Virtual Museum of Art | Virtual Museum of History | Virtual Public Library | Virtual Science Center | Virtual Museum of Natural History | Virtual War Museum
   You are in: Museum of History >> Hall of North and South Americans >> James Abram Garfield

The Seven Flags of the New Orleans Tri-Centennial 1718-2018

For more information go to New Orleans 300th Birthday


Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor

Virtual American Biographies

Over 30,000 personalities with thousands of 19th Century illustrations, signatures, and exceptional life stories. welcomes editing and additions to the biographies. To become this site's editor or a contributor Click Here or e-mail Virtualology here.



Click on an image to view full-sized

James Abram Garfield

GARFIELD, James Abram, twentieth president of the United States, born in Orange, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, 19 November, 1831; died in Elberon, New Jersey, 19 September, 1881. His father, Abram Garfield, was a native of New York, but of Massachusetts ancestry, descended from Edward Garfield, an English Puritan, who in 1630 was one of the founders of Water- town. His mother, Eliza Ballou, was born in New Hampshire, of a Huguenot family that fled from France to New England after the revocation of the Edict of Minutes, in 1685. Garfield, therefore, was from lineage well represented in the struggles for civil and religious liberty, both in the Old and in the New World. Abram Garfield, his father, moved to Ohio in 1830, and settled in what was then known as " The Wilderness," now as the "Western Reserve," which was occupied by Connecticut people. Abram Garfield made a prosperous beginning in his new home, but died, after a sudden illness, at the age of thirty-three, leaving a widow with four small children, of whom James was the youngest. In bringing up her family, unaided in a lonely cabin (see accompanying illustration), and impressing on them a high standard of moral and intellectual worth, Mrs. Garfield displayed an almost heroic courage. It was a life of struggle and privation; but the poverty of her home differed from that of cities or settled communities--it was the poverty of the frontier, all shared it, and all were bound closely together in a common struggle, where there were no humiliating contrasts in neighboring wealth. At three years of age James A. Garfield went to school in a log hut, learned to read, and began that habit of omnivorous reading which ended only with his life. At ten years of age he was accustomed to manual labor, helping out his mother's meagre income by work at home or on the farms of the neighbors. Labor was play to the healthy boy; he did it cheerfully, almost with enthusiasm, for his mother was a staunch Campbellite, whose hymns and songs sent her children to their tasks with a feeling that the work was consecrated; but work in winter always yielded its claims to those of the district school, where he made good progress, and was conspicuous for his assiduity. By the time he was fourteen, young Garfield had a fair knowledge of arithmetic and grammar, and was particularly apt in the facts of American history, which he had eagerly gathered from the meagre treatises that circulated in that remote section. Indeed, he read and re-read every book the scanty libraries of that part of the wilderness supplied, and many he learned by heart. Mr. Blaine attributes the dignity and earnestness of his style to his familiarity with the Bible and its literature, of which he was a constant student. His imagination was especially kindled by the tales of the sea; a love for adventure took strong possession of him. He so far yielded to it that in 1848 he went to Cleveland and proposed to ship as a sailor on board a lake schooner. But a glance showed him that the life was not the romance he had conceived. He turned promptly from the shore, but, loath to return home without adventure and without money, drove some months for a boat on the Ohio canal. Little is known of this experience, except that he secured promotion from the tow-path to the boat, and a story that he was strong enough and brave enough to hold his own against his companions, who were naturally a rough set. During the winter of 1849-'50 he attended the Geauga seminary at Chester, Ohio, about ten miles from his home. In the vacations he learned and practiced the trade of a carpenter, helped at harvest, taught, did anything and everything to get money to pay for his schooling. After the first term, he asked and needed no aid from home; he had reached the point where he could support himself. At Chester he met Miss Lucretia Rudolph, his future wife. Attracted at first by her interest in the same intellectual pursuits, he quickly discovered sympathy in other tastes, and a congeniality of disposition, which paved the way for the one great love of his life. He was himself attractive at this time, exhibited many signs of intellectual superiority, and was physically a splendid specimen of vigorous young manhood, He studied hard, worked hard, cheerfully ready for any emergency, even that of the prize-ring; for, finding it a necessity, he one day thrashed the bully of the school in a stand-up fight. His nature, always religious, was at this period profoundly stirred in that direction. He was converted under the instructions of a Campbellite preacher, was baptized and received into that denomination. They called themselves "The Disciples," contemned all doctrines and forms, and sought to direct their lives by the Scriptures, simply interpreted as any plain man would read them. This sanction to independent thinking, given by religion itself, must have had great influence in creating that broad and catholic spirit in this young disciple which kept his earnest nature out of the ruts of moral and intellectual bigotry. From this moment his zeal to get the best education grew warmer; he began to take wider views, to look beyond the present into the future. As soon as he finished his studies in Chester, he entered (1851) the Hiram eclectic institute (now Hiram College), at Hiram, Portage County, Ohio, the principal educational institution of his sect. He was not very quick of acquisition, but his perseverance was indomitable, and he soon had an excellent knowledge of Latin and a fair acquaintance with algebra, natural philosophy, and botany. He read Xenophon, Caesar, and Virgil with appreciation; but his superiority was more easily recognized in the prayer-meetings and debating societies of the College, where he was assiduous and conspicuous. Living here was inexpensive, and he readily made his expenses by teaching in the English departments, and also gave instruction in the ancient languages. After three years he was well prepared to enter the junior class of any eastern College, and had saved $350 toward the expenses of such an undertaking out of his salary. He hesitated between Yale, Brown, and Williams Colleges, finally choosing Williams on the kindly promise of encouragement sent him by its president, Mark Hopkins. It was natural to expect he would choose Bethany College, in West Virginia, an institution largely controlled and patronized by the "Disciples of Christ." Garfield himself seems to have thought some explanation for his neglect to do so necessary, and with particularity assigns as reasons that the course of instruction at Bethany was not so extended as in the old New England Colleges; that Bethany was too friendly in opinion to slavery; and--most significant of all the reasons he gave--that, as he had inherited by birth and association a strong bias toward the religious views there inculcated, he ought especially to examine other faiths. Entering Williams in the autumn of 1854, he was duly graduated with the highest honors in the class of 1856. His classmates unite with President Hopkins in testifying that in College he was warm-hearted, large-minded, and possessed of great earnestness of purpose and a singular poise of judgment. All speak, too, of his modest and unassuming manners. But, outside of these and other like qualities, such as industry, perseverance, courage, and conscientiousness, Garfield had exhibited up to this time no signs of the superiority that was to make him a conspicuous figure. But the effects of twenty-five years of most varied discipline, cheerfully accepted and faithfully used, begin now to show themselves, and to give to history one of its most striking examples of what education--the education of books and of circumstances--can accomplish. Garfield was not born, but made; and he made himself by persistent, strenuous, conscientious study and work. In the next six years he was a College president, a state senator, a major general in the National army, and a representative-elect to the National congress. American annals reveal no other promotion so rapid and so varied.

On his return to Ohio, in 1856, he resumed his place as a teacher of Latin and Greek at Hiram institute, arid the next year (1857), being then only twenty-six years of age, he was made its president.. He was a successful officer, and ambitious, as usual, beyond his allotted task. He discussed before his interested classes almost every subject of current interest, in scholarship, science, religion, and art. The story spread, and his influence with it; he became an intellectual and moral force in the Western Reserve. It was greatest, however, over the young. They keenly felt the contagion of his manliness, his sympathy, his thirst for knowledge, and his veneration for the truth when it was found. As an educator, he was, and always would have been, eminently successful; he had the knowledge, the art to impart it, and the personal magnetism that impressed his love for it upon his pupils. His intellectual activity at this time was intense. The canons of his Church permitted him to preach, and he used the permission. He also pursued the study of law, entering his name, in 1858, as a student in a law-office in Cleveland, but studying in Hiram. To one ignorant of the slow development that was characteristic of Garfield in all directions, it would seem incredible that he now for the first time began to show any noticeable interest in politics. He seems never to have even voted before the autumn of 1856. No one who knew the man could doubt that he would then cast it, as he did, for John C. Fremont, the first Republican candidate for the presidency. As moral questions entered more and more into polities, Garfield's interest grew apace, and he sought frequent occasions to discuss these questions in debate. In advocating the cause of freedom against slavery, he showed for the first time a skill in discussion, which afterward bore good fruit in the House of Representatives. Without solicitation or thought on his part, in 1859 he was sent to represent the counties of Summit and Portage in the senate of Ohio. Again in this new field his versatility and industry are conspicuous. He makes exhaustive investigations and reports on such widely different topics as geology, education, finance, and parliamentary law. Always looking to the future, and apprehensive that the impending contest might leave the halls of legislation and seek the arbitrament of war, he gave especial study to the militia system of the state, and the best methods of equipping and disciplining it.

The war came, and Garfield, who had been farmer, carpenter, student, teacher, lawyer, preacher, and legislator, was to show himself an excellent soldier. In August, 1861, Governor William Dennison commissioned him lieutenant colonel in the 42d regiment of Ohio volunteers. The men were his old pupils at Hiram College, whom he had persuaded to enlist. Promoted to the command of this regiment, he drilled it into military efficiency while waiting orders to the front, and in December, 1861, reported to General Buell, in Louisville, Kentucky. General Buell was so impressed by the soldierly condition of the regiment that he gave Colonel Garfield a brigade, and assigned him the difficult task of driving the Confederate general Humphrey Marshall from eastern Kentucky. His confidence was such that he allowed the young soldier to lay his own plans, though on their success hung the fate of Kentucky. The undertaking itself was difficult. General Marshall had 5,000 men, while Garfield had but half that number, and must march through a state where the majority of the people were hostile, to attack an enemy strongly intrenched in a mountainous country. Garfield, nothing daunted, concentrated his little force, and moved it with such rapidity, sometimes here and sometimes there, that General Marshall, deceived by these feints, and still more by false reports, which were skilfully prepared for him, abandoned his position and many supplies at Paintville, and was caught in retreat by Garfield, who charged the full force of the enemy, and maintained a hand-to-hand fight with it for five hours. The enemy had 5,000 men and twelve cannon; Garfield had no artillery, and but 1,100 men. But he held his own until re-enforced by Generals Graner and Sheldon, when Marshall gave way, leaving Garfield the victor at Middle Creek, 10 January 1862, one of the most important of the minor battles of the war. Shortly afterward Zollicoffer was defeated and slain by General Thomas at Mill Spring, and the Confederates lost the state of Kentucky. Coming after the reverses at Big Bethel, Bull Run, and the disastrous failures in Missouri, General Garfield's triumph over the Confederate forces at Middle Creek had an encouraging effect on the entire north. Marshall was a graduate of West Point, and had every advantage in numbers and position, yet seems to have been out-generaled at every point. He was driven from two fortified positions, and finally completely routed--all within a period of less than a fortnight in the month of January, 1862. In recognition of these services, especially acknowledged by General Buell in his General Order No. 40 (20 January 1862), President Lincoln promptly made the young colonel a brigadier-general, dating his commission from the battle of Middle Creek. During his campaign of the Big Sandy, while Garfield was engaged in breaking up some scattered Confederate encampments, his supplies gave out, and he was threatened with starvation. Going himself to the Ohio River, he seized a steamer, loaded it with provisions, and, on the refusal of any pilot to under'-take the perilous voyage, because of a freshet that had swelled the River, he stood at the helm for forty-eight hours and piloted the craft through the dangerous channel. In order to surprise Marshall, then intrenched in Cumberland Gap, Garfield marched his soldiers 100 miles in four days through a blinding snow-storm. Returning to Louisville, he found that General Buell was away, overtook him at Columbia, Tennessee, and was assigned to the command of the 20th brigade. He reached Shiloh in time to take part in the second day's fight, was engaged in all the operations in front of Corinth, and in June, 1862, rebuilt the bridges on the Memphis and Charleston railroad, and exhibited noticeable engineering skill in repairing the fortifications of Huntsville. The unhealthfulness of the region told upon him, and on 30 July, 1862, under leave of absence, he returned to Hiram, where he lay ill for two months. On 25 September, 1862, he went to Washington, and was ordered on court-martial duty, and gained such reputation in this practice that, on 25 November, he was assigned to the case of General Fitz-John Porter. In February, 1863, he returned to duty under General Rosecrans, then in command of the Army of the Cumberland. Rosecrans made him his chief-of-staff, with responsibilities beyond those usually given to this office. In this field, Garfield's influence on the campaign in Middle Tennessee was most important. One familiar incident shows and justifies the great influence he wielded in its counsels. Before the battle of Chickamauga (24 June, 1863), General Rosecrans asked the written opinion of seventeen of his generals on the advisability of an immediate advance. All others opposed it, but Garfield advised it, and his arguments were so convincing, though pressed without passion or prejudice, that Rosecrans determined to seek an engagement. General Garfield wrote out all the orders of that fateful day (19 September), excepting one--and that one was the blunder that lost the day. Garfield volunteered to take the news of the defeat on the right to General George H. Thomas, who held the left of the line. It was a bold ride, under constant fire, but he reached Thomas and gave the information that saved the Army of the Cumberland. For this action he was made a major general, 19 September, 1863, promoted for gallantry on a field that was lost. With a military future so bright before him, Garfield, always unselfish, yielded his own ambition to Mr. Lincoln's urgent request, and on 3 December 1863, resigning his commission, and hastened to Washington to sit in congress, to which he had been chosen fifteen months before, as the successor of Joshua R. Giddings. In the mean time Thomas had received command of the Army of the Cumberland, had reorganized it, and had asked Garfield to take a division. His inclination was to accept and continue the military career, which had superior attractions; but he yielded to the representations of the President and Sec. Stanton, that he would be more useful in the House of Representatives. General Garfield was thirty-two years old when he entered congress. He found in the house, which was to be the theatre of his lasting fame, many with whom his name was for the next twenty years intimately associated. Schuyler Colfax was its speaker, and Conkling, Blaine, Washburne, Stevens, Fenton, Schenek, Henry Winter Davis, William B. Allison, and William R. Morrison were among its members. His military reputation had preceded him, and secured for him a place in the committee on military affairs, then the most important in congress. His first speech (14 January 1864), upon a motion to print extra copies of General Rosecrans's official report, was listened to with attention ; and, indeed, whenever he spoke upon army matters, this was the case. But the attention was given to the man for the information he possessed and imparted rather than to the orator; for in effective speech, as in every other matter in which Garfield succeeded, he came to excellence only by labor and practice. He was soon regarded as an authority on military matters, and his opinion was sought as an expert, experienced and careful. To these questions he gave all necessary attention, but they did not exhaust his capacity. He began at this time, and ever afterward continued, a thorough study of constitutional and financial problems, and to aid him in these researches he labored to increase his familiarity with the German and French languages. In this, his first session, he had to stand almost alone in opposition to the bill that increased the bounty paid for enlistment. He advocated liberal bounties to the veterans that re-enlisted, but would use the draft to secure raw recruits. History vindicated his judgment. In the same session he spoke on the subject of seizure and confiscation of rebel property, and on free commerce between the states. On 13 January 1865, he discussed exhaustively the constitutional amendment to abolish slavery.

