History Unplugged Podcast
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James Garfield – Overlooked for his Short Presidency – Was the Most Beloved Politician of Reconstruction

August 03, 2023
00:00 01:04:29
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James Garfield was the last president born in a log cabin, and was raised by a poor widow on Ohio’s rugged Western Reserve. By his late twenties, he had become a respected preacher, state senator, and college president, and, after the Civil War broke out, joined the Union Army to help eradicate the “monstrous injustice of human slavery.” Soon Garfield was the youngest general fighting for the Union, and before war’s end was its youngest Congressman—as well as one of its most progressive. He helped establish equal citizenship and voting rights for Black Americans, and became one of the most powerful leaders of the postwar Republican Party. By 1880, Garfield was not only Minority Leader of the House, but also a practicing Supreme Court attorney, the founder of the Department of Education, the creator of a proof of the Pythagorean theorem, a Senator-elect, and (unwillingly) the Republican nominee for President. A more compelling “American Dream” story among Presidents does not exist.

Garfield’s personal achievements are even more notable given the turmoil surrounding his ascent to power. He was the only major American politician who held national office for all of Reconstruction and the start of the Gilded Age. A crucial pragmatist of a divided era, he even brokered the peaceful but controversial settlement of the country’s first disputed Presidential election in 1876. “To be an extreme man is doubtless comfortable,” Garfield once remarked before his assassination. “It is painful to see so many sides to a subject.” The parallels between his time and our own are easy to spot. To explore forgotten aspects of Garfield’s life is today’s guest, C.W. Goodyear, author of “President Garfield: From Radical to Unifier.”

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Meet Your Host
Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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