James A. Garfield

Dimitris Stamatios | November 2, 2022


James Abram Garfield, born November 19, 1831 in Orange, Ohio and died September 19, 1881 in Elberon, New Jersey, was an American statesman, 20th president of the United States.

After nine consecutive elections to the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio between 1863 and 1881, Garfield became president on the Republican Party ticket. His term in office, greatly shortened by his assassination, was marked by a controversial resurgence of presidential authority over Senate precedence in federal appointments, a revival of American naval power, the elimination of corruption in the postal service, and the appointment of several African Americans to high federal office.

Garfield grew up on a modest Ohio farm where he was raised by his widowed mother and older brother. To finance his education, Garfield worked at a number of jobs before graduating in 1856 from Williams College in Massachusetts. A year later, he entered politics in the Republican Party and campaigned against slavery in Ohio. He married Lucretia Rudolph in 1858 and was admitted to the bar two years later while being elected to the Ohio Senate between 1859 and 1861. Garfield opposed the secession of the Southern states and became a major general in the Union army, with which he participated in the battles of Shiloh and Chickamauga. He was elected to Congress in 1862 as a representative of the 19th district of Ohio.

Throughout his long career in Congress after the Civil War, he vehemently opposed greenbacks and earned a reputation as a gifted speaker. He served as chairman of the Committees on Military Affairs and Appropriations and as a member of the Committee on Fiscal Affairs. Garfield was initially close to the views of the Radical Republicans on Reconstruction, but later favored a more flexible approach to the enforcement of the civil rights of freed slaves. In 1880, the Ohio legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate; that same year, the leading Republican presidential contenders, Ulysses S. Grant, James Blaine, and John Sherman, failed to garner sufficient support at the convention. Garfield became the compromise candidate for the 1880 presidential election and then declined the federal Senate nomination to enter the presidential race, in which he defeated the Democratic candidate Winfield Hancock.

Garfield”s presidency lasted only 200 days, from March 4, 1881 until his death on September 19, 1881, after being shot by Charles J. Guiteau on July 2. Only William Henry Harrison”s presidency of 31 days was shorter, and Garfield was the second of the four American presidents to be assassinated. He proposed a far-reaching civil service reform that was finally enacted in 1883 by his vice president and successor Chester A. Arthur in the form of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act.


James Garfield was born on November 19, 1831 in Cuyahoga County near present-day Orange, Ohio, the youngest of five children. His father, Abram Garfield, known locally for his wrestling activities, died when James was only 18 months old. Of Welsh descent, he was raised by his mother, Eliza Ballou, who said that he “was the biggest baby I ever had and looked like a redheaded Irishman. Garfield”s parents had joined the followers of Christ and they had a profound influence on the young boy. Garfield received a rudimentary education at the village school in Orange. He knew, however, that he would need money to continue his education.

At the age of 16, he decided to strike out on his own and turned to the sea in hopes of becoming a sailor, but only got a job working on a canal near Cleveland for six weeks. He became ill and returned home, but after recovering he attended Geauga Academy where he discovered a passion for learning. Garfield worked as a carpenter, bell ringer, and janitor to finance his education. He later said of this period, “I am sad that I was born into poverty and the chaos of childhood, 17 years passed before I found any inspiration…17 precious years in which a boy with a father and a little money could have been fixed in various manly ways. In 1849 he accepted a teaching position that did not suit him and subsequently developed an aversion to what he called “job hunting” which he said became “the law of my life.” In 1850 Garfield returned to the church and was baptized.

Education, marriage and early career

From 1851 to 1854 he studied at the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (later renamed Hiram College) in Hiram, Ohio. At Eclectic, he became interested in the study of Greek and Latin and began to teach. He also had the ability to write, simultaneously, in Latin with one hand and in ancient Greek with the other. He made many rounds of preaching in nearby churches, sometimes earning a dollar for each service. Garfield then enrolled at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where he joined the Delta Upsilon fraternity. Garfield was impressed by the college”s president, Mark Hopkins, about whom he said, “The ideal education is Mark Hopkins on one end of a stump and a student on the other. Garfield gained a reputation as a gifted debater and became president of the Philogian Society and editor of the Williams Quarterly. After a remarkable career he graduated in 1856.

After preaching briefly at Franklin Circle Christian Church, Garfield abandoned that vocation and applied for the position of principal at Poestenkill High School in New York State. He was unsuccessful and returned to teach at the Eclectic Institute. He taught classical literature during the academic year of 1856-57 before becoming principal of the Institute from 1857 to 1860; he succeeded in restoring the school”s declining appeal. During this time, Garfield became closer to the ideas of the moderate Republicans even though he was not a party man. While he did not consider himself an abolitionist, he was opposed to slavery. After graduation, he began a career in politics, making numerous speeches in support of the Republican Party and their anti-slavery cause. In 1858, an atheist and proponent of evolutionism named Denton got into a debate with him (Charles Darwin”s Origin of Species was published the following year). The debate, which lasted more than a week, was considered to have been won by Garfield.

Garfield”s first love was Mary Hubbell in 1851 but the relationship lasted a year without a formal commitment. On November 11, 1858, he married Lucretia Rudolph who was one of his former students. They had seven children (Harry Augustus Garfield (Irvin M. Garfield (Abram Garfield (1872-1958) and Edward Garfield (1874-76). James R. Garfield, also entered politics and became Secretary of the Interior for President Theodore Roosevelt.

Garfield gradually lost interest in teaching and began to study law in 1859. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1861. Prior to his admission, he was invited to enter politics by local Republican leaders and to run for state senator for Ohio”s 26th district after the death of Cyrus Prentiss, who held that office. He was nominated by the party convention and was elected state senator in 1859 until 1861. The most significant act of his tenure was the drafting of legislation to conduct the first geological survey of the state to determine its mineral resources. As the nation moved closer to civil war, Garfield saw secession as inconceivable. His response was a renewed zeal for Fourth of July celebrations in 1860.

After the election of Abraham Lincoln, Garfield was more concerned with arming than negotiating and said, “The other states may arm themselves to the teeth, but if Ohio cleans up her rusty muskets, they say she offends her Southern brethren. I am weary of this weakness. On February 13, 1861, the newly elected President Lincoln arrived in Cincinnati by train to give a speech. Garfield noted that Lincoln was “hopelessly modest” yet had “the tone and stature of a strong and fearless man.

Military career

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Garfield was frustrated by his failures to secure an officer”s position in the Union Army. Ohio Governor William Dennison assigned him to travel to Illinois to acquire arms and negotiate with the governors of Illinois and Indiana to reinforce the troops. In the summer of 1861, he was finally appointed colonel in the Union Army and given command of the 42nd Ohio Volunteer Regiment.

General Don Carlos Buell assigned Garfield the task of driving Confederate forces from eastern Kentucky in November 1861 and gave him the 18th Brigade for that campaign. In December he left Catlettsburg, Kentucky with the 40th and 42nd Ohio Infantry, the 14th and 22nd Kentucky Regiments and the 2d Virginia Cavalry. The move was uneventful until the Union forces arrived at Paintsville, Kentucky on January 6, 1862 when Garfield”s cavalry engaged the Confederates at Jenny”s Creek. Garfield skillfully deployed his troops to make the enemy believe he was outnumbered when he was not. The Confederates led by Brigadier General Humphrey Marshall retreated to Middle Creek about two miles from Prestonsburg on the Virginia Turnpike. Garfield attacked on January 10, 1862. At the end of the day, the Confederate soldiers retreated but Garfield did not pursue them and retreated to Prestonburg to resupply his troops. His victories brought him recognition and he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general on January 11.

Garfield then commanded the 20th Ohio Brigade under Buell at the Battle of Shiloh where his troops, delayed by bad weather, reinforced Major General Ulysses S. Grant”s units threatened by a surprise attack by Confederate General Albert S. Johnston. Grant”s units threatened by a surprise attack by Confederate General Albert S. Johnston. He then served under Thomas J. Wood at the siege of Corinth, Mississippi, and then participated in the pursuit of retreating Confederate forces led by the overly cautious Major General Henry W. Halleck. This led to the escape of General P. G. T. Beauregard and his men and created a nagging distrust of training at West Point Military Academy in the angry Garfield. Garfield”s 1862 military philosophy of aggressively waging war against Southern civilians was not yet accepted by Union generals. The tactic was later adopted and applied in the campaigns of Generals Sherman and Sheridan.

Garfield commented on slavery in 1862: “If a man is black, whether friend or foe, it is best to keep him at a distance. It is hardly possible that God will allow us to succeed while such enormities are being practiced. In the summer of 1862, his health deteriorated abruptly, he developed jaundice and lost a great deal of weight; the biographer Peskin suggests that he was a victim of infectious hepatitis. Garfield had to return home where his wife cared for him and he recovered. He returned to the army in the fall and participated in the court-martial of Fitz John Porter. Garfield was then sent to Washington to receive new orders. To his frustration, he received various temporary assignments in Florida, Virginia and South Carolina, all of which were successively cancelled. During his inactivity in Washington awaiting assignment, Garfield spent much of his time corresponding with friends and family. An unconfirmed rumor of an extramarital affair caused some tension in his marriage, but Lucretia forgave him.

In the spring of 1863, Garfield returned to the front as chief of staff to General William Starke Rosecrans, commander of the Army of the Cumberland. His influence in this position was greater than expected; his prerogatives extended beyond mere communication to the management of Rosecrans” entire army. Rosecrans, a particularly energetic man, was a gifted debater and did not hesitate to engage in verbal jousting when he could not sleep; in Garfield he found “the first well-educated person in the Army” and thus the ideal candidate for endless nightly discussions. The two men became close and exchanged views on all subjects, especially religion; Rosecrans was able to soften Garfield”s view of Catholicism. Garfield, with his great influence, created an intelligence corps unparalleled in the Union army. He also requested that Rosecrans replace Lieutenant Colonels Alexander Mac Dowell Mac Cook and Thomas Leonidas Crittenden because of their previous inefficiency. Rosecrans ignored these recommendations with disastrous consequences at the Battle of Chickamauga. Garfield devised a campaign to pursue and trap Confederate General Braxton Bragg at Tullahoma, Tennessee. The army successfully advanced to the city but Bragg retreated to Chattanooga. Rosecrans halted his advance and repeatedly requested reinforcements. Garfield proposed an immediate attack to his superior and devised a plan to conduct a cavalry raid behind Bragg”s line, which Rosecrans approved; the raid, led by Abel Streight (en), failed in part because of bad weather. Garfield”s critics later argued that the whole idea of the operation was wrong. To settle the continuing question of the advance, Rosecrans assembled a military council of his generals; 10 out of 15 were opposed to an advance while Garfield had voted for it. Nevertheless Garfield, in an unusual move, wrote up the council”s deliberations and convinced Rosecrans to resume the offensive against Bragg.

At the battle of Chickamauga, Rosecrans issued an order to fill a gap in his line, but this created another. As a result, his right flank was routed. Rosecrans concluded that the battle was lost and moved to Chattanooga to establish a new line of defense. Garfield, however, considered that part of the army had held and, with Rosecrans” approval, headed for Missionary Ridge to check on the status of the Union forces. His hunch was correct; his ride became famous while Rosecrans” mistake reinforced the criticism of his command. While Rosecrans” army had avoided complete destruction, it was trapped in Chattanooga and surrounded by Bragg”s army. Garfield sent a telegram to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton alerting Washington that without reinforcements the Union troops would be swept away. As a result, Lincoln and Halleck sent 20,000 men to Chattanooga by rail in less than nine days. One of Grant”s first decisions upon assuming command of the western armies as major general was to replace Rosecrans with George H. Thomas in October 1863. Garfield was ordered to report to Washington, D.C., where he was promoted to the rank of major general; soon afterwards he gave an unequivocal abolitionist speech in Maryland. He did not know whether to return to the field or to assume the seat of representative from Ohio which he had won in October 1862. After a discussion with Lincoln, he decided to leave the army and join Congress. According to historian Jean Edward Smith, Grant and Garfield had a “cautious relationship” since Grant had replaced Rosecrans with Thomas instead of Garfield as commander of the Army of the Cumberland.

Garfield confided his frustration with Rosecrans in a confidential letter to his friend, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase. Garfield”s detractors later used this letter, which Chase never personally made public, to portray Garfield as a traitor despite the fact that Halleck and Lincoln had shared concerns about Rosecrans” reluctance to attack and that Garfield had openly expressed his concerns with Rosecrans. Years later, Charles Anderson Dana of the New York Sun claimed to have sources indicating that Garfield had publicly stated that Rosecrans had fled the Chickamauga battlefield. According to biographer Peskin, the credibility of these sources and information is questionable. Historian Bruce Catton believes that Garfield”s statements influenced the Lincoln administration in its decision to find a replacement for Rosecrans.


While serving in the army, Garfield was approached in early 1862 by friends about political opportunities related to the redistricting of Ohio”s 19th congressional district; the incumbent, John Hutchins, was considered vulnerable. Garfield was conflicted; he was certain that he would be more useful in Congress than on the battlefield, but he did not want his military position to be a stepping stone to his political career. He expressed his willingness to serve if elected but would not campaign for it, leaving that to others. Garfield was nominated by the Republican convention on the 75th ballot. In October 1862, he defeated D.B. Woods by a large majority in the election for the seat of representative of the 19th district of Ohio in the 38th Congress.

After the election, Garfield was anxious to get his next military assignment and went to Washington to do so. While there, he became close to Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln”s Secretary of the Treasury. Garfield joined the radical Republicans led by Chase in opposition to the moderate wing of the party represented by Lincoln and Montgomery Blair. Garfield was also frustrated by Lincoln”s lack of aggressiveness in pursuing the Confederate army as had been the case with General George McClellan. Chase and Garfield shared a disdain for West Point and the president although Garfield praised him for the Emancipation Proclamation. Garfield also shared a negative view of General McClellan, whom he saw as the symbol of the pro-slavery, ill-tempered Democratic generals from West Point.

Garfield became fascinated with discussions of financial and economic policy in Chase”s office and these topics became his area of expertise. Like Chase, Garfield became a staunch supporter of “honest money” supported by the gold standard and was therefore an opponent of greenbacks; he regretted but understood the need for a suspension of currency payments in the face of the emergency caused by the Civil War.

Although he wanted to continue his military career, Garfield reluctantly accepted his seat in Congress by resigning from his military duties in December 1863. His first daughter Eliza died that same month when she was only three years old. Although he initially took a room alone, his grief over Eliza”s death led him to find a roommate in his colleague, Robert C. Schenck. After Garfield”s tenure ended, Lucretia moved to Washington, D.C. to be with her husband and the two were never apart.

Garfield immediately demonstrated his ability to command the attention of the unruly House. According to one reporter, “When he rises to speak, Garfield”s voice exceeds that of others. All ears turn to him…His eloquence touches hearts, convinces reason, and shows the weak and undecided the way forward.” He was one of the most bellicose Republicans in the House and served on the Armed Services Committee headed by Schenck and charged with the urgent business of war. Garfield aggressively defended the need for conscription, a subject avoided by many others.

Early in his term, he distinguished himself from his party in several ways: he was the only Republican to vote to end the use of bounties in the draft. He was the only Republican to vote to end the use of bounties in the draft. Some wealthy recruits could pay to avoid the draft, which he considered reprehensible. After many failures, Garfield, with Lincoln”s support, secured passage of a conscription law that ended the system. In 1864, Congress passed a bill to recreate the rank of lieutenant general. Garfield, along with Thaddeus Stevens, did not support this action because the rank was intended for Grant and Grant had removed Rosecrans from office. Moreover, the recipient would receive an advantage in a possible election against Lincoln. Garfield, however, was hesitant about supporting the president”s re-election.

Garfield was at times close to the ideas of the Radical Republicans, such as on abolition, and he considered, at the beginning of his term, that the leaders of the Confederacy should be stripped of their constitutional rights. He supported the confiscation of Southern plantations and even the exile or execution of Confederate leaders to prevent any return to slavery. He saw it as Congress” obligation to “determine what legislation was necessary to secure the equal treatment of all honest people, regardless of color.” For the election of 1864, Garfield did not consider Lincoln worthy of reelection, but there was no alternative: “I have no candidate for the Presidency. I am a sad and unhappy spectator of events. He attended his party”s convention and supported Rosecrans for the vice presidential nomination; he was met with Rosecrans” characteristic indecision and Andrew Johnson was chosen. Garfield voted with the Radical Republicans for the Wade-Davis Act, which excluded all members of Congress who had participated in the Confederacy, but it was rejected by Lincoln.

In the 1864 election to the House, Garfield”s partisan base had weakened because of his lack of support for Lincoln”s re-election, but it strengthened when he demonstrated his traditional disdain for partisanship; he was nominated by acclamation and his re-election was assured. While he was resting after his election, Lucretia sent him a letter stating that they had been together only 20 weeks out of 57 since the beginning of his first term; he immediately decided to bring his family to Washington. As the end of the war approached, the activities of the Armed Services Committee began to slow down; this increased his weariness of partisan politics, and Garfield concentrated on his personal activities. Garfield had partnered with Illinois Representative Ralph Plumb (en) in land speculation activities but they met with limited success. He joined the Phillips brothers based in Philadelphia in oil exploration activities which were moderately profitable. Garfield returned to the practice of law in 1865 to improve his personal finances.

Garfield”s radicalism moderated after the end of the Civil War and the assassination of Lincoln; he assumed a temporary role as a conciliator between Congress and Andrew Johnson. He commented at that time on the readmission of the Confederate States: “The burden of proof is upon them to show whether they are able to enter the Federal circle with full privileges. They must give us proof, as strong as the Holy Scriptures, that they have changed and are again worthy of our confidence. When Johnson”s veto put an end to the Freedman”s Bureau, the president had effectively come into conflict with Congress and Garfield joined the radical camp.

With a reduced agenda on the Armed Services Committee, Garfield joined the House Ways and Means Committee, an opportunity for him to focus on economic and financial issues. He immediately resumed his opposition to greenbacks, declaring “any party that turns to paper money will fall into the midst of a general disaster and be cursed by the ruined populace. He called greenbacks “the printed lies of government” and became a staunch advocate of the morality and legality of payment in metal money and the establishment of the gold standard. This policy was contrary to his personal interests because his investments depended on the inflation that was a consequence of greenbacks. His call for a gold standard was fundamentally deflationary and was opposed by most businessmen and politicians. For a time, Garfield seemed to be the only Ohio politician to advocate the idea.

As a proponent of laissez-faire economics, he declared, “the main role of government is to keep the peace and keep out of the sunshine of the people.” This view was in stark contrast to his idea of the role of government in Reconstruction. Another inconsistency in his laissez-faire philosophy was his position on free trade, for he defended tariffs when they protected the products of his district.

Garfield was one of three defense attorneys in the famous Ex parte Milligan decision of the Supreme Court in 1866. This was, despite his many years of practicing law, Garfield”s first appearance in a courtroom. Judge Jeremiah S. Black had chosen him as a partner a year earlier and assigned him to the case in light of his highly regarded oratory skills. The defendants were pro-Confederate Northerners who had been found guilty and sentenced to death by a military tribunal for treason. The issue was whether the defendants should have been tried in a civilian court; Garfield was victorious and immediately gained a reputation as a prominent appellate court lawyer.

Despite the lure of this lucrative practice, Garfield did not hesitate when he decided to run again in 1866 because of the emergency created by Reconstruction. The competition was tougher because Garfield had taken positions that made him defensive, such as conscription and tariff legislation and his involvement in the Milligan case. Nevertheless, the party convention voted in his favour and Garfield won the election by a wide margin. At the same time, the Republicans won two-thirds of the seats in Congress.

Garfield returned to Washington very glum despite his success because he had not taken kindly to the criticism he received during the campaign. He was also disappointed by what he saw as the crazy debates over the impeachment of President Johnson. With regard to Reconstruction, he felt that Congress had been magnanimous in its offers to the South. When the old Confederates saw this as a sign of weakness and sought to exploit it with other demands, he was quite willing to reconsider them as enemies of the Union. This view was popular in his district, and activists considered running Garfield for governor of Ohio, but he declined the offer.

Garfield hoped that his new term would allow him to be appointed chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, but this was not the case largely because his strong positions on monetary issues did not reflect the consensus in the House. He was, however, appointed chairman of the Armed Services Committee, whose main task was the reorganization and reduction of the armed forces after the end of the Civil War. Garfield approved of the Senate having the final say on cabinet appointments through the Tenure of Office Act, a position that largely changed when he became president.

Garfield”s position on the president changed and he defended the articles of impeachment against Johnson on the grounds that he had violated the Tenure of Office Act by removing Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. Garfield was absent from the vote because of his legal work. While most senators were convinced of Johnson”s guilt, they did not want President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate Benjamin Wade, a radical Republican with extreme views for his time, to become president. Garfield sensed that the senators were more interested in making speeches than in conducting an actual trial. Eventually, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, who presided over the trial, would allow Johnson”s acquittal based on his statements. As a result, Garfield”s close friend became a political adversary even though he continued to follow the economic and financial views he had learned from him. In 1868, Garfield gave a two-hour speech on monetary issues that was widely hailed as his best speech to date; in it he advocated the gradual resumption of metal coinage.

The contest for re-election was easier in 1868 than two years earlier because Garfield”s opponents had little to criticize him for. His nomination went smoothly, and he gave more than 60 campaign speeches before being reelected with a comfortable lead. At the same time, Grant won the presidency. From the start, Garfield”s relationship with the new president was cool; Grant refused a nomination that Garfield had advised, and Garfield continued to harbor resentment over Rosecrans” dismissal. After housing his family in rented apartments in Washington, Garfield decided to build his own home at a total cost of $13,000. His close friend, David G. Swaim, loaned him half the money.

While Garfield had established himself as an excellent speaker in House debates, he showed little interest in the mood of the members or the ability to control debate on the points he was making. He continued to hope for an appointment as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee but was again disappointed and received the position of chairman of the House Banking Committee but regretted the loss of the chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee. One of his priorities in this fourth term was legislation to establish a Department of Education; this was passed but was difficult to implement in part because of the mismanagement of the Commissioner of Education, Henry Barnard.

Garfield also proposed legislation to transfer the Bureau of Indian Affairs from the Department of the Interior to the War Department. He felt that Native American culture would be more easily “civilized” with the help of a military structure. The proposal was not well received, but Garfield did not realize it and the bill was defeated. Garfield was appointed chairman of the census subcommittee and reorganized the process and made major changes in the questionnaire. These improvements were introduced in the House, which accepted them, but the Senate rejected them. Ten years later, a similar bill was passed that incorporated many of Garfield”s ideas.

In September 1870, Garfield was chairman of the congressional committee investigating Black Friday, which saw a dramatic collapse of the gold market on Friday, September 24, 1869. The investigation revealed widespread corruption but resulted in no charges. Garfield refused a subpoena for the president”s sister, whose husband was allegedly involved in the scandal, as he considered it irrelevant. He took the opportunity to blame fluctuating greenbacks for creating the speculation that led to the scandal. Garfield also continued his anti-inflationary campaign against greenbacks through his work on a national banking system, and he exploited this legislation to reduce the number of greenbacks in circulation. Tensions between President Grant and Garfield continued as the committee investigated the accounts of his wife, Julia Grant.

In the election of 1870, Garfield was criticized, particularly by the steelworkers in his district, for his refusal to implement higher tariffs. On the other hand, merchants criticized his support for tariffs. His opponents accused him of lavish spending on his Washington home, which cost $13,000 when the average cost in his district was $2,000. Nevertheless, his nomination went smoothly and he won the election with almost two-thirds of the vote.

As in his previous terms, Garfield hoped to win the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee, but again he did not get it because of the opposition of the influential publisher Horace Greeley. He was appointed chairman of the Committee on the Appropriation of Public Funds, a position he had previously rejected with contempt. Eventually, the position became a passion for him and helped him to improve his management skills. Garfield”s view of the Democratic and Republican parties was very negative at the time. He stated that “the death of both parties is almost certain; the Democrats, because all the ideas they have put forward in the last twelve years are dead; and the Republicans, because their ideas have been put into place. Nevertheless, he continued to vote in agreement with his Republican colleagues.

Garfield considered the land grants to the then-expanding railways to be unfair. He opposed some of the monopolistic practices of these companies as well as the powers demanded by the labour unions. By this time, his philosophy about Reconstruction had moderated. He had hailed the passage of the 15th Amendment as a triumph and favored Georgia”s reinstatement on constitutional, not political, grounds. In 1871, however, Garfield refused to support the Ku Klux Klan Act (en), stating, “I was never more perplexed by any piece of legislation. He was torn between his outrage at “these terrorists” and his concern that the legislation, which authorized the president to suspend habeas corpus to enforce the law, endangered liberties.

Garfield supported the proposal to create a civil service to avoid the many, sometimes aggressive, requests for appointments that elected officials received. In particular, he wanted to eliminate the common practice of public servants giving a portion of their salary as “political contributions” in exchange for their appointment.

During his tenure, Garfield became disillusioned with elected office and considered a return to the practice of law; however, he declined an offer of partnership after being warned that his possible partner had a reputation for being “drunk and immoral. Garfield was also less willing to sacrifice his family, telling his wife in 1871, “When you are ill, I am like the people of an earthquake-ravaged country. Like them, I lose faith in the eternal order and immutability of things.

He teamed up with a few other politicians and Jay Cooke”s bank to take over the District of Columbia”s Public Works Department and embezzle $17 million through fraudulent contracts. Jay Cooke”s agent tells him in a cable that “The organization is complete. I still can”t believe General Garfield is with us! This is a rare and most gratifying achievement, as all district contract awards must go through him.”

Garfield was not enthusiastic about Grant”s re-election in 1872 until Horace Greeley emerged as the only alternative. His own re-election went virtually unopposed. He was nominated by acclamation and won almost three-quarters of the vote. That same year he made his first trip west of the Mississippi to sign an agreement for the resettlement of the Flatheads.

In 1872, he was one of many politicians involved in the Credit Mobilier of America scandal. As part of their expansion, Union Pacific executives created the Credit Mobilier of America and issued stock. These were sold at below-market prices to members of Congress, which amounted to bribery as Congress passed several laws to increase the funds paid to Union Pacific. Representative Oakes Ames of Massachusetts certified that Garfield had purchased ten shares of Credit Mobilier worth $1,000 and had received $329 (33%) in dividends between December 1867 and June 1868. Ames” credibility was called into question by his numerous reversals under oath and by the lack of evidence he provided. Peskin, Garfield”s biographer, wrote “from a strictly legal point of view, Ames” testimony was worthless. He repeatedly contradicts himself on key points. According to the New York Times, Garfield was in debt and had to mortgage his home. Although Garfield was questioned about the purchase of these shares, he had already returned them to the seller. The scandal did not seriously damage his political career, although he clumsily defended himself against the charges because the details were complex and never clearly proven.

When Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase died on May 7, 1873. Garfield proposed that he be replaced by Noah H. Swayne (en) but Grant appointed Morrison Waite. Later in his term, Garfield had to vote for a bill in the Committee on Public Appropriations that included a clause to increase the salaries of members of Congress and the president, which he opposed. The controversial proposal passed in March 1873, but the violent reaction of the press and public led to its repeal. The vote increased criticism of Garfield, who was nevertheless reappointed chairman of the committee on appropriation of public funds.

Garfield and his advisor Harmon Austin saw the need for a more structured campaign organization for the 1874 election. Garfield”s appointees volunteered to work on his campaign and his nomination seemed assured. However, he was again accused of bribery in connection with a contract to pave Washington streets by a contractor named DeGolyer McClelland. Contributions of $90,000 to members of Congress, including $5,000 to Garfield, were revealed. He responded to these attacks by precariously stating that these were legal fees obtained in the bidding process and that technically no federal funds had been used. Several years later, in 1880, correspondence showed that Garfield”s influence had been obtained in the bidding process. Despite the information available at the time, Garfield performed very well at the 1874 convention, collecting two-thirds of the delegates and then winning the election against the Democratic and independent candidates, albeit with a smaller lead than before.

The Democrats regained control of Congress in the 1874 election for the first time in 20 years. During the lame duck session, Congress passed a compromise measure providing for the reinstatement of metal coinage in 1879. In the new Congress, Garfield was appointed to the Ways and Means Committee and the Pacific Railroad Committee. Garfield and Representative John Coburn of Indiana exposed corruption at the Fort Sill trading post in Oklahoma, where control of supplies had been monopolized and overtaxed. The abuses were corrected by the investigation, but Garfield and others were suspected of having allowed Secretary of War William W. Belknap to escape prosecution. Belknap to escape prosecution. Belknap later resigned to avoid impeachment proceedings when the details of his involvement were revealed.

As the presidential election of 1876 approached, Garfield favored the candidacy of House Speaker James Blaine. However, his health problems and especially the revelation of several scandals prevented his nomination in favor of Rutherford B. Hayes; Garfield immediately endorsed his party”s candidate. As for his own re-election, Garfield was anxious to leave politics, but faced with the difficulties of his party, he felt obliged to run again. Once again the nomination was easy and he won 60% of the votes in the election. However, the party was short-lived as Garfield”s youngest child, Neddie, died suddenly of whooping cough.

The presidential election was particularly close, and when it appeared that Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes had narrowly lost to Democrat Samuel Jones Tilden, the Republicans began a recount. Grant asked Garfield to serve as a “neutral observer” at the Louisiana recount. His role soon evolved into investigating rifle clubs, which Republicans accused of being created by Democrats to intimidate black voters. Garfield”s report and those of other observers cast doubt on the results in Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida and Oregon, which were marred by widespread fraud by both parties. Since neither candidate had a majority of votes in the Electoral College, the final decision was made by Congress under the Constitution. Congress set up a commission to determine a winner. Although he opposed the commission, Garfield was appointed to it. Hayes won by a vote of 8 to 7 and the decision was confirmed despite a filibuster by the Democrats. Since James G. Blaine had left the House for the Senate, Garfield became the Republican minority leader in the House.

Garfield faced little opposition in his re-election in 1878 despite the presence of a Greenback candidate and redistricting by the Democrats to weaken the Republicans. Garfield received 60% of the vote in the election.

Garfield purchased a residence in Mentor, Ohio, which was later renamed Lawnfield by journalists and from which he conducted his “stoop campaign” for the presidency. The house is now preserved by the National Park Service as a James A. Garfield National Historic Site.

Garfield”s last term was largely devoted to confirming Hayes” vetoes of Democratic earmarks. With the year 1879 approaching without an election in Ohio, Garfield sought to secure the Ohio Senate seat vacated by John Sherman upon his appointment as Secretary of the Treasury. The first step was to secure a Republican majority in the Ohio legislature, which would select the senator. After the Republican victory, Garfield”s nomination was no longer in doubt and he was elected to the Senate by acclamation.

Presidential election of 1880

No sooner had the Ohio legislature selected Garfield to serve in the Senate in 1879 than a movement began to organize to run him for president the following year as Hayes wanted to fulfill his promise of only one term. In early 1880, Garfield supported John Sherman”s presidential nomination in retribution for Sherman”s support for his Senate bid. However, the Republican convention quickly reached a deadlock, as neither former President Grant, Blaine, nor Sherman could gain an advantage, and delegates began to see Garfield as the compromise candidate. Garfield eloquently defended the dissenting delegates from West Virginia in a speech against Roscoe Conkling”s rule that all delegates from the same state vote for one candidate. After more than 30 rounds, the voting shares of the major candidates had barely changed since the convention began. On the 34th ballot, delegates from several states voted for Garfield, and on the 36th ballot, Garfield was selected as the presidential candidate. Garfield”s nomination against the leading candidates was considered historic. Garfield defeated the favorite Ulysses S. Grant, who was seeking a third term as president.

Thomas Nichol, Wharton Barker (en) and Benjamin Harrison were considered the main architects of Garfield”s rise at the convention, but none could have controlled the unpredictable victory of an outsider who had even opposed his candidacy. To win the support of the Republican stalwarts, former New York Harbor customs collector Chester A. Arthur was chosen to run for vice president.

In the wake of such a divisive convention, Garfield”s campaign seemed to be off to a bad start. To heal the divisions, Garfield traveled to New York City to bring the warring factions together at the personally successful “New York Conference. It was the only major trip Garfield made away from home during the campaign. The powerful railroads were being courted by the party in the wake of Supreme Court decisions that had been contrary to their interests. After assuring them that they would have the president”s attention on these issues, Garfield won their support.

