TAS'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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Reading Progress

Started Reading
July 1, 2012 – Finished Reading
January 9, 2014 – Shelved

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message 1: by TAS (last edited Jan 31, 2019 01:13PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

TAS Although I don't read a lot of non-fiction (much preferring fiction), this one was fascinating and author Candice Millard makes it read like a suspense-filled mystery.

James Garfield doesn't get much attention these days, even though he was the 20th President of the United States and one of only four presidents who were assassinated. But it turns out he was quite an unusual and interesting guy.

Born into poverty in rural Ohio, he nevertheless becomes a scholar and Civil War hero, known for fighting political corruption. And he was nominated for president even though he didn't want the job. His unplanned rise to power came about purely as a compromise, after rival political factions were unable to get sufficient party support (sound familiar?)

But the most interesting part of this story unfolds after the assassination attempt, which came when Garfield had been in office for just four months. It's a story much more about the state of medicine at the time (1880s) and the huge ego and turf battles that are so prominent in Washington DC. Including among physicians.

I don't want to give anything away but let's just say that when someone is shot on July 2nd and survives until September 18th -- chances are complications play a bigger role than the initial injuries. How that happened is a tale of blunders, false assumptions, and stupidity. You'll love it!

And the story of Garfield's assassin, Charles J. Guiteau, a pathetic office seeker with delusions of grandeur (clearly suffering from mental illness), adds another layer demonstrating just how whimsical and random the course of history can be.


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