Write About it Wednesday: William Henry Harrison

“Sir, I wish you to understand the principles of the Government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.”

William Henry Harrison was born a Virginia aristocrat, but was marketed to voters as a humble soldier in a cabin. He is best known for the Battle of Tippecanoe which didn’t result in a large military victory. Harrison screwed up the defenses resulting in high American casualties. This somehow landed him as a military hero in the eyes of most Americans, secondary only to Andrew Jackson at the time. I am still baffled this falls as a victory for Harrison since he led his men into a trap, most of the Indians escaped to wreak havoc on neighboring towns and resulted in Tecumseh allying with the British in Canada. His time spent in battle did lead to an advocacy for fellow veteran rights, a fight that would last his entire career. My main issue with Harrison is not only his misguided hero status but his blatant attempt to stay in the middle of the road with his opinions. The man said whatever needed to be said to the audience in front of him. It is hard to know what he truly believed on any major issue. He declared himself opposed to slavery but voted with Southerners when it came to prohibiting slavery in new territories. He presented himself as anti-bank but insisted that the Supreme Court had final say in these matters. Harrison did not believe in alcohol, but his campaign promoted drinking with souvenir whiskey bottles. At what point do you have to stop and think, why am I doing this? Did he only care about getting elected?

Most notably, he was the first presidential candidate to campaign which is where my interest lies. The voters of this period wanted change. They didn’t care who it was if it was different. Does this sound familiar? They were willing to pick Harrison even though his entire campaign platform was false. He never addressed real issues. His previous government posts were minimal, and he was reliant on the campaign strategies and his speeches to win over the voters. This was the first election that women were urged to take part in and voters turned out in record numbers to elect Harrison. Unfortunately, Harrison dies shortly after his inauguration. Some believe the length of the address in the cold weather brought on pneumonia, but others believe it was his constant campaigning and the pressure of his new position. His Vice President was never questioned on his beliefs because many assumed that he would never have the chance to make a difference. No one else would accept the position, and now Tyler found himself President. I am eager to begin his biography as well as several other key names that continue to pop up on my journey through the Presidents.

The perceptions of Harrison versus the true Harrison are drastic. I am reminded of the saying, “History repeats itself,” as I read about these voters compared to the recent election. Sometimes change is needed so badly that we allow people to be elected that seem improbable. What do we really know about presidential candidates? Most of our news is secondhand sources and we rarely meet the person. What change are we expecting when we only see what we want to see?


Write About it Wednesday: Front- Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign

“Every day on the campaign trail Trump’s actions test the definition of normal.”

This is quite possibly my favorite read of 2017. Unbelievable is just as the title states: Unbelievable. I watch the news. I follow campaign trails. I don’t get caught up in the day to day as often as I used to, but I like to know what is going on in the world around me. Katy Tur’s first-hand account of the recent presidential election had me questioning everything I know and remember. The book starts out with her receiving the Trump assignment (and some sex with a man she met on Tinder) and follows the campaign from the very beginning of Trump’s announcement of his candidacy to the final victory party. She pieces together her time on the road through memory, tweets, TV scripts and a compilation of notes that were outlined and then published for us to enjoy. Although Tur asks difficult questions of Trump, she claims no political affiliation to remain unbiased. I did feel she leaned toward Democratic views, but her book focuses on Trump and the evolution of campaign coverage. It truly was the CRAZIEST campaign in American history and she was there through it all.

What makes this book so great? I keep asking myself this question. I cannot pinpoint the exact reason that I loved it except to say that I took my reading further than words on the page. When an interview was mentioned, I found myself searching YouTube for the video. When a person is mentioned that I hadn’t heard of, I found them on Twitter. Tur’s story is down to Earth, easy to read and opens your eyes to the things that journalists deal with in our current media climate. Trump called her out on multiple occasions and violent threats were a real possibility from his supporters. Her interviews weren’t flawless, she didn’t claim to be perfect, she was real.

