A Celebration of Women Writers

"Part VII, Chapter 94." by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-)
From: This country of ours; the story of the United States by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-) New York, George H. Doran company, 1917.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


IN 1877 Rutherford B. Hayes became President. Ever since the Civil War a great part of the South had been in constant turmoil. Soldiers were still stationed in the capitals of the various states, and the carpet-bag government still continued. But Hayes wished to put an end to this. So he got the principal white people in the South to promise that they would help to keep law and order. Then he withdrew all the troops. Without their aid the carpet–bag government could not stand, and the white men of the South once more began to rule in the South.

Hayes President, 1877-81

Carpet-bag government comes to an end

President Hayes also tried to lessen the evil of the "spoils system." In this he met a good deal of opposition. But the system of passing examinations was begun for some posts.


After the troublous times that had gone before this was a time of peace, in which for the first time since the War North and South seemed once more united.


In 1881 James Garfield became President. Like other Presidents before him, his boyhood had been one of poverty and hard work. But from doing odd labouring jobs, or tending barge horses on the Ohio Canal, he had gradually worked upwards. He had been barge-boy, farmer, carpenter, school teacher, lawyer and soldier, having in the Civil War reached the rank of general. At thirty-two he entered Congress, and there soon made his mark.

Garfield President, 1881;

Now he had become President, and as soon as he took up his office he was besieged by office seekers. They thronged his house, they stopped him in the street, button-holed him in railway carriages. They flattered, coaxed, threatened, and made his life a burden.

he is besieged by office seekers;

But in spite of all this worrying the new President determined to do what he could to end the "spoils system," and appoint people only for the sake of the public good. Accordingly he made many enemies.


Among the many office-seekers whom the President was forced to disappoint was a weak-minded, bad young man named Guiteau. Garfield saw plainly that he was quite unfit to fill any government post, and he refused to employ him. Thereupon Guiteau's heart was filled with hate against the President. He brooded over his wrongs till his hate became madness, and in this madness he determined to kill his enemy.


Since he took up office the President had been hard at work. Now in July he determined to take a short holiday in New England, and visit Mrs. Garfield, who had been ill, and had gone away for a change of air.


On Saturday, the 2nd of July, the morning on which he was going to set out, he awoke in excellent spirits. Before he got up one of his sons came into his room. The boy took a flying leap over his father's bed.


"There," he said with a laugh, "you are the President of the United States, but you can't do that."


"Can't I?" said the President.


And he got up and did it.


In the same good spirits he drove to the station.


As he walked along the platform a man with an evil look on his face followed him. Suddenly a pistol shot was heard, and a bullet passed through the President's sleeve, and did no harm. It was quickly followed, however, by a second, which hit the President full in the back, and he fell to the ground. The President was sorely wounded, but not killed. A mattress was quickly brought, and he was gently carried to the White House.

he is wounded, July 2nd;

Then a message was sent to Mrs. Garfield, telling her what had happened, and bidding her come home. She and her daughter had been happily awaiting the President's coming to them. Now everything was changed, and in sorrow and haste they went to him.


For nearly three months President Garfield lingered on. At times he seemed much stronger, and those who loved him believed he would recover. But by degrees their hopes faded, and in September he died.

he dies, 19th Sept., 1881

Once again the sorrowing nation followed their President to the grave, and once again the Vice-President took office as President.


The new President was named Chester A. Arthur, and on taking office he was less known to the country than any President before him. He came to office in a time of peace and prosperity, and although nothing very exciting happened during his presidency he showed himself both wise and patriotic.

Arthur President, 1881-5

The best thing to remember him for is his fight against the "spoils system." Ever since Grant had been President men who loved their country, and wanted to see it well served, had fought for civil service reform.

Civil service reform

Garfield's sad death made many people who had not thought of it before see that the "spoils system" was bad. For it had been a disappointed seeker of spoils who killed him. So at last in 1883 a law was passed which provided that certain appointments should be made by competitive examinations, and not given haphazard. At first this law only applied to a few classes of appointments. But by degrees its scope was enlarged until now nearly all civil service appointments are made through examinations.



Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This book has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this book were the work of volunteers at
Ambleside Online.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom