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JLeslie's avatar

Can you help me understand the political time when Pres. Harrison was elected in 1840?

Asked by JLeslie (59518points) October 5th, 2018 from iPhone

KNOWITALL wrote me this quote in an answer to me on a Q:

William Henry Harrison, the ninth President of the U.S. (1841), said in an October 1, 1840 speech, It is true democratic feeling, that all the measures of the government are directed to the purpose of making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

When I read this I wondered what the intention of the quote was at the time it was said by Harrison. History and government have always been difficult subjects for me, and this continues today. I thought maybe he was referring to the Democratic Party at the time, or politicians who were Democrats, but other people have interpreted it differently.

I have googled and read ten articles regarding the Whigs and the Democrats and Harrison, and I’m still not clear on where he stood and how the politics of today might compare to back then.

Can you put it into simple language for me?

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5 Answers

SavoirFaire's avatar

I cannot find any credible source for this quote. The closest I could find was this excerpt from Harrison’s inaugural address (4 March 1841):

“If there is one measure better calculated than another to produce that state of things so much deprecated by all true republicans, by which the rich are daily adding to their hoards and the poor sinking deeper into penury, it is an exclusive metallic currency. Or if there is a process by which the character of the country for generosity and nobleness of feeling may be destroyed by the great increase and neck toleration of usury, it is an exclusive metallic currency.”

In other words, it was just a claim about the merits of paper currency (the proliferation of which was one of Harrison’s main political goals). As unimportant as the question might seem to us now, the debate over commodity currency versus fiat currency was one of the main reasons for the fracturing of the Democratic-Republican party (of which Harrison was a member for most of his life) and a key campaign issue for the Whigs in their bid to unseat Van Buren.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Remember the only voters were the landed gentry and business owners.

No women or people of color. The well to do were the only voters. They could vote to increase their wealth. Any similarity to today ?

LadyMarissa's avatar

According to Wiki.Harrison&John_Tyler(1841%E2%80%931845)

“The Panic of 1837 led to Van Buren and the Democrats’ drop in popularity. The Whigs nominated William Henry Harrison as their candidate for the 1840 presidential race. Harrison won, as the first president of the Whigs. A month later he died in office and was succeeded by his vice president John Tyler. Tyler had recently left the Democrats for the Whigs, and because of this, his beliefs did not align much with the Whig party. During his presidency, he vetoed many of his own party’s bills, leading to his own party disowning him. This allowed for the Democrats to retake power in 1845.”

zenvelo's avatar

The Whigs were a response to Andrew Jackson and his Democrat policies, which included Jackson’s attack on the Second Bank of the United States (BUS). Jackson destroyed the BUS, which meant banking devolved to state banks.

The Whigs were opposed to what they felt were overreaching Presidential actions, with teh belief that power should be held by Congress, not the Executive.

What it all came down to, as in most major issues in US politics, was who was going to get the money.

janbb's avatar

@JLeslie You do realize that in the quote as stated the small “d” democratic does not necessarily relate to any political party.

Perhaps @Knowitall can give us the source for the actual quote.

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