Saturday, April 21, 2018

the last book I ever read (Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun, excerpt six)

from Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun:

Nor did his brusque manner. As Attorney General Miller, one of his most confidential associates, conceded, Harrison was not “a cordial man” with “any except his intimates,” and patronage supplicants brought out the worst in his personality. Even his good friend Eugene Hay found that when he visited the White House to recommend an appointment, Harrison did not offer him a chair but “came forward to meet me in the middle of the room [and] addressed me with the formal ‘Mister’ rather than by my first name as had been his habit. I easily discerned the absence of his usual cordiality and heartily wished I could avoid the interview.” But Hay also maintained that what “gave Harrison the reputation for coldness was merely caution. . . . [H}e was never cold or austere except when he felt the necessity of being so.” In his relations with his family and close friends, he was loving and deeply caring. When Halford fell ill, the president took him and his wife into the White House for his convalescence. When navy secretary Benjamin Tracy’s house was consumed by fire, President Harrison rushed to the scene and personally administered artificial respiration. He also performed the sad duty of telling Tracy of the death of his wife and daughter, and he gave the secretary a temporary home in the White House to recover from his injuries. “Few men had quicker, warmer, or more delicate sympathies,” Halford recalled. But applicants for favors rarely saw that side of him. “I suppose he treated me about as well in the way of patronage as he did any other Senator,” Illinois Republican Shelby Cullom recalled, “but whenever he did anything for me it was done so ungraciously that the concession tended to anger rather than to please.”

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