Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
GARFIELD, James Abram, president of the United States 1881, was born at Orange, Cuyahoga county, Ohio, Nov. 19, 1831, and died at Elberon, N. J., Sept. 19, 1881. He was graduated at Williams college in 1856; became a professor in, and afterward president of, Hiram college, Ohio; was admitted to the bar, and served in the army 1861-3, reaching the grade of major general. He was a republican representative in congress 1863-81, was elected U. S. senator for the term 1881-7, but before he took his seat was elected president, July 2, 1881, he was shot by a disappointed office seeker, and the injury resulted in his death.
—Garfield's rise form the position of a driver of mules upon the tow-path to the presidency was great, but others before him have compassed as great an interval. His exceptional success, among the crowd of self-made presidents, Jackson, Van Buren, Fillmore, Lincoln and Johnson, lay in his attainment of a breadth of culture which none of the others approached, and which, though it lay outside of polities, had a very strong influence upon his political career. His life and letters show his constant anxiety to develop his mental powers in every department of thought, so that before his untimely death he had become an intellectual athlete. It is unfortunately useless to speculate on the breadth of development to which twenty years further life and activity would have carried him.
—In congress Garfield was one of the mass of republican members during Thaddeus Stevens' leadership, and after Stevens' death he was by no means the most prominent republican leader until 1876-8, when he met and was a prime factor in defeating the spread of the greenback or "soft money" idea in his party. (See
—Only two points of Garfield's career have seemed vulnerable to his political opponents: his reception of a fee of $5,000 for arguing the De Golyer claim before a congressional committee, and his alleged complicity in the credit mobilier fraud. (See
—The two New York senators, Conkling and T. C. Platt, were republicans of the Grant faction. Immediately after his inauguration in March, 1881, President Garfield attempted to recognize all the factions of his party in the matter of appointments; but, as the most important New York appointment was given to their opponent, the New York senators, after vainly struggling against its confirmation until May, suddenly resigned, left their party in a minority in the senate, and brought about a great political uproar. A disappointed office seeker, thinking that the Conkling faction would justify any method of attack upon the president, chose this time to gratify his resentment for the refusal to appoint him to a consulship, and shot the president, announcing himself as Conkling's champion. The horrible calamity of the president's assassination served at least one useful purpose; it threw a vivid light upon the evils of the American system of appointments to and removals from office.
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