I stumbled across this title during a discussion on Facebook. It sounded interesting so I searched it out. A good choice!
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard
This is a nonfiction book about the assassination of President Garfield. But it starts long before that, bringing President Garfield into light and allowing the reader to truly know who he was. He was not a showy man. He did not seek to be in the spotlight. But he did not shy away from stepping up to help where he knew he was needed.
When he ascended to the Presidency, it was because the people wanted him there. He did not desire to be president and was actually speaking for another man to be president when he was nominated. He was elected and so he stepping into the role, knowing he was needed. He desired to help the country move forward and to grow and unite.
As with any President, there were many who sought his favor. At this time, the White House was a place where regular folks could come and go at will. Office seekers did just that, often at all hours. One of these office seekers, Charles Guiteau, was dangerously delusional. He had been for a while. When he did not get an office, he eventually decided that the best response was to remove the President so that the Vice-President would take over. Guiteau thought, in his state of mind, that the Vice-President would be more willing to give him the office he wanted.
He was successful in his attempt on the President’s life, though the death of the President was not immediate. This is where the medicine part of the title comes in. There were many different ideas at the time about how best to treat different medical needs. Disinfection was one of the ideas being discussed widely. There were some who were beginning to understand how infection could be introduced to a body and were calling for disinfection of all medical areas and utensils. Others strongly disagreed with those ideas.
Many of the doctors who treated President Garfield were of the opinion that disinfection was not necessary. Unfortunately for all of us, they were wrong and the President died from the infection introduced through the treatments his medical practitioners gave. This overwhelming infection is what he eventually succumbed to.
The country was left mourning a popular President just months after his inauguration. A kind, sunny personality left and left behind many who loved him. He never had a moment during his long, protracted illness that he lost his cheerfulness. And, since the assassination came so soon after he became President, we don’t really know what the country lost as a leader.
This was an illuminating read for me and I am so glad I stumbled across it. The connections (we have x-ray machines because of this – you’ll have to read to find this connection) were interesting for me. I am so glad that I have read this. I knew Garfield was known to be a kind and good man but now I understand the extent of this. His wife was a sweet lady. They were the “All-American” family and so many people could relate to them. What a sad thing that we lost this particular President before he was able to do those things people knew he could in the White House.
Is this a good read? Absolutely.
Is it a fast read? Yes, actually, it was a pretty fast one to read for me.
Will you learn a lot? Unless you are a history buff and already know a good bit about President Garfield, I don’t how you could NOT learn a lot.
Do I recommend it? Without a doubt.
Lori, At Home.