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July 11, 1881. Extra! Extra! Read All About It!
Oh, dear, it’s true! Our new president (who has only been in office about six months or so) was assassinated this last summer. It happened on July 2, 1881. Mitch, Cory, Jenny, and I had just returned from our ill-fated Trouble with Treasure adventure, and Jenny had left the week before. The awful news came over the wire (telegraph) and the Expositor newspaper printed a special edition. At the time, I was more worried about Mitch’s leg than about the president, but now I know how terrible it was. I mean, really! John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln only about fifteen years before. And now another president dies?
President Garfield took office on March 4. After he was shot in July, he lived another two months, until September 19, 1881. But he couldn’t run the country with his injuries. Can you imagine what the people were thinking? Wondering when or if he would die? It seems he had troubles before he was shot too. In May, his wife, Lucretia, caught malaria and something like spinal meningitis. She barely recovered, and they spent some time at the seashore.
Then . . . it happened. A crazy person (aren’t all people who murder presidents crazy?) named Charles Guiteau shot the president twice as he was walking through the railroad station. Once in the back and once in the arm.
Then the crazy fellow yelled that he did it and wanted to be arrested. He thought he would be found not guilty and then be elected president! Now, you tell me. Is that crazy or what? Come to find out, Mr. Guiteau had bought a .44 caliber pistol and had been stalking the president. He was angry that he had not been appointed to one of the positions in the president’s new administration.
Poor President Garfield didn’t have a chance. They could not find one of the bullets (the one in his back), even though Mr. Bell (who invented the telephone) used a metal detector to look for it. The president died of infection, after sweating all summer with a high fever. That sounds awful!
Becoming president of the United States is not a safe occupation. I asked Justin if he ever intends to run for political office, but he just laughed. “My life is at risk enough being a lawyer,” he joked. But there is nothing funny about being a target for revengeful folks, let me tell you!
One time, Justin was the prosecuting attorney. He was so good at his job that the jury found the man guilty of his crime. The trouble was, four years later, it was discovered that the defendant was innocent. Boy oh boy, did Justin ever feel terrible about that. The man vowed to “pay him back” if he ever got out of prison. He got out, all right, and our whole family was in danger from this fellow. Justin tried to help the man restart his life, but he was not willing to forgive the lawyer (Justin) who put him–an innocent man–away.
It is a long and horrid story, and I never want to go through that again. But being in the public eye is not for the faint of heart. People make mistakes: presidents, senators, congressmen, lawyers, judges, and yes . . . even juries. They’re the ones who found the man guilty, but he blamed it on Justin and took it out on us. Maybe some day I’ll tell the whole story.
This incident is not the Procopio revenge story found in Courageous Love. That horrid man was truly guilty and escaped. This story of the innocent man with payback on his mind should be written someday. C’mon, Mrs. M! Get with it! (Or a fan fiction story?)