ALS signed “Charles Guiteau,” two pages on two adjoining sheets, 5 x 8, July 2, 1881. Letter addressed, “To the White House.” In full: “The President’s tragic death was a sad necessity, but it will unite the Republican party and save the Republic. Life is a flimsy dream and it matters little when one goes. A human life is of small value. During the war thousands of brave boys went down without a tear. I presume the President was a Christian and that he will be happier in Paradise than here. It will be no worse for Mrs. Garfield, dear soul, to part with her husband this way, than by natural death. He is liable to go at any time, any way. I had no ill will toward the President. His death was a political necessity. I am a lawyer, theologian, and politician. I am a stalwart of the Stalwarts. I was with General Grant and the rest of our men in New York during the canvass. I have some papers for the Press which I shall leave with Byron Andrews, and his co-Journalists, at 1420 NY are where all the reporters can see them. I am going to the jail.” In very good to fine condition, with intersecting folds.
Guiteau, a deranged and disappointed office-seeker, shot President Garfield on the morning of July 2 at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washington. He immediately surrendered to authorities, shouting, ‘I am a Stalwart of the Stalwarts! I did it and I want to be arrested! Arthur is President now!’ This letter was found in his pocket and several similarly worded manifestos were discovered at his residence, including one addressed to Vice President Arthur informing him of his succession to the presidency and making recommendations for cabinet nominations. Arthur was at first regarded suspiciously under whispers of conspiracy, but it soon became clear that Guiteau’s emphatic political pronouncements were the ramblings of a madman. This letter, and the others, were read in court as evidence in the case against Guiteau. Despite a plea of insanity, Guiteau was convicted and sentenced to death in 1882. All together, this is an absolutely incredible piece—the admission of a presidential assassin, carried in his pocket while committing the dreadful act.
Ex. Sotheby’s Parke-Bernet, November 14, 1978; sale 4179, lot 416. Pre-certified PSA/DNA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.