tv QA with Ronald Shafer CSPAN January 1, 2017 11:00pm-12:01am EST
the annual washington ideas for, filmmaker ezra edelman talks about ♪ announcer: now "q&a" with author ronald schaffer. mr. shafer discusses his book "the carnival campaign." -- mr. shafer discusses his book, "the carnival campaign: how the rollicking 1840 campaign of 'tippecanoe and tyler too' changed presidential elections forever." brian: ronald shafer, why did you write a book called "the carnival campaign"? ronald: for two reasons. i live in williamsburg, virginia, right next door to where william henry harrison and john tyler were born. they ran the first modern presidential campaign with rallies and presidential speeches.
brian: what do you mean by modern? ronald: before this when you campaign for president, you did not give speeches or have rallies. you just sat at home and wrote letters to people who wrote you about the issues. in this election for the first time, they had huge rallies. harrison became the first president to go out and give speeches. brian: having read your book, i have to ask -- how much of what is in this book parallels what we just went through? ronald: let me think. [laughter] ronald: this was very much like the recent election. it was politics as entertainment, demagoguery, personal insults, and it involved the oldest man ever to run for president. at that time it was harrison, who was 67 years old. brian: the myth i have read over the years is that he made the longest speech at the inaugural
in history and it was raining and he died right after of a bad cold. ronald: the first part is true. he gave the longest inaugural speech in history, and as i say in the book, maybe the most boring. an hour and 45 minutes. but it was not raining. it was very cold, the wind was blowing. he did not wear a coat or hat. he wanted to look young. but he did not get sick. he went to two inaugural balls -- three actually. he was fine. two weeks later -- he went on a walk every morning from the white house. there was no secret service. he got caught in the rain and rushed back to the white house but does not change his clothes. he came down with a cold, it got worse and became pneumonia. he was dead a month after he was inaugurated. brian: was that a surprise? ronald: yes, total surprise.
everything you read up to that time says, he looks so young, so vigorous. in the book, i explain that he may have been helped along by his doctors, who treated him with all kinds of wild treatments of bloodletting and giving laxatives, something to make him vomit, some indian snake weed. later, at least one study found that though they claimed they were treating him for pneumonia, they were treating him for the common cold. if he had better treatment, he might have survived. brian: what was this about rubbing mustard on his stomach? ronald: that is part of the treatment. there was also something called cupping, where they would heat up little medal things and cup your skin, put them on your skin and get blisters. it sounds terrible. none of this worked. it probably made him even worse because he was so tired from the
campaign, 67 years old, plus being harassed by job seekers all the time who in those days could go right in the white house. brian: when did you retire from "the wall street journal" and how long did you work there? ronald: 38 years, i retired 16 years ago. i wrote the washington wire on the front page of the "journal." i was an editor and reporter. brian: what does it feel like no longer being one of the most powerful people in washington? the washington wire was on the front page and could really have an impact. ronald: it is tough to lose power. actually personally, i had very little power. once i retired, people no longer answer the phone. before, they would call right back. afterwards, i may never hear from them again. it is a big change once you move away from the seats of power.
but that has been enjoyable and i have been able to do works like this book. brian: we always read -- [indiscernible] ronald: i don't know why, maybe they could not find anybody to replace me. actually, they had a very fine writer to replace me but i think the new management decided they wanted to use that space for other reasons. they took away all the features stories except the one that runs in the middle. otherwise, that is the only feature story now on the front page of the "journal." times change. brian: give us some background on william henry harrison. ronald: he was born at berkeley plantation, which is very near williamsburg near richmond. his father, benjamin harrison v was a signer of the declaration of independence.
he became known as the signer, his nickname. when henry was young, dinner guests were people like george washington, thomas jefferson, james madison. you can imagine the conversations that he heard. when he was 14, he was sent away to college. most kids could not go to college then, but he was sent off to college and medical school and ended up in philadelphia. brian: what did he do then? ronald: his father died and suddenly he had no income. he inherited some land from berkeley plantation, but since he was the youngest of seven children, the oldest son got the plantation. harrison had to find something to do. he really did not want to study medicine, he wanted to fight indians. he got a commission in the army, but instead of going as a private, his father had an old friend who is now president of the united states, george washington. washington made him an officer.
