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Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President | [Candice Millard]

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

James A. Garfield may have been the most extraordinary man ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back. But the shot didn’t kill Garfield. The drama of what hap­pened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in tur­moil.
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Publisher's Summary

James A. Garfield may have been the most extraordinary man ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back.

But the shot didn’t kill Garfield. The drama of what hap­pened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in tur­moil. The unhinged assassin’s half-delivered strike shattered the fragile national mood of a country so recently fractured by civil war, and left the wounded president as the object of a bitter behind-the-scenes struggle for power—over his administration, over the nation’s future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care. A team of physicians administered shockingly archaic treatments, to disastrous effect. As his con­dition worsened, Garfield received help: Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, worked around the clock to invent a new device capable of finding the bullet.

Meticulously researched, epic in scope, and pulsating with an intimate human focus and high-velocity narrative drive, The Destiny of the Republic will stand alongside The Devil in the White City and The Professor and the Madman as a classic of narrative history.

From the Hardcover edition.

©2011 Candice Millard (P)2011 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

"[Millard demonstrates] the power of expert storytelling to wonderfully animate even the simplest facts....make[s] for compulsive reading. Superb American history." (Kirkus)

"Splendidly insightful....stands securely at the crossroads of popular and professional history" (Booklist)

“Sparklingly alive…[Millard] brings to life a moment in the nation’s history when access to the president was easy, politics bitter, and medical knowledge slight. Under Millard’s pen, it’s hard to imagine its being better told.” (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Susan Southlake, TX, United States 09-23-11
    Susan Southlake, TX, United States 09-23-11 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating Story"

    Very well written and performed. An engrossing story that I am thoroughly glad I purchased.

    20 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brock DONOSTIA-SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain 10-08-13
    Brock DONOSTIA-SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain 10-08-13 Member Since 2015

    So much to learn, and so little time to sit down and read. Thanks Audible.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What a fun way to learn some history!"

    I love finding books about history that are really well written, and tell an intriguing story. This was definitely one of those books. The author did an amazing job of researching this story to find all the little details that made this book so interesting. When I bought it I expected it to be a history of James Garfield's life, but it told a lot more than just about his life. I really enjoyed learning about the crazy life and delusions of Garfield's eventual assassin. The guy was nuts, and yet I don't believe he was insane. Elements of his life reminded me of people I know today - scary!.

    The other minor story within the bigger story was about the doctor who attended Garfield after he was shot. He used extreme confidence, and a bold personality to become the primary doctor to Garfield without ever being assigned the role. He just pushed his way into the action immediately following the assassination, acted like he was in charge, and then pushed all the other doctors away; all without ever being given permission to do so.

    There were so many fascinating elements to this story that almost anyone would enjoy listening to it, but if you love history and want to learn about it, this book is a must "read".

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane Louisville, KY, United States 10-05-12
    Diane Louisville, KY, United States 10-05-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An American tragedy worthy of Shakespeare"

    This little remembered episode from American history is thoroughly American in character but also fully worthy of a Shakespearian tragedy.

    From Garfield, an Ohio farm boy who grew up to be a well educated man of deep and noble convictions, to his assassin, Charles Guiteau, a deluded political and religious fanatic, the figures seem larger than life. Then there are the "supporting" characters--Garfield's vice-president, Chester A. Arthur, a man transformed by Garfield's assassination: the political boss, Roscoe Conklin; Garfield's arrogant doctor, Dr. Doctor Bliss; and even Alexander Graham Bell, who struggled over an invention which might help save Garfield's life.

    I was moved by this book and the story it tells holds much relevance for today's world in terms of the pitfalls of political factionalism and the dangers of religious fanaticism. Indeed, it seems shameful that the "Garfield" with which most people are familiar is a cartoon cat.

    Highly recommended.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa 03-14-12
    Lisa 03-14-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting story about a little known president"

    So much more interesting that I expected. No one learns about Garfield in school, yet he was such an amazing man. One wonders how American history would be different, had he lived. Lots of tidbits about Garfield, Alexander Graham Bell, post Civil War medicine and more. Well narrated.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Fylynne CHICAGO, IL, United States 03-13-12
    Fylynne CHICAGO, IL, United States 03-13-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Unfortunately, doctors can kill you!"
    Where does Destiny of the Republic rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Very interesting story of politics and mayhem. This book shows that powerful men show no mercy when it comes to gaining and retaining power. The section describing the convention that nominated President Garfield is fascinating. Wow! If conventions today are that interesting, maybe more Americans would pay closer attention.Sadly, after President Garfield was shot by a madman, doctors had no real knowledge of how to treat a gunshot victim. The guessing game surrounding his treatment was painful to listen to. He could have been saved if his injury had occurred a few years later. Medical advances and technology were being developed as he suffered. But it was too late to save him. It was sad because by all accounts President Garfield was a good and honorable man.


    What other book might you compare Destiny of the Republic to and why?

    The Warmth of Other Suns gives a good history lesson and it's easy to see how times have changed so dramatically.


    Have you listened to any of Paul Michael’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Doctors can kill you!


    Any additional comments?

    The parts involving Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell were fascinating. The history surrounding their inventions in light of the times was good to learn about.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim Holland, TX, United States 02-19-12
    Jim Holland, TX, United States 02-19-12 Member Since 2014

    Jumps on his bed while licking the bottom of one foot. He persists in this life affirming act despite interference from the head nurse.

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    "Entertaining Popular History"

    I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. It makes the reader aware of how extraordinary a man James Garfield was--just a historical blurr for most of us. Had he lived he may have been a president history deemed "great." This is popular history, where the author presumes to know the thoughts of historical persons, but it is obvious that Ms. Millard has done a lot of research and I did not find this a problem. She detours to tell inter-connected stories about Alexander Graham Bell, Joseph Lister, and Dr. D. Bliss (who actually killed Garfield with his medical treatment), and more, all of whom interacted with the president during his last days. Get this one. Ms. Millard writes well and her words flow seamlessly. It is excellent popular history. Paul Michael does a fine job narrating.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Knutsson Northern California 01-07-12
    K. Knutsson Northern California 01-07-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A wonderful Read!"
    Any additional comments?

    This is why I love audiobooks. This is so much better than a movie based on a great book. Now I'm off to read the author's other Audible book

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Byron Tallahassee, FL, United States 10-29-11
    Byron Tallahassee, FL, United States 10-29-11 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What a Treasure!"

    Not having been a great student of American history, I was ignorant of the story of President Garfield's election and assassination. This is a story that is both fascinating and relevant. It really consists of several sub-stories, including: 1) the story of Garfield himself, a uniquely inspirational figure; 2) the story of the battle between spoils/patronage and merit as a basis for appointing people to public office; 3) the story of the nomination of Garfield and his election as president, which is an incredible contrast to the modern self-promotion of candidates for office; 4) the story of his assassin, which though fascinating, it is unfortunate that his name has endured, as he was as bad a character as Garfield was good; 5) the story of American medicine in the 1880s, and the abhorable maltreatment received by Garfield after the shooting, 6) the story of Alexander Graham Bell, and his efforts to invent a device to discover the bullet inside Garfield's body, 7) the story of Chester Arthur, Garfield's VP, and his amazing transformation from an invisible do-nothing VP, to a man committed to carrying out Garfield's agenda after his death, and 8) the story of Roscoe Conkling, the classic Senator as power-broker, who proves that bad politicians did not originate with the current generation.

    Do yourself a favor and grab this book. There is too much here to enrich your appreciation of two of our lesser known presidents.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joel Mill Valley, CA, United States 10-25-11
    Joel Mill Valley, CA, United States 10-25-11

    Me, myself, and I.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Nothing prepared me for the greatness within"

    There is nothing that I can write that would do this story justice. An amazing work, amazing experience, expertly narrated, and worth every moment I stole away from whatever responsibilities I had. I have a newfound respect for James A. Garfield, and a newfound fascination with the late 19th century. Who knew it was filled with such drama? Well...many people, I am sure, but experiencing it through the lens of medicine, invention, politics, and insanity in the 1880s brings a whole new appreciation.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Yacolt, WA, United States 09-26-11
    Linda Yacolt, WA, United States 09-26-11 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Brings history to life"

    I learned a great deal about a president I knew almost nothing about. Well written story and excellently narrated. This is one I'll listen to again.

    14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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