A short book review on a biography I read in 2014 of William Henry Harrison on the anniversary of his death in 1841.
A Child of the Revolution: William Henry Harrison and His World, 1773-1798 by Hendrik Booraem
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The book's subtitle makes it clear that this is not a full biography of William Henry Harrison. It just covers the first 25 of his 68 years. Most books about Harrison cover his better documented life after 1798 such as his second military career and/or his later political life through his Trivial Pursuit worthy death in 1841, so this is a nice addition. The author notes that there is scant primary source material on Harrison's early days. Therefore, much of what is in the book is somewhat speculative at times yet Booraem provides ample evidence to support those assumptions.
What little records there are of Harrison's life before 1798 are obtained form a variety of sources and then compared with Harrison's own accounts written decades later as he was ramping up for a Presidential run. Much like today, folks running for political office like to fluff up the old résumé a bit and cast a better light on some of their more youthful indiscretions. Harrison was no different so we must take his words from the 1830s with some caution as most autobiographical accounts should. For those early gaps, Booraem takes Harrison's words, known events, customs and other evidence of the period and constructs educated theories of some of Harrison's early life and whereabouts. He does a fine job at it.
Any student of William Henry Harrison's life or the early American Republic should consider this required reading to better understand how the son of a well off slave owning Anglican Virginian planter who signed the Declaration of Independence can be transformed into an abolitionist, a military man, and a politician.
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