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Picture of James Abram Garfield
[Library of Congress]


20th President (1881)

Biographical Data
Religious Views
References, Links, & Further Reading

Education: Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (now Hiram College); Williams College

Occupation: College Professor, College President

Political Affiliation: Republican

Organizational Affiliation(s): Mason

Religious Affiliation: Disciples of Christ

Summary of Religious Views:

In his early adulthood, Garfield sometimes preached and held revival meetings.

Views on Religion & Politics:


"I not only never introduced such a resolution as that to which you refer -- but in several public speeches I have praised the wisdom of our fathers for prohibiting Congress from legislating on the subject of religion -- and leaving it to the voluntary action of the people." -- letter to Robert G. Ingersoll, 9 July 1880, denying claims that he had introduced legislation in support of government support for religious education.

"Whatever help the nation can justly afford should be generously given to aid the States in supporting common schools; but it would be unjust to our people and dangerous to our institutions to apply any portion of the revenues of the nation, or of the States, to the support of sectarian schools. The separation of the Church and the State in everything relating to taxation should be absolute." -- letter accepting the presidential nomination, 12 July 1880

"The Constitution guarantees absolute religious freedom. Congress is prohibited from making any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The Territories of the United States are subject to the direct legislative authority of Congress, and hence the General Government is responsible for any violation of the Constitution in any of them. It is therefore a reproach to the Government that in the most populous of the Territories the constitutional guaranty is not enjoyed by the people and the authority of Congress is set at naught. The Mormon Church not only offends the moral sense of manhood by sanctioning polygamy, but prevents the administration of justice through ordinary instrumentalities of law.
"In my judgment it is the duty of Congress, while respecting to the uttermost the conscientious convictions and religious scruples of every citizen, to prohibit within its jurisdiction all criminal practices, especially of that class which destroy the family relations and endanger social order. Nor can any ecclesiastical organization be safely permitted to usurp in the smallest degree the functions and powers of the National Government." -- Inaugural Address, 4 March 1881


"Fellow Citizens! Clouds and darkness are around Him! His pavilion is dark waters and thick clouds of the skies! Justice and judgment are the establishment of His throne! Mercy and truth shall go before His face! Fellow citizens! God reigns, and the Government at Washington still lives!" -- Supposedly from a speech in response to Lincoln's assassination given by Garfield in New York in April of 1865. But Garfield was not in New York in April of 1865. (See the discussion in Paul F. Boller & John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions, Oxford Univ. Press, 1989, p. 32.)

References, Links, & Further Reading: Books, Articles, Links


Works by James Abram Garfield

ed. by Harry James Brown and Frederick D. Williams, The Diary of James Abram Garfield, 4 vols., Michigan State University, 1967-1982
ed. by Theodore Clark Smith, Life And Letters Of James Abram Garfield, 2 vols., Yale Univ. Press, 1925
ed. by Frederick D. Williams, The Wild Life of the Army: Civil War Letters of James A. Garfield, Michigan State Univ. Press, 1964
ed. by Mary L. Hinsdale, Garfield-Hinsdale Letters, Univ. of Michigan Press, 1949
ed. by John Shaw, Crete and James: Personal Letters of Lucretia and James Garfield, Michigan State Univ. Press, 1995


Kenneth D. Ackerman, Dark Horse : The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield, Avalon Publishing, 2004
James C. Clark, The Murder of James A. Garfield: The President's Last Days and the Trial and Execution of His Assassin, McFarland & Company, 1993
Justus D. Doenecke, The Presidencies of James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur (American Presidency Series), Regents Press of Kansas, 1981
B. V. Hendrik, The Road to Respectability: James A. Garfield and His World, 1844-1852 (Western Reserve Historical Society Publication), Bucknell Univ. Press, 1988
Margaret Leech and Harry J. Brown, The Garfield Orbit: The Life of President James A. Garfield, Harper and Row, 1978
Richard L. McElroy, James A. Garfield: His life & times : a pictorial history, Daring Books, 1986
Candice Millard, Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, Doubleday, 2011
Allan Peskin, Garfield: A Biography, Kent State Univ. Press, 1978
John M. Taylor, Garfield of Ohio: The Available Man (Signature Series), W.W. Norton, 1970
William M. Thayer, From Log-Cabin to White House, Ward, Lock, 1920 [alternate source]

Religious Views

Woodrow Wasson, James A. Garfield: his religion and education, Tennessee Book Co., 1952



Works by James Abram Garfield

Inaugural Address -- 1881 (Bartleby.com)
Inaugural Address of James A. Garfield (Hypertext on American History)

Biographical Sites

James Abram Garfield [alternate site] (POTUS)
James A. Garfield (White House)
GARFIELD, James Abram, 1831-1881 (Biographical Directory of the US Congress)
James A. Garfield (USA Presidents)
James Abram Garfield (American President)
Life Portrait of James Garfield (C-SPAN)
The Death Of President Garfield, 1881 (Eye Witness)
James Garfield (Medical History of the Presidents of the United States)
James A. Garfield National Historic Site

Religious Views

James A. Garfield, by F. M. Green

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