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James Garfield was born on November 19, in the year 1831. He was the lastborn in a family of five children. James hailed from the State of Ohio, Moreland Hills, at Orange Township. James’ family was immediate neighbors with his uncle, Amos and Alpha Boynton. James enjoyed the best of memorable childhood moments with his cousins from the Amos family. James’ father, Abram Garfield, died at an early age, leaving James at a tender age of 17 months. Thus, James grew in the hands ad great care of his mother, Eliza, who always said that James was the largest child that he had, who looked like a red Irishman. James’ parents were members of the Disciples of Christ Church, a church that was quite instrumental in shaping the future life of James. James attended his elementary education in a local village school in Orange Township, where he listened and read books with passion. At the age of 16, James realized that he needed money dearly, which led to him pursuing the dreams of being a seaman. He got himself a job as a canal driver near Cleveland (millercenter.org). However, this was not to last for long, as he had to go back home due to illness. At this point, James saw the need to take education with the seriousness that it deserves, and opted to join Geauga Seminary for his studies. During his time at the Geauga Institution, James involved himself in a number of chores such as carpentry, bell ringing and a janitor, as a way of soliciting funds for upkeep at the institution (millercenter.org).
In the year 1849, James willingly accepted e position of a teacher in the same institution, during which he developed the aversion referred to as “place seeking” which later came to be his guiding principle in life. There are certain points of interest in the life of James Garfield. For instance, Garfield was the first left- handed president of the United States. Secondly, he was the only president who could write Latin using one hand and Greek using the other, at the same time. He was also the first president to campaign in two languages, English and German. After his shooting, subsequent probes for the bullet with the use of no-sterile gadgets led to the poisoning of his blood, which led to his subsequent death (millercenter.org).
Family life of James Abram Garfield
Since James never knew his father, he always held a special place in his heart for his mother. In fact, James always accredited al his entire success to his mother, Eliza Ballou Garfield. Eliza is remembered as the first mother of an American president to ever attend the inauguration of her son. She lived at the White House with her son’s family for the brief period, which her son was in office as the American President. James’ mother was a frail woman, who always dressed black attire, and wore a lace handkerchief to cover her thinning white hair. However, despite the mother’s condition, James, a strong man, standing more than 6 feet of height, always carried her mother personally up and down the stairs in the White House (Kelly).
By the time of his assassination in the year 1881, Garfield has four sons and daughter, with the youngest being 9 years old and the eldest, Harry, being 19. The other two children had died during their infancy stage. Controversially, James’ daughter, who was 14 at by the time of his assassination, met her husband, Joseph Stanley Brown in the White House. Joseph was Garfield’s presidential secretary. The other two boys, James and Irvin, always kept their parents on toes with their intriguing youthful escapades. All of Garfield’s children grew up to be successful in life. For instance, by the year 1908, Harry, a professor in Politics at Princeton, became president of Williams College. James, on the other hand, was the secretary of the Interior under President Theodore Roosevelt. Irvin was a highly successful lawyer in Boston, whereas Abram worked as an architect in Cleveland. Mary was actively involved in civic affairs in California and New York. Thus, one can see that President James Garfield was not only successful in his political life, but was also a hardworking, dedicated and responsible family man (millercenter.org).
James attended Western Reserve Eclectic Institute between 1851 and 1854, where he had interest in learning Latin and Greek. During this period, he also engaged in teaching. Apart from teaching, James also held a series of preaching sessions in a number of churches in the neighborhood. He later joined the Williams College, where he joined the Delta Fraternity. He graduated in 1856 with outstanding grades. Later on, Garfield gave up on the preaching job and applied for the position of Principal of a high school in New York, a job that he unluckily missed out. He went back to the Eclectic Institute, where he was an instructor in classical languages, rising to the position of School principal in the year 1857 (millercenter.org).
After the completion of his education in 1858, James began his career in politics as a stump speaker and supporter of the Republican Party and the anti-slavery campaign. In 1859, Garfield became discontented with the teaching profession, opting to study law instead. Before the presumption of his law studies, James received an invitation to join politics by local leaders of the Republican Party after the death of Cyrus Prentiss, who was the supposed nominee of the senate position in the District of Ohio. He received nomination under the Republican Party, where he was elected as the Senator of Ohio State. He served as the Senator of the Ohio State from 1859 until 1861. He is remembered for his signature on the bill that provide for the first Geological survey of the state of Ohio, which aimed at measuring the mineral resources found in the region covered by the state. Be believed that secession was a quite inconceivable option (millercenter.org).
In the year 1861, James Garfield joined the Union Army, where he rose in the ranks to become a major General. He participated in the Battles of Shiloh and Chickamauga. At the time of his election to the national congress, James was still in the Military and resigned to take his seat as a representative in the national Senate in the year 1863 up to 1830.
