James A. Garfield
James Abram Garfield (19 November 1831 – 19 September 1881) was the 20th President of the United States (1881), and the second U.S. President to be assassinated. His term was the second shortest in U.S. history, after William Henry Harrison's. Holding office from March to September of 1881, President Garfield was in office for a total of just six months and fifteen days.
- Fellow-citizens: Clouds and darkness are around Him; His pavilion is dark waters and thick clouds; justice and judgment are the establishment of His throne; mercy and truth shall go before His face! Fellow citizens! God reigns and the Government at Washington lives.
- A declaration reportedly made after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. New York Herald (1865-04-16) Some reports declare he stated this at the New York Customs House, but others report that this is erroneous and that he was not even in New York. His private secretary, Colonel Rockwell 16 years later reportedly used the words "God reigns and the Government at Washington lives" in a telegram to Garfield's wife after Garfield was shot.
- If wrinkles must be written upon our brows, let them not be written upon the heart. The spirit should not grow old.
- Letter to Colonel A. F. Rockwell (1866-08-13)
- Nobody but radicals have ever accomplished anything in a great crisis.
- To B.A. Hinsdale (1867-01-01)
- It is no part of the functions of the National Government to find employment for the people, and if we were to appropriate a hundred millions for his purpose, we should only be taxing 40 millions of people to keep a few thousand employed.
- To B.A. Hinsdale (1867-01-02)
- The chief duty of government is to keep the peace and stand out of the sunshine of the people.
- To H.N. Eldridge (1869-12-14) as quoted in Garfield (1978) by Allen Peskin, Ch. 13
- The ideal college is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other.
- I will not vote against the truths of the multiplication table.
- To H. Austin (1874-02-04) as quoted in Garfield (1978) by Allen Peskin, Ch. 17
- The return to solid values is always hard... Distress, panic, and hard times have marked our pathway in returning to solid values.
- Speech (1874-06-22) US Congressional Record, 43rd Congress, 2nd session
- I am a poor hater.
- Diary (1876-04-26) as quoted in Garfield (1978) by Allen Peskin, Ch. 13
- Few men in our history have ever obtained the Presidency by planning to obtain it.
- Diary (1879-02-04)
- Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained.
- Letter accepting the Republican nomination to run for President. (1880-07-12)
- I love to deal with doctrines and events. The contests of men about men I greatly dislike.
- Diary (1881-03-14)
- My God! What is there in this place that a man should ever want to get into it?
- Diary (1881-06-08) as quoted in Garfield (1978) by Allen Peskin, Ch. 24
- The sin of slavery is one of which it may be said that without the shedding of blood there is no remission.
- Diary (1881-06-08)
- Strangulatus pro republica.
- Tortured for the Republic.
- Last written words, two days before he died; these are sometimes reported as being his last words. (1881-09-17) Variant translation: "Tortured for the sake of the republic."
- Garfield: "Old boy! Do you think my name will have a place in human history?"
Rockwell: "Yes, a grand one, but a grander one in human hearts. Old fellow, you mustn’t talk in that way. You have a great work yet to perform."
Garfield: "No. My work is done."
- Conversation with his secretary, Colonel Rockwell the day before he died. These have been reported as his last spoken words. (1881-09-18)
- "Whosoever controls the volume of money in any country is absolute master of all industry and commerce.... And when you realize the entire system is very easily controlled, one way or another, by a few powerful men at the top, you will not have to be told how periods of inflation and depression originate.
- As quoted in The Money Masters (1995) Unsourced variant : Whoever controls the volume of money in any country is absolute master of all industry and commerce.
- I thank you doctor, but I am a dead man
- To a doctor treating his wound. Quoted in John Whitcomb, Claire Whitcomb "Real Life at the White House", Routledge, 2002, p. 177.
Speech Nominating John Sherman for President (1880)
- Speech at the Republican National Convention, Chicago, Illinois (June 5, 1880) nominating John Sherman for President. His address was considered so impressive that it is generally credited with inspiring others to rally around him as a "dark horse" candidate.
