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The Presidencies of James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur (American Presidency Series) Hardcover – April 17, 1981

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Doenecke deserves special commendation for skillfully but concisely illuminating the... environment in which these presidents operated." -- Wisconsin Magazine of History

"Expertly summarizes the excellent studies of late nineteenth-century politics and diplomacy published in recent years. -- American Historical Review

From the Back Cover

"Doenecke hammers down the lid on the coffin of the once-popular thesis that economic expansionism shaped foreign policy during these years. Historians of foreign affairs will find the book essential reading."--Paul S. Holbo, editor of Isolationism and Interventionism, 1932-1941

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 244 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (April 17, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700602089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700602087
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,031,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Since he was assassinated very early in his term, it is inappropriate to analyze the Garfield presidency. It would be reduced to statements of his intentions when he took office and speculations regarding how he would have handled events. Although Doenecke spends some time in examining Garfield's personal philosophy, to his credit, it is minimal. He concentrates on one of the greatest problems facing presidents at that time, the federal patronage, which was one of the few things that Garfield managed to do before he was gunned down.

In the era before civil service reform, the change of administration meant that many federal jobs needed to be filled. At the time, they were considered political spoils, to be awarded to individuals who had served the new president in the past or who were expected to serve him in the future. While all presidents used it as a rewards system, they also were frustrated in the number of applicants, and the time it took to deal with them. Therefore, the sections on what Garfield did as president largely deal with his handling of the patronage issues.

While Chester A. Arthur was a compromise candidate for vice president and automatically suspect as presidential material, his presidency suffered from yet another serious problem. Unlike the earlier presidents who died in office, Garfield lingered for some time after he was shot. Eighty days elapsed between the time Garfield was wounded and his death. Furthermore, at times it appeared that he would recover. Therefore, there was over two months of leadership limbo, plenty of time for the government to drift. During this time, Arthur's hands were tied, as there was no precedent concerning an incapacitated president.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rule 62 Ken on April 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In The Presidencies of James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur, author Justus D. Doenecke writes a history of the presidential administration from 1881 to 1885 that is nothing if not thorough and detailed. Doenecke takes us through the events leading up to the election of the Garfield-Arthur ticket in the election of 1880, then through Garfield's brief tenure in office leading up to his assassination, followed by the workings of the Arthur administration. The book is not a biography of either man. Biographic details are provided in a thumbnail sketch and we learn nothing about either man that we didn't already know. Details of Garfield's assassination are described in more detail and in a more entertaining manner in books like Candice Millard's "Destiny of the Republic." But where this author excels is in his pedantic and scholarly dissection of every major and minor issue of the presidential term both domestically and in the field of foreign affairs.

On the international front, the author leaves the impression that these presidents did not drive the bus of foreign policy, but rather left it up to their Secretaries of State: first the fullback-like diplomacy of James G. Blaine (for whom the goal line was his electoral aspirations in the 1884 contest), and later the more refined and better considered policies of Frederick T. Frelinghuysen. The author gives us a complete accounting of this administration's diplomatic trials and tribulations on many fronts internationally, including South America, Mexico, China, Korea, Cuba, Ireland, Madagascar, and the Congo, all the while playing alternate games of bluff poker and chess with the great European powers.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert Kirk VINE VOICE on February 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm not sure if it was the author or the two presidents lives, but this book was simply not as good as the other presidental books in this series. In all fairness to the author, these were not that interesting of presidents and according to the book, there weren't any tremendous U.S. events that occurred either. So in summary, it's a very brief account of two unremarkable presidents. A decent summary but seems to leave too many facts unknown.
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The Presidencies of James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur (American Presidency Series)
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