Ohio History Journal

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6




James A. Garfield:

Lifting the Mask




The Garfield Orbit: The Life of President James A. Garfield. By Margaret

L.eech and Harry J. Brown. (New York: Harper & Row, 1978. xi +

369p.: illustrations. notes, index. $15.00.)

Garfield. By Allan Peskin. (Kent: Kent State University Press. 1978. x +

716p.: notes, sources listed. index. $20.00.)




Had Garfield, Arthur, Harrison and Hayes been young' Or had they all been born

with flowing whiskers, sideburns, and wing collars, speaking gravely from the

cradle of their mother's arms the noble vacant sonorities of far-seeing statesman-

ship? It could not be. Had they not all been young men in the'Thirties. the'Forties,

and the 'Fifties? Did they not, as we. cry out at night along deserted roads into

demented winds'? Did they not, as we, cry out in ecstasy and exultancy, as the full

measure of their hunger, their potent and inchoate hope, went out into that single

wordless cry'?


Along with other political leaders of the Gilded Age these "Four Lost

Men" of whom Thomas Wolfe writes have again become the source of a

flourishing historical industry. The men that Matthew Josephson collec-

tively and disparagingly referred to in 1938 as "The Politicos" are one by

one having their historical reputations refurbished -perhaps regilded-in

massive and scholarly biographies. Two new books on James A. Garfield,

Civil War hero, Republican leader in the House of Representatives, and

briefly President in 1881, are distinguished contributions to this effort.

"For who was Garfield, martyred man, and who had seen him in the streets

of life'? Who could believe his footfalls ever sounded on a lonely pave-

ment'?" One can assure the Wolfean romantic that James A. Garfield. he of

the "flowing whiskers" and the "noble vacant sonorities of far-seeing

statesmanship," had indeed cried out "in ecstasy and exultancy" as a young


Robert D. Marcus is Associate Professor of History and Dean for Undergraduate Studies

at State University of New York at Stony Brook.



1. Thomas Wolfe. "The Four lost Men." From Death to Morning (New York. 1935), 126