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More Difficult & More Brave

March 3, 2016

President Garfield was six feet tall with a disproportionate amount of height in his torso. He would have been lean at 185 pounds, but by the end of August 1881 he was an emaciated 130.  Surely he could not last another month.

On July 2 someone who identified with Vice President Arthur’s faction had shot Garfield in the back. As he was being seized the assassin proclaimed, “I am a Stalwart, and Arthur will be President.” Arthur was not involved in the assassination, but people blamed him for siding with the Stalwarts in Congress against Garfield’s administration. If Arthur had supported Garfield, there would have been no motive for a mentally unstable hanger-on to assassinate the President. In late August, someone Arthur had never met sent him a letter which informed him in no uncertain terms that this was the case.

“The day he was shot, the thought rose in a thousand minds that you might be the instigator of the foul act. Is not that a humiliation which cuts deeper than any bullet can pierce? Your best friends said: ‘Arthur must resign – he cannot accept office, with such a suspicion resting upon him.’ And now your kindest opponents say: ‘Arthur will try to do right’ – adding gloomily – ‘He won’t succeed, though – making a man President cannot change him.’”

These were harsh words, but as Arthur read further, he detected a note of encouragement.

“Faith in your better nature forces me to write to you – but not to beg you to resign. Do what is more difficult & more brave. Reform!”

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