James Garfield Haiku

The president lives!

Dirty fingers fishing for

Bullet will fix that.

President James Garfield was shot by Charles Guiteau 137 years ago today, but he didn’t actually die until September. Why?

Garfield wasn’t expected to live through the night, but he rallied and in swooped the doctors. They were 100% convinced that they had to get that bullet out of him, so they kept poking him and poking him with their unwashed, unsterilized instruments and goddamned fingers. And the kicker? They never found the bullet. Even when they brought Alexander Graham Bell in with a metal detector. (You think the metal bed frame had something to do with that?) So of course, he got blood poisoning and died.

At least he’s in exalted company. George Washington, after catching something or another after spending all day in the freezing snow and not bothering to change his wet clothes for dinner, was essentially bled to death by his doctors.

But why did Guiteau shoot him? He had convinced himself that this one speech he did during Garfield’s campaign swung the election in his favor. Ergo, he was owed a job, like, say, a consul position in Vienna. He was shocked that Garfield didn’t jump on the chance to thank him or indeed, know who the hell he was. He came close to shooting Garfield once before the big event, but the First Lady was with him and he didn’t want to upset her.

At the trial, Guiteau claimed that he should be set free, because medical malpractice really killed Garfield. While not EXACTLY wrong, the jury failed to see it his way. He was hanged in 1882.

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