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Robert McNamara

The Best and Worst Inaugural Addresses

By January 21, 2013

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Everyone seems to agree that Lincoln's second inaugural address was the best ever, but other 19th century presidents also delivered good speeches on inauguration day. One president who never gets any respect, Benjamin Harrison, gave a surprisingly good speech which touched upon America becoming an industrial power in the years following the Civil War.

Andrew Jackson's inaugural address heralded a new era for America (though his 1829 inauguration is probably better remembered for the raucous celebration which nearly destroyed the the White House).

And of course there were some bad inaugural addresses. Thomas Jefferson, who had delivered an inspiring inaugural address when he first took office, appeared for his second inauguration four years later and unleashed a torrent of bitterness.

The absolute worst inaugural address was given by William Henry Harrison. After enduring a long trip to Washington, he stood outside in horrible weather and mystified the crowd by delivering a two-hour speech dealing mainly with ancient Roman history.

Harrison caught a cold on inauguration day, and died in the White House a month later. His speech was not merely bad, it was fatal.


Illustration: William Henry Harrison, who delivered the worst inaugural address/Library of Congress

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