November 19 - Remembering James A. Garfield

Posted on November 19, 2017

Here are a few things that James A. Garfield had in common with the more famous Abraham Lincoln:

He was raised on a farm in the North, in a family without much money.

Part of his childhood, he lived in a simple log cabin.

He was a Republican.

He was against the Confederate secession - which means he was against the South breaking away from the United States and causing the Civil War.

He was involved with the Civil War on the Union side.

He was elected president of the U.S.

He was assassinated.

Of course, there are loads of differences between the two presidents. Lincoln was born in Kentucky and raised there and in Illinois, whereas Garfield was born and raised in Ohio. Lincoln was president during the Civil War, whereas Garfield served as a major general in the Union Army. Also, Lincoln served as president a lot longer than Garfield. Lincoln served an entire 4-year term, was re-elected, and was assassinated by a pro-Confederate actor just a few days after the South surrendered. Garfield, on the other hand, was shot less than four months  after he was sworn into office, and he died from an infection about two months later (his doctor hadn't washed his hands before treating Garfield for his gunshot wound). 

Because of the short time Garfield had in office (and because, much of that time, he was trying to recover from being shot), Garfield is ranked in the bottom half of presidents as far as accomplishments, and many historians don't feel it is fair to rank him at all. 

However, Garfield did get some things accomplished in just a few months, and he got the ball rolling on a big accomplishment. Garfield was responsible for increasing America's naval power and for the appointments of several important posts, including a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Garfield got rid of corruption in the post office and was moving to get rid of corruption all through the civil service. (The civil service is made up of the permanent staff of professionals who work in the government's administration, aside from judges and military folks and elected officials.) After Garfield's death, his proposed anti-corruption bill was passed and signed into law. 

What might he have done with more time in office? Garfield wanted to increase technology on the nation's farms and ranches. He wanted to work for better education and for civil rights for African Americans. 

Garfield knew the dangers of mixing church and state.

He was against a tax exemption for churches,
and he was a Christian pastor before he was a politician! 

Did you know...?

James Garfield knew and taught Latin and Greek. He was ambidextrous - which means he was comfortable writing both right- and left-handed - and, get this: He is supposed to have been able to ask visitors a question and then write the answer in Latin with one hand and in Greek with the other - AT THE SAME TIME!

Garfield is credited as the first president to campaign in more than just English, he campaigned in German as well as English.

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