Benjamin Harrison V

Benjamin Harrison V (April 5, 1726  April 24, 1791) was an American planter, merchant, and politician who served as a legislator in colonial Virginia, following his namesakes’ tradition of public service. He was a signer of the Continental Association, as well as the United States Declaration of Independence, and was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He served as Virginia's governor from 1781 to 1784.

Benjamin Harrison V
Miniature portrait, 18th century, unknown artist
5th Governor of Virginia
In office
December 1, 1781  December 1, 1784
Preceded byThomas Nelson Jr.
Succeeded byPatrick Henry
Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates
In office
May 7, 1781  December 1, 1781
Preceded byRichard Henry Lee
Succeeded byJohn Tyler Sr.
In office
May 4, 1778  March 1, 1781
Preceded byGeorge Wythe
Succeeded byRichard Henry Lee
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
from Charles City County
In office
May 5, 1777  December 1, 1781
Preceded bySamuel Harwood
Succeeded byWilliam Green Munford
Personal details
Born(1726-04-05)April 5, 1726
Charles City County, Colony of Virginia, British America
DiedApril 24, 1791(1791-04-24) (aged 65)
Charles City County, Virginia, U.S.
Resting placeBerkeley Plantation, Charles City County, Virginia, U.S.
Elizabeth Bassett
(m. 1748)
Parent(s)Benjamin Harrison IV
Anne Carter
Alma materCollege of William and Mary
  • Politician
  • planter
  • merchant

Harrison served an aggregate of three decades in the Virginia House of Burgesses, alternately representing Surry County and Charles City County. He was among the early patriots to formally protest measures that King George III and the British Parliament imposed upon the American colonies, leading to the American Revolution. Harrison was a slaveholder, though in 1772 he joined a petition to the king, requesting that he abolish the slave trade.

As a delegate to the Continental Congress and chairman of its Committee of the whole, Harrison attended and presided over the final debate of the Declaration of Independence. He was one of its signers in 1776. The Declaration included a foundational philosophy of the United States: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Harrison was elected as Virginia's fifth governor; his administration was marked by its futile struggle with a state treasury decimated by the Revolutionary War. He later returned to the Virginia House for two final terms. In disagreement with his normal ally George Washington, Harrison in 1788 cast one of his last votes in opposition to the nation's Constitution, for its lack of a bill of rights. He was a member of the Harrison family of Virginia. Two of his descendants became United States presidents—son William Henry Harrison and great-grandson Benjamin Harrison.

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