James Garfield’s political Affiliation
President James Abram Garfield was a member of the Republican Party. James was already a supporter of the policies of the party during his days in the teaching profession and as a principal of the college. For instance, he believed in the party’s stand on slavery, a policy that he later campaigned strongly in support during his primary days in politics. As a member of the Republican Party, James Garfield served as a member of the Ohio State Senate between the year 1859 and 1961. Later, he became a member of the United States House of Representatives in the year 1863 to 1880. In 1880, James was elected to the United States Senate, still under the Republican Party. In the year 1880, the Republican Party nominated James Garfield as the compromise candidate between the moderates and the conservatives. The Conservative candidate by then, Winfield Hancock was nominated as the vice president to Garfield. He won the elections by winning 214 seats out of a possible 369 (Kelly).
Garfield’s Achievements as President
Despite the fact that James Abram Garfield, the 20th President of the United States, was one of the shortest serving American Presidents after William Henry Harrison, he made tremendous achievements in this period. In fact, he is considered as one of the most hawkish Republicans during the era of reconstruction, an era that came immediately after the end of the American Civil war.
During the American Civil war, James was enlisted and fought on behalf of the union. In addition, his military skills were evident during the time when he together with his brigade was able to drive the Confederate’s army from the eastern Kentucky. In the year 1862, he was elected to be part of the United States House of Representatives, a position that he accepted as late as December 1863. In addition, his potential and competence as a lawyer were evident, when he argued against the death sentence that had been handed out to the pr-Confederate people, by the military court. This was in contradiction of his being a hardcore nationalist. His argument was because the civil court had the right to try the people involved (historyking.com).
During his reign as the United States President, James Garfield did not get adequate time to serve the people of America, since his tenure lasted for a short period of 6 months, of which the last two were spent in hospital following an assassination attempt on his life, an act that led to him being bed ridden. Despite this limited time in office as President, James Garfield played a significant role in the maintenance and development of peace between different factions within the Republican Party (historyking.com).
On the diplomatic front, President James Garfield made significant efforts to enhance close relations within countries located in the Latin section of the American Continent. On the September 19 1881, President James Abram Garfield succumbed to a heart attack after a long period of struggle from the injuries acquired from the assassination attempt. He was the second president to be assassinated while in office, after Abraham Lincoln. Many will remember Garfield as the president who paved way for the reforms in the civil service, by allowing the investigation into the mail scandal to go on, despite the fact that the investigation was to affect some members of his Republican Party. President Garfield dealt with to the latter this one major issue. He oversaw an investigation on whether mail route contracts were being awarded in a fraudulent manner, with the people involved pocketing tax money. Even at a time when the investigation proceedings indicated that members of his Republican Party were part of the fraud, President Garfield did not stop the investigation from continuing. At the end of the investigation, the findings were vital in the instrumentation and formulation of the civil service reforms (historyking.com).
Challenges and failures of President Garfield
Many people may argue that President James Garfield did not leave a legacy because of the short period that he served as a president. This may be true in a sense, basing on the fact that most of the achievements made by other presidents needed long durations. However, despite this fact, President James had challenges in terms of formulating and organizing a winning team in terms of cabinet appointments. He had the obligation of constructing a cabinet that would balance all the factions in the Republican Party, which was not an easy task. For instance, the appointment of Postmaster General Thomas Lemuel as the representative of New York was seen as an infuriation of Garfield’s stalwart rival, Roscoe Conkling. He felt quite insulted to the extent that he declared total war on Garfield’s administration. It remains evident that these wrangles in appointments were to overshadow the achievements that the Garfield administration made, such as the mail investigation and the peace efforts. However, despite the fact that the wrangles threatened to disrupt the smooth governance of Garfield’s presidency, James did not lose track on his role as the president of the United States. He managed to realize more achievements than failures during his short period as the US President (millercenter.org).
Comparing President Garfield with President George Washington
It is almost unrealistic to compare the achievements of President James Garfield to those of President George Washington. This is because of the difference in the length of service that each of these two presidents was in service. President George Washington served for two terms, while his compatriot, President James Garfield served for 6 months, with two of them in hospital under treatment from an assassination attempt. However, President George Washington remains to be a key figure in the history of the United States having been the one who formulated the requirement that a president can only serve for a maximum of two terms. He was also a strong supporter of the formulation of a central government, implementation of a tax system and the construction of a national bank. In fact, the State of Washington was named in his honor (Buzzle.com). Thus, comparing these two presidents will clearly highlight President Garfield as having failed, which is not necessarily the case. Many have argued that Garfield could also have been successful, were it not for the unfortunate assassination attempt that led to his demise two months later.