Monday, February 04, 2013

Could Garfield have been a great president?

I think it might have been possible. From James A. Garfield's inaugural address:

  "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.'

James Abram Garfield, 1831-1881
  "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 thoughtful man can fail to appreciate its beneficent effect upon our institutions and people. It has freed us from the perpetual danger of war and dissolution. It has added immensely to the moral and industrial forces of our people. It has liberated the master as well as the slave from a relation which wronged and enfeebled both. It has surrendered to their own guardianship the manhood of more than 5,000,000 people, and has opened to each one of them a career of freedom and usefulness. It has given new inspiration to the power of self-help in both races by making labor more honorable to the one and more necessary to the other. The influence of this force will grow greater and bear richer fruit with the coming years."
Tragically, the nation never got the chance to find out if Garfield had what it took to lead the country out of the disaster of "Redemption," since an unbalanced madman (Charles G. Guiteau was not just a "disgruntled office seeker"!) took his life (he was shot just four months after taking office, though he lingered for two and a half months). Two opportunities to get Reconstruction right were thwarted by assassins' bullets. 

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