The presidential party conventions have just concluded, thereby inaugurating the final two months of the campaigns. Voters who cringe at the cacophony of competing commercials might be curious to know how this all started. The book William Henry Harrison has the answers. This is the latest title in the outstanding American Presidents series, edited by renowned historian Arthur Schlessinger. Harrison was the first president to be elected from the Whig Party (in 1840) and the first to die in office. However, the real story is how the Whig party recrafted this Southern-plantation-born general into a man of the people. Building on the success of populist Democrat Andrew Jackson (“Old Hickory”), the Whigs created the catchy slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” to describe their candidate. They convinced the voters that Harrison was a log cabin president who drank hard cider, and they planned a series of rallies and parades to get the voters involved. The intensity of the campaign proved overly taxing for Harrison, who was also the oldest president that had ever been elected. He contracted pneumonia just weeks after his inauguration and died soon after, causing the presidency to pass to the Vice President John Tyler. Up until then, parties and voters gave little concern to the qualifications of the Vice President to govern, but this episode began to change that. Readers will discover that the more times change, the more things stay the same regarding Presidential politics.
If you enjoy this book, you will also enjoy American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham.