Knowing the Presidents: James Garfield

James Garfield

Twentieth President, 1881


Rutherford B. Hayes declined to run again, so the Republicans turned to James Garfield, who was attractive, eloquent, and untainted by scandals.

Although Garfield followed tradition by not campaigning in the modern sense, he delivered speeches at his house in Ohio during the so-called “Front Porch Campaign.”


Rivalries within the Republican Party posed problems for James Garfield. Roscoe Conkling, governor of New York and leader of the Stalwarts, supported the use of state resources to reward individuals for their electoral support, which put him in direct opposition to civil service reform, one of Garfield’s major goals.

Shortly after Garfield assumed the presidency, the Star Route Scandal erupted, in which it became known that federal contracts were given to private stagecoach and wagon agencies involved in serving isolated areas of the West. Essentially, postal route contracts were being sold in return for payoffs.

Major Acts:

Although he was assassinated before he could do much, James Garfield defeated his party rivals in the Senate and consolidated executive power.


The  dramatic assassination of James Garfield, a mere 100 days after he assumed office, remains his distinguishing legacy.