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Presidential Diaries

In response to:

A Presidential Diary from the July 30, 1964 issue

To the Editors:

Far too many historians use secondary rather than primary sources. Such an historian is your reviewer Professor Stanley Elkins. He states in his review of Hayes: The Diary of a President: 1875-1881 (New York Review, July 30), “There is something anomalous about a President’s keeping a diary. Only three out of the thirty-five have found the time to do it. They were John Quincy Adams, James K. Polk, and Rutherford B. Hayes.”

Nonsense. Had he consulted documents rather than borrow from Professor Harry Williams, he would have found that there was a fourth—Garfield. Garfield kept a daily diary from the day of his inauguration to the night before he was shot by Charles Guiteau. Furthermore it has been available for inspection in the Library of Congress for the best part of forty years.

Lyle Blair

Director

The Michigan State University Press

East Lansing, Michigan

Stanley M Elkins replies:

Guilty as charged, I did indeed borrow from Professor T. Harry Williams, and we are both indebted to Mr. Blair for pointing out our error.

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