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In 1880, Civil War veteran James Garfield was running as a Republican for president, and one of his supporters was a man named Charles Guiteau, who wrote and circulated a speech called "Garfield vs. Hancock" that aimed to rally support for the Republican candidate. Though few knew it, Guiteau's family had already deemed him insane and attempted to keep him committed in an asylum, only to have him manage an escape from confinement. Garfield went on to narrowly edge Winfield Scott Hancock in the election, and Guiteau, harboring delusions of grandeur, believed he had helped tip the scales in Garfield's favor. As such, he believed that he was entitled to a post in Garfield's nascent administration, perhaps even an ambassadorship, and he continued to rack up debts while operating under the assumption that he would soon have the government salary to pay them back. However, despite lobbying around Republican headquarters in New York City and even approaching Cabinet members, no post was forthcoming for the troubled man. Eventually, in May 1881, Secretary of State James Blaine told him to never show up again. Enraged by the perceived slight, Guiteau bought a revolver and plotted to kill the president. He got his chance on July 2, 1881, at a railroad station, shooting Garfield in the back twice and bragging to the authorities, "I am a Stalwart of the Stalwarts...Arthur is president now!" In reality, Garfield would live for nearly three more months, and the poor standards of medical care in the 1880s would end up being responsible for the fact he did not survive.
©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors