Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Destiny of the Republic

The older I get, the more I wished I would have really paid attention during my history classes- in high school and college. Now as an adult, I am fascinated by history and the people and events that shaped our world.

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard tells the story of President James Garfield. Although I could recognize Garfield's name in a line-up of presidents, I knew little more about him. Millard's detailed research shares the story of a remarkable man. Garfield grew up in extreme poverty, yet had a sense of pride about him that allowed him to rise above his lowly financial status. He believed in education as a way to further himself. When he began a life in politics, he never aspired to be elected president. In fact, at the convention where he was asked to endorse a different presidential candidate, he was nominated to run for president by his party. His death at the hands of an assassin changed our country's future.

Although the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy are ones that most people know of, I knew nothing of Garfield's. The man who shot him, Charles Gitteau, had planned this for a long time. Today he would no doubt be considered insane, he was always on the fringe, trying to find a role for himself in the president's inner circle. Garfield was injured from the shot, but not fatally. He continued to try and recover from his injuries, but developed an infection from his wound. Interestingly, the United States did not embrace the idea of sterilization of medical equipment in order to reduce germs, claiming that countries who believed in the idea of germs would eventually recognize their confusion.

While the ending of this story is no surprise, the details of this time in history and how it changed the United States are worth reading. I have a much better understanding of President Garfield as a politician and a person.


Melissa Mc (Gerbera Daisy Diaries) said...

The little I know of Garfield I learned from Sarah Vowell and Assassination Vacation (I recommend it for an entertaining read). I treated myself to this and hope to read it over the Christmas break!! I also bough River of Doubt too!

kenpen said...

I second the rec for Assassination Vacation. Sarah Vowell is great.