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Benjamin Harrison As A Lawyer

( Originally Published 1902 )

BENJAMIN HARRISON, like so many of our Presidents was born in Ohio. His great grandfather was thrice Governor of Virginia, and voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence; his grandfather was Governor of the Territory of Indiana, United States Senator and President of the United States, and his father was a Democratic politician, a Congressman from one of the districts of Ohio. The rough cradle in the log house that held Benjamin Harrison was the same kind of a one that rocked Lincoln and Grant. His parents were ambitious for him and sent him to school and college. He began the practice of law at Indianapolis. He volunteered in the Union army, and was made a brigadier-general for bravery and ability on the field after the battle of Peach Tree Creek. In 1876 he was defeated for the Governorship of Indiana, in 1881 he was elected United States Senator, and in 1888 to the Presidency.

Mr. Harrison was physically low of stature, but mentally and morally he towered head and shoulders above most of his countrymen. His intellect was of a superior order, remarkable not so much for the pre-eminence of any one faculty as for the symmetry and vitality of them all. His strong and evenly balanced mind was polished into comeliness and sharpened into efficiency by the schools and by the discipline of his profession. The great success he had in the profession of the law was in itself a high tribute to his intellectual ability. He was the ablest lawyer west of the Alleghanies, and was perhaps one of the three or four greatest lawyers in America. W. P. Fishback, his old law partner, who died a short time before he did, wrote : " General Harrison possesess all the qualities of a great lawyer in rare combination. He prepares a case with con-summate skill; his written pleadings are models of clearness and brevity; he is peerless as an examiner of witnesses ; he discusses a legal question in a written brief or in oral argument with convincing logic, and as an advocate, it may be said of him that when he has finished an address to a jury nothing re-mains to be said on that side of the case. I have often heard able lawyers in Indiana and elsewhere say that he was the hardest man to follow they had ever met. No lawyer who ever met General Harrison in a legal encounter has afterward placed a small estimate upon his ability."

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