|Collection of autographs, letters, drafts, notes, pamphlets, and ephemera relating to the assassination of President James Garfield and the Trial of the Assassin, Charles Guiteau.|
Washington D.C., New York, and elsewhere: 1859 - 1883.
In all, 18 autograph letters, mostly signed, various sizes (8vo to folio), ca. 50 pages written, 18 secretarial copies of reports on the President's condition, news-clippings and broadside extras, an autograph album with 39 signatures, 1 engraved portrait of Garfield. An Extraordinary Archive of Material on the Assassination of President James Garfield, and the Trial of the Assassin, Charles Guiteau. Condition noted on individual items below. All laid into a three quarters black morocco drop-box.
This remarkable collection contains manuscripts and printed material relating to the death of President James Garfield and the life and trial of his assassin, Charles Guiteau. Highlights include five autograph letters and manuscripts by Guiteau, including one of the earliest known letters and a chilling jailhouse manuscript written shortly before his execution; extensive autograph material by the lead prosecutor James K. Porter, including one of his trial notebooks and a draft of his counter to Guiteau's "Unsound Mind" defense; the autograph draft of the bulletin announcing Garfield's death by head surgeon Dr. D.W. Bliss; a letter from defense counsel George Scoville to Porter; an extraordinary correspondence between Porter and trial observer Frederick Douglass; an autograph album with the signatures of Guiteau, attorneys, jurors, and other notables attending the trail; letters by Postmaster General Thomas L. James and Speaker of the House J. Warren Keifer conveying their first-hand accounts of Garfield's condition on the day of the shooting; one of Garfield’s final signatures, made on the morning of the shooting; and a moving letter by Lucretia Garfield, still in mourning several years after her husband's death.
A detailed inventory follows:
I. Charles Guiteau assassin. Three of the following letters are to his sister Frances Scoville. She and her husband George (who would act as Guiteau's defense council) for a time provided Guiteau with shelter and money. In one notable example of his violent outbursts, Guiteau threatened Frances with an axe.
1) Autograph letter, signed ("Chas J. Guiteau"), to his sister Frances. Ann Arbor. Nov. 6 1859. 4pp., pen and ink. Formerly folded, signs of mounting at top edge. Eighteen-year-old Guiteau describes life at college, urges his sister to embrace the Christian faith, and declares his sympathies with the Oneida Community. A very early letter - earliest letters at auction are from the 1870s.
2) Autograph letter, signed ("C.J. Guiteau"), to his sister Frances. Oneida Community. Aug. 9, 1861. 2pp. pen and ink. Formerly folded, small tear at top edge, signs of mounting at top edge. Writing from the Oneida Community, Guiteau offers some of his religious views and shares his concern for his sister’s soul ("I pray that God may open your mind and heart to the great and glorious truths of 'Bible Communism'...").
3) Autograph letter fragment, unsigned, to his sister Frances. New York. May 20, 1867. 2pp. pen and ink on paper. Signs of mounting at upper edge. Guiteau describes his life as a bachelor in New York City ("on the whole it is a rather *cold* way [to live]"), mentioning a room at 29th & 4th and a trip uptown to Harlem. Includes some religious ramblings and theodicy ("If we receive not afflictions than [sic] are we *bastards* indeed and not Sons of God").
4) Autograph draft petition to the Court of Common Pleas, City and County of New York, signed ("Charles J. Guiteau") and docketed "Guiteau's copy." New York. Jan. 5, 1874. 11⁄2 pp. pen and ink on paper. Formerly folded, a few edge tears. A n earlier example of Guiteau acting in his own defense in a case brought by Stephen English. In 1874, Guiteau spent a month in the Tombs for not paying rent on his law office space.
5) Autograph manuscript, signed ("Charles Guiteau"). United States Jail, Washington, D.C. April 13, 1882. 3pp. pen and ink on paper, written on rectos only. Formerly folded, edges frayed, mended tears. On dealings with his brother-in-law and defense council, George Scoville, whom he accuses, in his paranoid way, of mishandling his case ("the most important criminal case of the century"). Guiteau dismisses Scoville and appoints Charles H. Reed in his stead. Also mentions his father (who "ran me into that stinking Oneida Community when a boy") and his ex-wife ("a poor, uneducated girl without position or friends").
II. John K. Porter, prosecutor (some of the following letters are retained copies or drafts). Porter (1819-92) was a prominent trial lawyer and judge involved in three of the most sensational criminal trials of the 19th century: as defense attorney for John Brown after Harper's Ferry; Tilton vs. Beecher (defending Henry Ward Beecher against charges of adultery); and the United States v. Guiteau. Porter successfully argued against Guiteau's "insanity defense," winning a conviction for the prosecution. Insanity was poorly understood at the time, and Guiteau's conviction exposed flaws in the prevailing method of determining legal insanity (the M’Naughten Rule). This collection contains notes on Porter's counter to the insanity defense as well as other examples of his trial notes. Most interesting in this collection is his correspondence with Frederick Douglass. Porter writes a withering letter to Douglass, wrongly accusing the abolitionist and Garfield supporter of being in sympathy with the defense. Douglass responds to the obviously false charge and acquits himself, supposing Porter has been told "a hell black lie."
The correspondence is as follows:
6) Autograph letter, signed ("John K. Porter"), to Frederick Douglass, the original letter, returned to Porter. Washington, D.C. Dec. 28, 1881. 3pp., with accompanying envelope addressed to Douglass. Expressing his dismay at Douglass' sympathy with the assassin as reported in the media. "[I was] brought to the conclusion that every slave should be a freeman, by our eloquent speech at the City Hall in Albany, it has sadly disappointed me to learn through the public press, I am sure unjustly, that your sympathy is with the murderer. I do not personally believe it; but your prominent position, as the pre-eminent representation of the colored race, leads me to suffer the question, whether you can afford to go down to posterity as the defender of such a diabolical murder....You will pardon me for saying that your reported utterances, have not been in keeping and harmony with your utterances in the case of my old client John Brown, who has made his name immortal by utterances which will ring through all succeeding centuries...."
7) Frederick Douglass: Autograph letter, signed ("Fredk Douglass"), to John K. Porter, with a postscript initialed "F.D." Washington, D.C. Dec. 29, 1881. 2pp. Denies any sympathy with the assassin. "I am in doubt as to whether I ought to answer your note of this morning. If I did not know something of your high and honorable character, I should treat it with silent contempt. I am surprised and astonished … Judge Porter, you have been grossly imposed upon by somebody. Any one who has told you that I have done anything or that I will do anything, or that I wish to do anything to avert a conviction has to ld you a *hell-black* lie." I am utterly at a loss to know upon what grounds of assurance you could make such a statement to me …” Douglass adds a postscript, “I shall be glad to converse with you at any time as to my views and feelings as to the case of the assassin. I have made no statements to the newspapers, and have seen none ascribed to me, such as you describe. I have no fear of going ‘down to posterity as a defender of such a diabolical murder’ and there is no ground for such fears …”
8) Autograph notes on the Guiteau trial. 11pp. pen and ink and pencil on a stapled graph-paper notebook. 12mo. A few ink stains. Possibly notes for the opening or closing statement by the prosecution. "Expected pardon....Had studied Wilkes booth....Is cowardice peculiar to insanity....His hands are bloody, & he asks you to bring yourself to the same hue...."
9) Autograph notes on the "Unsound Mind" defense. 2pp. pen and ink on paper. Formerly folded, a few stains. Draft of the prosecution’s handling of Guiteau's insanity defense: "No man of sound mind, in popular sense, ever committed a murder. No man of perfectly Sound Mind ever ravished a defenseless girl...."
10) Autograph letter, signed ("John K. Porter"), to Colonel F.S. Waldron. New York. Nov. 2, 1881. 11⁄2pp. Asking for suggestions in prosecuting the case.
11) Autograph letter, signed ("John K. Porter"), to Chauncey B. Ripley. Washington, D.C. Nov. 29, 1881. p. Formerly folded. "It would be monstrous, if in the 19th. Century, a deliberate and foreplanned murder could be justified by a pretense of the assassin [sic], that he had the Power of Attorney from the Deity to commit it."
12) Autograph letter, signed ("John K. Porter"), to Austin Abbot. Washington, D.C. Dec. 15, 1881. 2pp. Formerly folded. Comments on the medical evidence given at the trial with Abbot's help.
13) Autograph letter, signed ("John K. Porter"), to George B. Corkhill. Washington, D.C. Jan. 26, 1882. 2pp. Formerly folded, lightly soiled. Congratulations on a well-handled trial.
