I just finished reading the book "Destiny Of The Republic" by Candice Millard; the New Yorker and NPR liked it so I gave it a shot and I'm glad I did. James A. Garfield, the subject of the book, was the 20th president of the United States, and, chiefly because his term was only of 200 days' duration, he is today not one of the presidents whose name is on the lips of the electorate. I mean, he really didn't have chance to do very much in that short a time.
We talked about him another time because of the circumstances of his assassination at the hands of "disappointed office seeker Charles Guiteau." Guiteau might be better known today than Garfield, come to think of it: there have been far fewer assassins than presidents, thank Heaven. But Garfield was an interesting guy, once you read more about him. He didn't even want to be president, and went to the Republican convention in 1880 to make the nominating speech in support of General Sherman, who had such a hot time in Atlanta. Next thing you know, it was Sherman's turn to be all burned up, because Garfield made such a great speech about Sherman, the crowd went nuts and nominated Garfield instead.
That is sort of like being Cyrano for a friend and going to ask a girl to marry that friend and then she says, "No, but you'll do!"
So, long story short, Garfield gets elected and then Guiteau does his dastardly deed, and Garfield might have lived anyway but the doctors refused to practice antiseptic treatment in those days and so they infected him with fatal sepsis while trying to remove the bullet that Guiteau put in him.
What I really found interesting about the man was that he was a self-made man. His father died when JAG was but a tad, and he had to make it on his own. He was self-educated, and spoke very formally, like this:
Territory is but the body of a nation. The people who inhabit its hills and valleys are its soul, its spirit, its life.
A pound of pluck is worth a ton of luck.
|James A. Garfield|