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The First Wisconsin President? A column by Senator Moulton

A Column by Senator Terry Moulton, 23rd Senate District

With the first 2016 presidential debate having come and gone, Wisconsinites of all political stripes are asking themselves an important question: Could there be a Packer fan in The White House?  The answer to that question will take some time, but did you know there already was a president from Wisconsin?  Well, not quite – but pretty close!

He had the shortest presidency of all, lasting only 32 days.  Before his presidency, he was Secretary of the Northwest Territory and represented the people of what would one day be Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and eastern Minnesota as their delegate to Congress.  Born in Virginia to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, he was William Henry Harrison, 9th president of the United States and the only President to represent what would one day become Wisconsin in Congress.

President Harrison died from complications due to pneumonia only a month into his presidency.  Although we may not know what a Harrison presidency would have looked like, Harrison was a strong advocate for limited government.  Born a British subject and growing up during the Revolutionary War, President Harrison knew the dangers of unlimited power and the tendency of men and women to desire power.  President Harrison believed, like the signers of the Declaration and the writers of the Constitution, that it was critical to protect our liberties against the human desire for power.  He stated in his inaugural address to Congress, “As long as the love of power is a dominant passion of the human bosom…so long will the liberties of a people depend on their constant attention to its preservation…”

President Harrison was well versed in history and knew that democracies throughout human history have ended in monarchy or dictatorship. In his inaugural address, he observed that the same tactics were used to overthrow each, dividing the people by class and wealth. “This is the old trick of those who would usurp the government of their country. In the name of democracy they speak, warning the people against the influence of wealth and the danger of aristocracy.”

President Harrison continued by saying that the spirit of partisanship is directly opposed to the spirit of liberty. “The tendencies of all such governments in their decline is to monarchy, and the antagonist principle to liberty is the spirit of faction…. It is union that we want, not of a party for the sake of that party, but a union of the whole country for the sake of the whole country, for the defense of its interests and its honor against foreign aggression, for the defense of those principles for which our ancestors so gloriously contended.”

I truly hope that our next President, whether or not he or she is a Packer fan, will put the interests of our great nation first and foremost.  That is something on which we can all agree with President William Henry Harrison.

As always, if you have questions or comments about any state-related issues, you can contact me at Sen.Moulton@legis.wisconsin.gov or (888) 437-9436.