he left philadelphia and went to fort washington near cincinnati. he actually walked most of the 300 miles, and he was a big lover of roman history. the only thing he took with him were some volumes of the works of cicero. he finally arrived in cincinnati to fight for the general, heading the fight against the indians in ohio. brian: how did he become known, as far as people in the united states? ronald: after he went to cincinnati, he got married, anna, daughter of a wealthy landowner who sold him a tiny log cabin on the west bend of the ohio, about 14 miles west of cincinnati. he started looking for a better job. with some help from an old friend of his father --
president john adams -- he got appointed secretary and then governor of the indiana territory, which was a big job. at the time, the indiana territory covered not just indiana but illinois, michigan. another old family friend, thomas jefferson, became president, and he had the louisiana purchase, which you may have heard of. he added that to the indiana territory and wrote harrison, urging him to buy more land from the indians to build up u.s. ownership in the indiana territory. brian: it was strange reading your book because i grew up on a street called shawnee avenue in a town that had a tecumseh middle school in an area that had harrison high school. we were five minutes away from battleground, indiana. how does that all relate to william henry harrison?
ronald: this is how he became famous. he had a run in with tecumseh because tecumseh was trying to get the indians not to sell their land to harrison. he came to harrison's home during the discussion, and he drew his tomahawk, harrison drew his sword, and they parted ways. tecumseh and his brother set up a town near lafayette called prophetstown. they were causing trouble, so harrison decided to close down the town. he got a troop of men from the federal government and indiana militia and camped outside the town before entering the next day. during the night, the indians attacked and there were lots of casualties on both sides, but a lot of them on harrison side. harrison prevailed, closed down the town the next day.
word spread across the country, he became known as the hero of tippecanoe, which led to his nickname old tippecanoe. brian: that is the county in which lafayette is in. this is kind of jumping around, but one of the things that was hard to believe was when you talk about the campaign for president, there were 30,000 people that came to lafayette, went to battleground for a rally on behalf of william henry harrison. i don't know where they fit them all, but that is a huge crowd even compared to the recent campaign. ronald: it is amazing the reaction he got. there was such a huge crowd, they actually built a tent, which was supposed to hold 30,000 people. but it was a nice day, so they did not need it. people came from miles around to
see this event and take part in the campaign for william henry harrison. there were a lot of speeches, fireworks, and a lot of hard cider that was handed out free, which probably was one of the big draws. brian: on the cover of your book, how the rollicking 1840 campaign of tippecanoe and tyler too change presidential elections forever. what is it mean, tippecanoe and tyler too? ronald: it refers to old tippecanoe, william henry harrison, and tyler was his running mate. tyler actually was his cousin, grew up down the road from berkeley plantation at another plantation. his father was friends with harrison's father. tyler's father's roommate at william and mary was thomas jefferson, so they had a lot of interconnections. although harrison was 17 years older, so he did not grow up
with tyler, but the families knew each other. i can tell you if you want -- and i'm sure you do -- how that nickname came about. the first big rally in the campaign was in columbus, ohio. they had 30,000 people in columbus, a town of about 3000 people. they had a huge parade. one of the things in the parade was this big rolling ball, about 10 feet high, that came from cleveland that had slogans all over it. there was a jeweler from nearby in the audience and he was so taken by this that he went home to his tippecanoe glee club and wrote a song about this ball called the great commotion. the chorus line was for tippecanoe and tyler too, and the name caught on, or in modern terms, went viral. brian: when you talk about 30,000 people -- we just went through a campaign where president-elect donald trump says it was the biggest rally in
history, 15,000 to 25,000 people, and you are talking about a country where only 2.5 million people voted. you had a rally in the book that was 100,000 people. ronald: trump may have been a little exaggerating, he does that from time to time. as i say, harrison became the first presidential candidate ever to campaign, so nobody had ever heard of anything like this or seen anything like this. he started drawing more and more people. by the time he got to dayton, people came from all over the area, and it was 60,000 to 100,000 people just to see him. they probably could not hear him because they did not have microphones, but he gave a two-hour speech in dayton, ohio, 100,000 people, and another one in cincinnati that drew an estimated 100,000 people.
