Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

by Candice Millard


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James A. Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back.

But the shot didn’t kill Garfield. The drama of what hap­pened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in tur­moil. The unhinged assassin’s half-delivered strike shattered the fragile national mood of a country so recently fractured by civil war, and left the wounded president as the object of a bitter behind-the-scenes struggle for power—over his administration, over the nation’s future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care. A team of physicians administered shockingly archaic treatments, to disastrous effect. As his con­dition worsened, Garfield received help: Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, worked around the clock to invent a new device capable of finding the bullet.

Meticulously researched, epic in scope, and pulsating with an intimate human focus and high-velocity narrative drive, The Destiny of the Republic will stand alongside The Devil in the White City and The Professor and the Madman as a classic of narrative history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385526265
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/20/2011
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 319,265
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

CANDICE MILLARD is the New York Times bestselling author of The River of Doubt. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and children.

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What People are Saying About This

Douglas Brinkley

"Historian Candice Millard's Destiny of the Republic is first-rate history, political intrigue, and a true-crime story all rolled into one. Millard is masterful at capturing the zeitgeist of America during the 1880s, when President James Garfield was assassinated. An epic must-read!" --(Douglas Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior)

David Grann

"In this brilliant and riveting work, Candice Millard demonstrates the power of narrative nonfiction. Through exhaustive research and flawless storytelling, she has brought to life one of the most harrowing and fascinating sagas in American history—a saga filled with political intrigue, a mad assassin, and a frantic scientific struggle to save the life of a noble president. This is a book that is impossible to put down." --(David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z)

Ken Burns

"As she did in The River of Doubt, Candice Millard has written another riveting narrative, this time about a long-neglected but remarkable president, James A. Garfield, who was shot by a deranged office seeker just a few weeks after he assumed the presidency. What happens next is detailed in the accomplished book. Just as Millard put us deep in the Amazon with Teddy Roosevelt, she has skillfully allowed us to share this traumatic moment." --(Ken Burns)

Hampton Sides

"Candice Millard has done it again: She's turned the sometimes stodgy realm of presidential history on its head with a gripping tale of high danger and stoic endurance, a tale that had nearly completely vanished from public memory. What an exceptional man and what an exciting era Millard has brought to elegant life on the page! After reading Destiny of the Republic, you'll never think of James A. Garfield as a ‘minor' president again—and you'll despise anew our national penchant for hatching madmen who snuff out greatness in its prime." --(Hampton Sides, author of Hellhound on His Trail)

Debby Applegate

"In President Garfield's assassination, Candice Millard has rediscovered one of the great forgotten stories in American history. Millard has turned Garfield's story into a crackling tale of suspense and a panoramic picture of a fascinating but forgotten era. If you enjoy reading about Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, you will find this book riveting." --(Debby Applegate, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Most Famous Man in America)

From the Publisher

A New York Times Notable Book

"Crisp, concise and revealing history. . . . A fresh narrative that plumbs some of the most dramatic days in U.S. presidential history."
The Washington Post 

“A spirited tale that intertwines murder, politics and medical mystery. . . . Candice Millard leaves us feeling that Garfield's assassination deprived the nation not only of a remarkably humble and intellectually gifted man but one who perhaps bore the seeds of greatness . . . splendidly drawn portraits. . . . Alexander Graham Bell makes a bravura appearance.”
The Wall Street Journal

"Fascinating. . . . Gripping. . . . Stunning. . . . The haunting tale of how a man who never meant to seek the presidency found himself swept into the White House. . . . Millard shows the Garfield legacy to be much more important than most of her readers knew it to be."
The New York Times

"Destiny of the Republic displays Millard's energetic writing and rare ability to effortlessly educate the listener."
USA Today

"A staggering tale. . . . Millard digs deeply into the turmoil that got James A. Garfield elected, the lunacy that got him shot and the medical malfeasance that turned a minor wound into a mortal one."
—Janet Maslin, Top 10 Recommendations for 2011

“One of the many pleasures of Candice Millard’s new book, Destiny of the Republic, [is] that she brings poor Garfield to life—and a remarkable life it was. . . . Fascinating. . . . Millard has written us a penetrating human tragedy.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Brings the era and people involved to vivid life. . . . Takes the reader on a compelling fly on-the-wall journey. . . . Millard takes all of these elements in a forgotten period of history and turns them into living and breathing things.”
—Associated Press

“Think you’re not interested in James Garfield, our 20th President? Millard’s action-packed account of his life and truly strange death should change your mind.”

Filled with memorable characters, hairpin twists of fate and consequences that bring a young nation to the breaking point, Destiny of the Republic brings back to roaring life a tragic but irresistible historical period.”
The Christian Science Monitor

“A winning amalgamation of history and adventure. They [Millard’s books] exhibit a keen eye for human frailties.”
The Washington Post 

"Fascinating. . . . Millard colorfully recreates the political milieu of 1880."
The Seattle Times

"Millard provides a splendidly written and suspenseful account of this fascinating episode in American history."
The Oregonian

“By keeping a tight hold on her narrative strands, Millard crafts a popular history rich with detail and emotion. One of the pleasures of the book is the chance to learn more about Garfield, who appears as a fully realized historical figure instead of a trivia answer.”

“This tale of physician error contextualized by politics and murder makes for riveting reading. Ms. Millard recounts this episode of our nation’s history in a style that keeps readers on the edge of their seats even though the ending is known.”
The Washington Times

“Splendid. . . . recovers for us just what a remarkable—even noble—man Garfield was. . . . She also chillingly depicts his killer. . . . This wonderful book reminds us that our 20th president was neither a minor nor merely a tragic figure, but rather an extraordinary one.”
The Plain Dealer

“An achingly good, suspenseful read. . . . compelling characters and nail-biting storytelling, and [readers] will no doubt walk away even more emotionally affected by Garfield’s tragedy.”
The Kansas City Star

“Blends science, medicine, and politics in a crime story that grabs tight and it does not let go until the very last page. . . . A remarkable book. It is crisply written and riveting.”
Tucson Citizen

"Millard finds the ironies of history throughout this stirring narrative, one that's full of suspense even though you know what's coming. She makes you a witness, not a reader."
Erie Times

“Destiny of the Republic is popular history at its best—accessible, educational and entertaining—and Millard renders it with grace, power and sympathy.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Make[s] for compulsive reading. Superb American history."
Kirkus, starred review

"Splendidly insightful. . . . stands securely at the crossroads of popular and professional history."
Booklist, starred review

“Sparklingly alive. . . [Millard] brings to life a moment in the nation’s history when access to the president was easy, politics bitter, and medical knowledge slight.  Under Millard’s pen, it’s hard to imagine its being better told.”
Publishers Weekly

“Historian Candice Millard’s Destiny of the Republic is first-rate history, political intrigue, and a true-crime story all rolled into one. . . . An epic must-read!”
—Douglas Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior

“In this brilliant and riveting work, Candice Millard demonstrates the power of narrative nonfiction. Through exhaustive research and flawless storytelling, she has brought to life one of the most harrowing and fascinating sagas in American history. . . . This is a book that is impossible to put down.”
—David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z

“Candice Millard has done it again: She’s turned the sometimes stodgy realm of presidential history on its head with a gripping tale of high danger and stoic endurance, a tale that had nearly completely vanished from public memory. What an exceptional man and what an exciting era Millard has brought to elegant life on the page!”
—Hampton Sides, author of Hellhound on His Trail

“In President Garfield’s assassination, Candice Millard has rediscovered one of the great forgotten stories in American history. Millard has turned Garfield’s story into a crackling tale of suspense and a panoramic picture of a fascinating but forgotten era.”
—Debby Applegate, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Most Famous Man in America

“As she did in The River of Doubt, Candice Millard has written another riveting narrative. . . . She has skillfully allowed us to share this traumatic moment.”
—Ken Burns


Barnes & Noble Exclusive Essay
Destiny of the Republic
By Candice Millard

At the heart of Destiny of the Republic is the story of the assassination of President James Garfield. What made me want to write this book, however, was not what I knew about President Garfield—that he had been shot by a deranged man in the summer of 1881—but all that I did not.