In the 39th congress (1865) he was changed, at his own request, from the committee on military affairs to the ways and means committee, which then included Messrs. Morrison, of Illinois, Brooks and Conkling, of New York, and Allison, of Iowa. His reason for choosing this new field was that, the war being ended, financial questions would have supreme importance, and he wished to have his part in their solution. In the 40th congress (1867) he was restored to his old committee on military affairs, and made its chairman. In March, 1866, he made his first speech on the question of the public debt, foreshadowing, in the course of his remarks, that republican policy which resulted in the resumption of specie payment, 1 January 1879. From this moment until the treasury note was worth its face in gold, he never failed, on every proper occasion, in the house and out, to discuss every phase of the financial question, and to urge upon the National conscience the demands of financial honor. In May, 1868, he spoke again on the currency, dealing a staggering blow to the adherents of George H. Pendleton, who, under the stress of a money panic, were clamoring for the government to "make the money-market easier." It may be said that he was at this, as at later times, the representative and champion of the sound-money men in congress, and first and last did more than any one else, probably, in settling the issues of this momentous question. In 1877 and 1878 he was again active in stemming a fresh tide of financial fallacies. He treated the matter this time with elementary simplicity, and gave in detail reasons for a hard-money policy, based not so much upon opinion and theory as upon the teachings of history.

In the 41st congress a new committee--that on banking and currency--was created, and Garfield was very properly made its chairman. This gave him new opportunities to serve the cause in which he was heartily enlisted, and no one now seeks to diminish the value of that service. The most noticed and most widely read of these discussions was a speech on the National finances, which he delivered in 1878, at Faneuil hall, Boston. It was circulated as a campaign document by thousands, and served to win a victory in Massachusetts and to subdue for a while the frantic appeals from the west for more paper money. He served also on the select committee on the census (a tribute to his skill in statistics) and on the committee on rules, as an appreciation of his practical and thorough knowledge of parliamentary law. In the 42d and 43d congresses he was chairman of the committee on appropriations. In the 44th, 45th, and 46th congresses (the house being Democratic) he was assigned a place on the committee of ways and means. In reconstruction times, Garfield was earnest and aggressive in opposition to the theories advocated by President Johnson. He was a kind man, and not lacking in sympathy for those who, from mistaken motives, had attempted to sever their connection with the Federal Union; but he was not a sentimentalist, and had too earnest convictions not to insist that the results won by so much treasure and blood should be secured to the victors. An old soldier, he would not see Union victories neutralized by evasions of the constitution. On these topics no one was his superior in either branch of congress, and no opponent, however able, encountered him here without regretting the contest.

In 1876, General Garfield went to New Orleans, at President Grant's request, in company with Senators Sherman mad Matthews and other Republicans, to watch the counting of the Louisiana vote. He made a special study of the West Feliciana parish case, and embodied his views in a brief but significant report. On his return, he made, in January, 1877, two notable speeches in the house on the duty of congress in a presidential election, and claimed that the vice-president had a constitutional right to count the electoral vote. He was opposed to an electoral commission; yet, when the commission was ordered, General Garfield was chosen by acclamation to fill one of the two seats allotted to Republican representatives. His colleague was George F. Hoar, of Massachusetts. Garfield discussed before the commission the Florida and Louisiana returns, on 9 and 16 February, 1877. Mr. Blaine left the house in 1877 for the senate, and this made Garfield the undisputed leader of the Republican party in the house. He was at this time, and subsequently, its candidate for speaker.