population of the u.s. was 40% of what it is now, so it is kind of amazing. i think obama drew 100,000 at a rally in manassas, but very rarely matched. brian: 1840, who was president? ronald: martin van buren. he was known as little vanny or the little magician and he was a professional politician from new york. he was the protege of andrew jackson, his vice president. jackson anointed van buren as his successor. unfortunately, he won in 1936 and next came the great panic of 1937, a depression, and the economy fell apart, jobs lost, wages went down. it was a terrible time to be running for reelection. brian: what kind of guy was president van buren? ronald: he was kind of stodgy, very straightforward. he was single. his wife had died when he was in his 30's and he never remarried.
he pretty much was a straightforward president. his problem was that he was surrounded by a lot of people get appointed to office who were corrupt. the election by the harrison campaign was against the corrupt officeholders in washington, d.c., which also may sound familiar. brian: what did he mean by being corrupt then? ronald: they take money to do things. that pretty much sums it up. both he and jackson went by the philosophy, to the victor go the spoils. part of that was giving friends jobs in high places. brian: who was his vice president and what impact did he have? ronald: ironically, his vice president was richard johnson, known as old dick. he had actually fought in a battle with william henry harrison as his commander, the
battle of the thames in ontario, canada during the war of 1812. harrison was a general, appointed by another family friend, james madison. they were facing the british, who were running away, and their indian allies, including tecumseh. so they had them trapped in the woods in ontario -- what would become ontario. they decided on this unusual attack, that the kentucky militia led by johnson would attack on horseback, and they did. they easily subdued the british, then johnson went after the indians. he got shot several times, his horse was shot, then he shot and killed an indian, probably tecumseh. the indians stop fighting and
the battle was won, and harrison was a hero of the thames. but the van buren campaign painted johnson as the hero of the thames. he actually became the first vice presidential candidate to give speeches. he went around talking to audiences. he was very popular. all you had to do was show the scars of his wounds, and everybody was on his side. brian: president van buren was a democrat. what did that mean back then? ronald: the democrats were out of the thomas jefferson philosophy. they believed in no federal government at all, or the smallest federal government. when the great depression hit, the panic of 1837, they did nothing. they believed the government should not do anything, you are on your own. this of course alienated voters. the whigs believe there should be some government help, mainly building roads connecting the states, but they promised to offer some help. they in effect offered to make america great again, except
their slogan was harrison and reform, not quite as catchy but it worked. brian: what is a whig? ronald: a party that was created to counter the democrats. whig was a name that the revolutionaries used when they fought against the british, so they adopted it. henry clay founded the party. the party was really scattershot. the only thing they believed in was they hated andrew jackson, who they called king andrew. they were whigs who opposed the king, but this king was king andrew. brian: what did they think of president van buren? ronald: they thought he was getting nothing done, that he was not listening to the people. they also spread rumors that he was having big fancy parties and
he was spending money to make the white house a palace of splendor and improving the grounds. most of it was not true, but they said he ate with golden spoons and put french cologne on his whiskers. they called him sweet vanny whiskers, so they made him up as the champion of the 1%, basically, the rich people and the officeholders. brian: how many books have you written? ronald: four or five i think. brian: any history books? ronald: my last book was on the start of the brooklyn dodgers in the 1890's. brian: what triggered you on this one? ronald: partly living in the area of williamsburg. i have visited berkeley plantation. i had always been told when i was features editor at "the wall ronald: partly living in the area of williamsburg. street journal" that the 1840 campaign was the first modern campaign. why? i don't know, but that is what everyone says, so i looked into it and sure enough, it was. brian: one of the things
mentioned throughout the book is the log cabin. ronald: this became the symbol of the campaign. harrison was nominated in harrisburg, pennsylvania and the plan was to portray him as the general washington of the west. he would be this later on the white horse leading the people. the week after the convention ended, some reporter in an opposition newspaper wrote this article that harrison, 67 years old, was really just an old granny and he would be content with hard cider and a pension to stay in his log cabin instead of running for president. this threw the plans in a fury. two people in harrisburg, a newspaper editor and a banker, met at the banker's mansion. harrison knew nothing about this. they said, what are we going to do about this? the banker said, why don't we just go with it?
