Angela's Reviews > Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
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Jan 22, 2012

it was amazing
Read in January, 2012

I found myself thinking "I had no idea" over and over again as I read this fantastic recounting of the life and presidency of James Garfield, a truly outstanding human being whose presidency was cut tragically short by the combination of an assassin's bullet and the arrogance of the medical establishment. I knew very little about Garfield when I began this book, and at times I worried that the picture being painted by Candice Millard was too good to be true, bordering on hagiography. But source after source (as well as Garfield's own words, gleaned from his copious personal journals and letters) supported the portrait of a good humored, voraciously curious, big hearted, incredibly intelligent man who worked his way from poverty to be nominated -- against his will! -- for the presidency. (Perhaps one of the problems with most candidates for President is the fact that they WANT to be president in the first place?)

The book also fleshes out a number of other fascinating characters: Alexander Graham Bell, who worked tirelessly to invent a machine to help find the assassin's bullet; Roscoe Conkling, the vindictive and power-hungry leader of the the Stalwarts, the angrier and more radical element of Garfield's own Republican party, whose divisive ranting influenced Guiteau to shoot Garfield; Chester A. Arthur, Roscoe Conckling's puppet and a political lightweight who found himself terrified at the prospect of taking over the role of President; and, finally, Charles Guiteau, the mentally ill assassin with delusions of grandeur who believed that God had called him to kill Garfield for the good of the nation. Add to that a fascinating look into 19th century medical practices and the birth of the "antisepsis" movement, which had taken hold in Europe but not the United States and, if practiced, would have saved Garfield's life? Well, you have an excellent book all around, well written and accessible to boot. Highly recommended.
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message 1: by Tanya (new) - added it

Tanya Sounds like just the kind of book I'd enjoy, particularly during this election year. I'll get it.

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