Democracy Dies in Darkness

On Leadership

Benjamin Harrison, the first American president who tried to save a species

June 12, 2016 at 10:10 AM

(Backgrounds by Craig & Karl for The Washington Post; Photo by Amy King/The Washington Post)

Few U.S. history books even mention Benjamin Harrison—but when they do, the write-ups are usually not too flattering. One historian wrote that Harrison would probably be better liked and remembered today if he had at least died a month into office like his grandfather, the ninth president, William Henry Harrison.

Yet Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president of the United States, did lay the foundation during his presidency between 1889 and 1893 for several of the issues that would become hallmarks of Theodore Roosevelt's administration in the early 20th century. One was Harrison's signing of the Sherman Antitrust Act, which would form the basis for Roosevelt's trustbusting. Another was Harrison's effort on conservation—most notably creating what would become the National Forests, and engaging in an international dispute to protect fur seals in the Bering Sea.

In this 23rd episode of the Presidential podcast, Library of Congress historian Michelle Krowl and Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri discuss Harrison's life and his White House tenure; and Will Gartshore of the World Wildlife Fund talks about the historic precedent Harrison set by using his presidential position to help save a species.

Listen to the episode here or on iTunes:

In previous episodes of the Presidential podcast, we've explored topics like Abraham Lincoln's language and the violent life of Andrew Jackson. The podcast is hosted by Lillian Cunningham, editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section.

As listeners tune in each week, the podcast reveals the ways in which our collective sense of what's 'presidential' has evolved over the years and how each president—esteemed, loathed or nearly forgotten—has something to tell us about what it takes to hold the nation's highest office.

A new episode comes out every Sunday. Here's how to follow along:

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Lillian Cunningham is the creator and host of the "Presidential" and "Constitutional" podcasts. She was previously a feature writer for and editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section, for which she received two Emmy Awards for her interviews with leaders in politics, business and the arts.

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