Benjamin Harrison V (April 5, 1726 - May 7, 1800) was the first President of the Confederation of Carolina from 1787 to 1790 and Founding Father of that nation.
Early Life and Career
Born on April 5, 1726 in Charles City County, Virginia to Benjamin Harrison IV and Anne Carter. He attended the College of William and Mary, and served in the Virginia House of Burgesses for Surry County from 1756 to 1758 and Charles City County from 1766 to 1776. He was one of the Virginia delegates to the First Continental Congress in 1774, and was returned to the Second Continental Congress in 1775, serving until the adjournment of the Congress in October 1777. Fleeing from York, Pennsylvania, Harrison managed to avoid the British patrols searching for the delegates and arrived in Charles City, Virginia in January 1778.
Harrison married his second cousin, Elizabeth Bassett, and had with her seven children.
- William Henry Harrison
- Elizabeth Harrison
- Anna Harrison
- Benjamin Harrison VI
- Lucy Harrison
- Carter Harrison
- Sarah Harrison
Congressional Career in Carolina
In June 1778, he was selected to serve as one of Virginia's delegates to the Provisional Confederation Congress in Charleston, South Carolina. On June 16, he voted with the majority to continue the armed conflict against the British and achieve freedom for the southern colonies. He served on the committee that drafted the Articles of Confederation, which later became the founding document of the Confederation of Carolina, from December 10, 1778 to March 18, 1779. He was one of the signers of the original Articles. On June 1, 1780, Harrison became the second President of the Confederation Congress, following Joseph Wood. He served as the President of Congress until June 1, 1782. He resigned from the Congress on March 4, 1786, shortly before the war ended, to assume the office of Governor of Virginia, a post he held only until August 24, 1786. With the war over and the provisional government in adjournment, the interim government of the Confederation of Carolina was established. Harrison returned to Charleston as an interim Senator for Virginia, serving until March 4, 1787. In the January 1787 general elections, he was elected President of Carolina.
President of Carolina
Sixty year old Benjamin Harrison V was inaugurated as President of Carolina on March 5, 1787 on the steps of Charleston's Cotton Exchange, which had served as the headquarters of Congress since 1778. He was worn in by Robert Livingston, 3rd Lord of Livingston Manor. Following the inauguration, Harrison walked to the rented offices of the executive branch.
One of Harrison's first tasks was the appointment of a Cabinet of advisers to assist in the daily operations of the nation. He selected Joseph Wood, who was serving in Ghent as the head of the Carolina delegation at the peace conference, as his Secretary of Foreign Affairs. General Christopher Gadsden was appointed Secretary of War, to begin on March 10th. John Nixon, a political refugee from the north, served as the first Secretary of the Treasury after March 11th. Finally, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, would serve as the new nation's Secretary of Domestic Affairs.
With the establishment of a Cabinet, President Harrison received the credentials of the newly appointed United Kingdom Envoy to the Confederation of Carolina, Robert Liston (1742-1836), and the new French Minister to Carolina, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799). Having received diplomatic recognition, the sovereignty of Carolina was legitimized and Harrison's government could operate within the international community.
Although the war had been over for several months, the borders of the new nation had not been determined diplomatically. The Confederation Army occupied land in western Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia, but their hold was tenuous. Harrison sent a delegation to London to negotiate the settlement of the border with the government of British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. By 1789, the delegation had achieved their mission. The border between Carolina and British North America would follow the pre-1775 borders of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia.