James A Garfield

20th president - 1881

 

A dark horse candidate, who won the Republican nomination as a compromise between rival factions supporting Ulysses Grant, John Sherman and James Blaine, Garfield grew up in great poverty – he was the last president to be born in a log cabin – and rose through hard work to the highest office in the land via a successful Civil War, in which he rose to the rank of major-general, and a long spell as a Republican Congressman. He remains the only sitting member of the House of Representatives to have been elected president.

Although Garfield had been mildly implicated in the 1873 Crédit Mobilier scandal, he took an impressively straightforward approached to the presidency, rooting out corruption among Republicans involved in the awarding of mail route contracts ("Go ahead, regardless of where or whom you hit," he told those investigating the scandal; "I direct you not only to probe this ulcer to the bottom, but to cut it out"), and winning a power struggle with the head of the New York Republican party over the appointment of the collector of the Port of New York. Then, after fewer than four months in office, he was shot at a Washington railroad station by an embittered attorney, Charles J Guiteau, who had been turned down for a diplomatic post. He spent 80 days on his death-bed, watched over by his wife and probed with unsterilised instruments by well-meaning surgeons. He died from infection and internal haemorrhage.

In his words

"A brave man is a man who dares to look the Devil in the face and tell him he is a Devil."

"I would rather believe something and suffer from it, than to slide along into success without opinions."

"The people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption."

"My God! What is there in this place [the White House] that a man should ever want to get into it?"

"The elevation of the negro race from slavery to the full rights of citizenship is the most important political change since the adoption of the constitution in 1787." (Inaugural address, 4 March 1881)

In others' words

"No man ever started so low that accomplished so much, in all our history." Rutherford Hayes

"Garfield has shown that he is not possessed of the backbone of an angle-worm." Ulysses Grant

Minutiae

Garfield was alarmingly accident-prone. When he was 16, he spent six weeks working on a canal boat between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and fell overboard 14 times – despite never having learnt to swim.

While Garfield lay mortally wounded in the White House, Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, tried unsuccessfully to find the assassin's bullet in his body, using an induction-balance electrical device that he had designed.

Garfield liked to entertain friends by writing in Latin and Greek simultaneously – one with each hand.

He used to exercise by juggling Indian clubs.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
John Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical Support Analyst (C++, Windows, Linux, Perl, Graduate)

£30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global leader in trading platforms and e...

Junior IT Consultant (SQL, Java, C++, Oracle, Graduate)

£28000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A fast growing consultancy to the financia...

Technical Support Analyst (Windows, Linux, Unix, Graduate)

£30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Support Analyst - Liverpool Stre...

Juniper Network Engineer - CCNP / JNCIP / JNCIS / Juniper

£65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: One of the world's largest privately owned...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil