Harrison, Benjamin (1833–1901)
HARRISON, BENJAMIN (1833–1901)
One of a series of "caretaker" Presidents in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Benjamin Harrison exercised only minimal influence on constitutional issues during his administration from 1889 to 1893. Though Harrison favored civil service reform and a reduction in the labor workday, and opposed southern disenfranchisement of blacks, his philosophy of the executive function limited his actions. Harrison believed his duty lay solely in enforcing the public will, as expressed by Congress.
Although he had called for federal antitrust action in his first message to Congress, claiming that trusts "are dangerous conspiracies against the public good, and should be made the subject of prohibitory and even penal legislation," Harrison's only contribution to the sherman antitrust act, passed during his term, was his signature. His administration, moreover, was rather indifferent to the act; of seven cases instituted by the government, only two resulted in a government victory and none was pressed to the Supreme Court. Harrison appointed four Justices to the Court: david j. brewer, henry b. brown, george shiras, and howell e. jackson, all conservatives. These appointments indicated Harrison's desire to secure property interests and vested rights against the assaults of reformers.
Volwiler, Albert T. 1932 Harrison, Benjamin. In Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. 8, pp. 331–335. New York: Scribner's.