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tv   The Presidency Remembering President James Garfield  CSPAN  August 6, 2018 12:00am-12:50am EDT

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subjugation by an armed majority or outside pressures. [applause] and other watch this american history programs on our website where all of our video is archived. that is www.c-span.org/history. >> next on the presidency, a discussion about the complicated and controversial building of a memorial to president james garfield on the u.s. capitol grounds. -- we are from matthew gilmore who edits a history blog. esther garfield was shot in july of 1881 by an office seeker and died from his wounds of the following september. the capitalist orc society hosted this 45 minute program. william: those of you in the d.c. history community no map by
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name, if not in person. he runs a blog, you can access and also he is an author. again, the d.c. history conference, matt has been involved with it. d.c., youistory in also run the d.c. history listserv so thank you for that on behalf of the city. today he is going to be talking about james garfield, his death and efforts to commemorate his life and death here in washington, d.c. i wanted to much more about it because i don't want to steal his steam, so please join me in welcoming matt. [applause] matthew: thank you very much.
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the story i'm going to tell might be ripped from today's recent headlines. there was a presidential memorial delayed for years. caught up in congressional inciting, legislation pending to displace the memorial and replace it with another. they had chosen the site and the design. the designer, without competition. the site was very close to the capital on maryland avenue. the year is 1887, not 2017, and the memorial was one to president garfield and not president eisenhower. james garfield's death was a national shock. he was a struck down less than six months into his term. compromiseda candidate for the presidency and had won the closest election in american history. it was a difficult life but his opitimized the
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rags to riches story. a prototypical, self-made man. this is reflected in a passage from one of his favorite poems. moving from higher to hire becomes a pillar of people's hope. he was a pillar of hope, a refuge from a caustic set of divisions in the republican party. he was a tragic figure of unrealized potential. his term was mired in controversy from the start. his personal life overwrought with the long illness and the death of his first lady. this is the garfield memorial. garfield was shot in the baltimore potomac train station by charlesguiteau on july 2, 1881. he returned to the white house for medical care. guiteau was not a disappointed office seeker, but a quite
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delusional character with dreams of glory is public service. for which he was totally unqualified. the agonizing death of garfield captivated public attention during the summer of 1881. it finally came in september on the 19th in new jersey, after a wretched summer of suffering in the white house. he had been moved, his insistence, when it became clear he would never recover. the body was brought back to the capital. he was only the sixth man to lie in state. this, the second presidential assassination, was in some ways more shocking than the first. guiteau, unlike booth was not seeking revenge for the south's loss in the civil war. here he is laying and stay in the rotunda. calls to create a memorial were immediate. the cumberland veterans who put
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up the statue of a general and erected statue of logan in logan circle led the charge. the filling of washington square with the statues of a war heroes had only begun recently. point.ly five up to that garfield had even attended the grand ceremonial unveiling of the statue that february. the initial fundraising for garfield's memorial dated january 15, 1882. suggested that his statue would be similarly located in a public square in washington. there was a goal of a sum of not less than $200,000, and a very optimistic completion date of three years.
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fundraising efforts for the statue had to compete with a number of other projects such as the memorial hospital and a statue in cleveland. what form and where the memorial would take place was open to question. by 1883, two years after, it was -- the post was invading in an equestrian statue of garfield. thing instead, a garfield fountain at indiana avenue, the eventual site for the statue, at the foot of the west front of the capitol grounds was chosen in 1884. the site itself had only been recently created. the two traffic circles west of the capital, pennsylvania and maryland avenues respectively. they had been created when it was redesigned, designing which had begun in 1874.
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the circle of pennsylvania avenue held the naval monument commemorating naval personnel lost in the civil war. it is often called the peace monument now. the circle of maryland avenue was still empty. in december 1884, the star reported on senate passage of a competing bill for a statue of lafayette. an equestrian statue of lafayette would be cited in that circle displacing the potential garfield memorial. the struggle to retain the site for garfield was not resolved until march 6, 1887. three months before the scheduled dedication. colonel john m. wilson, in charge of the project sent frantic letters to sculptor ward trying to ensure an on time completion and unveiling.
