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James A. Garfield

Brady-Handy photograph of Garfield, taken between 1870 and 1880

In office
March 4, 1881 – September 19, 1881
Vice President Chester A. Arthur
Preceded by Rutherford B. Hayes
Succeeded by Chester A. Arthur

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Ohio's 19th district
In office
March 4, 1863 – March 3, 1881
Preceded by Albert G. Riddle
Succeeded by Ezra B. Taylor

Born November 19, 1831(1831-11-19)
Moreland Hills, Ohio
Died September 19, 1881 (aged 49)
Elberon (Long Branch), New Jersey
Resting place Cleveland, Ohio
Birth name James Abram Garfield
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Lucretia Rudolph Garfield
Children Eliza Arbella Garfield
Harry Augustus Garfield
James Rudolph Garfield
Mary Garfield
Irvin M. Garfield
Abram Garfield
Edward Garfield
Alma mater Western Reserve Eclectic Institute
Williams College
Occupation Lawyer, Educator, Minister
Religion Church of Christ
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Years of service 1861–1863
Rank Major General
Commands 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry
20th Brigade, 6th Division, Army of the Ohio
Battles/wars American Civil War

James Abram Garfield (November 19, 1831 – September 19, 1881) was the 20th President of the United States. His death, two months after being shot and six months after his inauguration, made his tenure, at 200 days,[1] the second shortest (after William Henry Harrison)[2] in United States history.

Before his election as president, Garfield served as a major general in the United States Army and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives,[3] and as a member of the Electoral Commission of 1876. Garfield was the second U.S. President to be assassinated;[4] Abraham Lincoln was the first.[5] President Garfield, a Republican, had been in office a scant four months when he was shot and fatally wounded on July 2, 1881.[6] He lived until September 19, having served for six months and fifteen days. To date, Garfield remains the only sitting member of the House of Representatives to have been elected President.[7]


Early life

Garfield at age 16
Birthplace of James Garfield
The Garfield homestead

Garfield was born of Welsh ancestry on November 19, 1831 in a log cabin in Orange Township, now Moreland Hills, Ohio.[8] His father, Andrew Epstein Garfield, died in 1833[7], when James Abram was 17 months old.[9] He was brought up and cared for by his mother, Eliza Ballou, sisters, and his uncle.[10]

In Orange Township, Garfield attended a predecessor of the Orange City Schools.[8] From 1851 to 1854, he attended the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute[8] (later named Hiram College) in Hiram, Ohio. He then transferred to Williams College[8] in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where he was a brother of Delta Upsilon fraternity.[11] He graduated in 1856 as an outstanding student who enjoyed all subjects except chemistry.[12]

After preaching a short time at Franklin Circle Christian Church (1857–58),[8] Garfield ruled out preaching and considered a job as principal of a high school in Poestenkill, New York.[13] After losing that job to another applicant, he taught at the Eclectic Institute. Garfield was an instructor in classical languages for the 1856–1857 academic year, and was made principal of the Institute from 1857 to 1860. On November 11, 1858, he married Lucretia Rudolph.[8] They had seven children (five sons and two daughters):[8] Eliza Arabella Garfield (1860–63); Harry Augustus Garfield (1863–1942); James Rudolph Garfield (1865–1950); Mary Garfield (1867–1947); Irvin M. Garfield (1870–1951); Abram Garfield (1872–1958); and Edward Garfield (1874–76). One son, James R. Garfield, followed him into politics and became Secretary of the Interior under President Theodore Roosevelt. In the mid-1860s, Garfield had an affair with Lucia Calhoun, which he later admitted to his wife,[8] who forgave him.[14]

Garfield decided that the academic life was not for him and studied law privately. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1860.[8] Even before admission to the bar, he entered politics. He was elected an Ohio state senator in 1859, serving until 1861.[9] He was a Republican all his political life.[8]

Military career

Garfield as a Brigadier General during the Civil War

With the start of the Civil War, Garfield enlisted in the Union Army,[15] and was assigned to command the 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry.[15] General Don Carlos Buell assigned Colonel Garfield the task of driving Confederate forces out of eastern Kentucky in November 1861, giving him the 18th Brigade for the campaign. In December, he departed Catlettsburg, Kentucky, with the 40th and 42nd Ohio and the 14th and 22nd Kentucky infantry regiments, as well as the 2nd (West) Virginia Cavalry and McLoughlin's Squadron of Cavalry. The march was uneventful until Union forces reached Paintsville, Kentucky, where Garfield's cavalry engaged the Confederate cavalry at Jenny's Creek on January 6, 1862. The Confederates, under Brig. Gen. Humphrey Marshall, withdrew to the forks of Middle Creek, two miles (3 km) from Prestonsburg, Kentucky, on the road to Virginia. Garfield attacked on January 9, 1862. At the end of the day's fighting, the Confederates withdrew from the field, but Garfield did not pursue them. He ordered a withdrawal to Prestonsburg so he could resupply his men. His victory brought him early recognition and a promotion to the rank of brigadier general on January 11.

Garfield served as a brigade commander under Buell at the Battle of Shiloh.[9] He then served under Thomas J. Wood in the subsequent Siege of Corinth. His health deteriorated and he was inactive until autumn, when he served on the commission investigating the conduct of Fitz John Porter. In the spring of 1863, Garfield returned to the field as Chief of Staff for William S. Rosecrans, commander of the Army of the Cumberland.

Later political career

Marker of James A. Garfield's Lawnfield estate in Mentor, Ohio, east of Cleveland
Garfield's large Lawnfield estate

In October 1862, while serving in the field, he was elected by the Republicans to the United States House of Representatives[16] for Ohio's 19th Congressional District in the 38th Congress.[9] As Congress did not meet until December 1863, Garfield continued to serve with the army and was promoted to major general after the Battle of Chickamauga. He resigned his commission, effective December 5, 1863, to take his seat in Congress. He was re-elected every two years, from 1864 through 1878, during the Civil War and the following Reconstruction era.

Garfield was one of three attorneys who argued for the petitioners in the famous Supreme Court case Ex parte Milligan (1866). The petitioners were pro-Confederate northern men who had been found guilty and sentenced to death by a military court for treasonous activities. The case turned on whether the defendants should, instead, have been tried by a civilian court. Garfield went on to plead other cases before the high court, but none was as high profile as his first argument before the Supreme Court in Milligan.

In 1872, he was one of many congressmen involved in the Crédit Mobilier of America scandal. Garfield denied the charges against him and it did not put too much of a strain on his political career since the actual impact of the scandal was difficult to determine. In 1876, when James G. Blaine moved from the House to the United States Senate, Garfield became the Republican floor leader of the House.

In 1876, Garfield was a Republican member of the Electoral Commission that awarded 22 hotly-contested electoral votes to Rutherford B. Hayes in his contest for the Presidency against Samuel J. Tilden. That year, he also purchased the property in Mentor that reporters later dubbed Lawnfield[17], and from which he would conduct the first successful front porch campaign for the presidency. The home is now maintained by the National Park Service as the James A. Garfield National Historic Site.[17]

Election of 1880

In 1880, Garfield's life underwent tremendous change with the publication of the Morey letter, and the end of Democratic U.S. Senator Allen Granberry Thurman's term. In January the Ohio legislature, which had recently again come under Republican control, chose Garfield to fill Thurman's seat for the term beginning March 4, 1881.[18] However, at the Republican National Convention where Garfield supported Secretary of the Treasury John Sherman for the party's Presidential nomination, a long deadlock between the Grant and Blaine forces caused the delegates to look elsewhere for a compromise choice and on the 36th ballot Garfield was nominated. Virtually all of Blaine's and John Sherman's delegates broke ranks to vote for the dark horse nominee in the end. As it happened, the U.S. Senate seat to which Garfield had been chosen ultimately went to Sherman, whose Presidential candidacy Garfield had gone to the convention to support.

In the general election, Garfield defeated the Democratic candidate Winfield Scott Hancock, another distinguished former Union Army general, by 214 electoral votes to 155. (The popular vote had a plurality of less than 2,000 votes out of more than 8.89 million cast; see U.S. presidential election, 1880.) He became the only man ever to be elected to the Presidency straight from the House of Representatives and was, for a short period, a sitting representative, senator-elect, and president-elect. If sworn in, he would have been the first U.S. senator to be elected president; Warren G. Harding became the first to do so forty years later. However, Garfield resigned his other positions and, on March 4, 1881, took office as President, and never sat in the Senate, where that term began on the same day.



Inaugural address

Snow covered much of the Capitol grounds during Garfield's inaugural address with a low turn out, about 7,000 people, who came to inauguration. Garfield was sworn into office by Chief Justice Morrison Waite on Friday, March 4, 1881.[19][20]

The elevation of the negro race from slavery to the full rights of citizenship is the most important political change we have known since the adoption of the Constitution of 1787.[19]
...there was no middle ground for the negro race between slavery and equal citizenship. There can be no permanent disfranchised peasantry in the United States. Freedom can never yield its fullness of blessings so long as the law or its administration places the smallest obstacle in the pathway of any virtuous citizen.[19]
The nation itself is responsible for the extension of the suffrage, and is under special obligations to aid in removing the illiteracy which it has added to the voting population. For the North and South alike there is but one remedy. All the constitutional power of the nation and of the States and all the volunteer forces of the people should be surrendered to meet this danger by the savory influence of universal education.[19]
By the experience of commercial nations in all ages it has been found that gold and silver afford the only safe foundation for a monetary system. Confusion has recently been created by variations in the relative value of the two metals, but I confidently believe that arrangements can be made between the leading commercial nations which will secure the general use of both metals.[19]
The interests of agriculture deserve more attention from the Government than they have yet received. The farms of the United States afford homes and employment for more than one-half our people, and furnish much the largest part of all our exports. As the Government lights our coasts for the protection of mariners and the benefit of commerce, so it should give to the tillers of the soil the best lights of practical science and experience.[19]
The civil service can never be placed on a satisfactory basis until it is regulated by law. For the good of the service itself, for the protection of those who are intrusted with the appointing power against the waste of time and obstruction to the public business caused by the inordinate pressure for place, and for the protection of incumbents against intrigue and wrong...[19]
The Mormon Church not only offends the moral sense of manhood by sanctioning polygamy, but prevents the administration of justice through ordinary instrumentalities of law.[19]

Inaugural parade and ball

John Philip Sousa led Marine Corps band both the inaugural parade and ball. The ball was held in the National Museum, now the Arts and Industries Building, of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.[19]

Administration and Cabinet

Official White House portrait of James Garfield
An 1881 Puck cartoon shows Garfield finding a baby at his front door with a tag marked "Civil Service Reform, compliments of R.B. Hayes". Hayes, his predecessor in the presidency is seen in the background dressed like a woman and holding a bag marked "R.B. Hayes' Savings, Fremont, Ohio".

Between his election and his inauguration, Garfield was occupied with constructing a cabinet that would balance all Republican factions. He rewarded Blaine by appointing him Secretary of State. He also nominated 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, Samuel J. Kirkwood of Iowa as Secretary of the Interior. He appointed Wayne MacVeagh of Pennsylvania Attorney General. New York was represented by Thomas Lemuel James as Postmaster General.

This last appointment infuriated Garfield's Stalwart rival Roscoe Conkling, who demanded nothing less for his faction and his state than the Treasury Department. The resulting squabble consumed the energies of the brief Garfield presidency. It overshadowed promising activities such as Blaine's efforts to build closer ties with Latin America, Postmaster General James's investigation of the "star route" postal frauds, and Windom's successful refinancing of the federal debt. The feud with Conkling reached a climax when the President, at Blaine's instigation, nominated Conkling's enemy, Judge William H. Robertson, to be collector of the port of New York. Conkling raised the time-honored principle of senatorial courtesy in attempting to defeat the nomination, but to no avail. Finally he and his junior colleague, Thomas C. Platt, resigned their Senate seats to seek vindication, but they found only further humiliation when the New York legislature elected others in their places. Garfield's victory was complete. He had routed his foes, weakened the principle of senatorial courtesy, and revitalized the presidential office.[21]

President Garfield's only official social function made outside the White House was a visit to the Columbia Institution for the Deaf (later Gallaudet University) in May 1881.[22]

President Garfield and family
The Garfield Cabinet
Office Name Term
President James A. Garfield 1881
Vice President Chester A. Arthur 1881
Secretary of State James G. Blaine 1881
Secretary of Treasury William Windom 1881
Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln 1881
Attorney General Wayne MacVeagh 1881
Postmaster General Thomas L. James 1881
Secretary of the Navy William H. Hunt 1881
Secretary of the Interior Samuel J. Kirkwood 1881

Judicial appointments

Despite his short tenure in office, Garfield was able to appoint a Justice to the Supreme Court of the United States, and four other federal judges.

Supreme Court

Judge Seat State Began active
Ended active
Stanley Matthews seat 6 Ohio 18810512May 12, 1881 18890322March 22, 1889

Lower courts

Judge Court Began active
Ended active
Pardee, Don AlbertDon Albert Pardee Fifth
01881-05-13 May 13, 1881 01919-09-26 September 26, 1919[23]
Boarman, AlexanderAlexander Boarman W.D. La. 01881-05-18 May 18, 1881 01916-08-30 August 30, 1916
Brown, AddisonAddison Brown S.D.N.Y. 01881-06-02 June 2, 1881[24] 01901-08-30 August 30, 1901
Colt, LeBaron B.LeBaron B. Colt D.R.I. 01881-03-21 March 21, 1881 01884-07-23 July 23, 1884


Baltimore & Potomac Railroad Passenger Terminal, Washington, DC (1873–77, Wilson Brothers & Company, architects, demolished 1908). U.S. President James A. Garfield was shot in this station on July 2, 1881.

Garfield had little time to savor his triumph. He was shot by Charles J. Guiteau, disgruntled by failed efforts to secure a federal post, on July 2, 1881, at 9:30 a.m. The President had been walking through the Sixth Street Station of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad (a predecessor of the Pennsylvania Railroad) in Washington, D.C.. Garfield was on his way to his alma mater, Williams College, where he was scheduled to deliver a speech, accompanied by Secretary of State James G. Blaine, Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln (son of Abraham Lincoln[25]) and two of his sons, James and Harry. The station was located on the southwest corner of present day Sixth Street Northwest and Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. (The West Building of the National Gallery of Art now occupies this site; the rotunda of that building sits astride the former location of Sixth Street directly south of Constitution Avenue.) As he was being arrested after the shooting, Guiteau repeatedly said, "I am a Stalwart of the Stalwarts! I did it and I want to be arrested! Arthur is President now!"[26] which briefly led to unfounded suspicions that Arthur or his supporters had put Guiteau up to the crime. (The Stalwarts strongly opposed Garfield's Half-Breeds; like many vice presidents, Arthur was chosen for political advantage, to placate his faction, rather than for skills or loyalty to his running-mate.) Guiteau was upset because of the rejection of his repeated attempts to be appointed as the United States consul in Paris – a position for which he had absolutely no qualifications. Garfield's assassination was instrumental to the passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act on January 16, 1883.

President Garfield with James G. Blaine after being shot by Charles Guiteau, as depicted in a period engraving from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper[27][28]
Doctors discuss Garfield's wounds.
President Garfield's casket lying in state at the Capitol Rotunda

One bullet grazed Garfield's arm; the second bullet lodged in his spine and could not be found, although scientists today think that the bullet was near his lung. Alexander Graham Bell devised a metal detector specifically to find the bullet, but the metal bed frame Garfield was lying on made the instrument malfunction. Because metal bed frames were relatively rare, the cause of the instrument's deviation was unknown at the time. Garfield became increasingly ill over a period of several weeks due to infection, which caused his heart to weaken. He remained bedridden in the White House with fevers and extreme pains. On September 6, the ailing President was moved to the Jersey Shore in the vain hope that the fresh air and quiet there might aid his recovery. In a matter of hours, local residents put down a special rail spur for Garfield's train; some of the ties are now part of the Garfield Tea House. The beach cottage Garfield was taken to has been demolished.

Garfield died of a massive heart attack or a ruptured splenic artery aneurysm, following blood poisoning and bronchial pneumonia, at 10:35 p.m. on Monday, September 19, 1881, in the Elberon section of Long Branch, New Jersey. The wounded President died exactly two months before his 50th birthday. During the eighty days between his shooting and death, his only official act was to sign an extradition paper.

Dr. D. W. Bliss, Garfield's chief doctor, recorded the following:

Only a moment elapsed before Mrs. Garfield was present. She exclaimed, 'Oh! what is the matter?' I said, 'Mrs. Garfield, the President is dying.' Leaning over her husband and fervently kissing his brow, she exclaimed, 'Oh! Why am I made to suffer this cruel wrong?'...Restoratives, which were always at hand, were instantly resorted to. In almost every conceivable way it was sought to revive the rapidly yielding vital forces. A faint, fluttering pulsation of the heart, gradually fading to indistinctness, alone rewarded my examinations. At last, only moments after the first alarm, at 10:35, I raised my head from the breast of my dead friend and said to the sorrowful group, 'It is over.'

Noiselessly, one by one, we passed out, leaving the broken-hearted wife alone with her dead husband. Thus she remained for more than an hour, gazing upon the lifeless features, when Colonel Rockwell, fearing the effect upon her health, touched her arm and begged her to retire, which she did."[29]

Most historians and medical experts now believe that Garfield probably would have survived his wound had the doctors attending him been more capable.[30] Several inserted their unsterilized fingers into the wound to probe for the bullet, and one doctor punctured Garfield's liver in doing so. This alone would not have caused death as the liver is one of the few organs in the human body that can regenerate itself. However, this physician probably introduced Streptococcus bacteria into the President's body and that caused blood poisoning for which at that time there were no antibiotics.

Guiteau was found guilty of assassinating Garfield, despite his lawyers raising an insanity defense. He insisted that incompetent medical care had really killed the President. Although historians generally agree that poor medical care was an element, it was not a legal defense. Guiteau was sentenced to death, and was executed by hanging on June 30, 1882, in Washington, D.C.

Garfield was buried, with great solemnity, in a mausoleum in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.[31] The monument is decorated with five terracotta bas relief panels by sculptor Caspar Buberl, depicting various stages in Garfield's life. Originally, he was interred in a temporary brick vault in the same cemetery. In 1887, the James A. Garfield Monument was dedicated in Washington, D.C. A cenotaph to him is located in Miners Union Cemetery in Bodie, California. On the grounds of the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers stands a monument to the fallen president completed in 1884; it was designed by sculptor Frank Happersberger.

At the time of his death, Garfield was survived by his mother. He is one of only three presidents to have predeceased their mothers. The others were James K. Polk and John F. Kennedy.

Surrender page of life insurance policy
Surrender page of $10,000 life insurance policy

On January 12, 2010, a previously unknown life insurance policy on the life of Garfield was discovered in Orient, New York. The policy was found in a family scrap book dating from the same period of his death and had a benefit amount of $10,000. It was opened on May 18, 1881, just 45 days prior to the date Garfield was shot by Guiteau, and was surrendered and signed by Lucretia Garfield and Joseph Stanley-Brown, both witnesses to Garfield's death.[32]

The U.S. has twice had three presidents in the same year. The first such year was 1841. Martin Van Buren ended his single term, William Henry Harrison was inaugurated and died a month later, then Vice President John Tyler stepped into the vacant office. The second occurrence was in 1881. Rutherford B. Hayes relinquished the office to James A. Garfield. Upon Garfield's death, Chester A. Arthur became president.


Garfield Monument in Washington, D.C.
James A. Garfield, Regular Issue of 1922, 6c

Hiram College, Ohio, hosts the Garfield Institute for Public Leadership. Drawing upon James Garfield's legacy as a citizen-soldier and leader, the Garfield Institute prepares students to assume the responsibilities of public leadership by developing expertise in matters of public policy, foreign and domestic, grounded in Hiram's traditional liberal arts education. The Garfield Institute offers an interdisciplinary minor, with tracks in domestic public leadership, foreign policy and international leadership. The Institute also provides the Garfield Scholars program through which a select group of students actively participate in the Garfield Seminars, engage public leaders on and off campus, and demonstrate scholarship. The objective of the Garfield Scholars program is to provide students with opportunities to develop intellectual and social skills for careers in public leadership and scholarship related to public policy and international relations. The former Mecca Church, where James Garfield is believed to have spoken, was purchased and moved to the current site, and serves as the residence for the Garfield Institute for Public Leadership. The Center's twenty-four competitively selected Garfield Student Scholars will study and work in the building with their professors whose offices will be located in a newly designed lower level.[33]

James Garfield was featured on the series 1886 $20 Gold Certificate,[34] a currency note considered to be of moderate rarity and quite valuable to collectors.

Garfield Avenue in the suburb of Five Dock, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia is named after James A. Garfield, as is Garfield Street in Chelsea, Michigan, and the suburb of Brooklyn, Wellington, New Zealand.

Upon officially becoming a town, a Kansas settlement that went by the name Camp Riley renamed itself Garfield City to pay tribute to the politician, who once visited the settlement during military duty at the nearby Fort Larned.[citation needed] Garfield City is now known as Garfield, Kansas and had a population of under two hundred people at the 2000 census.

A sandstone statue of Garfield was dedicated in May 2009 on the campus of Hiram College. A week later, the statue was decapitated by vandals.[35] The missing head was recovered in July 2009.[36]

James A. Garfield School District is located in Garrettsville, Ohio, about 5 miles east of Hiram College, where Garfield studied, taught and later became president in 1857 at the age of 26. The district consists of 1,580 students in grades kindergarten through 12.[citation needed]

Individual distinctions

  • Garfield was a minister and an elder for the Church of Christ (Christian Church), making him the first—and to date, only—member of the clergy to serve as President.[37] He is also claimed as a member of the Disciples of Christ, as the different branches did not split until the 20th century. Garfield preached his first sermon in Poestenkill, New York.[38]
    Garfield Monument at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio
  • Garfield is the only person in U.S. history to be a Representative, Senator-elect, and President-elect at the same time. To date, he is the only Representative to be directly elected President of the United States.
  • In 1876, Garfield discovered a novel proof of the Pythagorean Theorem using a trapezoid while serving as a member of the House of Representatives.[39]
  • Garfield was the first ambidextrous president. It was said that one could ask him a question in English and he could simultaneously write the answer in Latin with one hand, and Ancient Greek with the other.[40]
  • Garfield was a descendant of Mayflower passenger John Billington through his son Francis, another Mayflower passenger.[41] John Billington was convicted of murder at Plymouth Mass. 1630.[42]
  • Garfield was related to Owen Tudor, and both were descendants of Rhys ap Tewdwr.[43]
  • Garfield juggled Indian clubs to build his muscles.[44]

