Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

by Candice Millard
4.4 307


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Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard

James A. Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back.

But the shot didn’t kill Garfield. The drama of what hap­pened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in tur­moil. The unhinged assassin’s half-delivered strike shattered the fragile national mood of a country so recently fractured by civil war, and left the wounded president as the object of a bitter behind-the-scenes struggle for power—over his administration, over the nation’s future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care. A team of physicians administered shockingly archaic treatments, to disastrous effect. As his con­dition worsened, Garfield received help: Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, worked around the clock to invent a new device capable of finding the bullet.

Meticulously researched, epic in scope, and pulsating with an intimate human focus and high-velocity narrative drive, The Destiny of the Republic will stand alongside The Devil in the White City and The Professor and the Madman as a classic of narrative history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385526265
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/20/2011
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 174,321
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

CANDICE MILLARD is the New York Times bestselling author of The River of Doubt. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and children.

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Destiny of the Republic 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 307 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Candice Millard has a superb narrative style and has written a compelling and fascinating book about the all too short presidency of James Garfield and the ignorant and abysmal state of the medical profession in his day. Garfield was an eloquent genius who, had he lived, would have made a first rate President of the United States. He didn't have to die at that time and the reasons for the mishandling of his recovery from a gun shot wound makes for a truly bone chilling read. A "hard to put down" book!
cdmann More than 1 year ago
James Garfield. Do you know who he is? If you posses an average knowledge of history you will probably respond with something like this. "Was he a president or something?" That's it. Not much more is probably known about Garfield and that is pretty distressing. In Candice Millard's recent book, "Destiny of the Republic - A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President" she attempts to right this wrong. This is a fascinating true story of an American who broke the chains of poverty through hard and honest work. Garfield went on to start a family build a home of a farm after saving his money, and continued to better hilself with self-education and would eventually leave a profound mark on this nation. Garfield loved his family and he loved his books. One reporter remarked after interviewing Garfield in his home during the 1880 presidential election, "wherever you looked you were presented with a book". When the Civil War erupted in 1861 Garfield left his family and served the Union and rose through the ranks to General. Towards the end of the war Garfield was elected to Congress without campaigning or asking for the office. His reputation was so strong the office came to him. After entering Congress everyone around him could see that Garfield was honest, fair and open minded in everything he did. Eventually he found himself tangled in the tumultuous presidential election of 1880. Running for the Republican Nomination was Ulysses S. Grant (third term), James G. Blaine and John Sherman. The nomination process went on for 2 days, ballot after ballot failed to claim a winner. Although Garfield, who had just won an Ohio Senate seat was working hard to get Sherman the nomination support slowing ebbed in his direction. Garfield did not want the nomination and worked hard to oppose it. However everyone was tired of the "party politics" at that point and Garfield's reputation was un-like anyone running. Garfield was nominated against his wishes and at the end of the second day was awarded the nomination. As was his work ethic, Garfield who was very uncomfortable with the nomination worked hard for his country and went on to defeat another Civil War hero for the presidency in 1880, Democrat Winfield Scott. Evil lurks all around us. At the same time Garfield was succeeding at everything he tried Charles E. Guiteau was failing. Guiteau attempted it seems everything. From obtaining entrance into college, law work, writing, theology, politics and even marriage he failed miserably in all of them. Guiteau most likely failed at everything because he was insane. During the 1880 election standing on a street corner Guiteau reportedly made a corner speech supporting Garfield. Because of this, Guiteau believed he was "owed" a political job from Garfield. After the election Guiteau haunted the White House and even met the president once, which was not unusual at the time. An office job was refused of course which led to Garfield's murder at Guiteau's hand only 2 months after the election. There is so much more to this excellent book and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to escape into the past for a brief time and learn something about our 20th president, James A. Garfield. OH, I Almost Forgot If you take the time to read this book you will be angered and upsept that Garfield should have survived the gunshot he sustained. The doctors so botched the work he suffered in misery and slowly died. A tragic fate he surely did not