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they remain on file in the national archives. this is the site, west of the capital. i believe it is before the statue was placed there. i want to say it absolutely is. are those trees hiding the memorial? i don't think so, i think this is before it is erected. this is what the area looked like. this is what it looks like now. i took this picture recently. this is the invitation to the unveiling, may 11 and 12th, 1887. john quincy adams ward sculpted the statue of garfield
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representing the aspects of garfield's life. richard morris hunt designed the pedestal for the statue. both men were renowned in their field. ward was known as the dean of american sculpture. the two would collaborate on 13 monuments over a span of 25 years. ward had a prominent place in washington, d.c. public art. he was commissioned by the army of the cumberland to create a statue of general thomas, which was erected in 1879 at thomas circle. garfield's statute does not have quite an imposing location. he considers the garfield monument to be one of the outstanding achievements. beyond the statue there are other legacies of garfield in the city that have come and gone. as soon as the statue was proposed, a hospital was
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suggested as an alternative. garfield had not been taken to a hospital, treating him at home was the standard for the time. washington had no general hospital at the time. there were half a dozen specialized hospitals serving needs of certain populations. the need was apparent. ford's theatre had been closed and turned into a medical museum after the death of president lincoln. a similar idea came after garfield's death. turn the baltimore and potomac station into a hospital. october 5, a public meeting was held to raise support for the project. december 5, a bill was in congress to incorporate garfield memorial hospital. the unhealthiness of the proposed location was soon realized. prominent colleagues of garfield including the secretary of state spearheaded the fundraising
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efforts. efforts were made between various, competing garfield memorialization efforts for the statues in washington, cleveland, and the hospital in washington to do some collaborative fundraising. scattered press reports of each effort folding in favor of the other show the underlying rivalries between the projects. a grand reception and tea party was held may 6, 1882. it was organized by the ladies' aid society. this is not the first. i was hoping this was one of the first receptions of its kind in the returned the -- in the rotunda. there had been others previously. refreshments were held in the rotunda. music was supplied. despite last-minute issues, the event went off brilliantly. according to most accounts, there was 6000 people in attendance. an amusing side note, one of the
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discontented press sniped that using the supreme court chamber as a coat room and statuary hall as a ballroom. with ladies of dubious reputation in attendance, the press suggested a majority of a society people were not there in attendance. the property to locate that garfield hospital netted 60 properties available for just, including bellevue. property in georgetown, and other sites throughout washington city, georgetown, and the suburban farmland to the north, south, and east. ultimately, the elliott snyder property on 10th street, north of florida avenue was chosen and purchased. the hospital opened in june of 1884.
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there is the reception card. there is the hospital. in addition to the statue and the hospital, other commemorations to garfield exist around the city. in the 1880's, real estate development was leapfrogging into suburban washington county. the development was unregulated. giving those involved great latitude to layout and name in -- and name the new neighborhoods. one man named his stretch of land in the hills garfield, in 1882. the streets were named after republican military men. including colonel reynolds, a classmate of general grant at
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point. several other streets in other subdivisions around the city had a streets named after garfield. in 1895, further up the hill from garfield's subdivision, garfield heights was laid out. in 1909, garfield elementary school was built to serve that neighborhood. the randomness of all the suburban development was squelched in the 1890's with the development of highways. as part of the of limitation all street names were regularized. future streets in the district were named. some small garfield streets in various subdivisions, washington heights, and nearby were abolished. garfield was memorialized with a major street in northwest, running across from washington to palisades, to wesley park. the current garfield street that exists.
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garfield was a member of the disciples of christ church, he attended the church on vermont avenue regularly. in 1884, the church he attended, which was then often referred to as garfield memorial church was replaced with a new structure. this building still exists, although occupied by a different organization. garfield memorial church itself evolved into national christian city church on top of the circle, and includes a garfield memorial window. across the city, garfield park, in southeast washington at new jersey and virginia avenues was one of the original reservations of land set aside in plans for the city. it had remained unimproved for most of its existence up to that point.
