Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
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A Booklist Notable Book of 2012
The extraordinary New York Times bestselling account of James Garfield's rise from poverty to the American presidency, and the dramatic history of his assassination and legacy, from bestselling author of The River of Doubt, Candice Millard.
James Abram 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, a renowned congressman, and a reluctant presidential candidate who took on the nation's corrupt political establishment. But four months after Garfield's inauguration in 1881, he was shot in the back by a deranged office-seeker named Charles Guiteau. Garfield survived the attack, but become the object of bitter, behind-the-scenes struggles for power—over his administration, over the nation's future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care. Meticulously researched, epic in scope, and pulsating with an intimate human focus and high-velocity narrative drive, The Destiny of the Republic brings alive a forgotten chapter of U.S. history.
your delicate position,” he wrote, “and I am willing to stay here until January, if necessary.” Besides Guiteau himself, the only people who believed that his life might yet be spared were his brother and sister. John Guiteau, although he had long been deeply ashamed of his younger brother, and had often been bitterly angry with him, could not bear to see him die. “Whatever your impressions may be,” he had written to Charles after the trial ended, “I want you to know that I feel towards you as a
July 3, 1881. 20 “haltingly and timidly”: Stanley-Brown, “My Friend Garfield.” 21 “Oh, Mr. Secretary”: Ibid. 22 “Even in moments of greatest misery”: Ibid. 23 “temporary but adequate”: Stanley-Brown, “Memorandum Concerning Joseph Stanley-Brown’s Relations with General Garfield,” 12. 24 “full and accurate information”: Stanley-Brown, “My Friend Garfield.” 25 “miniature hospital”: Ibid. 26 “abounding in health”: Stanley-Brown, “Memorandum Concerning Joseph Stanley-Brown’s Relations with
the Riggs Hotel as far as he could and then walked another three-quarters of a mile before reaching the prison. Walking “leisurely” to the warden’s office, he rang the doorbell and waited calmly. When a guard arrived, he asked for a tour. Although the jail did not allow tours on Saturdays, Guiteau felt that he had gotten a good enough look at the building. “I thought it was a very excellent jail,” he said. “It is the best jail in America, I understand.” Satisfied that the prison where he would
to the news of Guiteau’s crime, the president’s children became a focus of national concern. No one could bear the thought of them alone on the train, learning that their father had been shot. While the boys gazed out the railcar window, watching trees and towns flash by, stationmasters and railroad officials passed ahead instructions not to discuss the assassination attempt. Passengers and even newsboys showed astonishing restraint. “Conductors passed quietly through the train that carried the
might watch over him when Lucretia could not. Very much aware that the world was watching, Bliss was determined not to make any missteps. His temporary ouster from the District of Columbia Medical Society years earlier for consulting with “irregulars”—physicians who were outside the mainstream of medical thought—had led him to shun any association with what he considered to be experimental medicine. In this case above all others, dangerous new ideas were to be avoided at all costs. High on