| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
 IN 1877 Rutherford B. Hayes became President. Ever since the Civil
War a great part of the South had been in constant turmoil. Soldiers
were still stationed in the capitals of the various states, and the
carpet-bag government still continued. But Hayes wished to put an
end to this. So he got the principal white people in the South to
promise that they would help to keep law and order. Then he withdrew
all the troops. Without their aid the carpet-bag government could
not stand, and the white men of the South once more began to rule
in the South.
President Hayes also tried to lessen the evil of the "spoils
system." In this he met a good deal of opposition. But the system
of passing examinations was begun for some posts.
After the troublous times that had gone before this was a time of
peace, in which for the first time since the War North and South
seemed once more united.
In 1881 James Garfield became President. Like other Presidents
before him, his boyhood had been one of poverty and hard work. But
from doing odd labouring jobs, or tending barge horses on the Ohio
Canal, he had gradually worked upwards. He had been barge-boy,
farmer, carpenter, school teacher, lawyer and soldier, having in
the Civil War reached the rank of general. At thirty-two he entered
Congress, and there soon made his mark.
 Now he had become President, and as soon as he took up his office
he was besieged by office seekers. They thronged his house, they
stopped him in the street, buttonholed him in railway carriages.
They flattered, coaxed, threatened, and made his life a burden.
But in spite of all this worrying the new President determined to
do what he could to end the "spoils system," and appoint people only
for the sake of the public good. Accordingly he made many enemies.
Among the many office-seekers whom the President was forced to
disappoint was a weak-minded, bad young man named Guiteau. Garfield
saw plainly that he was quite unfit to fill any government post,
and he refused to employ him. Thereupon Guiteau's heart was filled
with hate against the President. He brooded over his wrongs till
his hate became madness, and in this madness he determined to kill
Since he took up office the President had been hard at work. Now
in July he determined to take a short holiday in New England, and
visit Mrs. Garfield, who had been ill, and had gone away for a
change of air.
On Saturday, the 2nd of July, the morning on which he was going
to set out, he awoke in excellent spirits. Before he got up one of
his sons came into his room. The boy took a flying leap over his
"There," he said with a laugh, "you are the President of the United
States, but you can't do that."
"Can't I?" said the President.
And he got up and did it.
In the same good spirits he drove to the station.
As he walked along the platform a man with an evil look on his
face followed him. Suddenly a pistol shot was heard, and a bullet
passed through the President's sleeve, and did no harm. It was
quickly followed, however, by a
 second, which hit the President full
in the back, and he fell to the ground. The President was sorely
wounded, but not killed. A mattress was quickly brought, and he
was gently carried to the White House.
Then a message was sent to Mrs. Garfield, telling her what had
happened, and bidding her come home. She and her daughter had been
happily awaiting the President's coming to them. Now everything
was changed, and in sorrow and haste they went to him.
For nearly three months President Garfield lingered on. At times
he seemed much stronger, and those who loved him believed he would
recover. But by degrees their hopes faded, and in September he
Once again the sorrowing nation followed their President to the
grave, and once again the Vice-President took office as President.
The new President was named Chester A. Arthur, and on taking office
he was less known to the country than any President before him.
He came to office in a time of peace and prosperity, and although
nothing very exciting happened during his presidency he showed
himself both wise and patriotic.
The best thing to remember him for is his fight against the "spoils
system." Ever since Grant had been President men who loved their
country, and wanted to see it well served, had fought for civil
Garfield's sad death made many people who had not thought of
it before see that the "spoils system" was bad. For it had been a
disappointed seeker of spoils who killed him. So at last in 1883
a law was passed which provided that certain appointments should
be made by competitive examinations, and not given haphazard. At
first this law only applied to a few classes of appointments. But
by degrees its scope was enlarged until now nearly all civil service
appointments are made through examinations.
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