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in 1874, he saw the opportunity to connect it to the capitol grounds with a park along the site of the old james creek canal. that did not happen, improvements began in 1882, by 1883 the park, which had been previously unnamed, became garfield park. i did not find any documentation as far as a specific naming but that is when they start referring to it as such. garfield was unusual in that he built a home in washington as a congressman. his home was at the corner of i and 13. he built in 1869 and expanded it in 1877. the house was immediately across from franklin square and down the block from franklin school, which also was dedicated october 2, 1869. the site was just a few blocks from the white house, but still on the edge of developing washington.
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it was unusual for that era, for a congressman to build a home in washington. generally only wealthy politicians had a washington home. garfield had a wife, and five young children and decided to make washington his home. after garfield's death, lucretia garfield sold the house to a pioneer in apartment house development in washington. he hired a noted architect to transform the former garfield home into an apartment house. it was inevitably called the garfield. the building was given a new address, so just using the other side. it was a large house, but a small apartment building, only five units. ultimately, that area began a
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long decline, and the building was renamed the atlantic in the 1920's. interesting things happened there, the night manager was convicted of running a body house during world war ii. the garfield connections were forgotten. it was quietly demolished in 1963. that is what the house looked like. it was basically impossible to find any images, this was from a book, you could see general garfield's washington home. this would be 13 street side. additional legacies garfield left washington. i would say if you need a job done, get a garfield. garfield's legacy also was his
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three sons, who provided significant public service in the 20th century. the garfield's had seven children, two of whom died young. the oldest son was harry augustus. as a lawyer, he taught politics at princeton university, where he made the friendship of instant president, -- princeton president woodrow wilson. wilson, as president of the united states called on him to lead the field administration during world war i. while that does not seem like all of that, it was a very powerful position of command and control. managing distribution of coal supplies in the country. hal held the position and resigned in december of 1919. the next garfield son, james, a lawyer and also a politician , served in several republican
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administrations. first, on the civil services commission during william mckinley's presidency. then on theodore roosevelt's commerce and labor commission. then as a secretary of the interior until the end of roosevelt's term in a 1909. james decided to leave at the end of roosevelt's term, rather than serve under taft. he rejoined his third brother in cleveland. abram, the youngest surviving son helped to resurrect washington's development directly. quietly behind the scenes. an architecting cleveland, he quietly had a connection to theodore roosevelt. he was appointed to the national council of fine arts. president roosevelt's ill star predecessor to the national commission of fine arts. the council, through
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presidential executive order of architects met only once. it was to review the sighting of the lincoln memorial before the order was rescinded by the president, william howard taft. abram garfield, writing to his mother, indicated that all disciplines on the commission recognize the fertility of the council and the likelihood that william howard taft would abolish it at the behest of congressional opposition. abram came back and served on the commission of fine arts from 1925-1930 including a stint as vice chair. leading federal government service 50 years after his father's death. garfield's political legacy would seem to be quite thin, since he served effectively as president for only four months. he had been a highly respected military man and legislator. through the distance of time,
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all the circumstances are murky. some of his decisions, some relating to washington seem to have been worth questioning. his dedication to friends could lead him astray. as when he took on the completion of a lobbying job for the firm at the urging of his friend, richard parsons. the patented wooden paving was competing for contracting with the district court of public works. garfield supported shepherd's improving efforts. hoping that in all this and all your efforts to redefine our national city, you may be abundantly successful. garfield wrote to shepherd in june of 1872. garfield also shared the whichriations committee
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controls the district's budget. it did not look good that he earned $5,000 for a small effort for the firm. there are virtually no records as far as what actually transpired. in death, and through the circumstances of his death, there is another significant legacy from garfield. the hilton civil service act -- the civil service act was passed by congress in 1883. it began to read federal employment of a spoiled system. president rutherford hayes, garfield's predecessor, had been a reformer but had so alienated his fellow party members that he stood down for reelection. garfield was too taken up the reform banner, but battled even stronger congressional headwinds. chester arthur, was not a reformer but had been a loyal number of the new york machine.