the log cabin is a symbol of the common man. the cider is what the common man drinks. the editor gets out a piece of paper and draws a log cabin, raccoons on the top, and a barrel of hard cider. he says, why don't we do something like this? they go to the convention in pennsylvania, show it, people go crazy. within a month, you have parades with log cabins on wheels. something like 50 feet wide carrying 40 people, pulled by 20 horses. this became a symbol of every parade, there would be log cabins on wheels. he was portrayed as the champion of the common man living in a log cabin. in fact, he lived in a mansion in ohio. he had a big house on the river. the little cabin they had bought from his wife's father -- they had 10 kids, so they expanded.
it was very modern and he had thousands of acres, so he was actually very wealthy but he was portrayed as the champion of the poor, which again, some parallels. brian: you talk about when he was the governor of indiana territory for some 14 years, that he lived in a place and had a mansion called grassland. did you talk about all the money he spent there bringing goods from overseas? explain that. ronald: he became the governor of indiana, so he needed the governor's house. he had not inherited a lot of money, but he had inherited land when his father and mother died.
he sold some of that land and built this fabulous house in the middle of a little town near the illinois border to house the governor. also it was built very sturdy, protected against possible indian attacks. it looked very much like the berkeley plantation house in virginia. so he became accustomed to living high, even though he may not have the money to back it up sometimes. brian: you live in williamsburg now, and near you is the berkeley plantation plus the tyler house. how big are those houses? ronald: berkeley plantation is big. it was a working plantation, it had slaves and it was used during the civil war as the headquarters for mcclellan when there were battles down there. brian: mcclellan, who fought for the union. ronald: yes, that was their headquarters and lincoln came to visit. it is a very large plantation and is still open to the public. the home where tyler was born was another plantation, but the
big home is where he retired after he left the presidency. he moved back to the area and he built sherwood forest, and he called it that because he had been kicked out of the whig party. he did not really get along with the policies after he became president, so he figured he was like an outlaw like robin hood, so he called the place sherwood forest. to this day, that is still the name. it is the longest frame house in america, 301 feet long, one room wide. it is a very long room, and it became his retirement place with his second wife, who is 30 years younger. she built a room at the end where they would dance the virginia reel. two houses within five miles of each other that were occupied by former presidents of the united states.
brian: i know you say you got interested because you lived in williamsburg, but you had to have some characters and all that. when did you decide you had to write a book? ronald: i looked at how the campaign developed. one was the development of the log cabin image and the other one was giving the speeches. today, that seems so common, but you have to remember back in those days, this was nothing they had ever heard of. to track the development -- here is what happened, why he did this. he started out following the same pattern. he would answer letters. but one day, a fellow in new york said he had written harrison asking about issues and got a letter back that was not from harrison, it was from a
committee. this was an outrage that the democrats jumped on, saying he has a conscience committee, being kept in an iron cage, they don't trust him to answer his own letters. harrison was just humiliated by this and decided he had to do something. he got an invitation to speak at a ceremony at fort meigs, where he once commanded near toledo. so he accepted. it is a long way, 200 miles. by this time, the log cabin theme had kicked in, so he kept his silk cap at home and took his farmers hat and plain clothes. he stayed at a hotel and went to see the boys of the tiecanoe club. the next morning, there is a crowd gathered outside and he starts to say a few words. pretty soon, he is giving a
speech. it is june 6, 1840, the first speech ever by a presidential candidate. then he continued to fort meigs and gave a speech, continued to cleveland, then gave more than 40 speeches going all around the state. like an aging rock star, the mick jagger of politics at the time. brian: when he retired from the military, what did he do then and where had he been between that time and 1840? ronald: his retirement was controversial because he adjust won battle of the thames. he went to washington and there were parades. he gets to washington and resigns. what happens? secretary of war did not get along with him, so he was going to assign them to a meaningless post and harrison did not want that, so he resigned.
