JAMES A. GARFIELD
(1831 - 1881) Twentieth President of the United States, Union army major general, assassinated while in office. Superb rare content A.L.S. on "House of Representatives" letterhead, 2pp., 4to., Washington, Dec. 13, 1879, a letter of political strategy written to Lionel Allen Sheldon, a Civil War and Congressional colleague. Penning his note on the eve of preparations for the Republican nominating convention of 1880, Garfield proposes keeping the nomination away from Ulysses S. Grant. In part: "...In reference to the Presidential question.... I don't think it is best for the party to nominate Grant. While I greatly admire him, & like him personally, I know he would lose the votes of a large number of people who would not vote for him-- and besides there is a general fear that he would again bring around him the old set that made so much criticism. The only way by which this nomination can be prevented, is by an understanding on the part of the other candidates, that each shall get as many states as he can, & at the convention let the strongest man win... " Garfield, who would go on to win the Republican nomination (and eventually the Presidency) as a late-ballot, "dark horse" candidate, was initially in charge of Ohio's votes at the convention. The original candidates were the Stalwart-backed Grant, the Half-Breed Senator James Blaine, and Ohioan John Sherman, then Secretary of the Treasury. Republicans considered Blaine the only serious challenge to an almost-definite Grant nomination, and regarded Sherman as highly unlikely. Yet, Garfield's letter indicates machinations which may have made the contest much closer: He continues "... It may be best to give the Ohio delegation to Sherman-- and thus hold our party together ready to do what may seem best when the time comes-- It is of vital importance to keep the Ohio Republicans together, & I incline to the belief that this is the most effective way to do it. I am much more intimate with Blaine than with any other candidate; but it is more important to us to keep the Ohio column in hand..." Boldly signed, "J.A. Garfield". Fine. Lot includes transmittal cover with Congressional franking signature, "J.A. Garfield"; the final letter "d" in Garfield's name was torn off during the opening.