James A. Garfield Essay, Research Paper
JAMES A. GARFIELD
James A. Garfield was born in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, in 1831. His
father died in 1833, when Garfield was only two years old and so his mother
had to carry on working the family farm by herself. With the death of his
father, the family feel into poverty. Even though they had very little money,
his mother made sure that her children went to the neighborhood school to get
a good education. He belonged to the Desciples of Christ Church.
While growing up, James drove canal boat teams, and earned enough
money to further his education at college. He attended Western Reserve
Eclectic Institute at Hiram, Ohio, and was graduated from Williams College
in 1856. He returned to Western Eclectic Institute and became a classics
professor. Later, he became the president of the College.
In 1858, he was married to Lucretia Rudolph and had seven kids.
Eliza, Harry, James, Mary, Irvin, Abram, and Edward.
James Garfield was an advocate for free-soil principles and soon
became a supporter of the newly organized Republican Party. And in 1859,
he was elected to the Ohio Legislature. During the succession crisis, he
advocated coercing the seceding states back into the Union.
During the Civil War, he helped to recruit the 42nd Ohio Volunteer
Infantry and became the infantry’s colonel. He fought at Shiloh in April 1862,
served as a chief of staff in the Army of the Cumberland, saw action at
Chickamauga in September of 1863.
When the Union victories had been few in 1862, he successfully led a
brigade at Middle Creek, Kentucky, against Confederate troops. And in
1862, at the age of 31, he became brigader general, only to be made a major
general in 1863.
Meanwhile, in 1862, he was elected by fellow Ohioans to The United
States House of Representatives. He was persuaded by President Lincoln to
resign his army job and remain in Congress. Said Lincoln, “It is easier to find
major generals than to obtain effective Republicans for Congress.” Garfield
held his House seat for 18 years by winning repeated elections and became
the leading Republican in the House. As Chairman of the House committee
on Appropriations, he became an expert on fiscal matters. He also advocated
a high protective tarriff, and sought a firm policy of Reconstruction for the
South. In 1880, he was elected to the United States Senate.
At the Republican Convention in 1880, he failed to win the Presidential
nomination for his friend, John Sherman, but became the “dark horse”
nominee on the 36th ballot.
In November 1880, he became the 20th President, winning with a
10,000 vote margain over the Democratic challenger, General Winfield Scott
As president, he strengthened Federal authority over the New York
Customs House, the stronghold of Senator Conkling. He named Conkling’s
arch-rival, William H. Robertson, to run the Customs House. This ruling was
contested, but Garfield would not back down. “This will settle the question
whether the President is registering clerk of the Senate or the Executive of the
Garfield’s presidential career came to an abrupt end on July 2, 1881, in
a Washington railroad station when he was shot by Charles Guiteau, only
four months into Garfield’s presidency. For eighty days the president lay ill
and performed only one official act, the signing of an extradiction paper.
Alexander Graham Bell tried to find the bullet in Garfield’s body with a
metal detector, but was unsuccessful at locating it, because Garfield was
laying on a mattress with metal springs. He was taken to New Jersey and
seemed to be recuperating but died on September 19, 1881 from an infection
and internal hemmorage.
In my opinion, Garfield wasn’t much of a president, solely on the fact
that he only spent four months in office and never had a chance to do
anything great or stupid.