he sent a letter to president madison and figured that madison would not accept it, but the secretary of war intercepted it and said, ok, and replaced him with andrew jackson. harrison was assigned to go do some peace talks with the indians, which he did, but he was out of office. he was able at that time to use his fame to get into congress. he was in the house. and he was in the ohio senate. as the years went by, his fame faded and he lost a couple of elections. he finally convinced the state legislature to appoint him to the u.s. senate. finally he is back in washington, but he wants a higher paying job. he wants to be the ambassador to bolivia, a job that has just opened up under john quincy adams. adams says, this harrison is always begging for jobs, the worst guy. but his secretary of state, henry clay, said, why don't you
give him this job. so we did take the job, which paid a lot of money, but it took him a year to get there. he was only there a few days when andrew jackson became president. he and andrew jackson did not get along. the first thing jackson did was say, you are out of here. so harrison had to go all the way back home and ended up being the county clerk at hamilton county near cincinnati, which paid pretty well, but he was a lowly county clerk. brian: on a personal basis, you say that five of his 10 kids had died at what age? an early age? ronald: by the time he was running for president, five of his 10 children had died.
while he was coming back from his speech at fort meigs, he was supposed to speech in springfield, ohio. first they said they had a message from his family. they gave him a letter that said his son had died. his son was a physician, so he canceled the speech and went home. most of his children did not survive, which added to his expenses because a lot of his children's families lived with him. brian: i remember in your book, you say the son was 36 and died of alcoholism? ronald: that was another son, william junior, who was an alcoholic. because of that, harrison swore off grain alcohol. he called it sinning and he would never sin again, because his son was an alcoholic. they had a lot of family tragedies. brian: you look back at his life, how long was he in the
military? ronald: he joined when he was 18, around -- so 1891, and he resigned in 1913. brian: what did he look like and how tall was he? describe his personality. ronald: he was about five foot nine, he combed his hair over the front of his head. he was a big fan of roman history, so it was like julius caesar. he was very well-educated, very genial. he could tell stories, he was well read. he did not read fiction, but he read nonfiction, shakespeare. he liked to talk to people. he was probably more educated than your typical presidential candidate. consider andrew jackson, for example. but he still had his enemies, of course. brian: where did he meet his wife?
ronald: when he went to fort washington, cincinnati, about 20 cabins at the time. her father was the wealthiest homeowner -- landowner there, and they married when they were both 22 years old. brian: what was she like and how long did she live? ronald: her main appeal for harrison -- besides her dark eyes, she was well-educated. i think they got along in terms of being able to converse. she survived until well past the 1860's, staying at north bend. but her father opposed to marriage at first. they were married at his house by justice of the peace, but the father left town because he did not approve. he eventually came around as harrison rose in stature. brian: you mentioned the panic of 1837, the depression. if we keep that in mind, van
buren's president, then in 1840 there is harrison. what was the economy like at that time? do you remember how many states we had? ronald: 26 at that time. the economy -- it was the worst depression until 1929, it was awful. people could not get work or food. there were food riots in new york. the main theme, if there was one, of the harrison campaign -- which tried to avoid issues as much as possible -- was to promise better times ahead, that they were going to help you with the harrison reform movement and that you could count on them to at least worry about you, where the democrats, they said, did
not care about you. brian: so in 1840, what was the media like? ronald: very partisan. there were newspapers, a lot of newspapers, but either they were whig or democrat. they did not really care much about the truth. the idea was they were part of the campaigns. the main whig was here in washington, the intelligentsia. the publisher was the mayor of washington, d.c., so they were the whig paper. the main democratic paper started under andrew jackson. it was now anti-harrison and was run by a man named blair, who is part of jackson's cabinet. he built a house right across the street from the white house, which is now known as the blair house. the big newspaper and the one that may have swung the election was started by horace greeley. it was called "the log cabin." it was all about the harrison campaign, every article in the paper was pro harrison and anti-van buren.
it had a subscription of 80,000 people. he claimed he could have had 100,000 but did not have enough printing presses. brian: tell us about horace greeley. ronald: he is most known as the guy who said, go west, young man. that probably was because everything in the east was so bad and west was growing a little bit. he was a strange guy, a strict nutritionist. he followed a fellow named graham, who invented the graham cracker. he was a tall, skinny guy with glasses and wore a white hat. he was an amazingly intelligent man and eventually started "the new york herald tribune" and ran for president against ulysses grant. brian: where did he live?
