The President and the Lunatic

After assassinating President Garfield, a lunatic gunman mounted an insanity defense, which the jury--and the nation--rejected despite compelling evidence to the contrary

One warm summer night in 1881, a scrawny, nervous man sat in his boarding house a few blocks from the White House. Outside his window, gaslights flickered and horses clopped over cobblestones, but Charles Guiteau barely noticed. For six weeks now, a divine inspiration had festered in his fevered brain. The president, God told Guiteau, had to be “removed.” Read more »

Assassin On Trial

A century ago a President’s murderer went on trial for the first time in our history. The issues raised then continue to trouble us.

The twentieth President of the United States was shot in a Washington, D.C., railroad station on July 2, 1881. He died seventy-nine days later from infections resulting from his wound. Read more »

“Murder Most Foul”

Two shots rang out in the railroad station, and the President of the United States slumped to the floor, mortally wounded

Early on the morning of July 2, 1881, President James A. Garfield was awakened in the White House by his two older sons, Harry, seventeen, and James, fifteen. Their mood was sportive, for they were all about to leave on a vacation together. They challenged their father to jump over the bed. Garfield, whom Thomas Wolfe included in that procession of “gravely vacant and bewhiskered faces” between Lincoln and McKinley, was indeed bewhiskered. But he was not a stuffed shirt: he jumped over the bed.

 
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