HARRISON, William H. Autograph letter signed ("WH. Harrison) AS PRESIDENT ELECT, to Benjamin Harrison, a nephew, North Bend, [Ohio], 6 January 1841. 2½ pages, 4to (7¾ x 9 5/8 in.), integral address leaf in Harrison's hand, with free frank "Genl. Harrison," small seal hole not affecting text, a few light spots.
HARRISON PREPARES TO MOVE INTO THE WHITE HOUSE: "THE GOOD FOLKS I SHALL ENTERTAIN...HAVE TASTES A LITTLE TOO FASTIDIOUS TO DRINK MADIERA UNDER 10 OR 12 YEARS OLD"
An ebullient, good-humored letter from President-elect Harrison, two months after his victory in the 1840 Presidential election, looking forward to his trip to Washington, White House entertaining, and assuring his correspondent of his sound health. A recent letter from his nephew, he writes, "followed me into Kentucky and with it came nearly 50 others [since his election, Harrison had been deluged with letters from office-seekers]. It is impossible that I could find time to read them all & I am obliged to get some of my friends to read them & endorse the substance of their contents upon them....I found it [his mail] a task indeed taking more than treble the time that I am employed in reading Common Laws."
Harrison responds to the proposition that his nephew's son accompany him to the White House as a clerk: "William Taylor has performed the duties of Clerk of the County for me for several years." (Harrison was at the time Clerk of the Common Please in Ohio.) And Harrison is obligated to bring Taylor to Washington: "I waited to know whether the Judges (3 out of 4 of them being locofocos) would continue him in the office, a large majority of the people of the County being in favor of his succeeding to it & all but 3 or 4 of the 50 members of the bar peti[ti]oning in his favor. The presiding Judge however got the appointment for his brother in law one of the most accomplished scoundrels in existence. William Taylor being thus thrown out of employment I had no alternative but to take him with me. Indeed your aunt [Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison] would have been very unwilling to have taken up her abode at Washington without having one of her daughters with her & Anna [Anna Harrison (1813-1845) is the only one of the three that it would have suited to go. However if Henry will be satisfied with the moderate salary of five hundred Dollars which will be sufficient for his clothes and pockit [sic] money I will cheerfully take him."
"My present plan is to leave this about the 25th Inst. for Washington remain there a few days...I have no objection to your Wine Contract excepting that it will be advancing money for an article which I cannot use for the whole time that I am in the Presidency. The good folks that I shall entertain (the greater part at least) have tastes a little too fastidious to drink Madeira under 10 or 12 years old. However I will confirm your contract. I do not wish it known as "ex cathedra" what my movements may be."
"Your aunt has been for a Week confined to her room but appears this Evening to be entirely relieved. My own health is good as is that of the rest of the family." In a lengthy postscript, Harrison describes a recent trip to Kentucky "to make some disposition of the land claims I got of your father 47 years ago," which had proven to be nearly worthless: "Never was a more infamous fraud then was practised upon yr. father..."
In spite of his apparent good health at his inauguration, two months after this letter Harrison contracted a severe cold, which worsened into pneumonia, and died on 4 April 1841.
Provenance: Philip D. Sang (sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 20 June 1979, lot 709).