- Nothing touches my heart more quickly than a tribute of honor to a great and noble character; but as I sat in my seat and witnessed this demonstration, this assemblage seemed to me a human ocean in tempest. I have seen the sea lashed into fury and tossed into spray, and its grandeur moves the soul of the dullest man; but I remember that it is not the billows, but the calm level of the sea, from which all heights and depths are measured. When the storm has passed and the hour of calm settles on the ocean, when the sunlight bathes its peaceful surface, then the astronomer and surveyor take the level from which they measure all terrestrial heights and depths.
- Gentlemen of the Convention, your present temper may not mark the healthful pulse of our people. When your enthusiasm has passed, when the emotions of this hour have subsided, we shall find below the storm and passion that calm level of public opinion from which the thoughts of a mighty people are to be measured, and by which final action will be determined.
- Not in Chicago, in the heat of June, but at the ballot-boxes of the Republic, in the quiet of November, after the silence of deliberate judgment, will this question be settled. And now, gentlemen of the Convention, what do we want?
- Twenty-five years ago this Republic was bearing and wearing a triple chain of bondage. Long familiarity with traffic in the bodies and souls of men had paralyzed the consciences of a majority of our people; the narrowing and disintegrating doctrine of State sovereignty had shackled and weakened the noblest and most beneficent powers of the national government; and the grasping power of slavery was seizing upon the virgin territories of the West, and dragging them into the den of eternal bondage.
At that crisis the Republican party was born. It drew its first inspiration from that fire of liberty which God has lighted in every human heart, and which all the powers of ignorance and tyranny can never wholly extinguish. The Republican party came to deliver and to save.
- Then, after the storms of battle, were heard the calm words of peace spoken by the conquering nation, saying to the foe that lay prostrate at its feet: "This is our only revenge — that you join us in lifting into the serene firmament of the Constitution, to shine like stars for ever and ever, the immortal principles of truth and justice: that all men, white or black, shall be free, and shall stand equal before the law."
- In order to win victory now, we want the vote of every Republican — of every Grant Republican, and every anti-Grant Republican, in America — of every Blaine man and every anti-Blaine man. The vote of every follower of every candidate is needed to make success certain. Therefore I say, gentlemen and brethren, we are here to take calm counsel together, and inquire what we shall do.
- We want a man whose life and opinions embody all the achievements of which I have spoken. We want a man who, standing on a mountain height, traces the victorious footsteps of our party in the past, and, carrying in his heart the memory of its glorious deeds, looks forward prepared to meet the dangers to come. We want one who will act in no spirit of unkindness toward those we lately met in battle.
- He has shown himself able to meet with calmness the great emergencies of the government. For twenty-five years he has trodden the perilous heights of public duty, and against all the shafts of malice has borne his breast unharmed. He has stood in the blaze of "that fierce light that beats against the throne"; but its fiercest ray has found no flaw in his armor, no stain upon his shield. I do not present him as a better Republican or a better man than thousands of others that we honor; but I present him for your deliberate and favorable consideration. I nominate John Sherman, of Ohio.
Inaugural address (1881)
- Fellow-Citizens: We stand to-day upon an eminence which overlooks a hundred years of national life — a century crowded with perils, but crowned with the triumphs of liberty and law. Before continuing the onward march let us pause on this height for a moment to strengthen our faith and renew our hope by a glance at the pathway along which our people have traveled.
- The colonists were struggling not only against the armies of a great nation, but against the settled opinions of mankind; for the world did not then believe that the supreme authority of government could be safely intrusted to the guardianship of the people themselves.
We can not overestimate the fervent love of liberty, the intelligent courage, and the sum of common sense with which our fathers made the great experiment of self-government. When they found, after a short trial, that the confederacy of States, was too weak to meet the necessities of a vigorous and expanding republic, they boldly set it aside, and in its stead established a National Union, founded directly upon the will of the people, endowed with full power of self-preservation and ample authority for the accomplishment of its great object.
- Under this Constitution the boundaries of freedom have been enlarged, the foundations of order and peace have been strengthened, and the growth of our people in all the better elements of national life has indicated the wisdom of the founders and given new hope to their descendants.
- The supreme trial of the Constitution came at last under the tremendous pressure of civil war. We ourselves are witnesses that the Union emerged from the blood and fire of that conflict purified and made stronger for all the beneficent purposes of good government.