14) Autograph letter, signed ("John K. Porter"), to Lucien Brock Proctor. New York. Feb. 15, 1882. 2 1⁄2pp. Formerly folded. Congratulations on trial, commendation of Proctor’s Bench and Bar of New York.
15) Autograph letter, signed ("John K. Porter"), to Edwin A. Merritt. New York. Feb. 20, 1882. 2pp. Formerly folded, stained and wormed in upper portion affecting a few letters. On the feeling in England about the assassination.
16) Guiteau Trial. Closing Speech to the Jury of John K. Porter. [Washington, D.C. 1882]. Self-wrappers. Some foxing on first few leaves, edges frayed. Printed pamphlet. Inscribed by Porter to his nephew, John Porter Leland, Jr.
17) Autograph letter draft (ends mid-sentence), unsigned, to George Scoville. New York. Feb. 1, 1883. p. "The trial was somewhat memorable, and though we happened to be professionally opposed, I cannot forbear to express my sense of the marked ability with which you conducted the defense, though, with my fixed conviction I am unable to think any living lawyer could have rendered it more effective."
III. Miscellaneous Letters
18) John Wells: Autograph letter, signed ("John Wells"), to "Judge" John K. Porter. Providence, R.I. p. Formerly folded. Offers some assistance to Porter on how to formulate his arguments.
19) George Scoville: Autograph letter, signed ("Geo. Scoville"), to John K. Porter. Chicago. Feb. 15, 1883. 2pp. on his law office stationery. Formerly folded. Exchange of photographs and documents for a publication on the trial.
20) Lucretia R. Garfield: Autograph letter, signed ("Lucretia R. Garfield"), to Miss Larcom. Cleveland, Oh. Dec. 2, 1887. 21⁄2pp. on mourning stationery. Formerly folded, mended at central fold. "I cannot yet understand why the great life that made my world so beautiful - so filled it with a sunshine that seemed from Heaven [-] should have been snatched away: but it may be I shall yet know - if not here, then hereafter."
IV. President Garfield's Fight for Life
21) Thomas L. James: Autograph letter, signed ("Thos. L. James"), on the President’s condition, written on the day of the shooting. Washington, D.C. [July 2, 1881]. p. pen and ink on Executive Mansion stationery. "At six o'clock Dr. Bliss attending surgeon says the condition of the President to be very critical." James was Postmaster General under Garfield Joseph Warren Keifer.
22) Autograph letter, signed ("J. Warren Keifer"), to Carrie E. Howland. Springfield, Oh. July 9, 1881. 2pp. (8 x 5 inches). In a tan half morocco folding case. "You ask about the Prest. When I saw him and his dreadful wound on the 2nd - the day he was shot - I thought in common with Genl Sherman & others then about him that the President could live but a few hours at farthest. Now I think he may recover. The wound seemed necessarily mortal, but the prayers of a nation of 50,000000 of people for the Presidents [sic] recovery are about to be answered by a never deserting Providence...." Keifer was a prominent Ohio Republican, and at the time of the shooting was Speaker of the House.
23) Reports on the condition of the president, consisting of secretarial copies of twelve telegrams by James Gillespie Blaine as Secretary of State to James Russell Lowell, the American Minister in London, July - Aug. 24, 1881; six telegrams by Robert R. Hitt, Assistant Secretary of State, to Lowell, Aug. 11-16, 1881; and nineteen news clippings from the same period.
24) Fair copy of the Sept. 1, 1881 bulletin on Garfield's health, signed by the attending physicians, including head doctor D.W. Bliss. [Elberon, N.J.]. 12:30 p.m., Sept. 1, . p. pencil on paper. "The state of the wound remains the same...."
25) Dr. D.W. Bliss: Autograph draft of "The Last Bulletin" describing Garfield's death. [Elberon, N.J.]. 11:30 p.m. Sept 19, 1881. p. pencil on paper, with corrections and deletions, small dark smudge at lower left margin. "The President died at 10:35 p.m....."
26) Guiteau trial autograph album. [Washington, D.C. January 1882]. With thirty-nine autograph signatures of notable participants. Also includes a second-generation photograph of the jury laid-in. Original gold-stamped sheep, a.e.g., worn, a few leaves loose. Autographs include those of Charles Guiteau ("In God We Trust. / Charles Guiteau / January 10 - 1882 / In Court / Washington D.C."); presiding judge Walter S. Cox; defense councils George Scoville and Charles H. Reed; prosecutor John K. Porter; the 12 jurors; the warden and various guards; the newspaper artist, et al.
27) James A. Garfield. Clipped signature on a printed document, dated 2 July 1881 (the day of the shooting), with an autograph note by O.H. Smith, Clerk in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, attesting that this signature was used to make a facsimile for government use, with clipped signature of Charles Guiteau attached, and a broadside reminiscence of the president’s life.
28) Jacksonville Daily Journal. Three broadside extras reporting the assassination. July 2, 1881.
29) Three broadside announcements of the assassination, and death of Garfield, plus a memorial card, includes two copies of "The Last Bulletin." Elberon, N.J. Sept. 19, .
30) Two bank drafts, one made out to Guiteau (a joke, made out for $25,000), the other to George Scoville ($1, "after the execution of G.J. Guiteau"). Jan. 19 and 31, 1882.
31) The Life and Assassination of President Garfield, Together with the Life of the Cowardly Assassin, Guiteau. Philadelphia: Barclay & Co., . Green printed wrappers with portrait of Garfield. Edges of wrappers frayed, corners bumped.
32) Engraved portrait of Garfield. 5 x 4 inches, mounted on a card.
|Location of Origin: North America|
|Medium/Materials: All laid into a three quarters black morocco drop-box|
|Dimensions: various sizes (8vo to folio)|
|Primary Classification: Antique Books, Manuscripts, and Maps : Historical Documents, Letters & Autographs|
|James Garfield (1831-81), twentieth president of the United States, was born into poverty in northern Ohio. Through perseverance and natural ability he escaped the hardships of his youth, eventually attending Williams College in Massachusetts, where he received his A.B. in 1856. He returned to Ohio to take up a professorship of ancient languages at Hiram College and was later named president of the school.|
Garfield entered politics on an anti-slavery platform, winning a seat to the Ohio legislature in 1859. His exemplary service during the Civil War boosted his political stock and he won the first of nine consecutive victories to Congress from 1862. Garfield emerged from the highly factious 1880 Republican convention as his party's compromise nominee for president, a position he was not even actively seeking. Garfield's brief presidency was largely consumed with the political infighting of the "Stalwart" faction of his party lead by rival Roscoe Conkling.
On July 2, 1881, Garfield entered the Baltimore & Potomac railroad station with the intention of traveling to his alma mater, Williams College, and then on to a much-needed vacation. On the platform he was ambushed by Charles Guiteau, a disturbed man with fanciful notions of his own abilities and importance, who unloaded two bullets into the President's back. Garfield would linger for months, stoically enduring the unsterile exploratory surgeries of his doctors, who tried in vain to locate one of the assassin's bullets. Daily bulletins on the President’s health were sent out to an anxious nation which, for the first time since before the Civil War, felt united in a shared grief. Garfield finally succumbed on September 19, the victim of an infection undoubtedly introduced by his doctors.
Guiteau (1841-82) was a disappointed and delusional office-seeker who believed his work on behalf of the Republican Party had earned him, through the spoils system, the right to a top diplomatic position. He came to politics after failing in law, publishing, evangelism, bill collecting, and public lecturing. Other than six years spent at the utopian Oneida Community, he was almost always on the move, frequently skipping town without paying his room and board.
Roundly disliked and mistrusted, he supported himself by fraud, thievery, and deceit, yet was possessed of a maniacal belief that God had some great purpose for his life. He was eventually convinced that God wished him to assassinate Garfield in order to unite a feuding Republican Party and save the Union. His trial was one of the most sensational in the nation's history and one of the first and most notorious uses of the insanity defense. Guiteau continuously interrupted the proceedings with his wild outbursts, despite which, the jury rejected his insanity defense and convicted him after only an hour and a half of deliberation. He was hanged on June 30, 1882.
An unprecedented collection in terms of the scope and significance of its content, with deep autograph and manuscript material covering all aspects of Garfield's death and the following trial. This is certainly the greatest single offering concerning Garfield's assassination to be offered on the market, and it rivals or surpasses all of the major institutional collections devoted to the subject.
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121 Mount Vernon, Boston, MA 02108 USA
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