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March 3, 2024

This article is going to take a scenic route. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Decorum has changed a lot since I was little. If I had worn a ball cap to a meal table my mother would have removed it and some portion of my scalp as a reminder not to repeat the sartorial faux pas. Today it is nothing to see people wearing pajama bottoms in public. We were in an Ohio Walmart this past week and there was a young lady wearing pajama bottoms and slippers. My mother would have been in an absolute tizzy back in the day at such scandalous attire. Today I would not be surprised if she shops like that. Times have changed.

It was very cold for our Ohio trip. An unexpected storm caught people dressed inappropriately for the weather, including shorts, sockless Crocs, pajama bottoms, and slippers. In public. In Walmart. It got me thinking about William Henry Harrison. Actually, I had already been thinking about William Henry before the Ohio trip when the weather was still rather nice because of recent news stories. The weather just added irony.

William Henry Harrison was born in Virginia in February of 1773. He had a pretty gloried career. He was part of the Continental Congress. He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was governor in more than one territory and a very successful military leader in a number of engagements with the British and Indians. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Ohio Senate, and the U.S. Senate. He failed in an attempt to the presidency, losing to candidate Martin Van Buren who went on to become the eighth U.S. President, but Harrison did well enough to keep his name in mind for the future.

At the pinnacle of his career, William Henry became the ninth president of the United States, defeating Martin Van Buren. Even if you don’t remember William Henry Harrison for any of his achievements, I bet you remember his campaign slogan. “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”. (John Tyler was Harrison’s vice presidential running mate.) The link quoted in this article includes the following about William Henry:

“He was the oldest man, at age 67, ever elected president up to that time, the last president born under British rule, and the first to die in office—after only one month’s service. His grandson Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd president of the United States (1889–93). “

If you are wondering why any of what I just wrote renewed my thinking about William Henry Harrison, it is because of the circumstances of his death:

“Wearing no gloves and no overcoat despite the freezing weather, he rode up Pennsylvania Avenue on a white horse to take the oath of office on March 4, 1841. It was said that he was as pleased with the presidency “as a young woman with a new bonnet.” In the cold drizzle he delivered an inaugural address that lasted almost two hours.”

It is now too late to make a long story short. William Henry developed pneumonia and died a month after taking office. Due to the way things worked out, he really has no list of presidential accomplishments. I had a book when I was very young on all the presidents up to that time and William Henry Harrison’s story is the only one I remember to this day. It was such a tragedy, not because of what I knew about him. That was packaged in a paragraph or two back then in a children’s book. It was the brevity.

And what recent news made me think of William Henry Harrison?

It has been a rough few weeks for Donald Trump. He has been very successful in a string of presidential primaries and he is as loud and brash as ever. However, he is also in deep doo-doo legally and financially. He is facing $0.5 billion in fines/penalties for business practices and inappropriate touching and also public defamation of the person he inappropriately touched. I don’t feel sympathy for him but I’m not writing to pile on. Not even to criticize really. I just want to make an observation that came to mind in the light of a recent story.

I have said several times before, and I will reiterate here, that history is not going to be kind to Donald Trump. That is my opinion but it is widely shared and last week a story was published that certainly seems to corroborate that opinion. Donald Trump has been rated by a diverse group of historians as the worst president in the history of the U.S. Even lower than William Henry Harrison who died 31 days after being elected. Mr. Trump had the bottom slot in the same rating the last time it was done. He just dropped from 44th to 45th. (He ranked first as the most polarizing president.)

The people who assessed the presidents were not a partisan mob.

“Unfortunately for Mr Trump, the Republican scholars did not help his low ranking, as he still came out in 41st place out of 45 among Republicans only. Among Democrat scholars, he placed 45th.

These ratings can change from one survey to the next. Lincoln was on top of this one. Obama’s position raised 9 positions. Andrew Jackson fell twelve positions. Biden came in fourteenth. Spun positively, Mr. Trump has nowhere to go but up.

I know where I live. I know how people vote around here. I am not writing this to sway hearts or minds. Only to share perspectives that might not be shared by preferred news providers. This story was WIDELY dispersed. It was balanced in terms of who made the assessment. For me, it is an early affirmation of what I have said multiple times in this forum. History is not going to be kind to Mr. Trump. History is written by historians/scholars.

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