The struggle begun in the second session of the 45th congress (1879), when the Democratic majority sought to control the president through the appropriations, gave Garfield a fine opportunity to display his powers as a leader in opposition. The Democratic members added to two general appropriation bills, in the shape of amendments, legislation intended to restrain the use of the army as a posse to keep the peace at elections, to repeal the law authorizing the employment, of deputy United States marshals at the elections of members of congress, and to relieve jurors in the United States courts from the obligation of the test oath. The senate, which was Republican, refused to concur in these amendments, and so the session ended. An extra session was promptly called, which continued into midsummer. Contemporary criticism claims that, in this contest, General Garfield reached, perhaps, the climax of his congressional career. A conservative man by nature, he revolted at such high-handed measures, and in his speech of 29 March, 1879, characterized them as a "revolution in congress." Against this insult to the spirit of the law he protested with unwonted vigor. Like Webster in 1832, he stood the defender of the constitution, and his splendid eloquence and resistless logic upheld the prerogatives of the executive, and denounced these attempts by the legislature to prevent or control elections, however disguised, as an attack upon the constitution. He warned the house that its course would end in nullification, and protested that its principle was the "revived doctrine of state sovereignty." (See speeches of 26 April, 10 and 11 June, and 19 and 27 June, 1879.) The result of it was that the Democrats finally voted $44,600,000 of the $45,000,000 of appropriations originally asked--a great party victory, to which General Garfield largely contributed. His arguments had the more weight because not partisan, but supported by a clear analysis and statement of the relations between the different branches of the government, His last speech to the house was made on the appointment of special deputy marshals, 23 April, 1880. At the same time he made a report of the tariff commission, which showed that he was still a sincere friend to protection. He was already United States senator-elect from Ohio, chosen after a nomination of singular unanimity, 13 January 1880.

Where there is government by party, no leader can escape calumny ; hence it assailed Garfield with great venom. In the presidential canvass of 1872, he, with other Republican representatives, was charged with having bought stock in the Credit Mobilier, sold to them at less than its value to influence their action in legislation affecting the Union Pacific railroad. A congressional investigation, reporting 13 February, 1875, seemed to establish these facts so far as Garfield was concerned. He knew nothing of any connection between the two companies, much less that the Credit Mobilier controlled the railway. Garfield denied that he ever owned the stock, and was vaguely contradicted by Oakes Ames, who had no evidence of his alleged sale of $1,000 worth of the stock to Garfield. except a memorandum in his diary, which did not agree with Ames's oral testimony that he paid Garfield $329 as dividend on the stock. Garfield admitted that he had received $300 in June, 1868, from Ames, but claimed that it was a loan, and that he paid it in the winter of 1869. It was nowhere claimed that Garfield ever received certificate, or receipt, or other dividends, to which, if the owner of the stock, he was entitled, or that he ever asked for them. The innocence of General Garfield was generally recognized, and, after the circumstances became known, he was not weakened in his district. Another investigation in the same congress (43d) gave calumny a second opportunity. This was the investigation into the conduct of the government of the District of Columbia. It revealed startling frauds in a De Golyer contract, and Garfield's name was found to be in some way connected with it. The facts, corroborated in an open letter by James M. Wilson, chairman of the committee, were: In May, 1872, Richard C. Parsons, a Cleveland attorney, then marshal of the Supreme Court in Washington, having the interests of the patents owned by De Golyer in charge, was called away. He brought all his material to Garfield, and asked him to prepare the brief. The brief was to show the superi-orit,y of the pavement (the subject of patent) over forty other kinds, and did not otherwise concern the contract or have anything to do with its terms. The fraud, as is generally understood, was in the contract, not in the quality of the pavement. Garfield prepared the brief and delivered it to Parsons; but did not himself make the argument. Parsons sent Garfield subsequently $5,000, which was a part of the fee Parsons had received for his own services: As thoughtful people reviewed the case, there was no harsher criticism than that suggested by General Garfield's own lofty standard of avoiding even the appearance of evil--that he had not shown his usual prudence in avoiding any connection, even the most honest, in any way, with any matter that could in any shape come up for congressional review. It was the cruel and unjust charges made in connection with these calumnies which sent the iron into his soul, and made wounds which he forgave but never forgot.