In everything I read, I am always looking for the thread of an idea, something that surprises me, and leaves me wanting to know more. To me, that's the best part of being a writer—following an idea to see where it leads. Most of the time, after doing a little research, I quickly come to a dead end. One day four years ago, however, I found much more than I had ever expected.

While reading a biography of Alexander Graham Bell, I learned that Bell had tried to help save Garfield's life after the President was shot. I wondered why a man as famous and powerful as Bell, who had invented the telephone just five years earlier, would abandon everything he was working on, put his life on hold, to help any man, even a President. The only way to answer that question, I realized, was to understand exactly what Bell had invented, and, more than that, to find out what kind of man Garfield had been.

After the assassination attempt, Bell devoted himself night and day to inventing something called an induction balance, a type of metal detector, to locate the bullet lodged in the President's body. The induction balance that Bell used for the final time on Garfield is on display in the National Museum of American History, on the National Mall. What most people don't know, however, is that the museum also has all of the versions of Bell's induction balance, in various shapes and sizes, with hanging wires and unfinished edges, that he created while trying to perfect his invention. As I held these fragile instruments in my gloved hands, carefully examining their intricate workings, I could almost see Bell's mind working, and his heart racing, as the President drew closer and closer to death.

Although, in the end, I would spend three years working on this book, it took only a few days of research to realize what Bell must have known—that President Garfield was not only a tragic figure, but one of the most extraordinary men ever elected President of the United States. A passionate abolitionist, Garfield was not only hailed a hero in the Civil War, but was a fierce champion of the rights of freed slaves. At the same time, he was a supremely gifted scholar who had become a university president at just 26 years of age, and, while in Congress, wrote an original proof of the Pythagorean Theorem.

With each diary entry and letter I read, each research trip I took, Garfield came more clearly and vividly to life. It was not until I visited the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C., however, that I began to understand the extent of the suffering that Garfield, and the nation with him, had endured. In its archives, in a large metal cabinet with long, deep drawers, the museum keeps the remains of two presidential assassins: John Wilkes Booth and Charles Guiteau, the man who shot Garfield. In the same cabinet, in a drawer just below Guiteau's, lies a six-inch section of Garfield's spine, a red pin inserted through a hole in the knobby, yellowed bone to show the path of Guiteau's bullet. It is impossible to look at this heartbreaking collection without being struck by the fact that this story, now hardly remembered, was once a tragedy so wrenching that it transfixed and terrified an entire nation.

This book is my attempt to step back in time, to understand these men and this moment in history, and to tell a story that should never have been forgotten.

Q&A with Candice Millard, author of DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC:

Q: The assassination of President James A. Garfield is a long-forgotten moment in American history. What sparked the idea for DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC and why do you feel it's important to tell this story?
A: I didn't start out to write about President Garfield. To be honest, I knew very little about him beyond the fact that he had been shot after four months in office. I was interested in Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. While researching Bell, however, I learned that he had worked night and day, turning his own life upside down, to try to save Garfield's life after the President was shot. I had never before heard this story, and I was fascinated that a genius like Bell would go to such lengths to help another man, even a President. So I wondered what kind of man Garfield was. What I learned was what Bell must have known: that Garfield was, without question, one of the most extraordinary men ever elected President. The more I learned about Garfield, the more I knew I had to tell this story.

Q: Garfield was a self-made man whose extraordinary rise from poverty to the Presidency is the stuff of American legend—congressman, Senator, Civil War general. How did Garfield rise above his humble beginnings? And how did education shape and inform him as a politician?
A: Garfield knew from painful personal experience that the nation's only hope for real progress—for freedom from poverty, ignorance and intolerance—was education. Although he had paid for his first year of college by working as a carpenter and janitor, by his sophomore year he was promoted to professor of literature and ancient languages. By the time he was 26 years old, he was the college president. Even while he was in Congress, Garfield could recite the entire Aeneid by heart, in Latin, and he wrote an original proof of the Pythagorean Theorem. So strong was Garfield's belief in the power of education that it largely defined his years in Congress. He gave countless speeches on the importance of education, argued that the best way to bring the South back into the Union was through the education of its children, advocated the establishment of schools at military camps, and proposed the first federal Department of Education.

Q: DESTINY opens with Garfield attending the 1876 United States Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Two key men that figured in the electrifying race to save Garfield's life after the assassination—Joseph Lister and Alexander Graham Bell—were exhibitors at the Centennial. Why did Garfield attend? What were Bell and Lister promoting at the Exhibition?
A: Garfield attended the exhibition because he believed in the power of ideas, and he wanted to see what the world's finest minds had achieved. There were no more shining examples of intellectual achievement in the nineteenth century than Alexander Graham Bell and Joseph Lister. Bell, who was only 29 years old, had just invented the telephone, and had brought it to the exhibition to publicly display it for the first time. Lister, a British surgeon, had discovered antisepsis—one of the most important advances in medical history—and had traveled to Philadelphia to try to convince American doctors of the importance of sterilization. Unfortunately for Garfield, and the nation, they were not yet ready to listen.

Q: The spoils system was alive and well in late 19th century U.S. politics, and no one reaped the rewards more than Senator Roscoe Conkling. How was Conkling arguably the most powerful politician in the country? And what was his relationship to Garfield's Vice President, Chester A. Arthur?
A: Conkling was a vain, preening, ruthlessly powerful senator from New York. He tightly controlled the New York Custom's House, which collected 70% of the country's customs revenue, and he expected complete and unquestioning loyalty. Politically, Arthur was utterly Conkling's creation. The only other political position he had held before the vice presidency was as the controller of the New York customs house, a job that Conkling, through President Grant, had given him. Even after the election, Arthur made it clear where his loyalties lay. He vacationed with Conkling, even lived with him in New York, and took every opportunity to publicly criticize the President.

Q: Garfield was surprisingly named the Republican nominee for President at the 1880 Chicago Republican Convention. How did the rivalry between the two factions—the Stalwarts and the Half-Breeds—of the Republican party thrust Garfield to the nomination? And why did Garfield consider the presidency a "bleak mountain" that he was obliged to ascend?
A: Not only was Garfield not a candidate for the Republican nomination in 1880, he didn't want to be one. He had never had what he called "presidential fever." He attended the convention to give a speech nominating another man. So eloquent and powerful was that speech, however that it deeply moved the raucous crowd of 15,000. When the balloting began, to Garfield's shock and horror, delegates began casting their votes for him. Before he knew it, despite his fervent objections, he had won the nomination.

Q: Charles Guiteau, Garfield's deranged assassin, led a peripatetic, lonely life and by 1880 had become obsessed with politics. At that time, the President kept calling hours for the American public Monday through Friday at the White House and Guiteau visited several times. What did Guiteau expect to receive from Garfield? And at what point did he decide to kill the President?
A: This was the height of the spoils system. Not only did many Americans feel entitled to government appointments, regardless of their abilities or experience, but they insisted on making their case directly to the President himself. Garfield was expected to meet with office seekers, one on one, face to face, from 10:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., every day. The idea of political patronage appealed to no one more than Charles Guiteau. Guiteau had failed at everything he had tried—from law to evangelism to even a free-love commune—but he was deeply, dangerously delusional. He believed that Garfield would not only give him a political appointment, but would make him the consul-general to France. All that was necessary, he believed, was persistence. Guiteau went to the State Department and White House nearly every day for months—even walking into the President's office at one point, while Garfield was in it—expecting to be given the consulship. Finally, frustrated and desperate, he had what he believed was a divine inspiration: God wanted him to kill the President.

Q: On July 2, 1881—four months after his inauguration — Garfield was assassinated by Guiteau at the Baltimore and Potomac Station in Washington. Two shots hit the President, but the bullets didn't kill him. How did the immediate actions of Garfield's doctors—led by Dr. Doctor Bliss—cause more harm than the bullets?
A: By an incredible stroke of luck, the bullet that tore through Garfield's back did not hit his spinal cord or any of his vital organs. Today, he would have spent a few nights in the hospital. Even if his doctors had just left him alone, he almost certainly would have survived. For more than two months, however, Bliss and a small team of doctors repeatedly inserted unsterilized fingers and instruments in the President's back, probing for the bullet. The resulting infection that coursed through Garfield's body was far more lethal than Guiteau's bullet.

