Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Medicine, Madness and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard is a non-fiction account of the assassination of President James A. Garfield. Mr. Garfield was the 20th President of these United States and the second one to be assassinated in office.
I picked up Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard because her first book The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey is a favorite of mine. I must admit that I didn’t know much about President Garfield before reading this book, I somewhat remember my history teacher mentioning the assassination (and that only with some serious prompts), but that’s just about it.
My first surprise upon reading is that I actually like Mr. Garfield, and admired him after finishing the book. Garfield’s story is a true “rags to riches” tale, the one of an honest man, who worked hard and was, undoubtedly, a genius.
The research in the book is first class, the author ties in several stories which cross each other toward the end. The story of the assassination, that of Alexander Graham Bell who was trying to create a metal detector to find the bullet, Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York who exploited the political spoils system, and that of Joseph Lister who was a pioneer of antiseptic surgery.
It is now well known, as it was in 1881, that President Garfield died of infection he got from his doctors and not from the bullet wound. If his doctors would have used Lister’s techniques (which were new at the time) he probably would have been saved. However, Garfield’s death did popularized Lister’s methods which saved thousands and thousands of people.
Destiny of the Republic reads like a novel, an exciting page turner which will keep you wanting for more. The book reintroduces the readers to President Garfield as an eloquent, strong willed and brave politician whose legacy should be known to many more Americans.Powered by Sidelines