Assassination!: The Brick Chronicle of Attempts on the Lives of Twelve US Presidents (10 page)

BOOK: Assassination!: The Brick Chronicle of Attempts on the Lives of Twelve US Presidents
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Once Garfield was elected, Guiteau believed it only a matter of time before he would be justly rewarded. He wrote letters to Garfield suggesting himself for the consulship to Paris, and traveled to Washington, DC, to join the throngs of office seekers at the White House, each day hoping to gain an audience with the president.

Turned away from the White House, Guiteau began pestering people at the State Department on a daily basis until Secretary of State James G. Blaine himself told Guiteau that Blaine would not consider him for any appointment, and to “never speak about the Paris consulship to me again.”

While in Washington, Guiteau kept up with the latest political news in the papers and became increasingly concerned about Garfield’s struggle for power with Senator Roscoe Conkling and his faction of the Republican Party known as “the Stalwarts.”

Believing the rift to be a grave danger to the health of the Republican Party, it was in this mindset that on May 18, 1881, while laying in bed, Guiteau first had this thought: “If the president were out of the way, everything would go better.” He soon came to believe God had given him a mission.

On June 8, 1881, Guiteau borrowed $15 from an acquaintance and bought himself a pistol, taking care to choose one that looked impressive, believing it would soon be on display in a museum.

Having never owned or fired a gun in his life, Guiteau went down to the banks of the Potomac to practice shooting at the river and at trees.

Guiteau stalked the president for days, eventually following Garfield and the first lady to church. He determined to kill him there, thinking, “There could not possibly be a better place to remove a man than at his devotions.”

As the president and his wife were listening to the sermon, Guiteau noticed an open window that would give him an easy shot at Garfield without accidentally injuring others.

But the sermon being given was not to Guiteau’s liking, and unable to contain himself, he blurted aloud, “What think ye of Christ?” That night in his diary, the president made note of a “dull young man, with a loud voice” who had interrupted the pastor.

Before getting another chance the next Sunday, Guiteau read in the paper that Garfield would be taking his ailing wife to the New Jersey shore to recuperate. Determining when their train would leave, Guiteau lay in wait at the Baltimore and Potomac train station.

But the sight of the enfeebled first lady clinging to the president caused Guiteau to hesitate, and the president and his wife walked past Guiteau without noticing him.

When Garfield returned to Washington at the end of the month, Guiteau took to simply waiting for him on a bench outside the White House.

BOOK: Assassination!: The Brick Chronicle of Attempts on the Lives of Twelve US Presidents
5.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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