Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 2, pt 2

On July 2, 1881 Charles Guiteau shot President James A. Garfield in the back at a Washington DC

train station. Guiteau has been described as a disgruntled office seeker who felt he deserved an ambassadorship for his work on behalf of Garfield's presidential campaign of 1880. Classifying Guiteau as a disgruntled officer seeker overstates the case. His "contribution" to Garfield's razor thin victory consisted of written speech he rarely delivered. Guiteau skulked around the Republican campaign headquarters where his disheveled appearance stood in stark contrast to the Garfield's dapper running mate and New York State campaign manager, Chester A. Arthur. Eventually, Arthur dispatched Guiteau to talk to a small group of African American Republicans in Harlem. After the inauguration, Guiteau lobbied for a patronage position, but none was forthcoming and he decided to shoot Garfield. Ostensibly he wanted to empower the Stalwart faction of the Republican Party. Presumably, his job prospects would improve with them. After shooting Garfield Guiteau, exclaimed, "I am a Stalwart, and Arthur will be president!" He told his arresting officer on the way to the police station, "Arthur and all those men are my friends, and I'll have you made Chief of Police." Such talk certainly did not put Arthur in a good light.

Garfield had no police protection as he waited for a train north to meet his wife in New Jersey. He was accompanied by Secretary of State James G. Blaine and Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln. Under such conditions it was not at all difficult for Guiteau to walk up and shoot the president. Garfield lay for several minutes before regaining consciousness. As Guiteau was carted off to jail, the wounded president was taken to the White House.

Garfield suffered the treatment of incompetent doctors who did more harm to their patient than Guiteau's bullet had done. They forced painful treatments and unsanitary exploratory surgeries on poor Garfield. The government ground to a halt and the stricken president signed only one official document during his period of prostration. He finally succumbed to death on September 20, 1881.

Guiteau stood trial and was sentenced to death. He was hanged on June 30, 1882, almost one year to the day of having shot President Garfield.

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