SueB43 More than 1 year ago
President James Garfield is much neglected in an American History survey course due to the short length of his presidency. Read this book and you will regret that we did not have his wisdom, fairness, honesty, and sense of justice for much longer. It is very poignant at this point in our political circumstances that President Garfield in his time, was able to bring together diverse affiliations - especially between the North and the South. At this death, he even changed the values and priorities of that Conkling underling - the Vice President-now new President Arthur. This book is also a excellent overview of how arrogant and non-believing physicians in the science of germ theory and sepsis did more harm than good in the treatment of our 20th president - President James Garfield.
KtbugCollins More than 1 year ago
When my four-year-old daughter asked what I was reading, I informed her a "book about a president." Her reply, "boring!" Not at all! This book has been receiving rave reviews for a reason. It does not read like a history textbook but a fascinating narrative of a would-be amazing president and a truly one-of-a-kind American. It touches on how his assassination united a torn nation, bringing to mind the way we feel about 9/11 today. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a fabulous, quick, but not "happy" read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book kept my attention from beginning to end. I learned a lot about this president.
MrBubble More than 1 year ago
A fascinating account of an important american and his life. I will review the author's other books after reading them as well!
TyroneFreeberg More than 1 year ago
When I first saw this book I was thinking that it would be boring, what with the title and all. However after reading a few pages and of course the synopsis I cannot help but compare it to JFK's story in real life. President killed by a gunshot. Anyway, this is a good book and very much worthy of the price.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A book that tells a sad story about a man who could have gone down a one of the greatest of presidents but instead fallen by the insanity of anassasin.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fastinating storyline, intervoven with historical facts of the time. This one was a quick read. It's a real shame that James Garfield never serves his full term. He showed the promise of being an historic president in the short time he was in office.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and inspiring! A great portrait of a good man and leader: President James Garfield.
LaurenBDavis More than 1 year ago
Among the interesting facts in the well-researched, well-written and well-paced book are: 1) Garfield did NOT want the Democratic nomination for Presidential candidate when it was thrust upon him at the DNC. He had never agreed to having his name put forward and was horrified when the Democrats insisted. I can’t help thinking how perhaps the people who want to be president the most are the ones we should refuse to elect. 2) How about this for an electioneering attitude: “Traveling from town to town and asking for votes was considered undignified for a presidential candidate. Abraham Lincoln had not given a single speech on his own behalf during either of his campaigns, and Rutherford B. Hayes advised Garfield to to the same.” Garfield agreed wholeheartedly. He tilled his fields, built an irrigation system, harvested his crops and generally ignored all the bad political behavior. In October a singing group from the all-black university in Nashville “came to Garfield’s modest farmhouse and sang for him.” It was apparently a most moving performance, especially for Garfield who had been since earliest childhood a vehement Abolitionist. When the singers finished he said, “I tell you now, in the closing days of this campaign, that I would rather be with you and defeated than against you and victorious.” I wonder who would dare say that today? Of course, sadly, Garfield was shot shortly after taking office and served only six month as President. The shortest term of all. A great pity. The medical passages here are grueling. The arrogance of the medical establishment at the time insisted there was no reason for antiseptic. The number of unwashed fingers probing the presidential wound is stomach-churning, as are the rats, raw sewage seeping through the White House, and general filth. The bullet, we learn, was not the cause of the president's death. It was the subsequent, physician-caused infection. A hideous and slow death by sepsis. I found this book touching, tragic and a real eye opener. Arrogance, hypocrisy, political wrangling, lies, the oppression of the poor, robber barons -- all the things we think are specific to the present are, in fact, present in the past. We would to well to cast an eye back and learn some hard lessons. The great gift of history such as this is that it can act as a canary in a coal mine. It makes one think how much better we could, and should do. I finished the book wondering at the great loss of such a thoughtful, intelligent, deeply moral man. What might have been different had he lived?
