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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Light on an obscure President, March 19, 2011
This review is from: Mr. Jefferson's Hammer: William Henry Harrison and the Origins of American Indian Policy (Paperback)
When most people think of William Henry Harrison....Wait a minute, I forget that normal people almost never think of William Henry Harrison or even his grandson Benjamin Harrison. Perhaps they do think of Harrison Ford. I will start over.
When American history teachers think of William Henry Harrison, assuming they did not do graduate work on his career, they only have a line or two in their minds. First, they will remember that Harrison served the shortest term in elected Presidential history--one month. (In recent decades, Vice Presidents have been sworn in during times when the President was undergoing surgery or was in some way incapacitated.) Concerning Harrison's one month term, more knowledgeable students will recall that he gave the longest inaugural address ever (which led, in part, to his subsequent illness) and that great controversy followed his successor's taking office, referring here to John Tyler, sometimes referred to as 'His Accidency.'
The second point usually remembered about Harrison is the catchy, and at its time, convincing campaign slogan: Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too. In a ruthless and invenctive campaign, filled with lots of sound and fury and little thought and wisdom, the association of the military victory of Harrison over the Indian tribes at the battle of Tippecanoe served to convince voters to elect him over the incumbent, Martin Van Buren.
Robert M. Owens is an Associate Professor of History at Wichata State University in Kansas. This book, Mr. Jefferson's Hammer, grew out of his dissertation. The book is published by the University of Oklahoma Press. The OUP publishes many fine works on the history of the American west, Native Americans, and the 19th century. This might well be expected from a university press located in Oklahoma. Along with those areas of specialization, they also publish some outstanding studies of military history (the Campaigns and Commanders series) and ancient and classical studies. Like many fine university publications, the subtitles explain the book: William Henry Harrison and the Origins of American Indian Policy.
This is an important study because Harrison's Presidency was an abrupt coda on the end of an influential career. He appears in history at a time overlapping the eras dominated by Jefferson and Jackson and preceding the breaking up of the Union in the 1850s. He was a Presidential candidate twice, but his greater role was on the mid-western frontier where he was not just an Indian fighter, but an administrator, territorial governor, and policy maker. As the title says, he was President Jefferson's policy hammer.
Owens says, "Henry Clay was a far greater statesman, Andrew Jackson a far greater warrior, and Thomas Jefferson a far greater scholar. But Harrison was on the ground in question, and his decisions, foolish and wise, had immediate impact. He exercised tremendous authority over a vast area and was empowered to negotiate with numerous Native American peoples. He held extraordinary military and civil power for much of his tenure as Indiana's governor."
He further notes, "To this day we live with the echoes of Harrison's proclamations, the boundaries of his treaties, and the ramifications of his actions."
Far from being just a blip on the screen of Presidential history and trivia, Harrison had an illustrious, although maybe not admirable, career. This book promises to be a good study.
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Ben House
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Location: Texarkana, AR USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 51,757