Newly Seated in the House of Representatives, James A. Garfield Begins His Work as Elected Representative and Seeks a Right-hand Man

“I am tugging away at my work as hard as I can and am trying to get even, and though I have made considerable progress in that direction, am still behind.”

He pleads with his friend Wallace Ford to come to Washington to aid him; Ford would in time become his Congressional Secretary

Before entering political life, Garfield was a professor at Hiram College, and served as its president from 1857 to 1861. Elected to the Ohio senate as a Republican in 1859,...

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Newly Seated in the House of Representatives, James A. Garfield Begins His Work as Elected Representative and Seeks a Right-hand Man

“I am tugging away at my work as hard as I can and am trying to get even, and though I have made considerable progress in that direction, am still behind.”

He pleads with his friend Wallace Ford to come to Washington to aid him; Ford would in time become his Congressional Secretary

Before entering political life, Garfield was a professor at Hiram College, and served as its president from 1857 to 1861. Elected to the Ohio senate as a Republican in 1859, he gained popularity as a persuasive speaker in support of abolition. During the Civil War, Garfield joined the Union army, performed courageously in battle, and rose to the rank of major general. His last major battle was in September 1863 at Chickamauga. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1863, and then resigned from the army. Garfield took his seat in December 1863, and quickly felt overwhelmed by his new responsibilities.

Wallace J. Ford was a close friend of Garfield’s. Seated for just a matter of weeks, Garfield here rather circuitously asks his friend to come to Washington as his secretary, to aid him in his tasks. The General Schenk he refers to his Robert Schenk, who took a seat in Congress at the same time as Garfield, and who sought to be an officer of Garfield’s committee in the House.

Autograph letter signed, Washington, January 17, 1864. “Yours of Jan. 11 came duly to hand. The insurance matter is all right. Thank you for your assistance in regard to it. Gen. Schenk has returned and though the election of Clerk has not yet taken place I think the majority of the committee have settled upon a man so that I fear the result cannot be changed.

“I am tugging away at my work as hard as I can and am trying to get even, and though I have made considerable progress in that direction, am still behind. I cannot ask you to come and help me for I know I can’t pay you what I ought. But if you were here you could do me a great deal of good. And I think I could in time aid you. Should you come I will do all I can for you.”

Garfield’s plea would be heard in time, as Ford would become his Congressional secretary.

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