In June, 1880, the Republican convention to nominate a successor to President Haves was held in Chicago, and to it came Garfield, naturally, at the head of the Ohio delegation. He sympathized heartily with the wish of that delegation to secure the nomination for John Sherman, and labored loyally for that end. There could be no criticism of his action, nor could there be any just criticism of his loyalty to his candidate, except (and that he never concealed) that he wished more to defeat the nomination of Grant than to secure that of Senator Sherman. He believed a third term such a calamity that patriotism required the sacrifice of all other considerations to prevent it. That view he shared with Mr. Blaine, also a candidate in this convention, whose instructions to his friends were, "Defeat a third term first, and then struggle for the prize of office afterwards. Success in the one case is vital; success in the other is of minor importance." On the thirty-third ballot Grant had 306 votes, the remaining 400 being divided between Blaine, Ed-rounds, and Washburne. The hope of the Grant men or the Blaine men to secure the prize faltered, and in the thirty-fourth ballot Wisconsin broke the monotony by announcing thirty-six votes for James A. Garfield. This put the spark to fuel that had been unconsciously prepared for it by the events of the long struggle. In all the proceedings, peculiar fitness had put Garfield to the front as the counsellor and leader of the anti-Grant majority, and the exhibition of his splendid qualifications won increasing admiration and trust. His tact and readiness in casual debate, and the beauty and force of the more elaborate effort in which he nominated Sherman, won the wavering convention. On the thirty-sixth ballot the delegates broke their ranks and rushed to him. He received 399 votes, and then his nomination (8 June, 1880) was made unanimous. General Garfield left the convention before the result was announced, and accepted the nomination by letter. This was a thoughtful document, and acceptable to the Republican voters. Disregarding precedent, he spoke in his own behalf in Ohio, New York, and other states. He spoke sensibly and with great discretion, and his public appearance is thought to have increased his popularity. He was elected (2 November, 1880) over his competitor, General Winfield Scott Hancock, by the votes of every northern state except New Jersey, Nevada, and California,. His inaugural address, 4 March. 1881, was satisfactory to the people generally, and his administration began with only one cloud in the sky. His cabinet was made up as follows: ,James G. Blaine, of Maine, secretary of state; William Windom, of Minnesota, secretary of the treasury; Wayne MacVeagh, of Pennsylvania, attorney general ; Thomas L. James, of New York, postmaster-general; Samuel J. Kirk-wood, of Iowa, secretary of the interior; Robert T. Lincoln, of Illinois, secretary of war; William H. Hunt, of Louisiana, secretary of the navy. There was bitter dissension in the party in New York, and Garfield gave much consideration to his duty in the premises. He was willing to do anything except yield the independence of the executive in his own constitutional sphere, he would give to the New York senators, Conkling and Platt, more than their share of offices; but they should not be allowed to interfere with or control the presidential right of nomination. He made nominations to the senate--as many, it is said, as twelve--in that interest, and then (23 March, 1881) sent in the name of William H. Robertson, a leader in the other faction, as collector of the port of New York. Senator Conkling protested, and then openly resisted his confirmation. Yielding to him in the interest of senatorial courtesy, his Republican colleagues, in caucus, 2 May, 1881, agreed to let contested nominations lie over practically until the following December. This was a substantial victory for Mr. Conkling; but it was promptly met by the president, who, a few days afterward (5 May), withdrew all the nominations that were pleasing to the New York senator. This brought the other senators to terms. Mr. Conkling, recognizing defeat,, and Mr. Platt with him, resigned their offices, 16 May, 1881o On 18 May, Collector Robertson was confirmed. The early summer came, and peace and happiness and the growing strength and popularity of his administration cheered the heart of its chief. At a moment of special exaltation, on the morning of 2 July, 1881, he was shot by a disappointed office-seeker. The avowed object was to promote to the presidential chair Vice-President Arthur, who represented the Grant or "stalwart" wing of the party. The president was setting out on a trip to New England, anticipating especial pleasure in witnessing the commencement exercises of his alma mater at Williamstown. He was passing through the waiting-room of the Baltimore and Potomac depot, at nine o'clock that morning, leaning on the arm of Mr. Blaine, when the assassin fired at him with a pistol. The first ball passed through his coat-sleeve; the second entered by the back, fractured a rib, and lodged deep in the body. The president was carried to the White House, where, under the highest medical skill, and with every comfort, that money and devotion could bring, he lingered for more than ten weeks between life and death. The country and the world were moved by the dastardly deed; and the fortitude and cheerfulness with which the president bore his suffering added to the universal grief. Daily bulletins of his condition were published in every City in the United States and in all the European capitals. Many of the crowned heads of Europe sought by telegraphic inquiry more particular news, and repeated their wishes for his recovery. A day of national supplication was set apart and sacredly observed, and the prayers at first seemed answered. His physicians were hopeful, and gave expression to their hope. His condition seemed to improve; but when midsummer came, the patient failed so perceptibly that a removal was hazarded. On 6 September, 1881, he was taken to Elberon, New Jersey, by a special train. He bore the journey well, and for a while, under the inspiration of the invigorating sea-breezes, seemed to rally. But on 15 September, 1881, symptoms of blood-poisoning appeared. He lingered till the 19th, when, after a few hours of unconsciousness, he died peacefully. A special train (21 September) carried the body to Washington, through a country draped with emblems of mourning, and through crowds of reverent spectators, to lie in state in the rotunda of the capitol two days, 22 and 23 September The final services held here were never surpassed in solemnity and dignity, except on 27 February, 1882, when, in the hall of representatives, at the request of both houses of congress, his friend, James G. Blaine, then secretary of state, delivered a memorim address, in the presence of the president and the heads of all the great departments of the government, so perfect that the criticism of two continents was unqualified praise. In a long train, crowded with the most illustrious of his countrymen, which in its passage, day or night, was never out of the silent watch of mourning citizens, who stood in City, field, and forest, to see it pass, Garfield's remains were borne to Cleveland and placed (26 September, 1882) in a beautiful cemetery, which overlooks the waters of Lake Erie. The accompanying illustration represents the imposing monument that is to mark his last resting-place.

