The Destiny of the Republic

This fascinating book covers the life of the 20th president, James Garfield (1831-1881), as well as that of his killer, Charles Guiteau.  When only into his fourth month as president, Garfield, a scholar and Civil War hero, was shot in the back by a deranged office seeker.  The shot did not kill Garfield; but it left him immobile and in excruciating pain.  His medical team made up of prominent physician Doctor Bliss, (yes, Doctor was his first name!), insisted on locating the bullet by probing into his back; this ultimately gave Garfield blood poisoning. Garfield’s long and painful fight for life, lamented by the whole country, inspired Alexander Graham Bell to invent a device that may have saved him. Unfortunately, Bell failed, but his attempts make for riveting reading.  Other medics, including Joseph Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic surgery, also tried to intervene but the medical ideas of the day did not include sanitary precautions. Meanwhile in prison, Guiteau, confident of his release any day, was found not to be insane and was hung.

The author weaves a wonderful story of political intrigue and medical mishaps around a fascinating period of American history.

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categories:             Adult             Nonfiction             History


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