Thursday, February 16, 2017

Review: Destiny of the Republic

Destiny of the Republic
by Candice Millard

Why did you choose this book? The cover attracted my attention and it fit my ‘Presidents’ goal
When did you read this book? February 2017
Who should read this book? Readers of history interested in learning of the lesser known Presidents
Source: library ebook
My Rating: ✰✰✰✰✰  5 Stars

Here is a synopsis of Destiny of the Republic from Goodreads

James A. Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back.

But the shot didn’t kill Garfield. The drama of what hap­pened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in tur­moil. The unhinged assassin’s half-delivered strike shattered the fragile national mood of a country so recently fractured by civil war, and left the wounded president as the object of a bitter behind-the-scenes struggle for power—over his administration, over the nation’s future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care. A team of physicians administered shockingly archaic treatments, to disastrous effect. As his con­dition worsened, Garfield received help: Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, worked around the clock to invent a new device capable of finding the bullet.

My Review

I’ve had a goal of reading at least one book about each of our Presidents for a couple of years now, but for some reason never actually started on it. I think maybe it’s because I felt like I should read them in order. Then I saw this book mentioned, and the cover attracted my eye. I really knew next to nothing about President Garfield; I knew he was one of the four presidents who were assassinated, but nothing beyond that, including how short his time in office actually was.

The synopsis was interesting and I was hooked from the first page. I took my time reading because I wanted to absorb what I was reading, but I also couldn’t wait to find out what happened next! James Abram Garfield was a fascinating man who never really planned to become the President of the United States, but when nominated he felt like it was his duty to accept. He never seemed completely comfortable with the nomination.  Sadly, he was shot just a few months into his presidency. Even injured he was a stoic man and concerned at least as much about the future of his family and his country as he was with his own fate.

President Garfield lingered for several months before succumbing to his injury. It was interesting to me to learn that his death was primarily due not to his injury, but to the treatment of the injury by doctors who rejected ‘modern’ germ theory and considered sterile techniques a waste of time! It was also interesting to see how well-loved the President was by his countrymen; a bit of a surprise to me when I realize most Americans today know very little about him. We also learn about the assassin and his motivation for the shooting.

Also interesting were some of the parallels to politics today with the infighting during the party conventions and the backbiting and vicious political ambition. Garfield appears to be an exception; a decent man of honor who first concern was to serve and unite his country. I really have to wonder how our history many have been different had President Garfield lived to serve his full term.

This was a fascinating read to me and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys history or wants to learn more about one of our lesser recognized Presidents!
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  1. Like most historical topics, I could definitely learn a lot more about our presidents! I have a hard time prioritizing them though, because I feel like they're the part of history I know the most about from what we cover in school, even if there's still much more to know. This sounds like it was really interesting though, so I'll definitely keep it in mind!

    1. I understand. I guess learning about the presidents is one of the thinks they concentrate on in school. But I'm ready to dig a little deeper. And I am on a trivia team; we do about a half dozen trivia nights per year, and it seems everyone one of them has a Presidents category, so it wouldn't hurt me to learn a little more about them!