Assassin Charles Guiteau believed he was doing God’s work in killing President James Garfield. Surely he would be rewarded with the consulship to France he long sought; surely Vice-president Chester Author would be delighted and grateful by Guiteau’s deed; surely General William Tecumseh Sherman would come to free Guiteau from his jail cell; and surely the American people would celebrate and insist he become president, himself.
Guiteau’s flights of fancy followed his flights from creditors all his life; he would bluff and borrow then skip town, chasing one idea after the next till he hit upon the idea that killing the president would turn his fortunes around. The man’s delusions were astounding to read.
Guiteau is only one part of Candice Millard’s well-researched, but never for a moment dull, book on the events surrounding the assassination of the twentieth president. What unfolds are tales of life’s ironies interwoven with tragic results for Garfield, his physician D. Willard Bliss, Alexander Graham Bell, Arthur, the spoils system, Robert Lincoln, and on and on.
For a man who never sought to be president, there were few so worthy to be one as Garfield.