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

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  48,281 ratings  ·  5,584 reviews
Alternate cover edition of ASIN B004J4X33O

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 fo
Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published September 20th 2011 by Anchor
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Virginia Hoyt A benefit of some kind? Perhaps the way all parts of the nation, especially North and South, were united in their grieving, their appreciation of…moreA benefit of some kind? Perhaps the way all parts of the nation, especially North and South, were united in their grieving, their appreciation of President Garfield.(less)
Matt Reardon Yes, he was a specialist in foreign languages. One of the smartest Presidents we've known. A real shame that his legacy was cut short by a madman.
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Average rating 4.21  · 
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Jeffrey Keeten
Oct 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: presidents-staff
In recent years I've been attracted to books about obscure presidents. When I read about the Candice Millard book on James Garfield I was instantly intrigued. I mean no one knows much of anything about Garfield including myself. He is easy to pass over because he barely survived 6 months into his term as president and a good portion of that time he was fighting for his life. The only time his name is brought up in conversation is when someone is struggling to remember the names of the four assas ...more
Will Byrnes
If most people were to be asked today what they thought of Garfield, they would most likely offer an answer about a cartoon cat, and not the 20th president of the United States, the president who served only 200 days in office, the second president to be assassinated, and one of our great losses as a nation.

Image from Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau

Candice Millard, the author of The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, here follows the paths of two men, the ill-fated president, James A Garfield, and
Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
I'm excited that I'm excited!!!! Does this make sense?? Have you ever been excited that you are REALLY EXCITED???

In a VERY SHORT PERIOD OF TIME I've read books about 3 American Past Presidents....

I'm pleased to say.... just like the positive late bloomer reader experience WHEN A LIGHT SWITCH WENT OFF ....and I knew I'd be reading for the rest of my life.....
I TURNED A HUGE CORNER AGAIN JUST IN THIS WEEK. I'm now 'clear' -- I have nothing to fear - or reasons to resist reading
Dec 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
If you're like me, I'll bet you haven't given President James Garfield much thought either. Have you? Come on, admit it. He was elected in 1880, shot in 1881 and gone in months, and suddenly it was all Chester Arthur, all the time. But here's a book that manages to make mountains out of this molehill of a Presidency. First, the author persuades us that Garfield was a truly likable, magnetic, wonderful human being. Honest, thrifty, salt-of-the-earth, up from the farm, a true man of the people in ...more
“When [President James] Garfield walked in, [Charles] Guiteau was standing right behind him. This, Guiteau realized, was his chance to kill the president, and this time he was not about to let it slip away. Without a moment’s hesitation, he raised the revolver he had been carrying with him for nearly a month and pointed it at Garfield’s back. So complete was his composure that he might have been standing at the edge of the Potomac aiming at a sapling, instead of in a crowded train station about ...more
"There would come a time when the story of James Garfield's early life would be widely admired. Throughout the nation and around the world, his extraordinary rise from fatherlessness and abject poverty would make him the embodiment of the American dream."

This is an outstanding biography of the 20th President of the United States, one whom I admittedly knew very little about previously. James A. Garfield has left such an estimable impression on me after reading this comprehensively researched b
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another fascinating history book from Candice Millard. Destiny of the Republic is about the life of President James Garfield and Charles Guiteau, the deranged man who assassinated him in 1881. There's also great stuff on the history of medicine, including how long it took before American doctors believed in the importance of sterile instruments and in the dangers of infections in wounds.

One of the frustrating side effects of reading a lot of history is realizing how many times that t
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although I am a history buff, I imagine that "Destiny of the Republic" would be a page turner for any reasonable reader. When nonfiction is well done it is nigh on unbeatable and this text easily fits that bill. I had never heard of its author, Candice Millard, before but I will pick up her other book based solely on how much I enjoyed this one. The subject matter of her previous book, "The River of Doubt" does not sound all that interesting to me, but in her capable hands I am sure I will enjoy ...more
I learned a lot of facts from this account of the 1881 Garfield assassination, and I was moved by the plight of good people handicapped by the lack modern advances in presidential security and medical care. But I wasn’t enthralled with how the pieces of the book came together or with the limited reflections on the big picture.

I liked the foreshadowing method Millard employed near the beginning with a visit to the 1876 science and technology exposition in Chicago. There we get Lister failing to
What drew me into Destiny of the Republic was a PBS Special that aired not too long ago. We all had a skeletal understanding of the assassination of James A. Garfield. Garfield, unfortunately, became an elusive name in the litany of former presidents. Ah, dear readers, this man was so much more.

In regard to the author, Candice Millard is an exceptional writer. I read her book, The River of Doubt, that depicts the treacherous journey of Teddy Roosevelt as he ventured down the Amazon R
Stephanie *Extremely Stable Genius*
If a mentally ill person had not been able to get his hands on a gun, the secret service was doing the job that it does today, if doctors didn’t consider the science of antisepsis the way the anti science crowd considers climate change today, Ohio would have had a significant president in James A. Garfield.

I had a long review written here that seemed to have grown out of control. I decided I would let you read the book instead, and you should. In short(er) Mr. Garfield grew up poorer
Cathrine ☯️
"Even as he lay dying, Garfield was kind, patient, cheerful, and deeply grateful. When Bliss told him a fund was being raised for
[his wife] Lucretia, Garfield was overcome with gratitude. 'What' he said in surprise. Then turning his face to his pillow to hide his emotion he continued, 'How kind and thoughtful. What a generous people.'"

Perhaps like me you know James Garfield only as one of four U.S. presidents assassinated while in office. He was only in the White House four months when the
Paula Kalin
Surprisingly very good audiobook. Who ever knew anything about this president?
Highly recommend for those that like history and politics. Just terrific.

5 out of 5 stars.

Richard Derus
Aug 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This well-written and tragic story has been revised and can now be found in a place of honor at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
In an interesting, quasi-biographical piece, Candice Millard explores the brief presidency of James A. Garfield and the assassination attempt that would eventually take his life. While it would seem a clear-cut task, Millard broadens the story to include a few additional individuals, whose actions play a key role in better understanding events surrounding the president’s lingering before finally succumbing in September 1881. Millard opens the narrative at the Centennial Exposition, where celebra ...more
Reading the Presidents: POTUS #20 – James Garfield

What a great way to start out my mission to get to know the presidents! Candice Millard does a great job of interweaving the stories of multiple characters (à la Erik Larson in The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America): James Garfield , Charles Guiteau (his assassin), and (to a lesser extent) Alexander Graham Bell. Toss in some history of science/medicine, some solid info on the early days of the M'Naghten rule, a few menacing politicians/vil
John of Canada
Okay,this IS the best thing I've read all year,maybe ever.I knew that Garfield had been assassinated,and that's all.This read like a novel.The research Millard went through was awe inspiring,and her writing skill is peerless.I had read her book,The River of Doubt,and gave it a huge rating as well.Because of Candice's book,James Garfield is now one of my two favourite presidents.The other of course is Theodore Roosevelt.
With a cast of characters including Joseph Lister, Alexander Graham Bel
Apr 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
The 23rd most smashable US President finally gets the spotlight in this astonishing reconsideration of a man who, lest you forget, was singlehandedly responsible for...for...what did he do again?


He died! He got shot before he'd even served a year, and then slowly died of the infections brought on by his idiot doctors. This was just after the Civil War, when doctors treated most wounds w
Wow! Who knew?! When I saw that our Minneapolis Institute of Art book club had picked this for the October book tour, I knew I would read it, but was unsure about whether I would like it. (Although the stellar reviews from my GR community were encouraging.) I did not just like it, I LOVED it. And it was so appropriate to where we are right now in the States with the election just a couple of weeks away.

Millard's story of Garfield, his life and his death by assassination read like a novel. It re
"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." James A. Garfield

Without a doubt, "Destiny of the Republic" is one of the most interesting and thought provoking non-fiction books I've read in quite some time. Author Candice Millard does an extraordinary job of enlightening readers about the life of James A. Garfield, and the political, scientific, and medical theories and practices of the
Fred Shaw
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Philadelphia, 1876, the city hosted a centennial event celebrating the first 100 years of the United States, where people from around the world demonstrated their inventions. Among those present were Alexander Graham Bell and Joseph Lister. Bell was showing his invention, the telephone, and Lister was promoting the discovery of germs and the benefits of antisepsis in medical operating rooms.

A few years later in Chicago, 1880, only 5 years after the great Chicago fire, the Republican
I read this book as an answer to a prompt: read a book of narrative non-fiction. ANYTHING with historical content is on my favorites list. But when a book is both true AND reads like a novel, that is my truly, next to my heart, favorite genre.

Of course, I had heard of James A Garfield, the USA's 20th president, and that he was assassinated, but I did not know

- that he lingered for two and a half months before dying
- that it was serious infection that riddled his bod
Apr 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-audio, quest
This book was amazing. Seriously. It will also turn your stomach and cause you to hate certain segments of the population.

Garfield's death was probably one of the greatest tragedies in American History. He truly seemed liked an incredible human being, and would have been such a wonderful president. I had no idea what a genius we lost when he was murdered.

Highly - HIGHLY - recommend this book.
Apr 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in public policy or history
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: selection of local book club
Shelves: history, nonfiction
James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States, assassinated by a disgruntled office seeker. I remember those exact words from my childhood lessons in American history, as I suspect do most other Americans. Millard makes the case for a more meaningful historical legacy. Between his inauguration on March 5 and the shooting on July 2, Garfield was an active opponent of the “spoils system”. Despite the distraction of his wife Lucretia's near fatal illness in May, he installed his own appoin ...more
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President gives an interesting account of the latter part of the nineteenth century, while highlighting the impoverished childhood of James A. Garfield, who went on to obtain higher education, and described as a"wunderkind scholar" graduating from Williams College. He went on to serve in the Civil War as well as in Congress. At a time of political unrest, James A. Garfield emerged as the Presidential nominee at the 1880 Republican National Convention aa"wunderkind ...more
Does anyone really care about James Garfield? You will after reading this book. Were it not for the Emperor of Brazil would Alexander Bell have been relinquished to the backwater of history? And how ironic that a British Dr. Lister proclaimed knowledge that had it been followed would have saved Garfield's life?

Our reading club decided to read this book for several reasons, perhaps the most important being that Charles Guiteau hailed from Freeport where most of us live. We used to jok
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite a few times while reading this page-turning and well-researched book, I asked myself, “Where is James Garfield now that we really need him?”

Our 20th president was both a gentleman and a scholar. After pulling himself up from an impoverished background, he quickly distinguished himself as a Civil War brigadier general, a respected Senator, a university president at only 26, and a passionate abolitionist. Much to his own amazement, he emerged the winner of the deadlocked 1880 Rep
Mar 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Readers of history--especially American and political
Recommended to Sue by: Jeffrey Keeten, Chad
This is one of the most interesting biography/history books I've been fortunate to read. The story of the brief Presidency of James Garfield is little known though Millard's work is changing that situation. He came to the Presidency almost accidentally as the Republicans chose him without his campaigning for the position--a compromise of sorts---and a man who became a very popular choice, a man of the people.

Sadly his life would intersect with a madman and with doctors (one in partic
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent history, engagingly written. I give it ***** as I couldn't put it down. The story focuses on the assassination of James A. Garfield, but it became a really riveting story for me as it detailed the doctors' efforts to save the life of Garfield. I was aware that, unlike Lincoln, Garfield could have been (easily) saved by present-day medical practice. But I didn't know that he could have been saved in 1881--if the doctors had used up-to-date methods of the time. Dr. Joseph Lister in Engl ...more
Jan Rice
This is my first "popular history." I wouldn't have done it if not for its being a book-club choice.

Except for a few stumbling blocks, the book is eminently readable. First stumbling block: Major star treatment to one too many personages. Good at first but there for a while I thought the whole book was going to be like that. Second stumbling block: too long of a build-up before the assassination attempt. When the reader already knows what is to come, it's not suspense; it's torture.<
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Candice Millard is a former writer and editor for National Geographic magazine. Her first book, The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey, was a New York Times bestseller and was named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor, and Kansas City Star. The River of Doubt was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Wr ...more
“Garfield's shooting had also revealed to the American people how vulnerable they were. In the little more than a century since its inception, the United States had become a powerful and respected country. Yet Americans suddenly realized that they still had no real control over their own fate. Not only could they not prevent a tragedy of such magnitude, they couldn't even anticipate it. The course of their lives could be changed in an instant, by a man who did not even understand what he had done.” 8 likes
“She (the First Lady, entering the room with her gravely wounded husband) would admit fear but not despair.” 6 likes
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