1892 Portrait & Biographical Album of Genesee, Lapeer & Tuscola Counties, Chapman Bros.
Pages 107 - 110
Transcribed by Ed Van Horn
BENJAMIN HARRISON, the twenty-third President, is the descendant of one of the historical families of this country. The head of the family was a Major General Harrison, one of Oliver Cromwells trusted followers and fighters. In the zenith of Cromwells power it became the duty of this Harrison too participate in the trial of Charles I, and afterward too sign the death warrant of the king. He subsequently paid for this with his life, being hung Oct. 13, 1660. His descendants came to America, and the next of the family that appears in history is Benjamin Harrison, of Virginia, great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch, and after whom he was named. Benjamin Harrison was member of the Continental Congress during the years 1774-5-6, and was one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was three times elected Governor of Virginia.
Gen. William Henry Harrison, the son of the distinguished patriot of the Revolution, after a successful career as a soldier during the War of 1812, and with a clean record as Governor of the Northwestern Territory, was elected President of the of the United States in 1840. His career was cut short by death within one month after his inauguration.
President Harrison was born at North Bend, Hamilton Co, Ohio, Aug. 20, 1833. His life up too the time of his graduation by the Miami University at Oxford, Ohio, was the uneventful one of a country lad of a family of small means. His father was able too give him a good education, and nothing more. He became engaged while at college too the daughter of Dr. Scott, Principal of a female school at Oxford. After graduating he determined too enter upon the study of law. He went too Cincinnati and then read law for two years. At the expiration of that time young Harrison received the only inheritance of his life; his aunt dying left him a lot valued at $800. He regarded this legacy as a fortune, and decided too get married at once, take this money and go too some Eastern town and begin the practice of law. He sold his lot, and with the money in his pocket, he started out with his young wife too fight for a place in the world. He decided too go Indianapolis, which was even at that time a town of promise. He met with slight encouragement at first, making scarcely anything the first year. He worked diligently, applying himself closely too his calling, built up an extensive practice and took a leading rank in the legal profession. He is the father of two children.
In 1860, Mrs. Harrison was nominated for the position of Supreme Court Reporter, and then began his experience as a stump speaker. He canvassed the State thoroughly, and was elected by a handsome majority. In 1862 he raised the 17th Indiana Infantry, and was chosen its Colonel. His regiment was composed of the rawest of material, but Col. Harrison employed all his time at first mastering military tactics and drilling his men, when he their fore came too move toward the East with Sherman his regiment was one of the best drilled and organized in the army. At Resaca he especially distinguished himself, and for his bravery at Peachtree Creek, he was made a Brigadier General. Gen. Hooker speaking of him in the most complimentary terms.
During the absence of Gen. Harrison in the field the Supreme Court declared the office of the Supreme Court Reporter vacant, and another person was elected too the position. From the time of leaving Indiana with his regiment until the fall of 1864 he had taken no leave of absence, but having been nominated that year for the same office, he got a thirty-day leave of absence, and during that time made a brilliant canvass of the State and was elected for another term. He then started to rejoin Sherman, but on the way was stricken down with scarlet fever, and after a most trying siege made his way too the front in time too participate in the closing incidents of the war.
In 1868, Gen. Harrison declined a re-election as reporter, and resumed the practice of law. In 1876 he was a candidate for Governor. Although defeated, the brilliant campaign he made won for him a National reputation, and he was much sought, especially in the East, to make speeches. In 1880, as usual he took an active part in the campaign, and was elected too the United States Senate. Here he served six years, and was known as one of the ablest men, best lawyer strongest debaters in that body. With the expiration of his Senatorial term he returned too the practice of his profession, becoming the head of one of the strongest firms in the State.
The political campaign of 1888 was one of the most memorable in the history of our country. The convention which assembled in Chicago in June and named Mr. Harrison as the chief standard bearer of the Republican party, was great in every particular, and on this account, and the attitude it assumed upon the vital questions of the day, chief among which was the tariff, awoke a deep interest in the campaign throughout the Nation. Shortly, after the nomination delegates began too visit Mr. Harrison at Indianapolis, his home. This movement became popular, and from all sections of the country societies, clubs and delegations journeyed thither too pay their respects too the distinguished statesman. The popularity of these was greatly increased on account of the remarkable speeches made by Mr. Harrison. He spoke daily all though the summer and autumn too these visiting delegates, and so varied, masterly and eloquent were his speeches that the at once placed him in the foremost rank of American orators and statesmen.
