The Prolific Penniless President with Pneumonia

19 Mar

(It’s the weekend!  All posting should be laced with sarcasm and extremely fun to write.)

Question I was asked:
If you could change the result of one election in history, which would it be and why?

This is such an easy question to answer.  I’m also embarrassed to be typing this up.  Isn’t it obvious to everyone?  William Henry Harrison.  President for all of 32 days.

It’s not because I disagree with his politics.  (I might.  But that’s really not the subject of this essay.)  Or because I personally had to sit through his inaugural address (the longest in US history – nearly two hours).  Because I didn’t.

I’m a little perturbed by the websites touting his beliefs, his political stances and the various arguments he had with the leader of the other political party.  The accounts always say “the dispute continued until the president’s death” or “his policies never wavered” which is entirely true but a little misleading.  Anyone can hold a grudge or make a firm decision last a month.

And his death caused three presidents to serve in a single calendar year.  Granted, this happened again with Hayes/Garfield/Arthur.  But can we blame Garfield for being assassinated?  No.  Can we blame William Henry Harrison for delivering an inaugural address on a cold and wet day without his overcoat and hat and catching pneumonia as a result?  Yes, I think we can.

Americans differ on so many issues but one thing we all agree on is the importance of our money.  Can you imagine the cost of having a president for 32 days?  Three different presidents in a year?  All of the official White House stationary no doubt had to be changed.  Three times.  New cabinets elected, new White House furnishings purchased, campaign money gone to waste on a month-long presidency.  And since William Henry Harrison was nearly penniless when he died, his wife was awarded a small stipend and free stamps for life.  I admit that free stamps sounds like a great perk.  But who paid for those stamps?  The taxpayer.  In fact, if his wife was anywhere near as prolific a writer as he was, we may still be paying for her stamps to this day.


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