Today’s society doesn’t know much about James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the United States. He was in office for only a few months before dying as a result of an assassination attempt. But this well-written, factually dense book, written by Candice Miller, introduces us to a noble individual, one who is erudite yet a man of the people. Born into poverty, Garfield managed to obtain a college education and then went on to become a major general during the Civil War and later a member of the House of Representatives and a senator. Drafted as the Republican Party compromise nominee for president in 1880, Garfield won handily. Some of the goals of his administration were civil rights for African Americans, civil service and post office reform, and universal education.
However, a successful term for Garfield was not to be. He was stalked by and eventually shot by Charles J. Guiteau, a psychologically unbalanced rejected Federal Office seeker who had delusions that Garfield was causing harm to the country and had to be removed.
After Garfield was shot, Dr. Bliss took ascendancy over other physicians in the care of the President. Unfortunately, even though the wound wasn’t as serious as originally thought, not all American physicians used sterile practices, including Dr. Bliss. Garfield eventually succumbed to blood poisoning and a fatal heart attack. Tragically, even although his vice-president and successor, Chester A. Arthur, managed to push through some of Garfield’s planned reforms, a promising presidency was cut short.