Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
In Candice Millard’s Destiny of the Republic, we get a brief look at one of our nation’s darkest moments. The book looks at President James A. Garfield’s life and ultimately his assassination with a view of a thrilling political story rather than just a state-the-facts history book.
We start with Congressman Garfield and his family walking through the exhibits at the Centennial Fair in Philadelphia and get introduced to Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone as well as Joseph Lister and his theories on Antisepsis and cleanliness in the medical profession. This sets the stage for a rather interesting look at one small slice of America in the late 19th century.
We learn about this man who was born poor and how he rose up to become the most powerful man in the country, only to be brought down by a crazed gunman. In 1859, he was asked to take the seat of an Ohio state senator who died in office. Two months later he won the election and started his political career, but the Civil War changed this temporarily. He left his office to do his part, and after a victory at the Battle of Middle Creek, he became a Brigadier General. Following this, Garfield won a seat in the U.S. Congress.
After the war, Garfield, known for being a good speaker, was asked to attend the Republican Convention in Chicago where he was to endorse another candidate for president. Fate, it would seem, had other ideas. Even though he never sought the position, after his speech he was the nominee for president.
The book reads more like a political thriller than a history book. It takes a look at the life Charles Guiteau, who was seeking political appointment, and who shot and killed the president. The book discusses the steps taken by the doctors to save the president’s life.
Millard has crafted a very well written novel. Even readers who aren’t history buffs or not interested in political biographies should find Destiny of the Republic a good read full of everything a thrilling novel has, except that it’s a true story.