ronald: new york city. his newspaper was called "the new yorker," not the same one we know today. that is how the whigs met him. then he started a paper called "the jeffersonian" to promote the candidate of a governor for new york, william seward. eventually he went to the tribune. so he was mainly a new yorker. brian: who paid for his paper "the log cabin"? ronald: the whig party paid for it. they were able to raise a lot of money. the main backer was a party boss in new york named weed, a newspaper publisher in albany. he knew all the rich people in new york city, who he called the merchant princes.
he would do favors for them and get the state legislature to do anything they wanted. he rationalized by saying the merchant princes never asked for anything bad, so there was no problem. then he said when he needed money, they were happy to give. so he would raise money for the harrison campaign. brian: go back again to how harrison became the candidate. he lived in north bend, ohio. ronald: 67 years old. brian: van buren was in the white house one term. he was running again, economy was not good. how did harrison get the nomination? ronald: that is the question henry clay always asked. they had three candidates at this time, the first whig convention ever in harrisburg. they had just built a new train station. henry clay, who had started the whig party, figured he would get the nomination.
he was the leader on the first two votes, but he did not get enough to get the nomination. they had to keep voting. they said, he may not be able to get this, so they started with backstreet type conversations in bars and smoke-filled rooms -- why don't we maybe go to harrison or general winfield scott? they were both generals. eventually the support swung to harrison because he was known as a man who is not supporting the abolitionists and they thought scott might. finally on the fifth vote, harrison won the vote, much to clay's surprise. brian: where was he during the convention? ronald: nobody was there. that was another major difference from now. back in those days, you were supposed to pretend you were not running for president. all of these men were at home. they did not even know when it
happened. brian: when did he find out? ronald: a week or two later, there was a notice in the cincinnati newspaper that harrison had won. finally he got an official letter from the whigs that he was the nominee. he answered, said he was very happy about it, very surprised even though he had been lobbying for this. it took a long time to find out that he was the nominee. brian: you mentioned the newspaper "the log cabin" had 80,000 circulation. how did it move around through 26 states? ronald: mainly by train and boats. they had distributions they
could set up with steamships and trains. the democrats complained about money being spent. they were raising all this money from rich people to distribute this newspaper across the country. brian: in chapter seven, you talk about something called the golden spoon speech. ronald: that was part of the attack on van buren. a man named charles ogle, a congressman from new york, in april of 1840 went to the house floor and give a speech that lasted two days. van buren had made the mistake of asking for some modest appropriations to improve the white house, which was in pretty bad shape after the brits torched it during the war of 1812. a very modest increase, but this fellow went room by room explaining all the money that was being spent on these lavish chairs and curtains and carpeting, more money than you could buy 10 log cabins with,
and he turned this into a palace of splendor and was eating with golden spoons and that while people were starving, he was having fancy parties. it was part of the image-making, where harrison was the candidate for the poor people and here was the rich man in washington, sneering. brian: if you gave a speech, how long would it take people around the country to get the information? was there any way to transmit besides "the log cabin" newspaper? ronald: yes. there was the early version of the congressional record, but most people do not see that.
the whigs took care of that. they reprinted copies and sent them out across the country. everybody could see the speech, which usually ended up being printed in the newspapers, at least the whig newspapers. brian: i keep thinking about what we went through with the campaign. reading from your book, the newspaper the washington globe -- the van buren newspaper -- assailed the ogle speech as an omnibus of lies. how often did somebody accuse the other side of lying? ronald: about every 30 seconds. brian: so that is nothing new. ronald: it was standard procedure. whatever your opponent was saying was a lie and we are telling the truth, similar to what we just went through. lies and insults are the fabric of the campaign. harrison said he was the most persecuted man in america. brian: another quote -- opponents of martin van buren called him a weasel, a crawling reptile, and a political schemer. does it get any worse?
ronald: not very much. they turned on poor van buren. he had no idea why people were saying these things. it was very nasty. even his friends turned on him. washington irving, the author, grew up with him and was his friend until van buren would not appoint his brother to a job, so he switched over to harrison. in those days, you had better be ready for a lot of insults as president. brian: who paid for this campaign and how did they get so many "log cabin"s going around by horses?