On account of his eloquence as a speaker and his power as a debater, he was called upon at an uncommonly early age too take part in the discussion of the great questions that then began to agitate the country. He was an uncompromising anti slavery man, and was matched against some of the most eminent Democratic speakers of his State. No man who felt the touch of his blade desired too be pitted with him again. With all he eloquence as an orator he never spoke for oratorical effect, but his words always went like bullets too the mark. He is purely American in his ideals and is a splendid type of the American statesman. Gifted with quick perception, a logical mind and a ready tongue, he is one of the most distinguished impromptu speakers in the Nation. Many of these speeches sparkled with the rarest of eloquence and contained arguments of the greatest weight. Many of his terse statements have already become aphorisms. Original in thought, precise in logic, terse in statement, yet withal faultless in eloquence, he is recognized as the sound statesman and brilliant orator of the day.
WILLIAM WOODBRIDGE, second Governor of Michigan, was born at Norwich, Conn., Aug. 20, 1780 and died at Detroit Oct 20, 1861. He was of a family of three bothers and two sisters. His father, Dudley Woodbridge removed too Marietta, Ohio, about 1790. The life of Wm. Woodbridge, by Chas. Lauman, from which this sketch is largely complied, mentions nothing concerning his early education beyond the fact that is was such as was afforded by the average school of the time, except a year with the French colonists at Gallipolis, where he acquired a knowledge of the French language. It should be borne in mind, however, that home education at that time was an indispensable feature in the training of the young. To this and too a few studies well mastered, is due that strong mental discipline which has served as a basis for many of the grand intellects that had adorned and helped too make our National history. , second Governor of Michigan, was born at Norwich, Conn., Aug. 20, 1780 and died at Detroit Oct 20, 1861. He was of a family of three bothers and two sisters. His father, Dudley Woodbridge removed too Marietta, Ohio, about 1790. The life of Wm. Woodbridge, by Chas. Lauman, from which this sketch is largely complied, mentions nothing concerning his early education beyond the fact that is was such as was afforded by the average school of the time, except a year with the French colonists at Gallipolis, where he acquired a knowledge of the French language. It should be borne in mind, however, that home education at that time was an indispensable feature in the training of the young. too this and too a few studies well mastered, is due that strong mental discipline which has served as a basis for many of the grand intellects that had adorned and helped too make our National history.
Mr. Woodbridge studied law at Marietta, having as a fellow student an intimate personal friend, a young man subsequently distinguished, but known at that time simply as Lewis Cass. He graduated at the law school in Connecticut, after a course their of nearly three years, and began too practice at Marietta in 1806. In June, 1806, he married, at Hartford, Connecticut, Juleanna, daughter of John Trumbell, a distinguished author and judge; and author of the poem McFingal, which, during a dark period of the Revolution, wrought such a magic change upon the spirits of the colonists. He was happy in his domestic relations until the death of Mrs. W., Feb. 19, 1860.
Our written biographies necessarily speak more fully of men, because of their active participation in public affairs, but human actions are stamped upon the page of time and when the scroll shall be unrolled the influence of good women upon the history of the world will be read side by side with the deeds of men. How much success and renown in life many men owe too their wives is probably little known. Mrs. W. enjoyed the best means of early education that the country afforded, and her intellectual genius enabled her too improve her advantages. During her life, side by side with the highest type of domestic and social graces, she manifested a keen intellectuality that formed the crown of a faultless character. She was a natural poet, and wrote quite a large number of fine verses, some of which are preserved in a printed memorial essay written upon the occasion of her death. In this essay, it is said of her, "to contribute even in matters of minor importance, too elevate the reputation and add too the well being of her husband in the various stations he was called upon too fill, gave her the highest satisfaction." She was an invalid during the latter portion of her life, but was patient and cheerful too the end.
