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William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison

Little is known about his religious convictions. He was born into the Episcopal heritage of his Virginia family; but, if baptized, apparently was never confirmed. Religion is scarcely mentioned in the records of his life. (Fuller and Green, p.73)

When politicians once called at his North Bend farm, near Cincinnati, on business on a Sunday, Harrison refused to talk with them, saying, "I have too much respect, for the religion of my wife to encourage the violation of the Sabbath." It could be the remark of a man with a sense of humor, though there is little other indication that he had one. It may simply reflect a man who kept his religion in his wife's name. (Fuller and Green, pp. 73“74)

In Pittsburgh, when he was President-elect, newspapers reported that he was seen in his hotel room reading the Bible, he said it had been his practice for twenty years; "At first... a matter of duty... it has now become a pleasure." (Fuller and Green, p.74)

There had been a curious premonitory note. On January 26, in Cincinnati, about to start to Washington, he finished a speech with words that faintly anticipate Lincoln's farewell address in Springfield, Illinois, in 1861:  "Perhaps this may be the last time I may have the pleasure of speaking to you on earth or seeing you. I will bid you farewell. If forever, fare thee well." (Fuller and Green, pp. 75-76)

As he lay dying, Harrison asked that the 103rd Psalm be read to him; a small clue that he knew the Bible, which should be so in his time and background. "Bless the Lord, 0 my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name."

The rest of the scanty record is a curious testimony that was offered at his funeral - in the East Room at the White House. John Quincy Adams described it: ...the Rev. Mr. Hawley, Rector of St. John's Church, read the Episcopal funeral service, with a very brief additional statement of two facts. The first, that the day after General Harrison entered the President's house, he walked out into the city and purchased a Bible and Prayer Book, both of which were on the table, and were exhibited to the assembled auditory by the officiating divine, who said that it had been the daily habit of the late President to commence the day by reading in that Bible. The other fact was, that he had expressed his regret at not having joined in full communion with the Church, and that it was his intention to have done so at the ensuing Easter-day; next Sunday. (Fuller and Green, p.76)

He was a regular Church-goer and always occupied Pew 45 in St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington. (Bonnell, p.7l)

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Religion In The Lives Of The American Presidents

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President William Henry Harrison

Posted By: J.J. Burks

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Updated: 6-4-2016
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