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

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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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: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,584,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Their names seem interchangeable—James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur. They even share the same middle initial. They’re among the presidents of the Gilded Age--bearded, bland, mostly ex-Civil War generals. Novelist Thomas Wolfe referred to them as “the lost Americans: their gravely vacant and bewhiskered faces mixed, melted, swam together . . . which was which?” The Gilded Age was the time when the captains of industry (Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, et al) were more familiar to the American public than our presidents. The federal government itself seemed to have forgotten its purpose having copped a laissez-faire attitude, and watched Big Business dominate the times. That’s the impression, but a renewed interest in the Gilded Age is shedding new light on the period. This book is one of the results. “Some readers will find this book quite revisionist,” writes the author, “for it presents a renewed appreciation of both Garfield and Arthur.” The author, historian Justus D. Doenecke, fleshes out the two presidents in this well-written and relatively short (184 pages) book.

James A. Garfield was far from everyone’s first choice as the Republican’s presidential nominee in the 1880 election. “The presidential candidate was seldom chosen for firmness or executive grasp or for clarity of national vision,” writes Doenecke, “but rather because he could appeal to conflicting voting blocs.” The Republican delegates had a hard time deciding who that would be. It wasn’t until the 34th ballot that Garfield received his party’s nomination. His running mate—Chester A. Arthur—was chosen to appease an unhappy faction known as “the Salwarts.
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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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Format: Hardcover
Justus Doenecke drew one of the harder assignments in Kansas’ splendid “American Presidency Series” with the “The Presidencies of James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur.” First published in 1981, Doenecke looks at how the two Gilded Age Republicans led in the White House and offers a bit of a contrarian view. With his adroit rise through Congress and his brilliance (and perhaps his academic credentials), Garfield is often seen as a potentially good president who stood up to Roscoe Conkling on civil service reform before being shot. Doenecke shows a much weaker president, especially as Secretary of State James Blaine blundered in South America (aided by a bad team of ambassadors including Civil War general Hugh Judson Kilpatrick in Chile). Arthur is portrayed as a far more stable helmsmen, especially with the much underrated Frederick T. Frelinghuysen as Blaine’s replacement. Doenekce also shows how the Navy was improved under Arthur and his adroit Navy Sec. William Chandler. There is some mention of domestic affairs, including civil rights and government reform, the book is far better on foreign policy, a surprise in a book on 19th century presidents. While he does not attempt to portray either man as a great or a potentially great president, Doenekce offers a convincing case that Garfield and, especially, Arthur were far better in office than generally considered and important transitional figures. Recommended.
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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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