William Henry Harrison
by Matthew Salesses
This is a story about President William Henry Harrison. This is not a story about Never-President Arthur St. Clair. William Henry Harrison was born on February 9, 1773, and was the ninth President of the United States. Arthur St. Clair is 1,2,3 footnotes to this story. In terms of history, he’s just a dead white guy. William Henry Harrison served only 32 days in office, but that’s still 32 days more than Arthur St. Clair.
What do they say about losers and history books?
When William Henry Harrison was 18, his father died. William Henry Harrison was poor and joined the army. His mentor was General “Mad Anthony” Wayne, who had taken over for Arthur St. Clair. Arthur St. Clair had suffered a bad defeat against the Indians and was disgraced. William Henry Harrison was promoted to lieutenant and killed Indians in bunches.
The year the war ended, William Henry Harrison met his wife and eloped with her because he hated his father-in-law. William Henry Harrison built his house with his bare hands. He quit the army. He and his wife had 10 children. It was a big house.
Arthur St. Clair is not in Wikipedia during this time, so who knows what he was doing.
William Henry Harrison was appointed Secretary of the Northwest Territory. Arthur St. Clair was Governor then. According to history, he was frequently not where he was supposed to be. William Henry Harrison filled in for him, eager to kill Indians in bunches.
These are all facts, according to Wikipedia. But don’t accuse me of plagiarism. I rewrote them, the words. I found Arthur St. Clair lurking.
After the war, William Henry Harrison made his money breeding horses. He housed the Indians out of their land and probably their horses. He ran for Congress and thoroughly defeated Arthur St. Clair’s son, who knew nothing about horses or Indians.
Later, William Henry Harrison was nearly ruined by his support of slavery. It was a far cry from when his father pulled him out of school for befriending Quakers. His father died not long after that. Thomas Jefferson didn’t like William Henry Harrison’s support of slavery. This story is not about Thomas Jefferson, who had his own ideas about slaves, and children.
By the time that William Henry Harrison was passing laws, Arthur St. Clair was retired, almost dead, and certainly poor as shit.
At his inauguration, William Henry Harrison wanted everyone to know he was a hero who killed Indians in bunches. The day he took his oath was cold and rainy. He gave the longest speech in inaugural history. He was 68 years old and wrote his own speeches. He wore no hat. At least he got to ride through the streets in victory before he died. You couldn’t even say that about Arthur St. Clair. The end.
1. Arthur St. Clair, born into wealth, died in poverty.
2. The year of Arthur St. Clair’s birth is unknown.
3. Some Civil War steamer was named USS St. Clair, presumably after Arthur.
Matthew Salesses’ first novel, I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying, is coming out Feb 2013 from Civil Coping Mechanisms. He also wrote The Last Repatriate (Nouvella Books, 2011), and two chapbooks, Our Island of Epidemics (PANK, 2010) and We Will Take What We Can Get (Publishing Genius, 2009). He writes a column and edits fiction for the Good Men Project. Read the next story, JOHN TYLER, here.
* thanks to Amber Sparks and Brian Carr for their editorial work on this project.