See also

Further reading

President Garfield's Death Site, Long Branch, New Jersey
  • Ackerman, Kenneth D. Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of James A. Garfield, Avalon Publishing, 2004. ISBN 0786713968
  • Freemon, Frank R., 2001: Gangrene and glory: medical care during the American Civil War; Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252070100
  • Peskin, Allan "James A. Garfield: Supreme Court Counsel" in Gross, Norman, ed., America's Lawyer-Presidents: From Law Office to Oval Office, Chicago: Northwestern University Press and the American Bar Association Museum of Law, 2004, pp. 164–173. ISBN 0810112183
  • King, Lester Snow: 1991 Transformations in American Medicine : from Benjamin Rush to William Osler / Lester S. King. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, c1991. ISBN 0801840570
  • Peskin, Allan Garfield: A Biography, The Kent State University Press, 1978. ISBN 0873382102
  • Vowell, Sarah "Assassination Vacation", Simon & Schuster, 2005 ISBN 074326004X


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  9. ^ a b c d Reeves, Thomas C. (1975). Gentleman Boss. NY, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 164. ISBN 0-394-46095-2. 
  10. ^ Conwell, Russell H.; John Davis Long (1881). The Life, Speeches, and Public Services of James A. Garfield. Boston: B.B. Russell. pp. 34, 53. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  11. ^ Notable DUs. Delta Upsilon Fraternity. Politics and Government. URL retrieved February 20, 2007.
  12. ^ James Garfield. Accessed November 1, 2009.
  13. ^ Peskin, Allan (1978). Garfield. Kent State University Press. pp. 45. ISBN 0873382102. 
  14. ^ "Garfield, James A.". Encyclopædia Britannica's Guide to American Presidents. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  15. ^ a b [6]
  16. ^ [7]
  17. ^ a b [8]
  18. ^ State legislatures, not voters, chose U.S. senators until the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i
  20. ^ [9]
  21. ^ Garfield, James Abram. American National Biography, 2000, American Council of Learned Societies.
  22. ^ Gallaudet, Edward Miner. History of the Columbia Institution for the Deaf.
  23. ^ The old Fifth Circuit was abolished on June 16, 1891 in favor of the newly created United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, to which Pardee was assigned by operation of law, and on which he served until his death on September 26, 1919.
  24. ^ Recess appointment; formally nominated on October 12, 1881, confirmed by the United States Senate on October 14, 1881, and received commission on October 14, 1881.
  25. ^ Mr. Lincoln's Whitehouse: Robert Todd Lincoln, The Lincoln Institute, Retrieved November 29, 2006.
  26. ^ Doyle, Burton T.; Swaney, Homer H (1881). Lives of James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur. Washington: R.H. Darby. p. 61. ISBN 0104575468. 
  27. ^ Cheney, Lynne Vincent. "Mrs. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper". American Heritage Magazine. October 1975. Volume 26, Issue 6. URL retrieved on January 24, 2007.
  28. ^ "The attack on the President's life". Library of Congress. URL retrieved on January 24, 2007.
  29. ^ [10]|The Death Of President Garfield, 1881|Bliss, D. W., The Story Of President Garfield's Ilness, Century Magazine (1881); Marx, Rudolph, The Health of the Presidents (1960); Taylor, John M., Garfield of Ohio (1970).
  30. ^ A President Felled by an Assassin and 1880’s Medical Care New York Times, July 25, 2006.
  31. ^ Vigil, Vicki Blum (2007). Cemeteries of Northeast Ohio: Stones, Symbols & Stories. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59851-025-6
  32. ^ [11]
  33. ^ "Garfield Institute for Public Leadership". Hiram College. Retrieved October 18, 2009. 
  34. ^ Orzano, Michele. "Learning the language". Coin World. November 2, 2004. Retrieved May 9, 2007.
  35. ^ Associated Press (May 18, 2009). "Statue of Former President Loses Head in Ohio". Retrieved August 26, 2009. "Someone has beheaded a statue of President James Garfield that was installed last week at an Ohio college." 
  36. ^ Brown, Shawn (July 31, 2009). "Hiram College and Village of Hiram officials announce the return of head of Garfield statue". (Hiram College Office of College Relations). Retrieved August 26, 2009. "Hiram College and Village of Hiram officials today announced that the head of the statue of James A. Garfield which was stolen on Thursday, May 14, has been returned." 
  37. ^ James A. Garfield. Mr. President. Profiles of Our Nation's Leaders. Smithsonian Education. URL retrieved on May 11, 2007.
  38. ^ Sullivan, James (1927). "Chapter VI. Rensselaer County". The History of New York State, Book III. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. Retrieved 2007-06-06. 
  39. ^ "Pythagoras and President Garfield", PBS Teacher Source, URL retrieved on February 1, 2007.
  40. ^ American Presidents: Life Portraits, C-SPAN, Retrieved November 29, 2006
  41. ^ "Famous Descendants of Mayflower Passengers". Mayflower History. URL retrieved March 31, 2007.
  42. ^ Borowitz, Alfred. "The Mayflower Murderer". The University of Texas at Austin. Tarlton Law Library. URL retrieved March 30, 2007.
  43. ^ Genealogy Report: Ancestors of Pres. James Abram Garfield
  44. ^ Paletta, Lu Ann; Worth, Fred L (1988). The World Almanac of Presidential Facts. World Almanac Books. ISBN 0345348885. 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Rutherford B. Hayes
President of the United States
March 4, 1881 – September 19, 1881
Succeeded by
Chester A. Arthur
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Albert G. Riddle
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Ohio's 19th congressional district

March 4, 1863 – March 4, 1881
Succeeded by
Ezra B. Taylor
Party political offices
Preceded by
Rutherford B. Hayes
Republican Party presidential candidate
Succeeded by
James G. Blaine
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Henry Wilson
Persons who have lain in state or honor
in the United States Capitol rotunda

September 21, 1881 – September 23, 1881
Succeeded by
John A. Logan


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I love to deal with doctrines and events. The contests of men about men I greatly dislike.