His tragic death assures to Garfield the attention of history. It will credit him with great services rendered in various fields, and with a character formed by a singular union of the best qualities --industry, perseverance, truthfulness, honesty, courage--all acting as faithful servants to a lofty and unselfish ambition. Without genius, which can rarely do more than produce extraordinary results in one direction, his powers were so many and well-trained that he produced excellent results in many. If history shall call Garfield great, it will be because the development of these powers was so complete and harmonious. It has no choice but to record that, by the wise use of them, he won distinction in many fields: a teacher so gifted that his students compare him with Arnold of Rugby; soldier, rising by merit in rapid promotion to highest rank; a lawyer heard with profit and approbation in the Supreme Court; an eloquent orator, whose own ardent faith kindled his hearers, speaking after thorough preparation and with practiced skill, but refusing always to win victory by forensic trick or device; a party leader, failing in pre-eminence only because his moral honesty would not let him always represent a party victory as a necessity of national well-being. In all these characters he was the friend of learning and of virtue, and would probably ask no other epitaph than the tribute of a friend, who said that, "among the public men of his era, none had higher qualities of statesmanship and greater culture than James A. Garfield."

Garfield's speeches are almost a compendium of the political history of the stirring era between 1864 and 1880. Among those worthy of special mention, on account of the importance of the subjects or the attractive and forcible presentation of them, are the following: On the Enrolling and calling out of the National Forces (25 January 1864); on the Reconstruction of the Southern States (February, 1866); on Civil-Service Reform, in the congress of 1870 and other congresses ; on the Currency and the Public Faith (April, 1874); on the Democratic Party and the South (4 August, 1876), of which a million copies were distributed as a campaign document; the speech in opposition to the Wood bill, which was framed to break down the protective tariff (4 June, 1878); the speeches on Revolution in Congress (4 March and 4 April, 1879); on Congressional Nullification (10 June, 1879); on Treason at the Polls (11 June. 1879); and on the Democratic Party and Public Opinion (11 October, 1879). Among his speeches in congress, less political in character, were that on the National Bureau of Education (8 June, 1866); a series on Indian Affairs, covering a period of several years: one on the Medical and Surgical History of the Rebellion (2 March, 1869); two on the Census (6 April and 16 December 1879); one on Civil-Service Reform ; many addresses on the silver question; and one on National aid to education (6 February, 1872). He found time to make frequent orations and addresses before societies and gatherings outside of congress. His address on College Education, delivered before the literary societies of Hiram College (14 June, 1867), is an admirable plea for a liberal education, and on a subject in which the author was always deeply interested. On 30 Nay, 1868, he delivered an address on the Union Soldiers, at the first memorial service held at Arlington, Virginia A eulogy of General Thomas, delivered before the Army of the Cumberland, 25 November, 1870, is one of the happiest of his oratorical efforts. On the reception by the house of the statues of John Winthrop and Samuel Adams, he spoke with a great wealth of historical allusion, and all his memorial addresses, especially those on his predecessor in congress, Joshua R. Giddings, Lincoln, and Profs. Morse and Henry, are worthy of study. But in all this series nothing will live longer than the simple words with which, from the balcony of the New York custom-house, he calmed the mob frenzied at the news of Lincoln's death" "Fellow-citizens" Clouds and darkness are around him" His pavilion is dark waters and thick clouds" justice and judgment are the establishment of his throne" mercy and truth shall go before his face! Fellow-citizens! God reigns, and the Government at Washington lives."

After the death of President Garfield, a popular subscription for his widow and children realized over $360,000. The income of this fund is to be paid to Mrs. Garfield during her life, after which the principal is to be divided among the children --four sons and a daughter. More than forty of Garfield's speeches in congress have been published in pamphlet-form, as has also his oration on the life of General George H. Thomas. A volume of brief selections, entitled "Garfield's Words," was compiled by William R. Balch (Boston, 1881). His works have been edited by Burke A. Hinsdale (2 vols., Boston, 1882). The most complete life of President Garfield is that by James R. Gilmore (New York, 1880).

A monument to President Garfield, designed by John Q. A. Ward, was erected in Washington, D. C., by the Society of the army of the Cumberland, and dedicated on 12 May, 1887. It consists of a bronze statue of Garfield, 101/2 feet high, standing on a circular pedestal, 18 feet in height, with buttresses, on which are three reclining figures, representing a student, a warrior, and a statesman. The United States government gave the site and the granite pedestal, besides contributing to the cost of the statues, and furnishing cannon to be used in their casting. (See page 602.) The unusual attitude of the arms is explained by the fact that General Garfield was left-handed.--His wife, Lucretia Rudolph, born in Hiram, Portage County, Ohio, 19 April 1832, was the daughter of a farmer named Rudolph. She first met her husband when both were students at Hiram, Ohio, and was married 11 November, 1858, in Hudson, Ohio, soon after his accession to the presidency of the college. Seven children were born to them, of whom four sons and one daughter are living (1887).

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

Start your search on James Abram Garfield.




Unauthorized Site: This site and its contents are not affiliated, connected, associated with or authorized by the individual, family, friends, or trademarked entities utilizing any part or the subject's entire name. Any official or affiliated sites that are related to this subject will be hyper linked below upon submission and Evisum, Inc. review.

Copyright© 2000 by Evisum Inc.TM. All rights reserved.
Evisum Inc.TM Privacy Policy


About Us



Image Use

Please join us in our mission to incorporate The Congressional Evolution of the United States of America discovery-based curriculum into the classroom of every primary and secondary school in the United States of America by July 2, 2026, the nation’s 250th birthday. , the United States of America: We The People Click Here


Historic Documents

Articles of Association

Articles of Confederation 1775

Articles of Confederation

Article the First

Coin Act

Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

Emancipation Proclamation

Gettysburg Address

Monroe Doctrine

Northwest Ordinance

No Taxation Without Representation

Thanksgiving Proclamations

Mayflower Compact

Treaty of Paris 1763

Treaty of Paris 1783

Treaty of Versailles

United Nations Charter

United States In Congress Assembled

US Bill of Rights

United States Constitution

US Continental Congress

US Constitution of 1777

US Constitution of 1787

Virginia Declaration of Rights


Historic Events

Battle of New Orleans

Battle of Yorktown

Cabinet Room

Civil Rights Movement

Federalist Papers

Fort Duquesne

Fort Necessity

Fort Pitt

French and Indian War

Jumonville Glen

Manhattan Project

Stamp Act Congress

Underground Railroad

US Hospitality

US Presidency

Vietnam War

War of 1812

West Virginia Statehood

Woman Suffrage

World War I

World War II


Is it Real?

Declaration of

Digital Authentication
Click Here


America’s Four Republics
The More or Less United States

Continental Congress
U.C. Presidents

Peyton Randolph

Henry Middleton

Peyton Randolph

John Hancock


Continental Congress
U.S. Presidents

John Hancock

Henry Laurens

John Jay

Samuel Huntington


Constitution of 1777
U.S. Presidents

Samuel Huntington

Samuel Johnston
Elected but declined the office

Thomas McKean

John Hanson

Elias Boudinot

Thomas Mifflin

Richard Henry Lee

John Hancock
Chairman David Ramsay]

Nathaniel Gorham

Arthur St. Clair

Cyrus Griffin


Constitution of 1787
U.S. Presidents

George Washington 

John Adams
Federalist Party

Thomas Jefferson
Republican* Party

James Madison 
Republican* Party

James Monroe
Republican* Party

John Quincy Adams
Republican* Party
Whig Party

Andrew Jackson
Republican* Party
Democratic Party

Martin Van Buren
Democratic Party

William H. Harrison
Whig Party

John Tyler
Whig Party

James K. Polk
Democratic Party

David Atchison**
Democratic Party

Zachary Taylor
Whig Party

Millard Fillmore
Whig Party

Franklin Pierce
Democratic Party

James Buchanan
Democratic Party

Abraham Lincoln 
Republican Party

Jefferson Davis***
Democratic Party

Andrew Johnson
Republican Party

Ulysses S. Grant 
Republican Party

Rutherford B. Hayes
Republican Party

James A. Garfield
Republican Party

Chester Arthur 
Republican Party

Grover Cleveland
Democratic Party

Benjamin Harrison
Republican Party

Grover Cleveland 
Democratic Party

William McKinley
Republican Party

Theodore Roosevelt
Republican Party

William H. Taft 
Republican Party

Woodrow Wilson
Democratic Party

Warren G. Harding 
Republican Party

Calvin Coolidge
Republican Party

Herbert C. Hoover
Republican Party

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Democratic Party

Harry S. Truman
Democratic Party

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Republican Party

John F. Kennedy
Democratic Party

Lyndon B. Johnson 
Democratic Party 

Richard M. Nixon 
Republican Party

Gerald R. Ford 
Republican Party

James Earl Carter, Jr. 
Democratic Party

Ronald Wilson Reagan 
Republican Party

George H. W. Bush
Republican Party 

William Jefferson Clinton
Democratic Party

George W. Bush 
Republican Party

Barack H. Obama
Democratic Party

Please Visit

Forgotten Founders
Norwich, CT

Annapolis Continental
Congress Society

U.S. Presidency
& Hospitality

© Stan Klos





Virtual Museum of Art | Virtual Museum of History | Virtual Public Library | Virtual Science Center | Virtual Museum of Natural History | Virtual War Museum