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it may have been garfield's symbolic martyrdom on the altar of federal employee patronage that so changed the political climate. in retrospect, at the time of garfield's death it was a tragedy of unfulfilled potential. the "washington post," tribute was glowing. this is abram garfield's letter about the council of fine arts. this is kind of symbolic of the way people pictured it. abraham lincoln, welcoming garfield into heaven. i got that picture from the library of congress.
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from their files and it was not really clear where that appeared. it was in the popular press. the garfield family collected and preserved their family papers, along with the family home and mentor. a national historic site has most of them. over the decades, the library of congress continued a long slog to acquire the papers. that includes the papers from the president, first lady, and several sons. charles moore, former acting head of library of congress's manuscript division, in charge of those efforts, wrote in 1942 to abram garfield, a former colleague of his. how pleased he was that the garfield family worked out differences with the library of congress and got the papers to the library. all these papers are there and they include even a lock of hair. the letter book and auditing
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claims for compensation for those who assisted the president are in the national archives as is the the correspondence regarding the resurrection of the statue. ohio gave a statue of garfield for national statuary hall in 1886. several vertebrae from garfield's spine, pierced by the bullet, are on display at the national museum of medical history. in 2006, the national museum of health and medicine commemorated the 125th anniversary of the shooting with an exhibit on garfield's death. exhibited only for 80 days, the same amount of time that garfield suffered and died.
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the equipment that alexander graham bell used to try and find the bullet in garfield is at the national museum of american history. numbers of these commemorations of garfield have vanished. many have been threatened, at least once in their existence. the baltimore and potomac station was poured down in 1908. the national gallery, currently occupies the site. the memorial tablet and formatted star in the station memorializing the shooting have been lost. the star reported the removal in 1897, following a fire in the station. as i noted, garfield's home was transformed into an apartment building and then swept away in the 1960's. the statues of the general have come under attack and number of times.
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garfield's statue was threatened with removal in 1900s, when the mcmillan commission plans had a union square at the base of the capital. it would have swept away both traffic circles. both the naval and garfield monuments. in 1959, congress considered removing the garfield statue again for traffic concerns and referred that to the commission on fine arts. that got dissipated. in 1958, garfield memorial hospital merged into the washington hospital center. it was replaced by a complex, the garfield terrace. designed by a local noted modernist architect. the garfield name is often ignored and the areas frequently called the woodland terrace housing project across the river. garfield neighborhood usually
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called now, woodland. garfield memorial church transformed to the national city christian church. although just the steps away from its previous location. why is garfield so unknown generally? today, such a short time in office illuminated a chance for serious accomplishments. leaving just the lost potential. that lost potential is commemorated in various ways. statues, hospitals. it is valuable and resident to resident --t -- it.nent to those who saw as those people slip away, the appreciation of that lost potential slips away as well. thank you. [applause] questions? >> i've heard it said that garfield may well have been the most brilliant president we ever
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had. i have heard the legend that he could speak greek and latin. i even heard that he could write with one hand in latin and one hand in greek. is there any truth to any of those legends about him? matthew: he was very intelligent and very well educated. i am not sure about writing in a two different languages with two different hands. he was very well educated, particularly for his time. you saw that on his monument they commemorate those aspects of his life and career. >> i'm a native washingtonian, i seem to remember as a child, seeing in the national gallery of art, a plaque saying on this spot resident garfield was
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assassinated. i'm wondering if that is a false memory? i think garfield's main legacy is his civil rights stand. he was strong for the rights of the free man. he resisted the efforts of the south to overcome reconstruction. what is your perspective on that? matthew: the national gallery question is easier. i don't believe there has ever been a marker in the national gallery. the site itself is in the middle of constitution avenue. from all i have heard, read, and seen, the national gallery resists including that kind of commemoration there. i am not quite sure why. that is the impression that i have been given, from what i have read and seen. there have been efforts to
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various people to put a new marker, probably closer to the apex building. putting a marker in the middle of the street would be kind of moot. as far as a civil rights career, he served for a number of years in congress, house and senate. i did not go deeply into that part of it. i was starting basically with how did we end up with this man as president and what happened subsequently. i can't really address that substantively, i am sorry. >> i'm sorry if i missed what you might have said. what are the memorials or what
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is in his home state? matthew: in his home state -- that is where he is buried. there is a statue in cleveland as well. it looks a bit like the one here. his house, it is a national historical site. that was before presidential libraries existed. all the manuscript materials were acquired by the library of congress as part of their efforts. >> where is the house located in ohio? matthew: mentor, ohio.
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>> there is a museum next to it that is really well done. i took a tour of it in connection with a conference i was attending. i have to say, it is one of the most beautiful, i don't know what you would call it, maybe arts and crafts style, it is very eclectic. inside, it is the most beautiful decor from the 1880's and 1890's. seeing that by gaslight is the way to do it. if you can ever get there, my understanding is that fundraisers gave a pile of money to lucretia garfield as a way of thanking the family for the martyred president. they spent it well. it is just a beautiful home. littered with books. just a plug for mentor, ohio.
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otherwise get a lot which is a shame. [laughter] matthew: other questions? >> you said it was a close race for the presidency, what was the electoral distribution of votes for the presidency? matthew: that is a very good question. i would have to look that up. the popular vote was extremely close. >> and who was his opponent? matthew: general hancock. yes sir. >> he was in the civil war, what was his claim to fame there, was
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he in any particular battle and what position did he hold? do you recall? matthew: he rose to the rank of general, i don't know that he saw any significant battle experience. again, he had a solid career, a solid life of education, military service, political service so i concentrated on the conclusion of that. >> being a general, was that a function of being a politician first, or was he a politician after? matthew: he was a politician after. >> i-65 the battle of chattanooga. >> in his election, he won the
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215-165. vote the popular vote was virtually tied. matthew: exactly. we had a sequence of republican presidents. >> there was a third candidate as well. they are each below 50%, so there must have been a third candidate. matthew: yes chuck, please. >> there was a book that came out a few years ago about the assassination. i have not read it all, i own it, it is upstairs. maybe someone here can recommend me to move it up on my reading list. i think it was suggesting that
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he colluded in a historical context, colluded with other forces to have him assassinated because they were afraid of what reforms he was on the threshold of promoting. matthew: do you remember which book that is? i concentrated more looking at guiteau. there has been recent work on guiteau. guiteau just seems to have been a random character. he came to washington, he participated a little bit in the republican campaign. i think he gave half of a speech, got stage fright, and ran off. he wrote a pamphlet, published a
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pamphlet. based upon that contribution, he decided that he should be the envoy to france. which seems a little bit overgenerous for his efforts. he would go from office to office lobbying. i think he took his requests down to just of vienna, ultimately. he was one of those people, i don't know if they are still around washington where he is the guy sitting in the outer office waiting to talk to whatever secretary saying i am here, i am ready to be appointed to this envoy to france. here is the pamphlet i published
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as part of the campaign, so i deserve something for that. no one ever really wanted to -- they brushed him off but they didn't just like get rid of him. he kept wandering around. he would go to a hotel, stay there, run out on his bill, go to another hotel, run out on his bill. finally, he just decided that he would take care of garfield and got a gun and shot him. >> and that is before you purchased the envoy positions. matthew: no one is taking issues with the way i had titled this, which i was surprised with. when i said he is the most memorialized in washington, and least remembered. what i was trying to get at is there was lots of different ways he was memorialized with the
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neighborhoods, streets, hospital, statue. you could argue that washington himself is more memorialized in washington, d.c. with the name, with his statue, someone was saying would you consider washington heights to be named after him? ok, will quibble on that one. there's finally a washington street, there hadn't been. that is why make the claim that it is ironic that someone who no one really remembers now, and did not have a significant presidential career was memorialized so much. i read one book on presidential assassinations where the author
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got it wrong. he said when garfield was shot there was no reaction, no efforts to memorialize. as opposed to others like kennedy. i read that and went back to all of the original newspapers and was like no, lots of people wanted to do lots of things to commemorate garfield. yes. >> what is the story with alexander graham bell and the bullet? matthew: they took garfield back to the white house. he was on his way from baltimore and potomac station. guiteau shot him. they took him back to the white house, which is what you did, you took people home to take care of them. there were a number of
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physicians trying to help. they could not find the bullet. they were digging into him, trying to find the bullet. they were unsuccessful. bell thought about it and said i have equipment where i could detect the bullet. i could detect that metal fragment inside the body. that would have worked if garfield were not on metal springs. the bed, and nobody told bell this. it wasn't going to work, there was too much noise. it also did not help that the
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physician was looking here and the bullet was over here. there were kind of misdirected. i cannot imagine the suffering he went through. because he was here in a july and august. they came up with some rudimentary kinds of air conditioning. they started off with like tubs of salt water and cloths. you can imagine, it is 150% humidity which is not a very pleasant thing. they came up with some other technology, which at first was too noisy. then it got better. at first, he said it just turn it off, it is too noisy. the navy came up with some better options. that is kind of the origination of air conditioning as well. >> so he was conscious during this?