James Abram Garfield (19 November 183119 September 1881) was the 20th President of the United States (1881), and the second U.S. President to be assassinated. His term was the second shortest in U.S. history, after William Henry Harrison's. Holding office from March to September of 1881, President Garfield was in office for a total of just six months and fifteen days.



  • Fellow-citizens! Clouds and darkness are round about Him! His pavilion is dark waters and thick clouds of the skies! Justice and judgment are the establishment of His throne! Mercy and truth shall go before His face! Fellow-citizens! God reigns and the Government at Washington still lives!
    • A declaration reportedly made (1865-04-15) to calm a mob on Wall Street in New York after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, according to a reminiscence of “a distinguished gentleman who was present”, published in the Cincinatti Gazette in 1880 and circulated during Garfield's presidential campaign[1]. After Garfield's assassination, the anecdote was widely reprinted. However, contemporary accounts give a completely different speech by Garfield and no mention of Garfield calming a mob. [2] [3]
  • If wrinkles must be written upon our brows, let them not be written upon the heart. The spirit should not grow old.
    • Letter to Colonel A. F. Rockwell (1866-08-13)
  • I am trying to do two things: dare to be a radical and not be a fool, which ... is a matter of no small difficulty.
  • Nobody but radicals have ever accomplished anything in a great crisis.
  • It is no part of the functions of the National Government to find employment for the people, and if we were to appropriate a hundred millions for his purpose, we should only be taxing 40 millions of people to keep a few thousand employed.
  • If hard work is not another name for talent, it is the best possible substitute for it.
  • A pound of pluck is worth a ton of luck.
    • “Elements of Success”, Speech at Spencerian Business College, Washington, D. C., 1869-06-29 in Hinsdale, p. 326
  • Be fit for more than the thing you are now doing. Let everyone know that you have a reserve in yourself; that you have more power than you are now using. If you are not too large for the place you occupy, you are too small for it.
    • “Elements of Success”, Hinsdale, p. 327
  • Poverty is uncomfortable, as I can testify; but nine times out of ten the best thing that can happen to a young man is to be tossed overboard and compelled to sink or swim for himself.
    • “Elements of Success”, Hinsdale, p. 331
  • The chief duty of government is to keep the peace and stand out of the sunshine of the people.
    • To H.N. Eldridge (1869-12-14) as quoted in Garfield (1978) by Allen Peskin, Ch. 13
  • The lesson of History is rarely learned by the actors themselves.
  • The ideal college is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other.
    • Statement that he is reported to have first made at an Alumni Dinner in Delmonico's Restaurant in New York. (1871-12-28). Hopkins was a personal friend and the president of Williams College.
  • I will not vote against the truths of the multiplication table.
    • To H. Austin (1874-02-04) as quoted in Garfield (1978) by Allen Peskin, Ch. 17
  • Things don't turn up in this world until somebody turns them up.
    • Speech in the House of Representatives, June, 1874, in Brown, p. 437
  • The return to solid values is always hard... Distress, panic, and hard times have marked our pathway in returning to solid values.
    • Speech (1874-06-22) US Congressional Record, 43rd Congress, 2nd session
  • I am a poor hater.
    • Diary (1876-04-26) as quoted in Garfield (1978) by Allen Peskin, Ch. 13
  • The possession of great powers, no doubt, carries with it a contempt for mere external show.
  • Few men in our history have ever obtained the Presidency by planning to obtain it.
  • It would convert the Treasury of the United States into a manufactory of paper money. It makes the House of Representatives and the Senate, or the caucus of the party which happens to be in the majority, the absolute dictator of the financial and business affairs of this country. This scheme surpasses all the centralism and all the Caesarism that were ever charged upon the Republican party in the wildest days of the war or in the events growing out of the war.
    • Commenting on a resolution offered by James Weaver of the Greenback Party that the government should issue all money, on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives (1880-04-05), published in Brice, p. 223.
  • All free governments are managed by the combined wisdom and folly of the people.
  • Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained.
    • Letter accepting the Republican nomination to run for President. (1880-07-12)
  • I love to deal with doctrines and events. The contests of men about men I greatly dislike.
  • My God! What is there in this place that a man should ever want to get into it?
    • Diary (1881-06-08) as quoted in Garfield (1978) by Allen Peskin, Ch. 24
  • The sin of slavery is one of which it may be said that without the shedding of blood there is no remission.
Tell her I am seriously hurt; how seriously I cannot yet say.
  • Tell her I am seriously hurt; how seriously I cannot yet say. I am myself, and hope she will come to me soon. I send my love to her.
  • Strangulatus pro republica.
    • Tortured for the Republic.
    • Last written words, two days before he died; these are sometimes reported as being his last words. (1881-09-17) Variant translation: "Tortured for the sake of the republic."
  • Garfield: "Old boy! Do you think my name will have a place in human history?"
    Rockwell: "Yes, a grand one, but a grander one in human hearts. Old fellow, you mustn’t talk in that way. You have a great work yet to perform."
    Garfield: "No. My work is done."
    • Conversation with his secretary, Colonel Rockwell the day before he died. These have been reported as his last spoken words. (1881-09-18)
  • I thank you doctor, but I am a dead man.
    • To a doctor treating his wound. Quoted in John Whitcomb, Claire Whitcomb "Real Life at the White House", Routledge, 2002, p. 177.

