Destiny of the Republic Book Summary - Destiny of the Republic Book explained in key points

Destiny of the Republic summary

Candice Millard

Brief summary

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard is a gripping account of the life and assassination of President James A. Garfield. Millard expertly weaves together history, politics, and medicine to tell an intriguing story of tragedy and resilience.

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    Destiny of the Republic
    Summary of key ideas

    Murder and Madness in the White House

    In Destiny of the Republic, Candice Millard takes us on a historical journey, unfolding the tragic story of the twentieth U.S. President James A. Garfield. His presidency, promising and full of potential, gets cut short by an assassin's bullet. But ironically, it isn't the bullet that becomes fatal. Instead, it's the unclean and unhygienic conditions prevailing in medicine during the time, leading to a painful infection.

    Millard explores the assassin, Charles Julius Guiteau. Manifesting clear signs of madness, he confidently anticipates acquittal and expects to become the next president. Guiteau achieves notoriety through a preposterous legal defense revolving around the argument that he did not kill President Garfield—the doctors did.

    A System Riddled with Patronage

    The book also delves into how the spoils system, a practice providing political supporters with official jobs, virtually offers Garfield's presidency to Guiteau on a silver platter. Guiteau, after failing to secure any such job, blames this disappointment for his decision to shoot Garfield, intending to install Vice President Chester Arthur, whom he believes will repay him with a lucrative position.

    Meanwhile, we see President Garfield showing exceptional endurance and strength throughout his long and unfortunate ordeal, revealing the true mettle of his character. He continues executing presidential duties and even tries to attend to matters of state despite his declining health.

    A Leap Forward in Medicine

    Destiny of the Republic also sheds light on the enormous advances in medical science brought by this crisis. The lack of understanding around antisepsis causes the prolonged suffering and untimely death of President Garfield. His physicians, notably Dr. Doctor Willard Bliss, disregard the sterilization practices proposed by British surgeon Joseph Lister, leading to sepsis and, ultimately, death.

    In response to this medical catastrophe, Alexander Graham Bell invents the Induction Balance in a race against time to locate the bullet lodged in Garfield's body without resorting to invasive procedures. Tragically, Bliss's stubborn refusal to accept other opinions prevents the device from functioning effectively, consequently failing to save Garfield's life.

    Impact and Legacy

    Garfield's death ushers in sweeping changes in American politics. Vice President Chester Arthur ascends to the presidency, and contrary to expectations, works hard to dismantle the spoils system that indirectly led to Garfield's assassination. The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act is then enacted in 1883, ending patronage appointments in favor of merit-based government jobs.

    In conclusion, Destiny of the Republic offers a harrowing but enlightening narrative of President James A. Garfield's life and death. Candice Millard masterfully explores the intersection of politics, madness, and medicine in the late 19th century. The unfortunate circumstances of Garfield's death initiate a much-needed evolution in political and medical practices, leaving a lasting legacy.

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    What is Destiny of the Republic about?

    Destiny of the Republic tells the gripping story of the assassination of President James A. Garfield and the extraordinary medical and political drama that followed. Through meticulous research and vivid storytelling, Candice Millard brings to life the characters and events that shaped this pivotal moment in American history. It is a fascinating exploration of power, ambition, and the tragic consequences of one man's destiny colliding with the fate of a nation.

    Destiny of the Republic Review

    Destiny of the Republic (2011) by Candice Millard is a captivating historical account of the life and death of President James A. Garfield. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • It offers a gripping narrative that seamlessly weaves together politics, history, and biography, making it both entertaining and informative.
    • Through meticulous research and detailed storytelling, the book sheds light on the lesser-known aspects of Garfield's presidency and the medical practices of the time.
    • Engaging and enlightening, it presents a complex portrait of Garfield's character, revealing his intelligence, integrity, and the immense tragedy surrounding his assassination.

    Who should read Destiny of the Republic?

    • History buffs looking to learn about lesser-known American presidents
    • Readers interested in the medical advancements and challenges of the late 19th century
    • Those who enjoy narratives that blend politics, medicine, and biography

    About the Author

    Candice Millard is an American author and journalist known for her compelling historical narratives. With a background in both history and journalism, Millard has a talent for bringing the past to life through her engaging storytelling. She has written several acclaimed books, including "Destiny of the Republic," which explores the assassination of President James A. Garfield, and "The River of Doubt," which chronicles Theodore Roosevelt's harrowing journey through the Amazon. Millard's works have received widespread praise for their meticulous research and vivid portrayal of historical events.

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    Destiny of the Republic FAQs 

    What is the main message of Destiny of the Republic?

    The main message of Destiny of the Republic is the story of President James A. Garfield's assassination and its impact on American history.

    How long does it take to read Destiny of the Republic?

    The reading time for Destiny of the Republic varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Destiny of the Republic a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Destiny of the Republic is a captivating read that sheds light on a lesser-known chapter of American history. It combines thorough research with engaging storytelling.

    Who is the author of Destiny of the Republic?

    The author of Destiny of the Republic is Candice Millard.

    What to read after Destiny of the Republic?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Destiny of the Republic, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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