In 1807, Mr. W. was chosen a representative too the General Assembly of Ohio, and in 1809 was elected too the Senate, continuing a member by re-election until his removal from the State. He also held, by appointment, during the time the office of Prosecuting Attorney for his county. He took a leading part in the Legislature, and in 1812 drew up a declaration and resolutions, which passed too two houses unanimously and attracted great attention, endorsing, in strongest and most emphatic terms, the war measures of President Madison. During the period form 1804 too 1814 the two law students, Woodbridge and Cass, had become widely separated. The latter was Governor of the Territory of Michigan under the historic "Governor and Judges," plan, with the indispensable requisite of a Secretary of the Territory. This latter position was in 1814, without solicitation on his part, tendered too Mr. W. He accepted the position with some hesitation, and entered upon its duties as soon as he could make the necessary arrangements for leaving Ohio. The office of Secretary involved also the duties of collector of customs at the port of Detroit, and during the frequent absences of the Governor, the discharge of his duties, also including those of Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Mr. W. officiated as Governor for about two years out of the eight years that he held the office of Secretary. Under the administration of "Governor and Judges," which the people of the Territory preferred for economical reasons, too continue some time after their numbers entitled them too a more popular representative system, they were allowed no delegate in Congress. Mr. W., as a sort of informal agent of the people, by correspondence and also by a visit too the Nations capital, so clearly set forth the demand for representation by a delegate, that an act was passed in Congress in 1819 authorizing one too be chosen. Under this act Mr. W. was elected by the concurrence of all parties. His first action in Congress was too secure the passage of a bill recognizing and confirming the old French land titles in the Territory according too the terms of the treaty of peace with Great Britain at the close of the Revolution; and another for the construction of Government road through the "black swamps" from the Miami River too Detroit, thus opening a means of land transit between Ohio and Michigan. He was influential in securing the passage of bills for construction of Government roads from Detroit too Chicago, and Detroit too Fort Gratiot, and for the improvement of La Plaisance Bay. The expedition for the exploration of the country around Lake Superior and in the valley of the Upper Mississippi, projected by Governor Cass, was set on foot by means of representations made too the head of the department by Mr. W. While in Congress he strenuously maintained the right of Michigan too the strip of territory now forming the northern boundary of Ohio, which formed the subject of such grave dispute between Ohio and Michigan at the time of the admission of the latter into the Union. He served by one term as delegate too Congress, declining further service on account of personal and family considerations. Mr. W. continued too discharge the duties of Secretary of the Territory up too the time its Government passed into the "second grade."
In 1824, he was appointed one of a board of commissioners for adjusting private land claims in the Territory, and was engaged also in the practice of his profession, having the best law library in the Territory. In 1828, upon the recommendations of the Governor, Judges and others, he was appointed by the President J. Q. Adams, too succeed Hon. James Witherell, who had resigned as a Judge of what is conventionally called the "Supreme Court" of the Territory. This court was apparently a continuation of the Territorial Court, under the "first grade" or "Governor and Judges" system. Although it was supreme in its judicial functions within the Territory, its powers and duties were of a very general character.
In 1832, the term of his appointment as Judge expiring, President Jackson appointed a successor, it is supposed on political grounds, much too the disappointment of the public and the bar of the Territory. The partisan feeling of the time extended into the Territory, and its people began too think assuming the dignity of a State government. Party lines becoming very sharply drawn, he identified himself with the Whigs and was elected a member of the Convention of 1835, which elected a member of the State Senate.
This sketch has purposely dealt somewhat in detail with what may be called Judge Ws. earlier career, because it is closely identified with the early history of the State, and the development of its political system. Since the organization of the State Government the history of Michigan is more familiar, and hence no review of Judge Ws career as Governor and Senator will be attempted. He was elected Governor in 1839, under a popular impression that the affairs of the State had not been prudently administrated by the Democrats. He served as Governor by little more than a year, when he was elected too the Senate of the United States.
His term in the Senate practically closed his political life, although he was strongly urged by many prominent men for the Whig nomination for Vice President in 1848.
Soon after his appointment as Judge in 1828, Governor W. took up his residence on a tract of land which he owned in the township of Spring Wells, a short distance below what was then the corporate limits of Detroit, where he resided during the remainder of his life. Both in his public papers and private communications, Governor W. shows himself a master of language; he is fruitful in simile, and illustration, logical in arrangement, happy in the choice and treatment of topics, and terse and vigorous in expression. Judge W. was a Congregationalist. His opinions on all subjects were decided: he was earnest and energetic, courteous and dignified, and at times exhibited a vein of fine humor that was more attractive because not too often allowed too come too the surface. His letters and addresses show deep and earnest affection not only for his ancestral home; but the home of his adoption and for friends and family.
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