Description

    Charles Guiteau describes his assassination of President Garfield as "terrible . . . an act of God"

    [James Garfield] Charles Guiteau Autograph Letter Signed. The letter is written on five narrow pages (each 3" x 7.75") and dated September 22, 1881, and addressed to "Miss Endicott." Angry for not receiving an appointment to a federal post, Charles Guiteau shot President Garfield at 9:30 a.m. on July 2, 1881, only five months after his election as the twentieth president. The president lingered for eleven weeks before dying from his wounds on September 19, 1881. Three days later, his assassin writes this letter from his prison cell, asking "Miss Endicott" not to think of the president's "removal as murder." He also refers to the recent assassination attempt on his own life. Guiteau's letter reads in full:

    "Miss Endicott,
    "I shall be very glad to see you & Mrs. Roberts. I heard last winter that she was engaged to marry President Arthur. I trust it is so. She would do splendidly in the White House & would be the first lady in the land. It was terrible for Gen. Garfield to be shot, but it was more terrible for him to wreck the republican party and imperil the republic as he did last spring. Never think of his removal as murder. It was an act of God resulting from a political necessity for which he was responsible.

    "I want you & Mrs. Roberts would see me & I will explain my position so that you will sypmpathize with me. I have been terribly vilified but a book [likely The Truth and the Removal, his defense of Garfield's assassination] which I expect to issue shortly, & time, will righten that. You know I always think of you as the dearest little lady in the World, & I want you & your sister would see me as soon as convenient as I want to talk with you both. Gen. Crocker, the Warden is a stalwart & is very kind to me. I am well fed & feel well."

    "Should you write send your letter to Gen. Crocker, without my name on the outside envelope & he will hand it to me. My case is for the American people & the President to finally adjudicate, but I presume the Washington courts & a jury will do me full justice after the excitement dies out, & that it will not go beyond their jurisdiction. Please see me & I will tell you all about it.
    "Very cordially
    "[Signed] Charles Guiteau."

    "P.S.
    "This was written in a cramped position in my cell. It is not so pleasant as the one I occupied before I was shot at. The Lord is with me & I am happy in my prison home. I want to get out of here on bail as soon as I can. The case will probably not be tried for a year. Not until the excitement all dies out.
    [Signed] C. G.
    "U.S. Jail
    "Washington D.C.
    "Sept 22, 1881."

    "2nd P.S.
    "I sent a note to you Gen. Arthur this morning & Gen Crocker said he seemed to be in the greatest distress about Gen Garfield. I am very glad to know that President Arthur feels as he does about Gen Garfield. I expect Gen Arthur will give the Nation the finest administration it has ever had.
    "[Signed] C. G."

    Before the assassination, Guiteau had dabbled with non-conventional religious beliefs and had written a religious book, which was mostly plagiarized. Shortly before the election of 1880, he had become interested in politics and printed a tract promoting Garfield, the Republican nominee, for president. After Garfield won the presidency, Guiteau considered himself as mostly responsible for Garfield's win. As compensation for his efforts, he expected an appointment in a diplomatic position. After numerous rejections, he believed that God had commanded him to kill the president, whom he stalked until the July 2 assassination.

    His trial began in November 1881, and his outlandish behavior became a media sensation. Even though there were two assassination attempts on his life while he was incarcerated, Guiteau never fully understood the public's hatred of him. His court-appointed defense lawyers chose to present an insanity defense, but the defense was not accepted by the jury and Guiteau was sentenced to hang on January 25, 1882. In the years following Guiteau's execution, public opinion on the issue of his insanity shifted. Today, most neurologists would assert that he was indeed suffering from a serious mental illness. The five strips comprising this letter are lined and moderately toned, with minor stains.


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    Auction Dates
    June, 2010
    8th-9th Tuesday-Wednesday
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