Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/United States/Garfield, James Abram

See also James A. Garfield on Wikipedia, the 11th edition, and the disclaimer. This appears in a biographical appendix of Section I (History and Constitution) of the United States article. The section was written by Alexander Johnston.

Garfield, James Abram (1831-1881), president of the United States in 1881, was born at Orange, O., Nov. 19. 1831. His father died in 1833, leaving Garfield's mother to support four children, of whom the future president was the youngest. He learned the trade of a carpenter, earning some little additional money by working as a wood-chopper and as a driver on the canal. At the age of eighteen, he entered a village seminary, working at his trade and at odd jobs for his own support. After preparing himself for college, he carried himself in like manner through Williams College, graduating in 1856. He then became a professor in, and, after one year, president of, Hiram College, O., where he remained until 1861. During this period he studied law, and was admitted to the bar. He had also become a recognized leader of the Republican party of the State, being elected to the State senate for 1860-61. Entering the army as colonel of an Ohio regiment in 1861, he served in Kentucky and Tennessee, soon becoming brigadier-general and chief of staff to General Rosecrans. At Chickamauga he particularly distinguished himself, riding to Thomas's head-quarters after the retreat of the rest of the army, and taking part in the gallant stand made by “the Rock of Chickamauga.” For his services he was promoted to the rank of major-general. He resigned in December 1863, to take his seat in the house of representatives, to which he had been elected by his district in northern Ohio. This seat he never really left. He was re-elected steadily for the remainder of his life, his last term closing with the date of his inauguration as president. Just before this last event in his career, he was elected United States senator by the legislature of Ohio, but never took his seat. From his entrance to Congress in 1863 he was one of the most prominent Republican members; and in 1875, when the Republicans became for the first time since 1860 a minority in the lower House, he became their recognized leader there. In the Republican convention of 1880 he was ultimately nominated by 399 votes out of 756, and in November he was elected by an electoral vote of 214 to 155 for Hancock. He had always protested against the system which made the advice of administration senators the controlling factor in appointments to office; and yet, from the moment of his inauguration, he found himself entangled in a conflict about appointments with the senators from New York. In the midst of the newspaper excitement on this subject, a disappointed office-seeker shot the president in the Baltimore and Potomac railway station, July 2, 1881. After lingering through a Washington summer, he was removed (Sept. 6) to Long Branch, where he died on Sept. 19.