Of all the great “what if” scenarios in American history, the aftermath of the presidential election of 1880 stands out as one of the most tantalizing. The end of the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln had thrown the future of Lincoln’s vision for the country into considerable doubt; the years that followed—marked by impeachment, constitutional change, presidential scandals, and the contested election of 1876—saw Republicans fighting to retain power as they transitioned into the party of “big business.” Enter James A. Garfield, a seasoned politician known for his advocacy of civil rights, who represented the last potential Reconstruction presidency: truly, Todd Arrington suggests, the last “Lincoln Republican.”
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