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Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

The Americans has witnessed the assassination of four of their presidents out of the current number, 44, of individuals who have ascended to power. Of the four presidents, most of the citizens are aware of John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln with a few people having information on President McKinley and James Garfield. The book “Destiny of The Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and The Murder of a President” explores the life of James Garfield, who reckons in the books of history as one of the American Presidents who served the shortest.

Millard laid much of the emphasis on the description of the president’s life from a humble family to the time he ascended the President position in America. The book is an interwoven exposition of several themes surrounding the life and death of Garfield. The book captures the period from the nineteenth century to the late 1800s. The principle theme of the book revolves around assassination, ignorance and malfeasance in the medical field, which contributed to the loss of one of the Americans’ dedicated presidents.

Destiny of the Republic Discussion Questions Answers

The book illustrates the Garfield as an extraordinary and gifted person who was put in power by the will of the citizens despite not being interested in leadership. Right from his birth, Garfield had made remarkable advancements in several fields that he actively contributed and dedicated his life. He was a scholar, general, congressman and finally the president. During the short period as a president, Garfield's work was so eminent that people were left wondering if the landscape of development that the country would have witnessed under his leadership. The book also brings out clearly the circumstances surrounding the president’s assassination.

The person who is inducted to have the responsibility of murdering the president has been described as a madman motivated by grandiosity and the “call of God to rescue” the country from the hand of “inappropriate” leader (Millard 192). Charles Guiteau, the assassin, is presented in the book as an arrogant person whose life portrays the misuse and mistreatment of others in society. He considers the act of assassinating the president as a gesture that was aimed at securing the position of the president for the rightful person. Guiteau believed that Garfield was not worth the position of the president of America.

Denounce of scientific advancements is also another theme that is well portrayed in the book. The scientific discoveries that could have saved the president's life were discounted by the forces and scholars in America. Joseph Lister’s discovery on association hygiene and aseptic technique on reducing infection rate was detested immensely in America despite the reasonable and practice-based evidence, of the theory in Europe. The circumstances and procedures that the President underwent in removing the bullet are believed to have accelerated the wound infection that culminated in death.

The self-appointed doctor who was responsible for the President’s life discounted the measure of aseptic technique and even the use of a machine that could have located the bullet. Discovered by Alexander Graham Bell, the device could have located the bullet in a human’s body, not for the stern and dictatorship stand of the doctor Bliss, who prevented scanning the left side of the victim’s body.

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Another theme that is presented in this book is the depiction of arrogance. The assassin, the doctor in charge and the vice President are portrayed as arrogant individuals in the story. The arrogance of the assassin is displayed in his ill-treatment with women, the President and the statement he made to the president’ widow “It will be no worse for Mrs. Garfield, to part with her husband this way, than by natural death. He is liable to go any time anyway” (Millard 237). Doctor Bliss's arrogance is revealed during the operation where he accorded himself the powers to take over the treatment role, he dictated what was to be done to the President, and unwitty accelerated the death of the President from malpractice.  The vice President Chester Arthur was presented as a spoilsman in politics, “Chet Arthur, the president? Good, God!” (Millard 250). The colleagues were fearful of challenging and criticizing Chester Arthur and his political game when he assumed the presidential powers.

Charles Guiteau and James Garfield

Millard uses credible sources in gathering the data and facts about the characters in the book. The information presented rhyme clearly with the true information about the historical event delineated in the book. She has vehemently explored the bibliographies of the characters such as Charles Guiteau and James Garfield. The sources used in supporting her argument are authentic trouncing directly at the theme of the book. The primary and secondary sources used in the book include contemporaneous news coverage and Garfield’s diary. The book is a result of meticulous research and the intimate focus of life and events surrounding Garfield. This has crafted a deeply embedded reliability of the epic that generates respect in the field of literature.

Having been a scholar in a literal field, Millard acquired skills that helped her present data in a unique way. Though a real story, the book builds tension and suspense in a reader just like a fiction novel. The methodology of presenting the chronology of characters and chronological interplays in the story is such an enchanting skill reflecting the author’s aptitude in writing. Irrespective of the reader’s level of details on Garfield's assassination, before exploring the book, the enthralling presentation of ideas in “Destiny of the Republic” remains tantamount.

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The suspense developed is built on the flow of ideas and events among the primary and secondary people playing a role in the story development. The primary characters in the book include Garfield, Guiteau and Doctor Bliss. Guiteau and Dr. Bliss are the principal culprits in the events that lead to the death of Garfield. The whole story revolves around Garfield pronouncing him the key player on the book theme development. Secondary persons in this book include the two scientists, Joseph Lister and Graham Bell. The author involves the scientists’ role to reflect on the strong stand that the American communities hand on disqualifying reasonable science facts.

The environment surrounding Garfield's “medical team”, equivocally termed as the natural setting of a hospital, was totally in disagreement with Lister’s postulate on bacteria and infection. This leaves the reader questioning the audacity to which the medical team based their argument. Little appreciation of Lister’s Theory would have reduced the bacterial annexation on the wound, probably saving the president. Graham Bell toiled philanthropically to save the president’s life by inventing the bullet detector only to be inhibited from realizing his dream by Bliss. Involving the secondary persons adds the value of the missing links to what succumbed Garfield to death.

The Themes of the Book "Destiny of the Republic"

The author has managed to communicate the themes of the book: assassination, arrogance, and denigration of the scientific discoveries, in a concise approach.  Millard’s presentation of the argument leaves the reader convinced that the medical team malpractice and ignorance amplified the infection in Garfield wound which culminated in his death. Therefore, the author has managed to maintain the flow of ideas in a way that ensnares the reader’s interest and attention.

The book can be said to be full of ideas, which are informative, hilarious, engrossing and evoking. In a contemporary analysis, it is unbelievable to come into terms how such a straightforward security flaw could have occurred and how ignorant the American health system was. This question evokes the feeling of appreciating the current development of security and health systems in America and the world at large.


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