A major issue in the 1880 election was Chinese immigration. In the West, particularly in California, opponents of Chinese immigration accused it of driving down workers” wages. On the eve of the election, the Democrats published a letter supposedly written by Garfield that encouraged Chinese immigration. The timing of the letter, some inconsistencies, and the handwriting itself led many to believe that it was a forgery.

In the presidential election of 1880, Garfield faced the Democratic candidate Winfield Scott Hancock, another famous Union general. Although Garfield won by 214 electoral votes to 155, the popular vote was the closest in American history, with a margin of just over 7,000 votes out of 8.89 million votes cast. Garfield was also the only president elected directly from the House of Representatives, and for a short time he was a sitting representative and senator and president-elect.

Cabinet formation and investiture

Between his election and inauguration, Garfield was busy forming a Cabinet that would ease tensions between the Republican Party factions led by Roscoe Conkling and James G. Blaine. Blaine was appointed Secretary of State, who was not only the President”s closest advisor, but was also obsessed with everything that went on in the White House and was said to have spies stationed there in his absence. Garfield appointed William Windom of Minnesota as Secretary of the Treasury, William H. Hunt of Louisiana as Secretary of the Navy, Robert Todd Lincoln as Secretary of War, and Samuel J. Kirkwood of Iowa as Secretary of the Interior. New York was represented by Thomas L. James as Postmaster General. He appointed Wayne MacVeagh of Pennsylvania, an opponent of Blaine”s, as Attorney General. Blaine tried to sabotage this choice by convincing Garfield to appoint MacVeagh”s enemy, William E. Chandler to the position of attorney general, which was under MacVeagh”s authority. Only the Senate”s rejection of Chandler”s nomination prevented MacVeagh”s resignation.

Garfield”s inauguration took place on March 4, 1881 in front of the Capitol in the snow, resulting in an attendance of only 7,000 people; he was sworn in by Chief Justice Morrison Waite.

In his inaugural address, Garfield emphasized the defense of civil rights for African Americans. He believed that blacks deserved the “full rights of citizenship” and warned of the danger that blacks” rights would be taken away and they would become a “permanently disenfranchised peasantry. He declared that “freedom can never produce its full benefits so long as law or government places the smallest obstacle in the way of full citizenship. Garfield argued that those who had the right to vote should be able to read and write, and he insisted on the need for a “universal federal education. On economics, Garfield stated that “agreements on bimetallism could be signed between the trading nations to secure the general use of the two metals. The president advocated agriculture as an important part of the American economy that provided “homes and jobs for more than half our population and supplies the largest share of our exports. Garfield argued that agricultural science needed federal support. He also stated that polygamy offended the “moral sense of mankind” and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which preached the practice, prevented the “execution of justice through the instrumentality of the law.

Garfield”s long struggle for civil service reform was also a focal point of his speech:

“The public service can never be placed on a satisfactory footing until it is regulated by law. For the good of the service itself, for the protection of those who are responsible for making appointments from the waste of time and obstruction of public business caused by inordinate pressure for positions, and for the protection of serving officials from intrigue and attack.”

John Philip Sousa led the United States Marine Band in the inaugural parade and ball. The ball was held in the National Museum, now the Arts and Industry Building of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Domestic Policy

The appointment of Thomas L. James as Postmaster General angered Garfield”s rival in the Republican Party, the stalwart Roscoe Conkling, who demanded a compensatory appointment to his faction and state and if possible to the Treasury Department. The ensuing feud polluted Garfield”s brief presidency. It came to a head when the president, at Blaine”s instigation, appointed Conkling”s enemy, Judge William H. Robertson (en), to the position of Collector of Customs for New York Harbor. Conkling exploited the principle of “senatorial courtesy” to reject the appointment, but the attempt failed. Garfield, who regarded the practice as cronyism, threatened to rescind all appointments if Robertson”s was not accepted. Garfield declared that this would “answer the question whether the President is the Clerk of the Senate or the Chief Executive of the United States. In the end, Conkling and fellow senator Thomas C. Platt resigned their senatorial seats in disapproval, but they were further humiliated when the New York legislature chose two others to replace them. Robertson was appointed and Garfield”s victory over the Senate was clear. He had defeated his opponents, weakened the principle of “senatorial comity” and strengthened the executive branch. To Blaine”s regret, Garfield resumed his goals of balancing the various party factions and appointed several stalwarts close to Conkling to important positions.

Former President Ulysses S. Grant, a Conkling ally, warned Garfield in a letter that he disapproved of Blaine”s appointment and was strongly opposed to Robertson”s appointment as collector of customs for the Port of New York. President Garfield responded with a stern letter in which he wrote that he did not feel bound by party patronage and that he would appoint “men who represented the best elements of the Republican party.”

By July 1, 1881, tensions over the Conkling affair continued as President Garfield continued to deny Vice President Chester A. Arthur, a close associate of Conkling, to cabinet meetings. Blaine, however, encouraged Garfield in this policy. Historian Justice D. Doenecke argued that Robertson”s appointment demonstrated a lack of judgment on Garfield”s part. He argued that Garfield should have continued his original policy of conciliating the various Republican factions instead of following Blaine”s ideas.

Garfield achieved a great economic success when he arranged for the repayment of $200 million in government loans without calling a special session of Congress. The previous interest rate of 6 per cent was replaced by a future rate of 3.5 per cent and this increased government revenues and limited the growth of the public debt.

When a new president took office, it was customary for him to replace all the officials of the previous administration with party or faction loyalists. This mechanism, called the spoils system, had been established by President Andrew Jackson, but it led to significant corruption and inefficiency in government agencies. Garfield”s predecessors had advocated civil service reforms, but no concrete action had been taken.

By 1881, reform associations had organized in the country and were vigorously campaigning. Some reformers were disappointed that Garfield had limited the non-replacement of civil servants to junior positions and had appointed former allies to important posts. Despite this, the majority of reformers remained loyal to Garfield and supported him.

In April 1880, a Congressional investigation revealed a widespread network of corruption in the Post Office Department”s star routes that existed during the Grant and Hayes administrations. Bids for the management of the star routes, which were expanding rapidly as a result of the conquest of the West, were rigged to favour the most expensive bid, and the profits were then shared among the various parties involved.

Hayes, Garfield”s predecessor, stopped the implementation of any new contracts on the mail routes in an attempt to stop the corruption. In April 1881, Garfield was informed by Attorney General Wayne MacVeagh and Postmaster General Thomas L. James that Second Assistant Postmaster General Thomas J. Brady (en) might be one of the main organizers of the corruption. Garfield immediately asked for his resignation and launched investigations that led to a conspiracy trial. When he learned that his party, including his campaign manager Stephen W. Dorsey, was involved, Garfield ordered MacVeagh and James to “root out” the corruption in the Post Office Department, regardless of the consequences. According to the New York Times, many alleged members of the corruption were fired or had to resign. Brady had to resign at Garfield”s request and was indicted for conspiracy. After two trials, in 1882 and 1883, he was acquitted.

The burden of African American civil rights weighed heavily on Garfield”s presidency. During Reconstruction, freed slaves had gained citizenship and the right to vote, which allowed them to participate in the political life of the country. Garfield felt, however, that their rights had been undermined by white southern resistance and illiteracy, and he worried about the creation of a “permanent Negro peasantry. The president advocated a federally funded “universal education system” to combat the illiteracy of 70 per cent of blacks in the South. Congress and white Northern public opinion had lost interest in African American rights, however, and federal funding was rejected by Congress in the 1880s.

Garfield appointed several African Americans to important positions: Frederick Douglass, clerk of deeds in Washington; Robert B. Elliott (John M. Langston, ambassador to Haiti and Blanche K. Bruce, clerk of the Treasury. Garfield began to reverse the Southern Democratic policy of conciliation established by Hayes. To strengthen Republican party unity in the South, he appointed William H. Hunt, a Republican carpetbagger from Louisiana during Reconstruction, as Secretary of the Navy. Garfield saw the Republican Party as being able to win support in the Southern states on “commercial and industrial” issues rather than racial ones. To break the Democratic Party”s resurgence in the Solid South, Garfield tried to foster William Mahone”s Readjuster Party, whose policy positions were popular with blacks and whites. Garfield was the first Republican president to initiate an electoral policy to win the support of Southern independents.

Foreign Policy

During his short presidency, Garfield appointed several ambassadors, including James Russell Lowell to the United Kingdom and Civil War general and author of Ben-Hur, Lewis Wallace to Turkey. Between June 27 and July 1, Garfield appointed 25 ambassadors and consuls as well as Blaine”s son as the third assistant secretary of state.

James G. Blaine, Garfield”s secretary of state was faced with Chinese immigration, disputes over fishing rights with the United Kingdom, and the recognition of Korea.

Blaine”s first task was to end the War of the Pacific, which had been fought between Chile, Bolivia and Peru since March 5, 1879. In January 1881, Chilean forces captured the Peruvian capital of Lima. Rather than remain neutral, Blaine chose to side with the Peruvian leader Francisco García Calderón.

Concerned about potential British intervention, Blaine emphasized the need to settle the conflict between South American states and urged Peru to pay compensation rather than cede the disputed territory. In November 1881, Blaine sought to arrange a conference in Washington, D.C., with nine South American countries in November 1882. However, these invitations were rescinded in April 1882, when Congress and Arthur cancelled the conference. In October 1883, the Pacific War ended with the Treaty of Ancon without American intervention. Garfield had urged his southern neighbors to strengthen their ties.

As early as 1876, he said, “I would rather lose five or six diplomatic missions in Europe than those in South America…They are our friends and neighbors. Garfield continued to emphasize the importance of these ties, and he advocated that the Panama Canal be built by the United States and only under American jurisdiction.

Naval reform

Fifteen years after the Civil War the U.S. Navy was in decline. The naval supremacy gained during the war was fading and morale was low. Ships were inferior to their European counterparts in terms of firepower, speed and protection. Most American ships were built of wood and iron and relied on wind power. William H. Hunt, the new Secretary of the Navy, immediately launched an investigation in preparation for a reform program. A committee headed by Rear Admiral John Rogers called for the construction of 68 new ships, the majority of which were to have iron hulls. Arthur continued the policy of reform and replaced Hunt with William E. Chandler, an able administrator, to take over the management of the shipyard. Chandler, an able administrator, to continue the modernization program.

Illness of his wife

In mid-May 1881, Lucretia Garfield contracted malaria and possibly meningitis. Her temperature reached 40°C and she seemed to be on the verge of death. By the end of the month, her temperature dropped and doctors recommended that she recuperate in saline air. Garfield stayed with her during her illness and on June 18, they left Washington for Elberon, New Jersey, which was a famous seaside resort.

After being rebuffed several times, Charles J. Guiteau, a troubled lawyer and stalwart supporter of stalwarts seeking a government job, decided to assassinate the president. After purchasing a revolver, Guiteau staked out Garfield in Lafayette Square Park and at his Disciples of Christ Church in Washington, D.C. Learning that Garfield was going to Elberon on June 18, Guiteau decided to assassinate him at the Washington, D.C. train station. He decided not to shoot, however, because of his wife”s poor health, which he did not wish to burden.

While his wife recovered in the cool ocean air, President Garfield convened his Cabinet at Elberon and governed by telegraph. While staying at the Elberon Hotel, the President reviewed the 7th Infantry Regiment and interacted with reporters present. Garfield was also scheduled to attend a banquet honoring the city”s veterans, but he chose to withdraw after learning that his 80-year-old uncle, Thomas Garfield, had been killed in a locomotive accident in Cleveland, Ohio. Former President Grant, who had traveled with his family to Elberon, met Garfield informally on June 25. After attending mass, Garfield returned to Washington the next day, June 27, 1881.

Administration and judicial appointments

Despite his short presidency, Garfield appointed one justice to the Supreme Court: Stanley Matthews (en) to replace Noah H. Swayne, who had retired. In addition to this appointment, Garfield appointed four judges to lower courts: Don Albert Pardee (en) to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (where he remained until 1919), Alexander Boardman (en) to the District Court of Western Louisiana, Addison Brown to the District Court of Southern New York, and LeBaron B. Colt (en) in the District Court of Rhode Island.


On the morning of July 2, 1881, President Garfield went to Williams College, where he had studied, to give a speech. He was accompanied by James G. Blaine, Robert Todd Lincoln and his two sons, James and Harry. As the president crossed the street to the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station in Washington at 9:30 a.m., Charles J. Guiteau approached Garfield and shot him twice in the back at close range. Garfield was upset that he had been repeatedly turned down for consul in Paris because he had no qualifications. He was mentally ill and was convinced that he had given a speech that was decisive in Garfield”s election. When his nomination was rejected, Guiteau began to believe that the Republican Party and the country had been betrayed and that God had told him that he could save the nation and the party if Garfield was “voted out. Guiteau followed the president for weeks with a Webley Bulldog revolver. When arrested, he shouted, “I am the stalwart of the stalwarts… Arthur is now president! This led to rumors that Arthur or his supporters had pushed Guiteau into action. Guiteau also assumed that he would be acquitted and elected president after his trial.

Garfield cried out immediately after being shot, “My God, what is this? The first bullet grazed Garfield”s arm and the second lodged near his liver, but doctors could not pinpoint it; an autopsy revealed it was behind the pancreas.