Q: First Lady Lucretia Garfield was the center of Garfield's world. Yet their marriage had taken years to blossom. Why was their courtship difficult and how had their marriage changed over the course of 30 years?
A: During the first five years of their marriage, James and Lucretia were separated almost constantly, by Garfield's service during the Civil War and his work in Washington, D.C. Even when they were together, their starkly different personalities—Lucretia was as quiet and private as James was cheerful and outgoing—made it very difficult for them to understand each other. Slowly, however, and after enduring great heartache—from the death of their first child to James's brief affair with a young widow—they fell deeply in love, a love that was as vibrant as it was abiding. "I hear record the most deliberate conviction of my soul," James wrote to Lucretia one night from Washington. "Were every tie that binds me to the men and women of the world severed, and I free to choose out of all the world the sharer of my heart and home and life, I would fly to you and ask you to be mine as you are."

Q: Bliss supervised Garfield's care with an iron fist and complete control, much to the President's detriment. How did Bliss transform the White House into a hospital? And how did he manipulate the public into believing that Garfield's condition was improving, when in fact he was suffering greatly?
A: No one gave Bliss authority over Garfield's medical care. He just took it. He took advantage of the chaos that followed the shooting to establish himself as the President's chief physician, and then he dismissed all the other doctors. So completely did Bliss isolate Garfield in his sick room—refusing nearly all visitors, even the Secretary of State—that rumors began to circulate that the President had died. Bliss began issuing medical bulletins about Garfield's condition, but they were unwaveringly optimistic. Even when Garfield was suffering from severe septicemia, Bliss took great satisfaction in the "healthy pus" issuing from the President's wound, and insisted that his condition was steadily improving. Only in a private letter to a friend did Bliss admit that he feared for the President's life. "I can't afford to have him die," he wrote.

Q: How did Bliss enlist Alexander Graham Bell's help in trying to find the bullet and save Garfield's life? How did Bell's induction balance perform? Where is the device today?
A: Bell was not interested in wealth or fame. He wanted to help people. His wife and his mother were deaf, and he had lost both of his brothers to tuberculosis. He knew that, through his ideas and his inventions, he could improve lives, maybe even save them. When he learned of the President's shooting, he abandoned everything he was working on and devoted all of his time, energy, and genius to saving Garfield. He worked night and day for months to invent an induction balance, basically a metal detector, to find the bullet lodged in the President's body. Bell was ultimately defeated, but not because his invention didn't work. It did work. In fact, it went on to save countless lives before the invention of the medical x-ray. Bell was defeated by the President's own doctors, who didn't tell him that Garfield was lying on a metal-spring mattress—which was very unusual at the time—and wouldn't allow him to test the President's left side, where the bullet actually lay, because Bliss believed—and had publicly stated—that it was on the right. Bell's induction balance is now in the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. The final instrument he used on the President is on display, but Bell built many versions of the invention, desperately trying to perfect it while Garfield lay dying. In 1898, he donated those instruments to the museum's archives, where they remain today.

Q: Garfield spent his last days at the ocean in Elberon, NJ. Can you describe the train journey from the White House to Elberon? Why was dying near the water important to Garfield?
A: Garfield knew that he was dying, and he was determined not to spend his final days in the miserably hot, lonely sick room in the White House. If he could not go home to his beloved farmhouse in Ohio, he wanted to go to the sea. "I have always felt that the ocean was my friend," he had written in his diary just a few weeks before the shooting. "The sight of it brings rest and peace." As a specially outfitted train carried Garfield from Washington to Elberon, thousands of people lined the tracks, watching in silence as their President passed by. Although 2,000 people had worked until dawn to lay enough track to take the President directly to the house where he would be staying, the train could not breach the hill on which the cottage sat. Out of the crowd that had waited for hours for Garfield, two hundred men rushed forward to help, solemnly pushing the train cars to the door of the cottage.

Q: Guiteau's trial became one of the media events of the century, and one of the earliest proceedings in which an insanity defense was asserted. Can you describe Guiteau's courtroom behavior as well as what he considered his defense?
A: In their grief and rage, the American people were determined to see Garfield's assassin hanged for his crime. If any murderer, however, deserved to be found not guilty by reason of insanity, it was Charles Guiteau. Although he was extremely intelligent and incredibly articulate, the more he spoke during his trial, the more apparent his insanity became. He constantly attacked his own lawyer—who was his brother-in-law, the only man in the country willing to represent him—he refuted testimony, questioned witnesses, and even made a public appeal for money. Although he had taken the insanity defense, Guiteau wanted to make it clear that he had been insane only at the time of the shooting—not before, and certainly not after. More important, he argued that, while he had shot the President, Garfield's doctors had killed him. "They ought to be indicted for murdering James A. Garfield," Guiteau wrote in a public statement, "and not me."

Q: Chester Arthur was horrified by Garfield's assassination and even more terrified of becoming President. How did the letters from a mysterious friend transform Arthur from a widely distrusted Vice President into a respected President?
A: After the attempt on Garfield's life, Chester Arthur made a transformation so complete and stunning that no one could believe it. Sickened and grief stricken by the shooting, Arthur hid himself away, refusing even to go to Washington for fear that it would look like he was waiting in the wings. He even cut himself off from Conkling, the man who had made him, and found moral strength in the most unlikely of places—the letters of a young invalid woman named Julia Sand. Sand believed in Arthur when no one else did, when he didn't even believe in himself. While the rest of the world was horrified by the idea of Arthur becoming President, Sand urged him not to walk away. "Do what is more difficult & more brave," she wrote. "Reform!" And, to everyone's astonishment, not least of all his own, Arthur did. He tried to become the President Garfield would have been had he lived. He became an honest and respected leader, and a reform-minded President. Arthur also never forgot Julia Sand. Not only did he keep her letters and write her back, but he even went to see her. Sand had just finished Sunday dinner at her brother's house, when a highly polished carriage pulled up out front. To everyone's astonishment, out stepped the President, who had come to thank one of his most important advisers in person.