ronald: it was the whig party who paid for it and they got it from the merchant princes in new york. they also raised some money by having fundraisers and things like we have now, but mainly through the wealthy. brian: you have statistics about what happened in the actual campaign. william henry harrison got 1,275,390 votes, 234 electoral votes, and president van buren got 1,128,854 and only 60 electoral votes. ronald: it was somewhat like the recent campaign. harrison won in states that got his electoral votes. van buren picked up a lot of votes. remember, he was from new york,
although harrison won new york. i'm sure of van buren picked up a lot of votes there. the vote total actually was fairly close. the funny thing about van buren, jackson said to wait for the final returns and don't give up yet. people voted over several days during those times. he finally got word that he lost new york and knew he had lost the election. he was at that time sitting to have his portrait made. brian: the interesting thing is who was eligible to vote. 80% of the eligible voters in 1840 voted. we are talking 60% now, but 81% of eligible -- who was eligible? ronald: that was an amazing total, the highest ever at that time. what happened that year, the one reason they went to the log cabin campaign theme was that
the voter rolls had expanded. most of the white males in the country -- before you had to own property, be in the militia, but they expanded it so the number increased. then this entertaining campaign increased voter interest so much that the voter number increased by 60% for this election, and 80% of the voters turned out. brian: a quote from the national intelligencer, which side were they on? ronald: the whig side. brian: it has pleased the almighty to give the people of the long-suffering country a victory over their weak and wicked rulers. ronald: they spoke in biblical terms in those days. you've got to remember, the image that the whigs had presented was that the average worker was oppressed by government that refused to do anything about their troubles. this was like a sign from heaven
that we now have a president who is going to listen to you. a lot of the newspapers talk in sweeping terms, and the democrats complained that harrison was sung into office, because there were so many campaign songs, or that money had paid for the election. brian: i've got a quote from your book from the "globe," on the van buren side, saying the increase in votes was due to mercenaries -- hired, bribed, and purchased. ronald: there is some truth to that because in those days there was a lot of bribing of voters. you would give people wine and food and tell them to vote for this person, and they would do it. they sent bullies to the polls to chase away someone of the
opposition. it was not exactly on the up and up, but that was on both sides. brian: did they vote on the same day? ronald: the voting stretched from late october to early november and sometimes would be over two or three days. you would get results from one state early on, but you would not know the final until more states came in. there was nobody on television telling you, here are the states and the totals. it took days for the newspapers to get the totals, so it took a couple of weeks before people knew who won. brian: did anybody back then challenge the vote? ronald: no. for one reason, it would have taken forever to go over the challenged votes because so many of them could have been challenged. but the feeling was in terms of
voter fraud was that both sides did this, so it evened out. brian: where did you do your research? ronald: i did a lot of it in williamsburg, visited berkeley plantation. i visited sherwood, the home of tyler. i got a tour by his great grandson, william. he took me through the house and showed me a lot of his old papers and so forth. i did a lot of work at the college of william and mary. a lot of these things now, you can get them online. i wanted eyewitnesses to what happened back then, so i was able to get online newspapers from 1840 and books that have been written by people who were there in 1840. an invaluable resource is the diary of john quincy adams, who kept a running tally of things.
brian: what did he think of harrison? ronald: he thought he was ok. not an intellectual giant, but he did not like tyler because he was a slaveholder. he did not like the fact that tyler was able to rise to the presidency. brian: you say that william henry harrison, having won, gave an 8000-plus word speech. they had the first inaugural parade in history. why did they have it just starting with harrison? ronald: mainly because this was the hallmark of his campaign, why did they have it just big rallies with the log cabins on wheels. they had the first official inaugural committee and arranged the parade like the rallies with the log cabins and marching bands. the whigs in baltimore had gotten a brand-new wagon for
harrison to ride in, but he did not want to ride in it. he rode his horse, did not wear a hat or coat. he did have a hat, but he kept doffing it as he went down pennsylvania avenue. once he gave his speech, they paraded back to the white house. brian: couple of small things in the book -- buckeye state. ronald: harrison's adopted state was ohio, wonderful state, as you know. the name buckeye really became famous to the campaign. at the very first rally in columbus, some people in marietta, ohio chopped down buckeye trees and built a log cabin on wheels. a man there wrote the buckeye song.
