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Garfield, James A. (1831–1881)

GARFIELD, JAMES A. (1831–1881)

A civil war general, James Abram Garfield served in Congress from 1863 until 1881, when he became President of the United States. In Congress Garfield was a skilled parliamentarian and self-taught expert on finance. After 1868 he was one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress, and served as minority leader from 1876 until 1880. In a period of pervasive corruption Garfield remained relatively untainted. In 1876 he helped frame the legislation that led to the compromise of 1877 that settled the disputed presidential election. He served on the electoral commission, supporting President Rutherford B. Hayes on every issue. In 1880 the Ohio legislature chose him for the United States senate, for a term beginning in 1881. However, that summer he became a compromise candidate for the presidency, after the Republican convention deadlocked. As President, Garfield attempted to root out corruption in the Post Office Department and the notorious New York customs house. Garfield's insistence that he, as President, should make all appointments, regardless of long-standing notions of senatorial privilege, led roscoe conkling of New York to resign from the Senate. In July 1881 Garfield was shot and killed by a disappointed office seeker who shouted that he was a party "stalwart" and that now chester a. arthur would be President. In the wake of this tragedy Arthur continued Garfield's investigation of the Post Office and secured the passage of the first civil service reform law, the pendleton act.

Paul Finkelman


Peskin, Alan 1978 Garfield. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press.

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