I’ve been on a history book reading binge. A book or two a week. I’ll write later about the ones that I love. A topic that particularly interests me: assassins!
My favorite book on this topic is about the 12-day manhunt for John Wilkes Boothe, the man who killed Abe Lincoln. It’s wild.
Another great one is the assassination of James Garfield.
But here’s the crazy part: Lincoln was killed in 1865. Garfield was killed in 1881. Before Lincoln was killed, presidents had basically zero security. And even after Lincoln was murdered, up until James Garfield’s murder, presidents still had zero security.
Presidents rode around in carriages with their families alone. They’d ride the trains just like anyone else. Anyone could just pop into the White House off the street and say hey.
Garfield even had office hours. A few hours each day he set aside so anyone could schedule time with him and say whatever they wanted to say. Wild.
In fact, the New York Times even wrote an editorial on the topic of politicians and security:
“We cannot protect our Presidents with body guards. There is no protection with which we can surround them that will ward off danger or disarm it more effectively than our present refusal to recognize its existence.”
They went on:
“Assassination can no more be guarded against than death by lightning and it is best not to worry about either.”
I haven’t gotten to the point in history when a president’s security became important…but wild so far.
My favorite books on assassins: