20 - James A Garfield
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The Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of James A. Garfield
Destiny of the republic : a tale of madness, medicine, and the murder of a president
From the tow-path to the White House
James Garfield could write Latin with one hand and Greek with the other.
Garfield was the second president shot in office. Doctors tried to find the bullet with a metal detector invented by Alexander Graham Bell. But the device failed because Garfield was placed on a bed with metal springs, and no one thought to move him. He died on September 19, 1881.
Garfield was our first left-handed president.
He was the first president to campaign in more than one language.
He was named after his older brother James, who died in infancy, and his father, Abram Garfield.
Garfield was the only president to have been a preacher.
The Garfield story is a well presented history of a good man. If a reader assumes total accuracy by the writer, Mr. Garfield could have been a great man. The first months of his short term in office had been unpleasant with such things as strife within the Party, his wife's illness and removal from the city for recuperation and a clamor for political office, the last of which gave rise to his being shot by a severely disappointed seeker, Charles J. Guiteau, as he was arriving at a railway depot on his way to be with his wife. From that day, July 2, 1881, the book is presented almost as a diary covering the 80 days of medical mistakes. It is sad reading - even the piece about the 300 men building 3200 feet of railway line overnight to connect the main line at Elberon, Long Branch, with the door of the Francklyn's sea-front cottage where it was hoped the stricken President would be able to recuperate.
The book also contains the full text of the memorial address delivered before the Congress by James A. Blaine, ex-Secretary of State.
At the end of the book, Mr. Ridpath has added a 122 page "The Life and Trial of Guiteau the Assassin" which sums up the man with a capitalized, one line statement: "He is a moral idiot".
I admit to a partiality for old usage of the English language and for strong, certain, statements by biographers. I'm sure most of this treatise contains fact but I'm also sure some of it is colored by Mr. Ridpath's opinion.
If you can find the book, I'm sure you will enjoy the history of it.
It also cites new engineering of machinery for air cooling, air drying and air purifying being fitted to the executive mansion and many, many conflicting medical opinions and procedures being suffered. It seems clear that, should today's technology been available then, Mr. Garfield would not have died.
That caused the sadness I referred to. If it weren't so sad, it would be comic.
552026::The fatal bullet : a true account of the assassination, lingering pain, death, and burial of James A. Garfield, twentieth president of the United States; also including the inglorious life and career of the despised assassin Guiteau by Rick Geary - finished 2/6/2011
From canal boy to president, or, The boyhood and manhood of James A. Garfield by Horatio Alger - reading
"Cincinnati, Ohio, circa 1906. "Garfield statue." Our 20th president, cut down by an assassin's bullet and put up on a pedestal. 8x10 glass negative."
by Allan Peskin
(insert obligatory comic strip comment here)
This 1978 biography of James A. Garfield was pretty good. It not only covered the events of his life but also related it to the events that were happening in the country around him. (Which is good because my whole rationale for reading through presidential biographies is to get a better handle on American history.) In fact, I found that if anything was lacking in this biography, it was coverage of Garfield's family life.
As far as the subject of the book goes, I found Garfield himself to be somewhat unimpressive. In the beginning, as I read about his early life and religious upbringing--he came across as far more religious than his predecessors--I thought I might like him better than the other presidents. But as he traded his pulpit and classroom for a political stump and then a regiment I found him to be, ah, uninspiring. Despite the era, his life lacked the drama of Lincoln or Grant. Nor did he have the personality of Johnson or Hayes. What I did appreciate, however, was how Garfield played his part in the events of his day. This biography was especially useful in showing how the liberal party of the abolitionists started to become the conservative party of big business. All in all, like I said, it was a pretty good book.
I'm reading the Kansas University book, which combined the presidencies of Garfield and Arthur. When I finish the Garfield part (which is only about 50 pages), I'll report on it.
I also read James A. Garfield by Ira Rutkow. This was the typical short biography from the American Presidents Series.
The book follows multiple threads - the life and assassination of Garfield, the life of giteau, the assassin, and also the scientific and medical theme mainly centered on Bell and his induction balance metal detector but also the malpractice of Bliss, the main doctor and to some extent Lister and the general medical schools of thought at the time regarding sterile practices.
Excerpts of letters helped to make the book lively but I would have appreciated longer excerpts at times and was engrossed in the book so would have been fine with a longer overall length.
Millard paints a positive picture of Garfield and at the end interesting, attributes his death with the downfall of the spoils system which is soonish left to blame for the ultimate cause of allowing someone like giteau to occur and also attributes the nation's mourning as a unifying force between country's regions. She also paints a picture of Chester Arthur as one who grows substantially through the circumstances thrust upon him though of still limited effect.
Overall it's an interesting and quick read and I would recommend it.
Thought it was a good book. Easy and fast read. Learned a lot about Garfield, but want to know more. Will look to read something else about him in the future.