Friday, March 9, 2012

Destiny of the Republic

Destiny of the Republic
By Candice Millard

Destiny of the Republic is a nonfiction book about President James A. Garfield, his assassination and the people involved -- from the killer(s) to the country. It is a great look at this nation following the years following the years after the Civil War (yes, I did mean to repeat those words). I say there was more than one killer because the doctor who eventually took charge of his case was just as guilty of Garfield's death as the man who pulled the trigger.

Millard does a great job in describing the mind set of the people in the majority of the country as well as the modern inventions and medical understandings that were just being born. Two of these modern concepts -- the phone and cleanliness of surgery/medicine -- are so ingrained in our culture today that it seems like a foreign land to imagine a world without them. Yet, both could have saved the life of President Garfield if people had taken them more seriously.

Millard spends a great deal more time on the life and crazy mindset of the shooter, Charles Guiteau, than she does on the life and mindset of Garfield. I was wanting more details about the President's life as well as the inner workings of his cabinet. I think I have been permanently spoiled by Team of Rivals. But, Millard is a journalistic writer rather than an academic one.

How did my faith meet Destiny of the Republic? I really began to think about how God calls us to certain tasks and how we can test what God is asking us to do. Guiteau was crazy. That is certainly apparent in the book, although he was not found mentally incompetent in the trial.  But he felt that  God had a special purpose for him, which eventually manifested in the belief that God wanted him to shoot the President. If you felt God was asking you to do something (not shoot anyone but some other non-violent but perhaps unusual task) how would you know it was God asking? I would do lots more praying, ask my prayer partner and my husband and talk to other Christians about this. Guiteau kept getting what he felt were confirmations to carry out his task but he never confided in anyone.

And speaking of confiding in others, there was so much pride in the doctor, Dr. Willard Bliss, that he took it upon himself to control who saw Garfield, who treated him (no one but Bliss) and he dismissed any idea to keep hands, medical instruments, the wound and the recovery room clean. Did you know it was a badge of honor for doctors at this time to wear the same coat for all their surgeries without ever washing it? The more gore on your coat, the more prestige you had. Ugh.

I recommend this book for history buffs.

Happy reading!


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