The first comprehensive biography in decades of the extraordinary, tragic life of America’s twentieth president—James Garfield.
In this magisterial biography, C.W. Goodyear charts the life and times of one of the most remarkable Americans ever to win the Presidency. Progressive firebrand and conservative compromiser; Union war hero and founder of the first Department of Education; Supreme Court attorney and abolitionist preacher; mathematician and canalman; crooked election-fixer and clean-government champion; Congressional chieftain and gentleman-farmer; the last president to be born in a log cabin; the second to be assassinated. James Abram Garfield was all these things and more.
Over nearly two decades in Congress during a polarized era—Reconstruction and the Gilded Age—Garfield served as a peacemaker in a Republican Party and America defined by divisions. He was elected President to overcome them. He was killed while trying to do so.
President Garfield is American history at its finest. It is about an impoverished boy working his way from the frontier to the Presidency; a progressive statesman, trying to raise a more righteous, peaceful Republic out of the ashes of civil war; the tragically imperfect course of that reformation, and the man himself; a martyr-President, whose death succeeded in nudging the country back to cleaner, calmer politics.
From Radical to Unifier
“An extremely timely book. In an era polarized like our own, James Garfield went from being a firebrand to an architect of compromise and healing. Goodyear chronicles his evolution in a meticulously researched appraisal.”
– Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of Steve Jobs
“Meticulously researched and brilliantly narrated, Goodyear’s account weaves together a fascinating figure of towering talents with the extraordinary times in which he lived.”
– Stanley McChrystal, General, US Army (Retired)
Founder and CEO of McChrystal Group
“Goodyear relates his subject’s life in fascinating, comprehensive detail. . . . A masterful portrait of a man of great intellect, patience, and ability who should not be overlooked by history.”
― Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Mr. Goodyear has given us an eloquent and moving biography of our 20th president. Born and raised in rural poverty, Garfield raised himself up by his bootstraps, fought as a general in the Civil War, rose to leadership in postwar Congresses…and suffered martyrdom by assassination that launched the beginnings of the end of the system that killed him. Goodyear’s lucid prose disentangles the complexities and ambiguities of this story.”
– James McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom