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Friday, February 24, 2023

President Garfield





 President Garfield Did Not Seek to be President.

James Garfield was respected as a professor of ancient languages, President of Hiram College, and a major general in the Union army. He had been elected to Congress when he was only thirty-two years old.

When he served in the army, his wife, Lucretia, discovered he had an affair with a woman known only as "Mrs. Calhoun." Garfield's wife sent her husband to see Mrs. Calhoun and get back every love letter he had sent. She told him to destroy any evidence of their relationship. The marriage between James and Lucretia became strong and remained until death. 

The Republican Party nominated him for the presidency, although he did not seek it. The Party thought he would be able to help bridge the gap that had developed between Congress and the executive branch. Congress and the Presidency were not getting along at all.

After Garfield was elected President, people would hound him for a federal office. Charles Guiteau was very persistent in being appointed as the Consul General of Paris.

Garfield said, "These people would take my very brain, flesh, and blood if they could."  Congress passed the Pendleton Act of 1883, which based appointments to the civil service on talent and seniority to help Presidents avoid office seekers.

As they walked by, Charles Guiteau would sit on a bench in Lafayette Park and ask cabinet members to further his petition for Consular General of Paris. Secretary of State James Blaine shouted at Mr. Guiteau, "Never speak to me again on the Paris consulship as long as you live!"  So, Guiteau started to go into the White House. Finally, the staff was told Guiteau was barred from entering.

Guiteau bought a pistol and had the salesman show him how to use it, then went to a local prison where he felt he would be sent in the future. He wanted to know where he would live. When President Garfield was waiting for a train at a railroad station, Guiteau walked up to him and fired twice. The first bullet grazed the President's arm, and the second lodged in his back.

It took eighty days for the President to die. Historians think it was not the bullet in his back that killed him, but the doctors' unsanitized medical instruments and fingers. Garfield was awake when they tried to find the bullet. Alexander Graham Bell was called to use his version of an early metal detector. They still did not find it. President Garfield suffered for eighty days in hot and humid weather. He was 49 years old and was President for only 4 months.

After President Garfield died, the bullet was found during the autopsy. Charles Guiteau wrote a letter to Chester A. Arthur, the Vice -President who became President at Garlield's death. Guiteau was hung on June 30, 1882.

Read the letter from Guiteau in the next blog.


Lucretia Rudolph Garfield was born in 1882 and was a widow for 37 years. She died in 1918. She and James Garfield had four sons and one daughter.


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