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Destiny of the Republic 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 333 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Candice Millard has a superb narrative style and has written a compelling and fascinating book about the all too short presidency of James Garfield and the ignorant and abysmal state of the medical profession in his day. Garfield was an eloquent genius who, had he lived, would have made a first rate President of the United States. He didn't have to die at that time and the reasons for the mishandling of his recovery from a gun shot wound makes for a truly bone chilling read. A "hard to put down" book!
cdmann More than 1 year ago
James Garfield. Do you know who he is? If you posses an average knowledge of history you will probably respond with something like this. "Was he a president or something?" That's it. Not much more is probably known about Garfield and that is pretty distressing. In Candice Millard's recent book, "Destiny of the Republic - A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President" she attempts to right this wrong. This is a fascinating true story of an American who broke the chains of poverty through hard and honest work. Garfield went on to start a family build a home of a farm after saving his money, and continued to better hilself with self-education and would eventually leave a profound mark on this nation. Garfield loved his family and he loved his books. One reporter remarked after interviewing Garfield in his home during the 1880 presidential election, "wherever you looked you were presented with a book". When the Civil War erupted in 1861 Garfield left his family and served the Union and rose through the ranks to General. Towards the end of the war Garfield was elected to Congress without campaigning or asking for the office. His reputation was so strong the office came to him. After entering Congress everyone around him could see that Garfield was honest, fair and open minded in everything he did. Eventually he found himself tangled in the tumultuous presidential election of 1880. Running for the Republican Nomination was Ulysses S. Grant (third term), James G. Blaine and John Sherman. The nomination process went on for 2 days, ballot after ballot failed to claim a winner. Although Garfield, who had just won an Ohio Senate seat was working hard to get Sherman the nomination support slowing ebbed in his direction. Garfield did not want the nomination and worked hard to oppose it. However everyone was tired of the "party politics" at that point and Garfield's reputation was un-like anyone running. Garfield was nominated against his wishes and at the end of the second day was awarded the nomination. As was his work ethic, Garfield who was very uncomfortable with the nomination worked hard for his country and went on to defeat another Civil War hero for the presidency in 1880, Democrat Winfield Scott. Evil lurks all around us. At the same time Garfield was succeeding at everything he tried Charles E. Guiteau was failing. Guiteau attempted it seems everything. From obtaining entrance into college, law work, writing, theology, politics and even marriage he failed miserably in all of them. Guiteau most likely failed at everything because he was insane. During the 1880 election standing on a street corner Guiteau reportedly made a corner speech supporting Garfield. Because of this, Guiteau believed he was "owed" a political job from Garfield. After the election Guiteau haunted the White House and even met the president once, which was not unusual at the time. An office job was refused of course which led to Garfield's murder at Guiteau's hand only 2 months after the election. There is so much more to this excellent book and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to escape into the past for a brief time and learn something about our 20th president, James A. Garfield. OH, I Almost Forgot If you take the time to read this book you will be angered and upsept that Garfield should have survived the gunshot he sustained. The doctors so botched the work he suffered in misery and slowly died. A tragic fate he surely did not
SueB43 More than 1 year ago
President James Garfield is much neglected in an American History survey course due to the short length of his presidency. Read this book and you will regret that we did not have his wisdom, fairness, honesty, and sense of justice for much longer. It is very poignant at this point in our political circumstances that President Garfield in his time, was able to bring together diverse affiliations - especially between the North and the South. At this death, he even changed the values and priorities of that Conkling underling - the Vice President-now new President Arthur. This book is also a excellent overview of how arrogant and non-believing physicians in the science of germ theory and sepsis did more harm than good in the treatment of our 20th president - President James Garfield.
KtbugCollins More than 1 year ago
When my four-year-old daughter asked what I was reading, I informed her a "book about a president." Her reply, "boring!" Not at all! This book has been receiving rave reviews for a reason. It does not read like a history textbook but a fascinating narrative of a would-be amazing president and a truly one-of-a-kind American. It touches on how his assassination united a torn nation, bringing to mind the way we feel about 9/11 today. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a fabulous, quick, but not "happy" read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book kept my attention from beginning to end. I learned a lot about this president.
MrBubble More than 1 year ago
A fascinating account of an important american and his life. I will review the author's other books after reading them as well!
TyroneFreeberg More than 1 year ago
When I first saw this book I was thinking that it would be boring, what with the title and all. However after reading a few pages and of course the synopsis I cannot help but compare it to JFK's story in real life. President killed by a gunshot. Anyway, this is a good book and very much worthy of the price.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A book that tells a sad story about a man who could have gone down a one of the greatest of presidents but instead fallen by the insanity of anassasin.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fastinating storyline, intervoven with historical facts of the time. This one was a quick read. It's a real shame that James Garfield never serves his full term. He showed the promise of being an historic president in the short time he was in office.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and inspiring! A great portrait of a good man and leader: President James Garfield.
LaurenBDavis More than 1 year ago
