American Culture: William Henry Harrison Mini Biography
William Henry Harrison Sr. (February 9, 1773 – April 4, 1841) was the 9th President of the United States (1841), an American military officer, and the last president born as a British subject. He was 68 years, 23 days old at the time of his inauguration. He died of complications from pneumonia 31 days into his term, serving the shortest tenure in United States presidential history. He was the first president to die in office, and his death sparked a brief constitutional crisis. Its resolution left many unsettled questions following the presidential line of succession in regard to the Constitution until the passage of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1967. He was the grandfather of Benjamin Harrison, who served as the 23rd United States President from 1889 to 1893.
William Henry Harrison, the youngest of Benjamin Harrison V and Elizabeth Bassett Harrison’s seven children, was born on February 9, 1773, at Berkeley Plantation, the Harrison family home in Charles City County, Virginia. Harrison was a member of a prominent political family of entirely English descent, whose ancestors had all been in Virginia since the 1630s. Harrison was also the last U.S. president born as a British subject before American Revolution. Benjamin Harrison V, William’s father, was a Virginia planter who served as a delegate to the Continental Congress (1774–1777) and who signed the Declaration of Independence. The senior Harrison also served in the Virginia legislature as the fifth governor of Virginia (1781–84) in the years during and after the American Revolutionary War. William’s older brother, Carter Bassett Harrison, represented Virginia in the U.S. House (1793–99).
Harrison was tutored at home before he entered Hampden–Sydney College, the Presbyterian school in Virginia in 1787 at age 14. He remained at the school until 1790, receiving a classical education that included Latin, Greek, French, logic, and debate. Harrison’s Episcopalian father removed him from the college, possibly because of a religious revival that was occurring at the school. Harrison briefly attended a boys’ academy in Southampton County, before his father had him transfer to Philadelphia for medical training in 1790. Harrison boarded with Robert Morris and entered the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied medicine under Doctor Benjamin Rush. Harrison later told his biographer that he did not enjoy the subject. In the spring of 1791, shortly after he began his medical studies, Harrison’s father died. When the eighteen-year-old Harrison, who was left in the guardianship of Morris, discovered that his family’s financial situation left him without funds for further schooling, he abandoned medical school in favor of a military career.