Though he wasn’t president for long (March 1881 – September 1881), and though his presidency didn’t have much impact, James Garfield’s administration had the best impact to length in office ratio of all presidents. Losing no electoral votes, he was a real “president’s president”. Here are 10 things we miss about the Garfield Administration.
Easter Sausage Rolling on the White House Lawn
We all love Easter Eggs, but James Garfield had the right idea when it came to rolling things across tracts of land. Why not play with something you can eat afterward? Although a vegetarian, Garfield understood the importance of a meat heavy diet and didn’t want the children of D.C. to endure what he had to. This short lived tradition led to the invention of the modern sausage roll. Garfield felt it necessary to keep the revered sausage from actually touching the ground so he ordered the sausages to be wrapped in a savory pastry. It took 27 chefs, 24 butchers, and and a dozen bakers nearly 2 weeks to make the amount of sausage rolls needed for the event. Of course Garfield, being the wise man he was, made sure to provide eggs for vegetarians such as himself.
One Unified Dakota
For decades, North Dakota has been a prized vacation destination for families across America. But back when the North and South Dakotas were unified, Americans didn’t have to choose between which version of paradise they wanted to visit. Unfortunately, a split between the two halves was inevitable, as revenue from Mt. Rushmore was diverted to fund projects in the Northern part of the state, including the ill-fated Mt. Rushmore 2. Garfield was the last president to successfully negotiate peace treaties between the co-governors to forestall the Dakota Civil War. A monumental feat considering that having wars between states was a popular trend at the time. Unfortunately, since Garfield’s administration, things have taken a turn for the worse. Thanks a lot, Chester A. Arthur.
Two foreign diplomats for every domestic diplomat
The world was growing, and the ideologies of other nations grew with it. How else can one keep up with the world except to send the noble American Diplomat? Congress’s theory was that there was a real need to build relations with the American people. But Garfield disagreed. He believed in focusing on the outside world. After all, if the American people didn’t approve of the job he was doing, he would find out about it within the next four years. Although he meant that the people would speak at the polls, a different, yet very clear, message was sent by the end of his first year. Some guy shot him.
Attorney General Wayne MacVeagh
What’s there to say about Wayne MacVeagh but that his term as Attorney General was short, as all terms of Government service should be, and he resigned of his own free will, as all Government employees should. Why couldn’t he have stuck around longer to resign even more?
The decrease in political assassinations
James Garfield’s presidency ended with a bang. Starting with Lincoln’s assassination, all elected officials knew that when they filled out their application for a discount at the cafeteria, they also needed to fill out a last will and testament. Garfield had the foresight, though, to sign the “Prosecution Act”, which legally allowed the Federal Government to prosecute all would be assassins and “ne’er do wells”. Fortunately for Charles J. Guiteau, this act was signed months before he took out his anger on yet another President. Since this signing very few Presidents have been assassinated, all thanks to Garfield’s forward thinking.
First Lady Lucretia Garfield’s “Weekend” Presidencies
As we all know people need to take the weekend off to rest and stay in compliance with labor laws. Since this is the case with government officials, an unemployed First Lady Lucretia Garfield would take over on the weekends. After the President was shot he lay ill, waiting to die. Lucretia took over most of his duties full time, essentially becoming the very FIRST 5 foot 4 inch president. Many of the bills she signed into law were never enacted, as such things would be completely illegal, but they became traditions, nonetheless. Wearing white after Labor Day is still a major social taboo, as well as mail fraud. In the 1970’s, Blood Sweat and Tears wrote a hit song about Lucretia’s exploits, a ballad entitled “Sometimes in Winter”.
Now, we know that ole Stephen Foster was long gone by this time, but most Northerners would have hardly known who he was. Information didn’t move quite as fast as it does now that the Internet is up and running. Amazingly, it only took 20 years for “Camp Town Races” to rise in popularity through the entire nation, that’s 8 years quicker than the average hit during the 19th century. Part of its meteoric success had to do with James A. Garfield’s substitution of “Hail to the Chief” for the soon to be Foster classic. And who ever said Republicans don’t have good taste in music?
A Brand. New. Navy.
It was even the slogan Garfield ran on. A lofty goal that just enough of the nation could get behind to take him “sailing” to the White House. However, once in the office, the logistics of replacing every ship, person, and tradition with an entirely new navy started to ‘sink’ in. No one liked the old navy. And even though he didn’t actually make good on the campaign promise, the sentiment that we should get rid of the foul mouthed, unpurposeful wusses/sissies lives on with us to this day.
The Era of Anti-hibition
Back in the days of “real” alcohol people really knew how to have a good time. Now, this might be a carry over from Ulysses S. Grant’s term, but no one can deny that Garfield let whatever happen happen. There were many fledgling ‘scientists’ who were saying that the concoctions being imported from the backwoods of the fallen South were not suitable for human consumption. And very few clergy from any denomination condoned partaking in such near suicidal drink. But Garfield saw the “hog sweat” as a way to get an influx of funds into the South to speed Reconstruction, and to help the North forget they were still living in the 1800s.
Every visitor to the White House was greeted by the President with a great, big, warm, hug. James Garfield was renowned for perfecting a proper scent so as not to overwhelm the embraced with an obnoxious odor. He never let his personal musk or a floral aroma overtake anyone’s nostrils. He knew to give a strong, firm, yet loose, embrace. He made it a point to let the hugged break off the hug. After being shot, Garfield realized his strength was waning and so had Thomas Edison invent an animatronic hugging machine to take his place at the White House doors. Though it was ultimately inoperable, it is now on display at his grave. Creepy? Maybe a little. But it is the kind of personal touch we still miss about the good ole days of the Garfield administration.
Good or bad, James A. Garfield touched the hearts of each and every American citizen for all time. No one could deny his humanity; in that when someone shot him, he eventually died. When we learn about this great American hero in elementary school we seem to only hear about the missteps and minor faux pas that have been blown out of proportion, but here at TheReleventist we tip our beaver fur top hats to one of the Great American Presidents, James Anderlucious Garfield.
- Bill Matson