Among the interesting facts in the well-researched, well-written and well-paced book are: 1) Garfield did NOT want the Democratic nomination for Presidential candidate when it was thrust upon him at the DNC. He had never agreed to having his name put forward and was horrified when the Democrats insisted. I can’t help thinking how perhaps the people who want to be president the most are the ones we should refuse to elect. 2) How about this for an electioneering attitude: “Traveling from town to town and asking for votes was considered undignified for a presidential candidate. Abraham Lincoln had not given a single speech on his own behalf during either of his campaigns, and Rutherford B. Hayes advised Garfield to to the same.” Garfield agreed wholeheartedly. He tilled his fields, built an irrigation system, harvested his crops and generally ignored all the bad political behavior. In October a singing group from the all-black university in Nashville “came to Garfield’s modest farmhouse and sang for him.” It was apparently a most moving performance, especially for Garfield who had been since earliest childhood a vehement Abolitionist. When the singers finished he said, “I tell you now, in the closing days of this campaign, that I would rather be with you and defeated than against you and victorious.” I wonder who would dare say that today? Of course, sadly, Garfield was shot shortly after taking office and served only six month as President. The shortest term of all. A great pity. The medical passages here are grueling. The arrogance of the medical establishment at the time insisted there was no reason for antiseptic. The number of unwashed fingers probing the presidential wound is stomach-churning, as are the rats, raw sewage seeping through the White House, and general filth. The bullet, we learn, was not the cause of the president's death. It was the subsequent, physician-caused infection. A hideous and slow death by sepsis. I found this book touching, tragic and a real eye opener. Arrogance, hypocrisy, political wrangling, lies, the oppression of the poor, robber barons -- all the things we think are specific to the present are, in fact, present in the past. We would to well to cast an eye back and learn some hard lessons. The great gift of history such as this is that it can act as a canary in a coal mine. It makes one think how much better we could, and should do. I finished the book wondering at the great loss of such a thoughtful, intelligent, deeply moral man. What might have been different had he lived?
rayzern More than 1 year ago
Excellent book! Very well written and paced beautifully. I enjoyed this book so much I read her previous book, River of Doubt. Ms. Millard is an excellent writer and she should be encouraged. I finished this book and attempted to read "The President and the Assassin" and that book is nowhere near as good as this one. Highly recommend this book and her "River of Doubt." She is on my short list of outstanding authors.
USGrant More than 1 year ago
Fantastic read - history buffs will appreciate this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely beautifully written. Such an ellegant retelling. It really makes you fall in love with so many characters, especially A. G. Bell, Garfield, his wife, and his secretary. Best book I have read in awhile. It is so informative and so captivating, and VERY hard to put down. I would most definitely recommend it to anyone. So superb!
Gail8282 More than 1 year ago
A great book I would highly recommended reading! It gave me much insight to the Life of this President, and amazing man.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Millard does an outstanding job of making what could be very dry material come to life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good book. Very well written book about a fascinating piece of American history that I knew very little about. I came away with a great appreciation for Garfield plus the frustration of knowing that he could and should have lived.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Felt like you were there.
RG21 More than 1 year ago
You will be left wanting more after concluding this piece of narrative art. Candice Millard captures your attention and places you in the midst of the story that unfolds during the short presidency of James Garfield. You not only catch a glimpse of the sorrow of a nation, but you find yourself desiring such a man to be president once again. If it were only possible that a humble, intelligent, God-fearing, loving husband and father might once again be the leader of the free world. Might one arise who never wanted the office?
corgi247 More than 1 year ago
I love picking up books about time periods or events that I know little about. This fit the category. It has a great narrative with a very nice flow. Even though I knew what would happen I found myself getting emotional several times. I bought this after seeing the author on Book TV, on which she was engaging and entertaining. She is also an incredible author. I rarely give 5 stars, but on this one I did. Well done!!!
CBTodd More than 1 year ago
Candice Millard did an excellent job with this subject. Destiny of the Republic will give you a feel for what life was like in the 1880's in America. This is not a biography of James Garfield as such,it is an overview of his life. The subject is his murder and how those close to him responded. It is a sad tale to be sure, however, a very interesting one. A great companion to read with this book is The President and the Assassin by Scott Miller, the story of William McKinley . If you love American as I do, you will enjoy these books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After a year of reading various books by authors new to me, I was left mourning the sad state of literature. Then I read this book. The writing was superb. The author weaves the tale with great skill building to the climatic death, and more importantly bring her readers enthusiastically through the conclusion. I even read the acknowledgements! Any reader and lover of literature should read this. I am left wondering why the school's do not teach more about lesser known U.S. Presidents. I also wonder how different our country may have been had Garfield lived to serve his term.
VABookLovinMom More than 1 year ago
I knew next to nothing of Garfield previously and he truly seems to have been an extraordinary man. The folly of his medical care astounds me! The complete lack of protection for the president is so foreign to my 21st century self. And there is nothing new under the sun... politics have always been ugly. I liked the quote at the start of Chap. 2, "I never meet a ragged boy in the street without feeling that I may owe him a salute, for I know not what possibilities may be buttoned up under his coat." --J. Garfield I also thought it was intersting her point of how Garfield's shooting served to unify the nation. This paragraph showed a glimpse of the greatness of the man: “Despite the relentless suffering Garfield had endured for more than two months, he had maintained not only the strength of his mind, but the essence of his personality. 'Throughout his long illness,’ Rockwell would later recall, ‘I was most forcibly impressed with the manner in which those traits of his character which were most winning in health became intensified.’ Even as he lay dying, Garfield was kind, patient, cheerful, and deeply grateful.” I read the hardback book. My mother listened to the audio book. She said the reader was excellent.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a must read for all historians. Its a book that you will find hard to put down!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Great for American and medical history