I think this book is a must read for anyone who enjoys politics, history or a laugh when it comes to presidential candidates. I will look at political coverage in a new light and have become an active Twitter follower of many news sites and organizations. I have been looking for a journalist from the Clinton campaign to come forward with a similar title, but no luck so far. As many of you know, I try to always read both sides of any story so if you have recommendations, please feel free to share!

Write About it Wednesday: Andrew Jackson and Reading Goals

“His capacity to build upon his anti-aristocratic instincts, to learn from his mistakes, and still command the loyalty of others, is what finally defined his presidency.”

I made a goal last year to read a biography of each President. Five biographies a year seemed reasonable given the amount of time I spend reading for myself and the blog. October came around and I realized that I have yet to finish one this year. I set about to remedy the situation at my local library only to realize that the library consortium does not carry a biography on every President. Are you as outraged as I was? This seems like something people would want to learn about. Unfortunately, we have hit a digital age where students no longer “read the book” when Google holds all the answers. I for one need to hold a book in my hand, turn the pages and watch history unfold before me. Luckily, I have friends who share similar interests and allow me to book swap or my book budget for the year would be tanked (I mean, I do TRY to stick to it but let’s be honest…I need ALL the books).

Next up on my list was Andrew Jackson, the President that everyone loves to hate. Most known for his part in Indian removal, his courage and willingness to fight the aristocracy is often overlooked. He looked up to Thomas Jefferson and believed that American government was designed to undo artificial inequality. He served as a courier during the Revolution, worked as a public prosecutor in Tennessee, fought his first duel against a fellow lawyer and then became protégé to a territorial governor. He held several elected positions but his military ambition took precedence when he was awarded the post of Major General of the militia leading to his involvement with an expedition to Florida, aborted missions and retaliation against the Indians that are covered in most history classes. He loses his first election to John Quincy Adams and blames Henry Clay. This is a reoccurring theme throughout Jackson’s life, so I will be adding him to my reading list!

Jackson aimed to make merit and performance the basis for preferment in government. He suffered several scandals during his Presidency, and proved to lack judgment when it came to many men’s character. When he set out to accomplish something, he did it. He completely extinguished national debt, but the success was overshadowed by banking issues. He survived an assassination attempt and beat his assailant with his walking stick (I mean that is bad a, I don’t care who you are…). Jackson is responsible for making the presidency the center of action and opening positions in government to citizens outside of the elitist realm. He was a “President of the People” and while reading I noted several similarities to our current President. No one thought he would win, he surrounded himself with smart people, stood by what he said even if it contradicted his original statements, and led with a forceful style.  

How did it take the country so long to go to war over slavery? I had no idea that tensions were already so high during Jackson’s presidency. Jackson regarded the anti-slavery movement as a political threat to the nation and democracy. He respected the Missouri Compromise and managed to shift the focus allowing Van Buren to be elected. I have done my fair share of research on abolitionists but the battle over mail was a new one for me. Jackson proposed legislature to combat the messages sent to the South calling an end to slavery. It brought the slavery issue to the national front but the campaign fizzled quickly. Also, what other President can say he wiped out national debt? Does anyone remember those debt calculators that used to be all over Fox News and CNN? What happened to those? Did we just realize we will never pay it off or is it a distraction from the real news?

I must know more, therefore I read. I need to know what happened and not just what I’ve been told. There is history happening all around us. The more you know, the more you can contribute to society. Bring on Van Buren!


Write About it Wednesday: American Revolutionaries and Founders of the Nation: Part One

“That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.”

I decided to cover some American history in honor of American Independence and the Fourth of July holiday this week. Many history classes teach the basics of who, why, and when but they get lost along the way in life and forget. This is just a brief glimpse into a few of our founding fathers compliments of the book: American Revolutionaries and Founders of the Nation by James Meisner, Jr. and Amy Ruth. This book had zero reviews or written comments on Goodreads which had to be corrected by me of course…oh the responsibilities of a bookworm.

