Indian warrior Tecumseh, and when he couldn’t locate him, he fought Tecumseh’s medicine man.  Whipped him, too.  Then he went and burned a deserted Indian village.  For this, the American people loved him.  Just not as much as Martin van Buren. 1


Martin Van Buren: 170
William Henry Harrison: 73
Hugh Lawson White: 26

1. Harrison got his chance in the next go-round, when he beat van Buren.  Determined to show he was as vigorous and manly as he'd been in his Indian-fighter days, he read his inaugural address in the rain, refusing to wear a hat or hold an umbrella.  The speech had been edited by Harrison's pal Daniel Webster, but it hadn't been edited near enough: it was four hours long.  Harrison set two records: longest inaugural address and shortest time in office.  Sometimes it turns out that whatever doesn't kill you makes you weaker and then you die later from complications.  Thus it was for Harrison, who died within a month of taking office.

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