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matthew: yes, he had one cabinet meeting. he was a big, husky man. he was a football player type. they said him, not intravenously, but a different way, rather unpleasant thinking about it. he rallied for a while. you could imagine people are hoping that he is going to get better. it is just hard to imagine these days there would be like the presidential health watch every reporter outside. essentially, there were people writing press reports every day. the doctor would report out that the president is getting better.
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there is a letter from little abram garfield saying dear mama, i am glad to hear fathers getting better. this is in july. 20 days into it, he is getting better. well, obviously he was probably holding stable but not getting better. >> just thinking of the time of year, one accomplishment i share as a tour guide is that garfield dedicated or launched the first declaration day, may 30, 1868 in arlington national cemetery. we now call it memorial day. the first memorial theater, that launched declaration day.
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for me, garfield is alive and well in memory. i try to share that with as many visitors as possible. matthew: very good, that is another legacy then. >> i would like to talk about garfield. it was in the book called "the destiny of the republic," she said he was actually murdered by the doctors and not his assassin. he would have survived if they left him alone, as i recall. matthew: that is true, if they stopped trying to search for the bullet and stopped infecting him, they were not great about their hands. they thought the development of puss was a good thing. if you read the description, what he went through was just horrifying. yes, the doctors did end up
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killing him. as i mentioned, there's all kinds of documentation about all of these different aspects of things around the city. the docket at the national archives of people listing their claims of what they were owed for being a part of the presidential care. there were guards who worked overtime and various doctors. those are fascinating documents to look through. >> i want to thank you again. matthew: thank you. [applause] >> from george washington to george w. bush, every sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, we feature the presidency, a weekly series of exploring the presidents, their politics, policies, and legacies. you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every
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weekend on c-span3. >> monday night on "the communicators," a look at the general data protection regulation, new european privacy laws and how they will impact technology companies like google and facebook. joining us on the program is the president and ceo of bsa and the president and ceo of the center for democracy and technology. >> we all need to think of our data responsibilities, in the digital age, every company is a tech company and every company is a data company. people are using and analyzing data about individuals, i think this law signals a real change in our thinking both in the private sector and the government about the rights of an individual in his or her own data. and that that person has ongoing rights even if the data is used by good corporate actors. that is a conversation every company needs to have.
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>> if we want all the innovation that the united states is so good and have done so much for the world. if we want that to move forward in a positive way, we need to have the right rules underneath that. we need to get to a global consensus on privacy, it is part of that. >> watch "the communicators," on monday night on c-span2. >> recently, the franklin d. roosevelt presidential library in hyde park, new york debuted a unique film collection, and joining us on the phone to talk about is library director paul sparrow. what is the missy lehand film collection? paul: missy lehand was an assistant to franklin roosevelt starting in 1920 and was with him for more than 20 years and was a close friend of the family as well. she actually lived in the white house when he was president. she became intrigued with film ca

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