Speech Nominating John Sherman for President (1880)

Speech at the Republican National Convention, Chicago, Illinois (June 5, 1880) nominating John Sherman for President. His address was considered so impressive that it is generally credited with inspiring others to rally around him as a "dark horse" candidate.
I have seen the sea lashed into fury and tossed into spray, and its grandeur moves the soul of the dullest man; but I remember that it is not the billows, but the calm level of the sea, from which all heights and depths are measured.
  • Nothing touches my heart more quickly than a tribute of honor to a great and noble character; but as I sat in my seat and witnessed this demonstration, this assemblage seemed to me a human ocean in tempest. I have seen the sea lashed into fury and tossed into spray, and its grandeur moves the soul of the dullest man; but I remember that it is not the billows, but the calm level of the sea, from which all heights and depths are measured. When the storm has passed and the hour of calm settles on the ocean, when the sunlight bathes its peaceful surface, then the astronomer and surveyor take the level from which they measure all terrestrial heights and depths.
  • Gentlemen of the Convention, your present temper may not mark the healthful pulse of our people. When your enthusiasm has passed, when the emotions of this hour have subsided, we shall find below the storm and passion that calm level of public opinion from which the thoughts of a mighty people are to be measured, and by which final action will be determined.
  • Not in Chicago, in the heat of June, but at the ballot-boxes of the Republic, in the quiet of November, after the silence of deliberate judgment, will this question be settled. And now, gentlemen of the Convention, what do we want?
  • Twenty-five years ago this Republic was bearing and wearing a triple chain of bondage. Long familiarity with traffic in the bodies and souls of men had paralyzed the consciences of a majority of our people; the narrowing and disintegrating doctrine of State sovereignty had shackled and weakened the noblest and most beneficent powers of the national government; and the grasping power of slavery was seizing upon the virgin territories of the West, and dragging them into the den of eternal bondage.
    At that crisis the Republican party was born. It drew its first inspiration from that fire of liberty which God has lighted in every human heart, and which all the powers of ignorance and tyranny can never wholly extinguish. The Republican party came to deliver and to save.
  • Then, after the storms of battle, were heard the calm words of peace spoken by the conquering nation, saying to the foe that lay prostrate at its feet: "This is our only revenge — that you join us in lifting into the serene firmament of the Constitution, to shine like stars for ever and ever, the immortal principles of truth and justice: that all men, white or black, shall be free, and shall stand equal before the law."
  • In order to win victory now, we want the vote of every Republican — of every Grant Republican, and every anti-Grant Republican, in America — of every Blaine man and every anti-Blaine man. The vote of every follower of every candidate is needed to make success certain. Therefore I say, gentlemen and brethren, we are here to take calm counsel together, and inquire what we shall do.
  • We want a man whose life and opinions embody all the achievements of which I have spoken. We want a man who, standing on a mountain height, traces the victorious footsteps of our party in the past, and, carrying in his heart the memory of its glorious deeds, looks forward prepared to meet the dangers to come. We want one who will act in no spirit of unkindness toward those we lately met in battle.
  • He has shown himself able to meet with calmness the great emergencies of the government. For twenty-five years he has trodden the perilous heights of public duty, and against all the shafts of malice has borne his breast unharmed. He has stood in the blaze of "that fierce light that beats against the throne"; but its fiercest ray has found no flaw in his armor, no stain upon his shield. I do not present him as a better Republican or a better man than thousands of others that we honor; but I present him for your deliberate and favorable consideration. I nominate John Sherman, of Ohio.

Inaugural address (1881)

Inaugural address (March 4, 1881) Full text at Yale University
Let all our people, leaving behind them the battlefields of dead issues, move forward and in their strength of liberty and the restored Union win the grander victories of peace.
  • Fellow-Citizens: We stand to-day upon an eminence which overlooks a hundred years of national life — a century crowded with perils, but crowned with the triumphs of liberty and law. Before continuing the onward march let us pause on this height for a moment to strengthen our faith and renew our hope by a glance at the pathway along which our people have traveled.
  • The colonists were struggling not only against the armies of a great nation, but against the settled opinions of mankind; for the world did not then believe that the supreme authority of government could be safely intrusted to the guardianship of the people themselves.
    We can not overestimate the fervent love of liberty, the intelligent courage, and the sum of common sense with which our fathers made the great experiment of self-government. When they found, after a short trial, that the confederacy of States, was too weak to meet the necessities of a vigorous and expanding republic, they boldly set it aside, and in its stead established a National Union, founded directly upon the will of the people, endowed with full power of self-preservation and ample authority for the accomplishment of its great object.
  • Under this Constitution the boundaries of freedom have been enlarged, the foundations of order and peace have been strengthened, and the growth of our people in all the better elements of national life has indicated the wisdom of the founders and given new hope to their descendants.
  • The supreme trial of the Constitution came at last under the tremendous pressure of civil war. We ourselves are witnesses that the Union emerged from the blood and fire of that conflict purified and made stronger for all the beneficent purposes of good government.
  • The will of the nation, speaking with the voice of battle and through the amended Constitution, has fulfilled the great promise of 1776 by proclaiming "liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof." The elevation of the negro race from slavery to the full rights of citizenship is the most important political change we have known since the adoption of the Constitution of 1787.
  • No doubt this great change has caused serious disturbance to our Southern communities. This is to be deplored, though it was perhaps unavoidable. But those who resisted the change should remember that under our institutions there was no middle ground for the negro race between slavery and equal citizenship. There can be no permanent disfranchised peasantry in the United States. Freedom can never yield its fullness of blessings so long as the law or its administration places the smallest obstacle in the pathway of any virtuous citizen.
  • It has been said that unsettled questions have no pity for the repose of nations. It should be said with the utmost emphasis that this question of the suffrage will never give repose or safety to the States or to the nation until each, within its own jurisdiction, makes and keeps the ballot free and pure by the strong sanctions of the law.
  • It is the high privilege and sacred duty of those now living to educate their successors and fit them, by intelligence and virtue, for the inheritance which awaits them.
    In this beneficent work sections and races should be forgotten and partisanship should be unknown.
    Let our people find a new meaning in the divine oracle which declares that "a little child shall lead them," for our own little children will soon control the destinies of the Republic.
  • My countrymen, we do not now differ in our judgment concerning the controversies of past generations, and fifty years hence our children will not be divided in their opinions concerning our controversies. They will surely bless their fathers and their fathers' God that the Union was preserved, that slavery was overthrown, and that both races were made equal before the law. We may hasten or we may retard, but we can not prevent, the final reconciliation.
  • Enterprises of the highest importance to our moral and material well-being unite us and offer ample employment of our best powers. Let all our people, leaving behind them the battlefields of dead issues, move forward and in their strength of liberty and the restored Union win the grander victories of peace.
  • The civil service can never be placed on a satisfactory basis until it is regulated by law. For the good of the service itself, for the protection of those who are intrusted with the appointing power against the waste of time and obstruction to the public business caused by the inordinate pressure for place, and for the protection of incumbents against intrigue and wrong, I shall at the proper time ask Congress to fix the tenure of the minor offices of the several Executive Departments and prescribe the grounds upon which removals shall be made during the terms for which incumbents have been appointed.
  • I am about to assume the great trust which you have committed to my hands. I appeal to you for that earnest and thoughtful support which makes this Government in fact, as it is in law, a government of the people.
    I shall greatly rely upon the wisdom and patriotism of Congress and of those who may share with me the responsibilities and duties of administration, and, above all, upon our efforts to promote the welfare of this great people and their Government I reverently invoke the support and blessings of Almighty God.


  • History is philosophy teaching by example, and also warning; its two eyes are geography and chronology.
    • This quote was already published in 1853, when Garfield was only 22.
  • Ideas control the world.
    • John Wingate Thornton, The historical relation of New England to the English Commonwealth (1875), p. 46
  • Most human organizations that fall short of their goals do so not because of stupidity or faulty doctrines, but because of internal decay and rigidification. They grow stiff in the joints. They get in a rut. They go to seed.
  • Whosoever controls the volume of money in any country is absolute master of all industry and commerce.... And when you realize the entire system is very easily controlled, one way or another, by a few powerful men at the top, you will not have to be told how periods of inflation and depression originate.
    • This is probably a paraphrase of the “absolute dictator” quote (see Sourced), followed by commentary by someone else that has been misattributed to Garfield.
  • The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.


  • I have had many troubles, but the worst of them never came.
  • I mean to make myself a man, and if I succeed in that, I shall succeed in everything else.
  • The President is the last person in the world to know what the people really want and think.


  1. Smiley, Eugene Virgil (1880). The Republican manual: history, principles, early leaders, achievements of the Republican Party with biographical sketches of James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur. pp. 241-244.  
  2. "The National Calamity", April 16, 1865, pp. 1,8.
  3. Peskin, Allan (1978). Garfield: a biography. Kent State University Press. pp. 250-251. ISBN 0873382102.  


Brice, S. M. (1882). Financial Catechism and History of the Financial Legislation of the United States from 1862-1896. Chicago: Franklin Printing Co..  

Brown, E. E. (Emma Elizabeth) (1881). The life and public services of James A. Garfield. Boston: D. Lothrop. OCLC 1370540.  

Bundy, J. M. (Jonas Mills) (1881). The nation's hero.-- In memoriam. The life of James Abram Garfield. New York: A. S. Barnes. OCLC 1946442.  

Hinsdale, B. A. (Burke Aaron) (1881). President Garfield and education: Hiram college memorial. Boston: J. R. Osgood. OCLC 708770.  

External links

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James Abram Garfield
File:James Abram Garfield, photo portrait

In office
March 4, 1881 – September 19, 1881
Vice President Chester A. Arthur
Preceded by Rutherford B. Hayes
Succeeded by Chester A. Arthur

Born November 19, 1831
Moreland Hills, Ohio
Died September 19, 1881
Elberon (Long Branch), New Jersey
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse Lucretia Rudolph Garfield

James Abram Garfield (November 19 1831 - September 19 1881) was the 20th (1881) President of the United States and the 2nd President to be assassinated (killed while in office). President Garfield was in office from March to September of 1881. He was in office for a total of six months and fifteen days.

Early life

Garfield was born in Orange Township, now Moreland Hills, Ohio. His father died in 1833, when James Abram was 18 months old. He grew up cared for by his mother and an uncle.

In Orange Township, Garfield attended school, a predecessor of the Orange City Schools. From 1851 to 1854, he attended the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (later named Hiram College) in Hiram, Ohio. He then transferred to Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where he was a brother of Delta Upsilon. He graduated in 1856 as an outstanding student who enjoyed all subjects except chemistry. He then taught at the Eclectic Institute. He was an instructor in classical languages for the 1856-1857 academic year, and was made principal of the Institute from 1857 to 1860.

On November 11, 1858, he married Lucretia Rudolph. They had seven children (five sons and two daughters): Eliza A. Garfield (1860-63); Harry A. Garfield (1863-1942); James R. Garfield (1865-1950); Mary Garfield (1867-1947); Irvin M. Garfield (1870-1951); Abram Garfield (1872-1958); and Edward Garfield (1874-76). One son, James Rudolph Garfield, followed him into politics and became Secretary of the Interior under President Theodore Roosevelt.

Garfield decided that the academic life was not for him and studied law privately. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1860. Even before admission to the bar, he entered politics. He was elected an Ohio state senator in 1859, serving until 1861. He was a Republican all his political life.

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