James A. Garfield: 5 Accomplishments

James A. Garfield accomplishments

James A. Garfield, 20th US President, is mostly remembered for being assassinated while in office. Regardless of his brief tenure, President James A. Garfield was still able to attain some pretty good milestone for his nation. Worldhistoryedu.com presents to you five major accomplishments of President James A. Garfield.

Steered his administration in a very independent and objective manner

Upon entering the White House in March 1881, Garfield continued the civil service reforms started by his predecessor President Rutherford B. Hayes.

He stood his grounds and opposed Conkling’s Patronage Machine. Roscoe Conkling was a very powerful New York Senator and a member of the “Stalwarts” (conservative politicians). President Garfield refused appointing a friend of Conkling to the position of collector of the Port of New York.

By so doing, Garfield was able to stamp his authority and elevate the office of the president above the traditional courtesy that the senate used to have in making government appointments. He fought hard and refused caving into the pressures from political factions in the Republican Party for office positions (i.e. the Patronage System).

Turned the U.S. Navy into a power to reckon with

Although his presidency was the second briefest in history, Garfield was still able to commit huge investments into the U.S. Navy.

Supported the gold standard

He worked brilliantly with his Treasury Secretary William Windom to refinance government bonds that saved the nation about $10 million a year. That figure was equivalent to about 5 percent of the U.S. GDP at the time.

Cleaned up the corruption in the post office

Garfield allowed for unbiased investigation into the Star Route scandal that rocked the Post Office Department in 1881. As at the time, the department was the most bloated and inefficient department in the U.S. Garfield worked to change this and clean up the corruption that had plagued the post office. He gave investigators the permission to follow the evidence and go after anyone who was implicated in the Star Route scandal.

Pushed for Civil rights for African Americans

Right from his early days as a staunch Unionist in the Civil War, Garfield had always supported policies and legislature that protected the political and economic rights of African Americans. His brief presidency was no different. He appealed a lot to Southern politicians to improve the lot of freedmen in their respective states. Garfield also devoted considerable amount of time and resources to educational policies for African Americans across the country. Had he stayed on in office longer, he most likely would have initiated policies to the benefit of African Americans across the U.S.

James A. Garfield accomplishments

Here are a few more accomplishments of James A. Garfield:

  • He supported the use of technology to boost America’s agriculture yield.
  • James A. Garfield appointed a U.S. Supreme Court justice – Justice Stanley Matthews.
  • He proposed the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, which was later completed and  signed by his successor, Chester A. Arthur.

Other Noteworthy Facts about James A. Garfield

  • His name is often mentioned in the four “lost presidents” which include Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester B. Arthur, and William H. Harrison. Those presidents’ terms in the White House have been considered anything but uneventful.  The term “lost presidents” was coined by Thomas Wolfe, an American novelist.
  • His assassination came about 3 months after he was sworn into office. Unfortunately, that places him second on the list of shortest serving U.S. presidents of all time. He comes behind President William H. Harrison (9th US President).
  • James Garfield fell in the canal at least 14 times while working as a mull boy on a canal boat.
  • He was an ordained minister in the Disciples of Christ church.
  • He came from a very poor family in present-day Cleveland, Ohio. And of all U.S. presidents, he is probably the one who came from absolutely nothing and made his way to the top. His predecessor Rutherford B. Hayes described Garfield as “the ideal self-made man”.
  • While in the U.S. House, he maintained close relationship with the eastern “Gold Bug” Republicans – a group of republicans who supported the use of gold to back the paper currency issued in the country.
  • President Garfield’s Secretary of War was Robert T. Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln.
  • Garfield also lent his support to the Compromise of 1877 that saw a special electoral commission rule in favor of Rutherford B. Hayes during the 1876 contested presidential election. Click this link to read more about the Compromise of 1877.
  • President James A. Garfield was survived by his wife, five children and mother. Interestingly, his mother, Eliza Ballou Garfield, died seven years after James’ death. All five children of his went on to be very successful in their respective careers. For example, his son James Jr. served as US President Theodore Roosevelt’s secretary of the Interior.
  • From the time that he was shot to the time that he died was 80 days.

James A. Garfield facts

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