Harrison was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, England in 1831. He emigrated to New Zealand in early 1860 and arrived in Auckland, where he went into business. When his business failed, he was attracted by the Otago Gold Rush in 1861, but ended up working as a staff member of Julius Vogel on the Otago Daily Times. He moved to Greymouth in 1865, where he was the editor of the Grey River Argus.
In 1871, he moved to Wellington and became editor of the Wellington Independent, but he returned after one year to the Grey River Argus.
In the 1868 by-election in the Westland Boroughs electorate, he contested the election against William Shaw, the Mayor of Hokitika, following the resignation of William Sefton Moorhouse. Harrison and Shaw received 98 and 81 votes, respectively. Harrison represented the Westland Boroughs electorate until 1870, and then the Grey Valley electorate from 1871 to 1875, when he retired.
He represented the Greymouth riding from February 1868 to December 1870 on the Westland County. In the first election for the Grey County in December 1876, he was the returning officer for the Cobden riding. He was later elected to the Grey County himself.
He had a painful disease at his jaw and on 1 May 1879, he left for Melbourne to see a specialist. The prognoses was for incurable cancer, and Harrison died in Melbourne on 30 May 1879, aged 48. He was survived by his wife and their two children.