Alexander Graham Bell developed a metal detector to find the famous bullet in the president”s body, but interference from the iron-framed bed prevented the device from working. Garfield”s condition deteriorated sharply over the next few weeks due to the infection, which weakened his heart. He remained bedridden in the White House, suffering from fevers and severe pain. To relieve the wounded man from the sweltering Washington summer heat, Navy engineers developed one of the first air conditioning devices. Fans forced air through a box full of ice into the president”s room. The system worked satisfactorily and lowered the temperature by about ten degrees Celsius.

Messages of support came in from around the country and the world. King Humbert I of Italy and the Rothschild family sent messages of condolence, and Kentucky”s Democratic governor Luke P. Blackburn ordered a day of “public fasting and prayer. While Article II, Section 6 of the Constitution provided that in the event of the president”s “inability to exercise the powers and discharge the duties of his office,” these fell to the vice president, Chester A. Arthur was reluctant to act. Arthur was reluctant to act as president while Garfield was still alive, and the next two months were a vacuum with Garfield too weak to carry out his duties, and Arthur refusing to assume them. However, federal activities were fairly limited during the summer period and the president had few assignments to carry out, and this did not result in a major crisis.

On September 6, Garfield was taken to the New Jersey shore in the faint hope that the fresh air might help his recovery. Within hours, residents built a railroad spur for Garfield”s train.

On Monday, September 19, 1881, at 10:20 p.m., Garfield died of a myocardial infarction or ruptured aneurysm of the splenic artery, secondary to sepsis and pneumonia. Garfield was pronounced dead at 10:35 p.m. in Elberon. Lucretia stayed with her husband for an hour until she was escorted from the room. He died exactly two months before his fiftieth birthday, making him the second youngest president to be assassinated during his term, after John Fitzgerald Kennedy. During the 80 days between the assassination and his death, his only official act was to sign an extradition act. His last words were “My work is done”.

Today, most historians and medical experts believe that Garfield would probably have survived his wounds if his doctors had had access to current techniques and procedures. As the medical practice of the time advised, several doctors attempted to retrieve the bullet from Garfield”s body, but they did so with their fingers, or with unsterilized instruments, causing the then incurable sepsis. Joseph Lister”s work on sterilization in the 1860s was not yet fully accepted by American physicians, and historians agree that infection was a major cause of Garfield”s death. Biographer Peskin argues, however, that the wound was so severe, that even without infection, it would have been fatal.

Guiteau was formally indicted for the murder of Garfield on October 14, 1881. Despite his insanity defense, the jury sentenced him to death on January 5, 1882 and he was hanged on June 30.

1,500 people gathered at Garfield”s coffin in Elberon before he was taken away in a hearse. His body was taken by train to Washington, D.C., and thousands of onlookers lined the tracks. More than 70,000 people, some of whom had waited for three hours, marched past his coffin in Washington, D.C., and on September 25, 1881, in Cleveland, more than 150,000, a number greater than the city”s population, paid their last respects. Garfield”s body was placed in a specially designed building, lit by electricity, and a wreath sent by Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom adorned his coffin.

His body was temporarily buried in a vault in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland before his memorial was erected.

On May 18, 1887, the monument to James A. Garfield (en) was inaugurated in Washington. The monument consists of a 3 m high bronze statue of Garfield, placed atop a 5 m high baroque style plinth and stands in front of the United States Capitol. Three 5-meter bronze allegorical figures placed at the base of the plinth represent the three important periods of Garfield”s life, the student, the soldier, and the statesman.

On May 19, 1890, Garfield”s body was finally laid to rest with full honors in a mausoleum in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio. Former President Rutherford B. Hayes, sitting President Benjamin Harrison, and future President William McKinley attended the dedication. President Harrison declared that Garfield was still “a student and a teacher” and that his work would survive his death. Five panels of the monument depict Garfield as a teacher, a Union general, an orator, at his swearing-in ceremony, and his casket in the Capitol Rotunda.

There were two years in which the United States had three presidents. The first was 1841. Martin Van Buren completed his one term on March 4, William Henry Harrison was inaugurated, but died a month later before his vice president John Tyler succeeded him. The second was 1881. Rutherford B. Hayes gave his place to James A. Garfield and on the death of the latter Chester A. Arthur became president.

The assassination of President Garfield by a disturbed post researcher shocked the public and Congress embarked on civil service reform.

Democratic Senator George H. Pendleton of Ohio proposed a bill that was signed by President Arthur in January 1883. The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act introduced competitive examinations for civil service and merit-based appointments. The act outlawed the common practice of paying or rendering service to obtain an appointment. To enforce the reform, Congress created the Civil Service Commission. The Pendleton Act initially covered only 10 per cent of federal positions, but successive reforms meant that by the early 20th century the vast majority of federal appointments were made on the basis of merit. President Arthur, who had a reputation for being a supporter of the spoils system, became a strong advocate of this reform.

However, nothing was done to provide close protection for the president. It was not until after the assassination of William McKinley, twenty years later, that Congress charged the Secret Service, originally founded to combat counterfeiting, with the president”s security.

In 1876, Garfield demonstrated his mathematical skills by providing a proof of the Pythagorean theorem. His work was published in the New England Journal of Education. The historian of mathematics William Dunham said that Garfield”s proof was “a very elegant proof indeed”.

The town of Garfield, Australia, formerly known as Cannibal Creek, was renamed in honor of the late president in 1887 and his likeness was printed on $20 gold certificates and $5 bills issued in 1882.


  1. James A. Garfield
  2. James A. Garfield
  3. Peskin 1978, p. 5, 8.
  4. a et b Thomas C. Reeves, Gentleman Boss : The Life of Chester Alan Arthur, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1975, 500 p. (ISBN 0-394-46095-2), p. 164.
  5. Peskin 1978, p. 6.
  6. Ira Rutkow: James A. Garfield. New York 2006, S. 4. (books.google.de)
  7. Allan Peskin: Garfield. A Biography. Kent, Ohio 1999, S. 3–6. (books.google.de)
  8. Allan Peskin: Garfield. A Biography. Kent, Ohio 1999, S. 18. (books.google.de)
  9. Ira Rutkow: James A. Garfield. New York 2006, S. 4. (books.google.de)
  10. Peskin (1978), p. 4.
  11. Reeves (1975) p. 164.
  12. Peskin (1978), p. 28.
  13. Redondo, 2015, p. 296.
  14. 1 2 James A. Garfield // Encyclopædia Britannica (англ.)
  15. 1 2 James Abram Garfield // Энциклопедия Брокгауз (нем.) / Hrsg.: Bibliographisches Institut & F. A. Brockhaus, Wissen Media Verlag
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