James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the United States, was shot by Charles J. Guiteau at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, D.C.

Guiteau had attempted various types of employment before turning his hand to politics in the lead-up to the 1880 presidential election. He wrote a speech called ‘Grant against Hancock’ when Ulysses S. Grant was still the forerunner for the Republican nomination, but revised it to ‘Garfield against Hancock’ after the latter won the candidacy.

Although Guiteau passed copies of the speech to members of the Republican National Committee, he is only believed to have delivered the speech twice at the most. Despite this he became convinced that he was responsible for Garfield winning the election, and expected a diplomatic posting in return. He even moved to Washington the day after Garfield’s inauguration and regularly visited the State Department and the White House to reiterate his demand.

Guiteau was formally banned from the White House, and on 14 May was told by Secretary of State James G. Blaine to ‘Never speak to me again of the Paris consulship as long as you live.’ This dismissal led him to begin plotting the assassination of the President.

After buying a British Bull Dog revolver with money borrowed from a relative, Guiteau undertook target practice and began stalking Garfield. Having read about the President’s vacation plans in the press, he waited at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station where he shot him at close range. Guiteau later declared, ‘I am a Stalwart of the Stalwarts! I did it and I want to be arrested! Arthur is President now!’ Garfield died 11 weeks later, while Guiteau was found guilty of murder and was hanged on 30 June 1882.

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