Harrison Interlude

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William Henry Harrison entered office surrounded by positive expectations. The public had generally tired of Van Buren and was ready for a change. Harrison selected a distinguished cabinet headed by Daniel Webster as secretary of state. Henry Clay was to formulate the legislative policy in Congress.

William Henry Harrison

On inauguration day, Harrison delivered the longest address of any president and did so in bitterly cold and rainy weather. He caught cold and several days later insisted on going vegetable shopping, again in adverse weather conditions. His cold developed into pneumonia; he died on April 4, 1841, after only 31 days in office.

Just one matter of consequence occurred during this brief presidency. Tension between the United States and Britain had developed around the Caroline Affair late in the Van Buren administration. A visiting Canadian had bragged about his role in the event — which had cost an American life — and he was arrested. When Harrison took office, Britain demanded the prisoner's release and an apology. Harrison passed the matter to Webster, who tendered an apology (but also began negotiations that would eventually result in the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842).

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