John Adams- Voice of Independence and 2nd President of the United States

Adams grew into fame after successfully defending the British soldiers accused of shooting unarmed civilians during the Boston Massacre. He helped edit the Declaration of Independence which was passed on July 2nd. The final Declaration was edited and debated for two days until July 4th. Adams thought the celebrations should be held on the 2nd ever year, but as we all know he did not win that battle. He is credited with moving the seat of government to Washington D.C.

Alexander Hamilton- Founding Federalist and Money Man

Hamilton is best known for his duel with Aaron Burr that ended his life. He was a special aide to Washington during the war that helped him make acquaintances and led to his appointment as Secretary of the Treasury. He set a plan to pay war wages and the mounting national debt. His plans were not favored by all and led to much debate. Scandal rocked his personal life leading to a decline in his public favor. He favored federal government over states and wrote more than half of the essays titled “The Federalist Papers.”

John Jay- Reluctant Revolutionary and Responsible Caretaker

Jay supported reconciliation with Great Britain until revolution became imminent. He was loyal to his family and state before the nation. A firm believer that family above all else should be at the heart of a man. He was the President of the Continental Congress, signed the Treaty of Paris and was the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I was hoping for more information but I may need to read a full biography to give you more insight.

Thomas Jefferson- Architect of Democracy

Jefferson is a controversial figure in American history. He was Secretary of State, writer of the Declaration of Independence and overseer of the Louisiana Purchase. His presidency was less formal than his predecessors, but significant progress was made as a nation. He was an avid reader and sold more than 6,000 of his books to the Library of Congress after it burned in the War of 1812. Instead of being remembered for writing the Declaration, Jefferson is most known for his controversial relationship with Sally Hemings, one of the slaves at Monticello.

Stay tuned for six more revolutionaries coming soon! Some you might not have heard about in history class. Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend full of fireworks and fun! And for those in other countries, here is a quick picture to share the view…

Who are some of your favorite Founding Fathers to research? I’d love to hear from you!


Thomas Jefferson : Joyce Appleby

“Coming to terms with Thomas Jefferson is not easy for Americans in the twenty-first century.”

If you read only one book about Thomas Jefferson in your lifetime, don’t choose this one. The quote above is true if you are reliant on the author’s informed but less than appealing recap of history. When I finished this novel, I felt as though I was leaving a five hour long history lecture that used fancy vocabulary to sound superior to everyone listening. I have frequent whims where I am intrigued by a topic and want to learn everything about it. My current Presidential obsession has led to a real interest in history and how it is conveyed. I think we need more unbiased historians providing an experience to the reader that is worth their time. A reader lives through an author’s work, and I would have died of boredom if I wasn’t determined to finish.

I was desperate to love Thomas Jefferson and I chose to read Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power – Review to come!


His Excellency: George Washington


I am embarking on a journey to read a biography of every United States President. This is a lofty goal that many have commented is hard to achieve. I think a knowledge of how this country was governed and the men we elected to run it are invaluable to me as a citizen of this country. I long to be the history buff that can tell you the 26th President without thinking or can list off reasons the people elected one candidate over another. Essentially, I have high expectations for my choices on this journey, especially for our first President who would kick it off. This book failed to meet these expectations and my excitement diminished almost immediately. Instead of fact and storyline, I got someone’s opinion, a negative one at that, which feeds on itself and cannot help but leave the reader dreading turning the pages. I literally asked myself if I should finish it or just start another biography? I want to like Washington, our revered first President, but I can’t. Not even a little bit. Now this may not be all Ellis’s fault. My history classes are partially to blame with their cherry trees and tales of building a nation. From what I have learned through this book, it seems Washington was simply a lucky man. In the right place at the right time, not dying alongside many others. He chose to keep quiet where others chose to have an opinion. His demeanor just said “I am a leader” and so he was. From Ellis’ view, Washington allowed others to form his opinions, to write his letters and even persuade him to make decisions he would not have made. That is all I got out of this 275 page book that inevitably took me two months to suffer through. I believe historians should give facts, not their own speculation. I want Washington as he was or as close as I can get. This book was not that at all.  Back to square one.