GARFIELD by Allan Peskin
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Longer, fuller, and, if not forbiddingly academic, drier than Leech & Brown's The Garfield Orbit (see above), this biography of the 20th president maintains that as post-Civil War Congressional leader and Republican factioneer, Garfield was plagued by indecisiveness and ""indiscriminate amiability,"" a judgment Leech and Brown also cite but then overrule when they suggest that Garfield's intellectual openmindedness usually gave way to a firm resolution. What Peskin provides, in his fuller treatment of the Presidential months, is an explicit conclusion that once in the White House, Garfield indeed surprised everyone--especially his New York ""Stalwart"" GOP enemies--by actually taking charge; and, unlike Brown, Peskin identifies the key areas of Latin American relations and refunding the national debt--through low-interest public issues rather than private financiers--as the issues over which Garfield assumed personal jurisdiction. Peskin's treatment of the Civil War and Congressional years is more detailed and more diffuse; however, he shares with Leech and Brown an emphasis on Garfield's commitment to education in general and as a specific cure (along with business enterprise) for the postwar South. Peskin does not claim that Garfield was heroic, but the main effect of the biography--like Leech and Brown's--is to show that he was far more distinguished than might have been thought. The special attraction of Peskin's is its ramified reference value, rather than its study of character.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1977
Publisher: Kent State Univ. Press