Sunday, July 21, 2013

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President

Today's book comes from Mr. Seymour. 

I just finished a great book by Candace Millard called Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President.  The book discusses the assassination of President James Garfield by a glorified lunatic named Charles Guiteau, an office seeker who badgered the President incessantly prior to committing the deed.  Guiteau's story alone is so bizarre that it bears recounting-  at first, Guiteau  joined a sort of utopian polygamist colony setup in Western New York but was promptly kicked out after repeatedly harassing the women and claiming that he himself was a prophet.  Then, he managed to read a few law books and pass the bar exam; setting up law offices he couldn't afford to maintain in Chicago and New York.  The highlight of his legal career was in one trial where he jumped on top of a table In the middle of his opening arguments (in a case where he was the primary defense attorney) and began throwing things and screaming at the judge and jury. After that, he moved to Washington, D.C. and put all of his  efforts towards receiving a presidential appointment from Garfield to be the American ambassador to France.  Eventually, Guiteau felt he wasn't getting what he deserved and shot the president at a train station after receiving a message from God to do so.  The president died only after weeks of suffering in the White House, and the nation followed his health reports from hour to hour.

Although, this book is an assassination story it also discusses the rise of Garfield to the Presidency, as well as the influence of two men on America during this time period: Alexander Graham Bell and Joseph Lister.  Bell, in addition to inventing the telephone, created an early version of a metal detector to find the bullet lodged in the President.  Lister was the English scientist who realized the need for sterilization during medical procedures...before his work was endorsed, Doctors used dirty medical utensils and diseases were rampant.  The book clearly shows that if the ideas of these men were followed, the President would most certainly have lived and American society would have benefited greatly by the President's example.

Millard is also the author of another book called The River of Doubt, which was also outstanding.  That book tells the story of how Theodore Roosevelt traveled deep into the Amazon river basin after serving as President.  Roosevelt nearly died on his quest to charter a new route through the Amazon...he fought off cannibals  crocodiles, Mosquitoes, hunger, and disease.

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