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    William Henry Harrison campaigns for the presidency

    William Henry Harrison Autograph Letter Signed "W. H. Harrison." Two and three-quarter pages, 7.5" x 12.5", North Bend [Ohio], February 14, 1840. Only nine months before his election as the ninth U.S. president, "Old Tippecanoe" writes this letter to "Moses B. Corwin Esq. of the House of Representatives of Ohio." Two months earlier, the first Whig national convention had nominated William Harrison, the hero of the 1811 battle of Tippecanoe, over Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. Martin Van Buren had defeated Harrison four years earlier and by February 1840, hoped to do the same thing when the votes were cast later in November. During the campaign, the apolitical Harrison exploited his successful military record, which is exemplified in his campaign slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" and also in this letter in which he defends his actions at the Battle of Tippecanoe. He also recommends to Corwin two contemporary histories of the battle (the History of the Late War in the Western Country [1816] by Kentucky politician Robert B. McAfee and another historical work by Kentucky educator Edward Mann Butler) and offers a list of "four distinguished men . . . who were by my side during the whole of the battle & who knew everything that I saw or did from the commencement to the end of the action." In part:

    "Your letter of the 10th was brought to me yesterday from Cincinnati. I had seen an article in the journal that Flood was charged with having written in his place, an assertion that I was not in the sortie of the Thames. I immediately addressed a note to him which I enclosed to General [Joseph] Vance demanding to know whether he had made such an assertion and the ground upon which it was made. In answer to my letter to him, the general expressed an opinion that I gave too much importance to the matter and declined delivering my note to Flood until he would hear from me again. By the late mail, I wrote to him to destroy my note to Flood. Your letter gives a new aspect to the affair and I enclose another note to Flood which I will thank you to deliver . . . for an immediate and explicit reply particularly as to the ground that the accusation was made. I think that it is absolutely necessary to probe this matter to the bottom and it shall be done. If we were passed over when the charge was made and in such a place as the House of Representatives of Ohio it would be referred to everywhere as conclusive evidence of its truth.

    Are you aware that 'McAffees history of the late war', published in Kentucky directly after the war for which you have no doubt known was written by one of [General Washington] Johnston's Captains who was present in the battle? That he has ever been an administration man. Lt. Gov. of Ky & Minister to Columbia appointed by Genl. Jackson? An other history has been written in Kentucky by [Edward] Mann Butler of Louisville when he treats of the battle in the same way with McAffee. But to the particular object of your letter, there are four distinguished men now [illegible] alive who were by my side during the whole of the battle & who knew everything that I saw or did from the commencement to the end of the action. they are 1st Cop. Charles Todd who resides near Shelbyville KY. He was during the campaign acting inspector Genl of the Army. 2nd Genl John O'Fallon of St. Louis he as my first aide de campe then[?] was a captain in the regular army & highly distinguished. 3dly Honbl. John Chambers of Washington Kentucky Many years a Member of Congress & 4th John Speed Smith Many years a Member of the Congress & Speaker of the H of R of Ky."

    In closing, Harrison gives Corwin a list of questions to ask the "four distinguished men" about the battle. Later in November, Harrison won the election of 1840 by a landslide of 170 electoral votes. He took office on March 4, 1841, but died only thirty days later on April 4, 1841, making his term the shortest of any president (he was likely a victim of the common cold). Autograph letters signed by Harrison are rare - only three such letters signed by Harrison as president are known to exist. The rare example offered here, written only months before Harrison's election, contains more content that is worthy of further research.

    Above the address of Corwin on the address panel is written, "Paid / Cleves, Oh / Feb 14 / To Mrs J. R. Cunningham / Washington City." A small oval image of Harrison is affixed to the top right corner of page one. Large tears on each page have been restored, as have fold separations. The top edges contain chips and tears. The letter exhibits some dark discolorations throughout. The address panel (the final page) contains mounting remnants, as well as a small hole and tear in the lower margin. (The small hole has resulted in the loss of the initial "B." from "Moses B. Corwin." The address panel also contains remnants of the original red seal.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2011
    8th-9th Friday-Saturday
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