rayzern More than 1 year ago
Excellent book! Very well written and paced beautifully. I enjoyed this book so much I read her previous book, River of Doubt. Ms. Millard is an excellent writer and she should be encouraged. I finished this book and attempted to read "The President and the Assassin" and that book is nowhere near as good as this one. Highly recommend this book and her "River of Doubt." She is on my short list of outstanding authors.
USGrant More than 1 year ago
Fantastic read - history buffs will appreciate this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely beautifully written. Such an ellegant retelling. It really makes you fall in love with so many characters, especially A. G. Bell, Garfield, his wife, and his secretary. Best book I have read in awhile. It is so informative and so captivating, and VERY hard to put down. I would most definitely recommend it to anyone. So superb!
Gail8282 More than 1 year ago
A great book I would highly recommended reading! It gave me much insight to the Life of this President, and amazing man.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Millard does an outstanding job of making what could be very dry material come to life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good book. Very well written book about a fascinating piece of American history that I knew very little about. I came away with a great appreciation for Garfield plus the frustration of knowing that he could and should have lived.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Felt like you were there.
RG21 More than 1 year ago
You will be left wanting more after concluding this piece of narrative art. Candice Millard captures your attention and places you in the midst of the story that unfolds during the short presidency of James Garfield. You not only catch a glimpse of the sorrow of a nation, but you find yourself desiring such a man to be president once again. If it were only possible that a humble, intelligent, God-fearing, loving husband and father might once again be the leader of the free world. Might one arise who never wanted the office?
corgi247 More than 1 year ago
I love picking up books about time periods or events that I know little about. This fit the category. It has a great narrative with a very nice flow. Even though I knew what would happen I found myself getting emotional several times. I bought this after seeing the author on Book TV, on which she was engaging and entertaining. She is also an incredible author. I rarely give 5 stars, but on this one I did. Well done!!!
CBTodd More than 1 year ago
Candice Millard did an excellent job with this subject. Destiny of the Republic will give you a feel for what life was like in the 1880's in America. This is not a biography of James Garfield as such,it is an overview of his life. The subject is his murder and how those close to him responded. It is a sad tale to be sure, however, a very interesting one. A great companion to read with this book is The President and the Assassin by Scott Miller, the story of William McKinley . If you love American as I do, you will enjoy these books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After a year of reading various books by authors new to me, I was left mourning the sad state of literature. Then I read this book. The writing was superb. The author weaves the tale with great skill building to the climatic death, and more importantly bring her readers enthusiastically through the conclusion. I even read the acknowledgements! Any reader and lover of literature should read this. I am left wondering why the school's do not teach more about lesser known U.S. Presidents. I also wonder how different our country may have been had Garfield lived to serve his term.
VABookLovinMom More than 1 year ago
I knew next to nothing of Garfield previously and he truly seems to have been an extraordinary man. The folly of his medical care astounds me! The complete lack of protection for the president is so foreign to my 21st century self. And there is nothing new under the sun... politics have always been ugly. I liked the quote at the start of Chap. 2, "I never meet a ragged boy in the street without feeling that I may owe him a salute, for I know not what possibilities may be buttoned up under his coat." --J. Garfield I also thought it was intersting her point of how Garfield's shooting served to unify the nation. This paragraph showed a glimpse of the greatness of the man: “Despite the relentless suffering Garfield had endured for more than two months, he had maintained not only the strength of his mind, but the essence of his personality. 'Throughout his long illness,’ Rockwell would later recall, ‘I was most forcibly impressed with the manner in which those traits of his character which were most winning in health became intensified.’ Even as he lay dying, Garfield was kind, patient, cheerful, and deeply grateful.” I read the hardback book. My mother listened to the audio book. She said the reader was excellent.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a must read for all historians. Its a book that you will find hard to put down!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Great for American and medical history