they handed out copies at the parade in columbus. then the tippecanoe song came along and the fellow who wrote it proclaimed himself as being a buckeye from the great buckeye state of ohio. they had a lot of stump speakers. the biggest one was an illiterate blacksmith in ohio, nicknamed the buckeye blacksmith. lots of songs were written about buckeyes, he was called the buckeye candidate, and forever after that, ohio became the buckeye state. brian: you say martin van buren was the first president to have central heating in the white house? ronald: that was one of the things that made it a palace, i guess.
the big one was john quincy adams, who installed the bathroom. brian: what didn't you know before you started this? ronald: one of the things i did not know was the heavy involvement of women. this was the first campaign that women were involved with. they could not vote, of course, but the whigs decided they would be great allies because they could persuade their husbands and boyfriends to vote for harrison. it became a great movement. women wore sashes, whig husbands or none, and refused to marry their boyfriends unless they said they would vote for the whigs. women came to the parades and waved handkerchiefs, some gave speeches were wrote pamphlets. it was very shocking. they were criticized by the democrats, who said these women should be home making pudding. this was the beginning of the movement for the women's vote. a lot of these women went on to push for the -- one of my favorite anecdotes, i have got to tell you. there was a rally in springfield, illinois, and the horses stampeded.
a woman was heard to say, if any are to be killed, let them be the ladies, for they can't vote. she went on to start a magazine on fashion and wore pants that were known as bloomers. brian: comparing to the most recent election, the whigs won both houses of congress and two thirds of the state legislatures. sounds familiar. was that a surprise? ronald: it probably was that they won that much. the surprise started with a vote for governor in maine, where a fellow named kent was the whig candidate and he won by 60 votes. they had a song, hell-bent for kent. from then on, the whigs had an
idea that something big was happening. brian: another comparison, what happened after harrison was elected and the president was defeated? what was their relationship? ronald: van buren -- during the campaign, they attacked van buren. there were a lot of cartoons about him. in fact, when harrison arrived in washington, he stayed at a hotel. van buren invited him to the white house and was very gracious. he invited him to move in ahead of the election to get away from the crowds. of course he had no secret service protection, but he stayed at the hotel. van buren brought his cabinet over to meet harrison and had him over for dinner. he was very gracious. he did not attend inauguration, because that was not the custom at the time. but he turned out to be very
gracious loser. brian: so when he died -- harrison dies 30 days plus 12 hours into his presidency. what happens? ronald: there is panic because the vice president is not there. in those days, vice president had nothing to do, so he had gone home to williamsburg, virginia. brian: in those days, how long would it take to get from here to there? ronald: about 20 hours. so they sent two guys who took a steamship and a train and rode to his house. they got there in the middle of the night. he was not on his knees playing with his children as the myths have it. they rushed him back. he had some word that harrison was not doing well but did not think it was proper to rush back and hover over the body. so he was sworn in. the other problem is, what do you call him?
this had never happened before and the constitution had never told them what you do. it just said, the vice president takes the duties of president, not that he was president. tyler said, call me president. brian: where were you born? ronald: columbus, ohio. went to ohio state university. went to work for the wall street journal in 1963. brian: your favorite story you wrote? ronald: one of my favorites had to be a profile of art buchwald, the famous humor columnist. i followed him around for two weeks, wrote a story about how he writes his column, and we became good friends. i have been a fan of his ever since. brian: you retired 15 years ago. how would you rate retirement? ronald: i give it an a. you have time to do what you want and you can write books and watch c-span all day.
brian: our guest has been ronald g. shafer. the book is called "the carnival campaign: how the rollicking 1840 campaign of 'tippecanoe and tyler too' changed presidential elections forever." thank you very much. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] announcer: for free transcripts or to give us your comments, visit us at q&a.org. programs are also available as c-span podcasts. &a programliked this q was ronald schaffer, here are some others you might enjoy. lerhave david andjeanne heid