"Destiny of the Republic" Essay Sample

Published: 2022-11-14
"Destiny of the Republic" Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Book review
Categories:  American history American literature
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1476 words
13 min read

Candice Millard's Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine & the Murder of a president is a great narrated and written book that takes the reader through the short presidency of James Garfield and the ignorant and abysmal state of the medical profession in his day compellingly and fascinatingly. Candice focused on the ignored and fascinating subject: the assassination attempt on President James A. Garfield in 1881 alongside the ill-fated misguided medical efforts that led to his untimely death. Was it not for Ms. Millard Contends botched treatments, Garfield would have been part of the civil war veterans living with a lodged bullet in their body. Extensively, if he had survived the bullet and served more than 200 days in office, he would have been more recognized by most of the people in the white house history. The book brings forth alive the U.S forgotten historical chapter. It also creates a sensation on the political and scientifically development insights that happened towards the end of 19th century in America.

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The title of the book "Destiny of the Republic," is adapted from the fateful speech that Garfield gave at the 1880 Republican National Convention. The title has a bigger scope than the surrounding events that resulted in his slow and lingering death. It is the poignant story of how a man who had no interest in presidency found himself in the white house. It is a rediscovery of Garfield's accomplishments that surprise many people. Millard's brings out the poor and remarkable life of Garfield as the last president to be born in a log cabin. His father had succumbed to fever and exhaustion earlier while he was just one year. His mother struggled to provide for James alongside his other three siblings and donated some of her farmland to enable their community to have a schoolhouse. All through, James was molded to consider himself as an equal to any person, to walk while his shoulders were squared and his head thrown back. These were some of the traits that he always possessed.

Garfield became brigadier and excelled in both combat and as a top officer, rising to the rank of a major general during the civil war although the war carnage weakened him. In 1862, he was elected to Congress, elected as a Republican representing Ohio's 19th district. While in the Congress, he championed for the rights and liberty of the blacks. He had some writings in his pocket diary, "Servitium esto damnatum"- "slavery is damned." Being humble to a fault, he struggled in the vineyards of the legislation for 17 years. Later on, in 1880, he surprised many as he has won the Republican nomination in a deadlocked convention. He had an opposition of just 10,000 votes that enabled him to be the last member of the House to have a direct ticket to the White House.

Garfield had a personal preference for a calm country beauty of Mentor, Ohio, where he had field works and raised five children alongside his wife known as Lucretia. He began an affair with Lucia Gilbert, the New York Tribune reporter after a difficult courtship and early marriage which had been made further complicated with the death of their first child. However, at the election period, he could not separate from his wife whom he considered as the life of his life. His extended family included his mother, who had written a friend from the Whitehouse.

On July 2, 1881, Garfield was met by Guiteau when he arrived at the Baltimore and Potomac railroad. While at the station's waiting room, Garfield was shot twice by Guiteau. The president has lodged two bullets, one at his shoulder while the other one hit him at the back, missing his spinal cord but become lodged next to the pancreas. Guiteau shot the president on allegations that he played a significant role in Garfield's election, therefore, deserved to be made the consul general to France.

Had Garfield been left where he laid, there were chances that he would have survived as the bullet did not penetrate through the vital organs? However, he was handed over to the care of doctors who practically tortured him to death for 11 weeks. The struggle to locate the bullets brings to book the definition of Millard's narrative as some doctors applied techniques viewed ass archaic at the period. Millard argues that the president's death was avoidable before the Garfield's convalesce for almost three months before succumbing to wounds.

The main key issue of contention is that the doctors in charge of his care used unsterilized instruments and fingers to examine the body of Garfield while searching for the bullet. One of the doctors accidentally caused harm to Garfield's lungs as he punctured it while searching for the bullet. According to Millard, much of the blame is directed to Doctor Willard Bliss who was the head physician attending to the president. Bliss and his team of physician did not adhere to expected medical ethics by taking various anti-septic precautions. They were also sure that the bullet's path led to the left side of the body, whereas there was little effort directed towards searching the bullet at its real side which was the left side. The underlying ego in the certainty came to Top when the famous scientist, Alexander Graham Bell, tried to offer a solution in the curing of Garfield. He designed a metal detector with the aim of locating the position of the lodged bullet. Contrary to the expectations, Dr. Bliss was so sure that the bullet is in the right side of Garfield's body that he doesn't permit Bell to search on the left side of the body of the ailing president. This consequently leads to the ravaging of the body with infections and further suffering from pneumonia and an aneurysm.

The recovery of the president was further undermined by the white house's sick room. The room was described as a rotting, corrupt-ridden structure that had broken sewage pipes. The outside of Washington there was a dangerous stink hole, whereas besides was the first lady, white house servants, and Guiteau who had been infected with malaria. Bliss injected large doses of quinine with the aim of saving Garfield from contracting malaria. However, the president only experienced intestinal cramping. Amidst the failure by the doctors, the people rallied around the president. More than two thousand people overworked themselves to lay a 3200 feet railroad track to create a way for the president to be taken to a cottage on the Jersey Shore. When the engine failed, a lot of people volunteered to push the train up to the final hill.

The president passed through everything with amazing courage and patience towards the end. Eventually, the president succumbed to his wounds after seventy-nine days after the shootings. The documented cause of his death was a ruptured splenetic artery aneurysm, although, before his death, the president suffered from pneumonia and blood poisoning resulting from the misdiagnosis of quinine. The book is full of irony as a thematic issue which is frequented by the many contribution and influence of innovators other than the attendant physicians who came out in an attempt to keep the president alive. A perfect example is that of the navy engineers who innovated a conservative form of an air conditioner through blowing fans over ice blocks aimed at cooling down the president's suffering from the summer heat in Washington. Nonetheless, the metal detector made by Bell in spite of the complaints by Bliss that the detector was thrown off by Garfield's hard bed, it would have had positive results by turning out to function properly. Bell made acclamations that if he had been given a chance to search the bullet Garfield's left side body, he would have located the bullet.

Destiny of the Republic is an interesting hybrid cruising between a detective story, a historical account and a medical drama that leaves questions on what might have happened if Garfield, a uniquely impassioned defender of Civil Rights, had been given an opportunity to finish his presidency. Millard wrote to the people penetrating on the human tragedy other than the little historical significance justified by Garfield's death.


Gallmeier, Charles P. "Presidents, Civil Religion, and Public Memory: A Book Review Essay." South Shore Journal 5 (2013): 144-152.

Millard, Candice. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President. Anchor, 2012.

Rosen, Dennis. "Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President." JAMA 307, no. 2 (2012): 203-204.

Skidmore, Max J. "Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President Candice Millard. New York: Doubleday, 2011." The Journal of American Culture 35, no. 1 (2012): 79-80.

Weiss, Kenneth J. "Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President." Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online 41, no. 2 (2013): 313-314.

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