- The will of the nation, speaking with the voice of battle and through the amended Constitution, has fulfilled the great promise of 1776 by proclaiming "liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof." The elevation of the negro race from slavery to the full rights of citizenship is the most important political change we have known since the adoption of the Constitution of 1787.
- No doubt this great change has caused serious disturbance to our Southern communities. This is to be deplored, though it was perhaps unavoidable. But those who resisted the change should remember that under our institutions there was no middle ground for the negro race between slavery and equal citizenship. There can be no permanent disfranchised peasantry in the United States. Freedom can never yield its fullness of blessings so long as the law or its administration places the smallest obstacle in the pathway of any virtuous citizen.
- It has been said that unsettled questions have no pity for the repose of nations. It should be said with the utmost emphasis that this question of the suffrage will never give repose or safety to the States or to the nation until each, within its own jurisdiction, makes and keeps the ballot free and pure by the strong sanctions of the law.
- It is the high privilege and sacred duty of those now living to educate their successors and fit them, by intelligence and virtue, for the inheritance which awaits them.
In this beneficent work sections and races should be forgotten and partisanship should be unknown. Let our people find a new meaning in the divine oracle which declares that "a little child shall lead them," for our own little children will soon control the destinies of the Republic.
- My countrymen, we do not now differ in our judgment concerning the controversies of past generations, and fifty years hence our children will not be divided in their opinions concerning our controversies. They will surely bless their fathers and their fathers' God that the Union was preserved, that slavery was overthrown, and that both races were made equal before the law. We may hasten or we may retard, but we can not prevent, the final reconciliation.
- Enterprises of the highest importance to our moral and material well-being unite us and offer ample employment of our best powers. Let all our people, leaving behind them the battlefields of dead issues, move forward and in their strength of liberty and the restored Union win the grander victories of peace.
- The civil service can never be placed on a satisfactory basis until it is regulated by law. For the good of the service itself, for the protection of those who are intrusted with the appointing power against the waste of time and obstruction to the public business caused by the inordinate pressure for place, and for the protection of incumbents against intrigue and wrong, I shall at the proper time ask Congress to fix the tenure of the minor offices of the several Executive Departments and prescribe the grounds upon which removals shall be made during the terms for which incumbents have been appointed.
- I am about to assume the great trust which you have committed to my hands. I appeal to you for that earnest and thoughtful support which makes this Government in fact, as it is in law, a government of the people.
I shall greatly rely upon the wisdom and patriotism of Congress and of those who may share with me the responsibilities and duties of administration, and, above all, upon our efforts to promote the welfare of this great people and their Government I reverently invoke the support and blessings of Almighty God.
- A pound of pluck is worth a ton of luck.
- All free governments are managed by the combined wisdom and folly of the people.
- Be fit for more than the thing you are now doing. Let everyone know that you have a reserve in yourself; that you have more power than you are now using. If you are not too large for the place you occupy, you are too small for it.
- History is philosophy teaching by example, and also warning; its two eyes are geography and chronology.
- I am trying to do two things: dare to be a radical and not a fool, which is a matter of no small difficulty.
- I have had many troubles, but the worst of them never came.
- I mean to make myself a man, and if I succeed in that, I shall succeed in everything else.
- Ideas control the world.
- If the power to do hard work is not a skill, it's the best possible substitute for it.
- Most human organizations that fall short of their goals do so not because of stupidity or faulty doctrines, but because of internal decay and rigidification. They grow stiff in the joints. They get in a rut. They go to seed.
- Poverty is uncomfortable; but nine times out of ten the best thing that can happen to a young man is to be tossed overboard and compelled to sink or swim.
- The lesson of history is rarely learned by the actors themselves.
- The possession of great powers no doubt carries with it a contempt for mere external show.
- The President is the last person in the world to know what the people really want and think.
- The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.
- Things don't turn up in this world until somebody turns them up.
- Official whitehouse.gov biography
- Brief biography at whitehousehistory.org
- Biography from John T. Brown's Churches of Christ (1904)
- Inaugural Address
- MathWorld: Garfield's Proof of the Pythagorean Theorem
- "Murder Most Foul" at americanheritage.com
- "The Death Of President Garfield" at eyewitnesstohistory.com
- Article about Garfield's shooting and medical treatment
- James A. Garfield Birthplace
- James A Garfield National Historic Site "Lawnfield"
- Garfield Tomb