Birthday: September 8, 1841
Died At Age: 40
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: Charles Julius Guiteau
Born Country: United States
Born in: Freeport, Illinois, United States
Notorious As: Guy who Assassinated the US President James A. Garfield
Spouse/Ex-: Annie Bunn (m. 1869–1874)
father: Luther Wilson Guiteau
mother: Jane Howe Guiteau
Died on: June 30, 1882
place of death: Washington, D.C., United States
education: University of Michigan, Pioneer High School
Who was Charles J. Guiteau?
Charles J. Guiteau was the person who assassinated the US President James A. Garfield, in 1881. Known to be a narcissist, Guiteau believed that he was responsible for Garfield`s victory in the elections, for which he deserved rewards and opportunities. Garfield`s administration had rejected all his applications to serve in Paris or Vienna, and Guiteau eventually made the decision to kill the President. He shot him twice in the back with a British bulldog revolver, at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station, after which he tried to run away, but was caught by a large group of people. Garfield was severely injured and after two months, he eventually died due to the infections caused by the wounds. Guiteau was sentenced to death for the crime, and was hanged two days before the first anniversary of the shooting. Guiteau believed that he killed the President due to his betrayal, and what he did was not murder, but ‘political necessity’. One of his other reasons for killing Garfield was that he believed the Vice President, Chester A. Arthur, should be the President.
Childhood & Early Life
Charles J. Guiteau was born on 8 September 1841, in Freeport, Illinois, to Luther Wilson Guiteau and Jane August. His parents were of French Huguenot ancestry. He was the fourth of six children.
He inherited $1000 from his grandfather at a young age, after which he went to study at the University of Michigan. However, he was unable to pass the entrance examinations. In 1860 he joined a utopian religious sect called the Oneida Community.
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Charles Guiteau began working at a law firm in Chicago as a clerk. He also passed an examination that attained him admission to bar, though he was not very successful as a lawyer. Later, he developed an interest in politics, and identified with the Democratic Party.
He supported Horace Greeley, who was the Liberal Republic and Democratic candidate for president against incumbent Republican Ulysses S. Grant, in 1872, and also delivered a speech in support of Greeley.
Guiteau became quite convinced that if Greeley won, he would be appointed as Minister to Chile. However, after Greeley lost the elections, he turned to theology and published `The Truth`, a book, which was hugely plagiarized form the work of Alfred Noyes.
His father became convinced that Guiteau was possessed by the devil. However, Guiteau himself felt the opposite and was convinced that whatever he was doing was divinely inspired, and that he was destined to preach a new Gospel like Apostle Paul.
He went from town to town and gave lectures to whoever would listen to his ramblings, and eventually in December 1877, he also gave a lecture at the Congregational Church in Washington D.C.
Charles Guiteau turned his interest to politics and supported Republican Ulysses S. Grant for the 1880 presidential elections. He wrote a speech titled ‘Grant against Hancock’. However, James A. Garfield won the Republican nomination, so Guiteau decided to change the title to ‘Garfield against Hancock’, and removed any mention of Grant. The speech was delivered twice, and several copies were also passed out to different party members.
When James A. Garfield was eventually elected president, Guiteau felt that he was hugely responsible for his victory, and wanted to be awarded with an ambassadorship in return. He asked for postings in Vienna or Paris. However, his requests were all rejected by the administration.
After his requests for the ambassadorship were rejected, Charles J. Guiteau decided to assassinated President James A. Garfield. For this purpose, he purchased a British Bulldog revolver from a store in Washington and spent a lot of time in target practice.
He also postponed his plan despite multiple opportunities, as Lucretia, Garfield`s wife was not in good health, and Guiteau did not want to upset her.
On 2 July 1881, when the President James A. Garfield was on his way to New Jersey, in order to meet his wife, Guiteau felt that it was a perfect opportunity to take down the President. When Garfield arrived at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station, Guiteau walked behind him up the stairs, and then shot Garfield in the back with the revolver, twice. Though he tried to run away and escape, he was caught by a large group of people.
Garfield passed away eleven weeks after being shot, after a long battle with his infections that were caused by the gunshot wound. American journalist, Candice Millard, argued that Garfield would have survived if his doctors would have just left him alone instead of poking and probing the wound. Guiteau was officially charged with murder, after Garfield`s death.
Trial & Execution
The trial began on 17th November, 1881, in Washington, DC. Leigh Robinson was appointed to represent and defend Charles Guiteau, though Guiteau wanted to represent himself. This was the first high-profile case in the US, where temporary insanity was considered. Guiteau, however, insisted that he was legally insane, as God had taken away his free will and wanted him commit the act, but he was not insane medically. This caused rift between him and his defense lawyers.
According to psychiatrist Allan McLane Hamilton, Guiteau was sane when he had killed Garfield. However, an autopsy of his brain after his death revealed that he may have had neurosyphillis, a disease which is known to cause mental instability. Neurologist George Paulson argued that Guiteau was actually schizophrenic and narcissistic.
He was eventually sentenced to death. During his time in prison, he wrote about the assassination and his reasons for the crime, as well as an account of the trial, which was later published as ‘The Truth and The Removal’. He had also composed a lengthy poem where he asserted that he killed Garfield because God asked him to, in order to stop Secretary Blaine from starting a war with Chile and Peru. Eventually on 30 June 1882, Guiteau was hanged till death.
Family & Personal Life
Charles Guiteau had married a librarian named Annie Bunn in 1869. He was known to be physically abusive with her.