Millercenter.org’s summary of speech:
“President Harrison begins by describing how America’s democracy is special and then outlines problems with the government and his solutions to them. This Inaugural Address was the longest in American history; it took nearly two hours to read.”
Thoughts on Transcript:
Wow. The addresses of the previous eight Presidents are amazing, but William Henry Harrison’s is one that I found special meaning in. Maybe it is because he gave a speech that was inversely proportional to the length of his presidency, but he tackles many different subjects, relying heavily on ancient history (a tactic used throughout the Federalist Papers which initially presented the case for our form of government) to demonstrate the dangers of contemporary actions. Harrison covers a range of topics from the theoretical basis of our Constitution (inalienable rights) to the dangers that threaten to tear the country asunder (rights of the minority, civility between states, unity and cohesion). He tackles the danger of the Treasury being under the Executive Branch, the Power of the Veto, and even spends time to discuss the lack of representation in DC.
This speech is less an address than a manifesto. It lays out a plan for office that is sweeping, that respects the Presidents before Harrison while also seeking to curtail the power of the Executive. And yet, it all comes to naught as the man will die after less than a month in office.
I’ve pulled a good deal of quotes from the 11 pages of text, but this is a speech that is worthwhile to read in full.