James Garfield was shot 131 years ago today. Called one of the “Lost Presidents, his assassin was a man who was denied a government job at the US consulate in Paris and decided to retaliate by killing the President. He was President for only 4 months, and died of blood poising 11 weeks later.
After such a short tenure, how much can we actually learn from him? A lot. For years, the Democrats have tried to strip Abe Lincoln of the Republican label and claim there was a "realignment" of the parties. A magical moment when the parties did 180degree flips and switched sides. Some Democrats claim it happened at the turn of the last century, others say it was after the civil rights movement, but many more believe it happened very soon after the Lincoln Presidency. That is where James A. Garfield comes in.
James Garfield was a Lincoln Republican and a General in the Civil War. However , when elected to congress he brefiely was aligned with a group that was known as the Radical Republicans. This group in short, had no sympathy for the Confederacy and fought many of the reconstruction efforts championed by President Johnson. My point: He was more radical than Lincoln, and admitedly so. This is a point that Democrats use to "prove" realignment. However because it is insulting and insane to make that claim lets go to the core of Republican ideology: small government.
Garfield was a fiscal hawk, and gained that reputation while serving on the House Ways and Means Committee. He once summed up his ideology toward government like this "The chief duty of government is to keep the peace and stand out of the sunshine of the people." He was a fierce fighter against the “greenbacks” and believed in sound money and low debt (sound familiar). While President, he refinanced government bonds, buying back maturing bonds and saving enough money to fund 10% of the annual budget. He also was an open supporter of laissez-faire economics, save one disappointing protectionary tariff that was passed due to political necessity, not conviction.
So on the anniversary of President Garfield’s assassination, lets reflect on a lost period in American history. One that had important implications on our nation’s future and was championed by Republicans who stuck to the core beliefs they still believe today.