I read Destiny of the Republic directly after reading [b:The President Is a Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman Who Dared Expose the Truth|10146243|The President Is a Sick Man Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman Who Dared Expose the Truth|Matthew Algeo|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1328752027s/10146243.jpg|15044505]. Destiny of the Republic was referenced in The President is a Sick Man, and the two books go very nicely together, especially if one is looking at history through the lens of medicine. Taken together, these two books really make one appreciate the evolution of medicine.
in addition to offering me more insight into 19th century medicine in the United States, Destiny of the Republic introduced me to President Garfield, one of those post-Lincoln presidents who are mostly overlooked historical footnotes. This man was absolutely fascinating! The strength of his character, his idealism, and his good-naturedness were all inspiring! The more I learned about Garfield, the more proud I became that Americans chose someone like him to be president. I was sad when the author covered his death, and I couldn't help but wonder what his legacy would have been if he had not been killed. The murder of a good man, and the "what if" is what makes this story so tragic.
I did feel like the book focused a bit too much on Alexander Graham Bell. Granted, he did invent a machine that was used on Garfield to try to locate the bullet, but his contribution to this particular case didn't seem to warrant all the ink the author gave it. Yes, his invention ultimately became a standard tool in medicine, but "ultimately" is the key word here. Millard, in my opinion, would have done better to minimize the stuff about Bell in this
book, and maybe write a different work about Bell.
I also felt like Millard was not quite dispassionate when it came to Dr. Bliss. It did seem a little like Millard was holding Bliss responsible for the President's death, and, no doubt, if he'd have been practicing medicine today, he'd be accused of malpractice. Maybe his treatment plan was even awful for the time, but no one seems to have made a real effort to remove Bliss from his position, and that leaves me asking, why not? Did Bliss's contemporaries find his methods as irresponsible and self-serving as Millard seems to indicate they were, or does she look at Dr. Bliss and his treatment plan through the lens of modern medical practices? I just can't tell where scorn for Bliss comes from history, and where it comes from Millard.
I am very glad that I read this book. I got some education, a renewed faith that sometimes the American people choose exceptional people to lead them, and I got a new president to admire.