Chester A. Arthur

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Chester Alan Arthur (October 5, 1830 - November 18, 1886) was a member of the Republican Party and worked as a lawyer before becoming the 20th Vice President in the administration of James Garfield. Garfield was shot by Charles Guiteau, a disgruntled office seeker, on July 2, 1881. Garfield died On September 19th, and Arthur became President, serving until 1885.

Before entering national politics, Arthur had been collector of customs for the Port of New York. He was appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant and was fired by Grant's successor, Rutherford B. Hayes, under suspicion of bribery and corruption. His notable acheivements in office included civil service reform and the passage of the Pendleton Act. Arthur is also remembered as one of the most society-conscious presidents—earning the nickname "the Gentleman Boss" for his style of dress and cortly manner—as well as dying from Bright's disease, a kidney disorder. He was known for his wide popularity in office.

Contents

Biography

Arthur was born in Fairfield in Franklin County, Vermont on October 5, 1829. Arthur later claimed he was actually born in 1830 because of rumors from his political rivals that he was born in Canada rather than in Vermont. In reality, however Arthur was simply born near the Canadian border. His parents were William Arthur and Malvina Stone.

He attended the public schools and was graduated from Union College, Schenectady, New York, in 1848. He became principal of an academy in North Pownal, Vt. in 1851. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1854, and commenced practice in New York City. He took an active part in the reorganization of the State militia.

During the Civil War, Arthur served as acting quartermaster general of the State in 1861. He was later commissioned as inspector general, and appointed quartermaster general with the rank of brigadier general, and served until 1862. He resumed the practice of law in New York City. With the help of political boss Roscoe Conkling, Arthur was appointed by President Ulysses Grant as collector of the port of New York 1871-1878.

Honorable in his personal life and his public career, Arthur nevertheless was a firm believer in the spoils system when it was coming under vehement attack from reformers. He insisted upon honest administration of the Customs House, but staffed it with more employees than it needed, retaining them for their merit as party workers rather than as Government officials.

In 1878 President Rutherford B. Hayes, attempting to reform the Customs House, ousted Arthur. Conkling and his followers tried to win redress by fighting for the renomination of Grant at the 1880 Republican Convention. Failing, they reluctantly accepted the nomination of Arthur for the Vice Presidency.

In 1878 Arthur resumed the practice of law in New York City. He was elected Vice President of the United States on the Republican ticket with President James Garfield for the term beginning March 4, 1881. Upon the death of President Garfield, Arthur became President of the United States on September 20, 1881.

Presidency

Avoiding old political friends, he became a man of fashion in his garb and associates, and often was seen with the elite of Washington, New York, and Newport. To the indignation of the Stalwart Republicans, the one time Collector of the Port of New York became, as President, a champion of civil service reform. Public pressure, heightened by the assassination of Garfield, forced an unwieldy Congress to heed the President.

In 1883 Congress passed the Pendleton Act, which established a bipartisan Civil Service Commission, forbade levying political assessments against officeholders, and provided for a "classified system" that made certain Government positions obtainable only through competitive written examinations. The system protected employees against removal for political reasons.

Acting independently of party dogma, Arthur also tried to lower tariff rates so the Government would not be embarrassed by annual surpluses of revenue. Congress raised about as many rates as it trimmed, but Arthur signed the Tariff Act of 1883. Aggrieved Westerners and Southerners looked to the Democratic Party for redress, and the tariff began to emerge as a major political issue between the two parties.

The Arthur Administration enacted the first general Federal immigration law. Arthur approved a measure in 1882 excluding paupers, criminals, and the mentally ill. Congress suspended Chinese immigration for ten years, later making the restriction permanent.

Arthur demonstrated as President that he was above factions within the Republican Party, if indeed not above the party itself. Perhaps in part his reason was the well-kept secret he had known since a year after he succeeded to the Presidency, that he was suffering from a fatal kidney disease. He kept himself in the running for the Presidential nomination in 1884 in order not to appear that he feared defeat, but was not renominated. Publisher Alexander K. McClure recalled, "No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted, and no one ever retired ... more generally respected."

He served until March 3, 1885. He returned to New York City where he died November 18, 1886, Interment is in the Rural Cemetery in Albany, New York.

Quotes

"Madam, I may be President of the United States, but my private life is nobody's damn buisness."

Source: Playboy December 2001.

Cabinet

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PositionNameTerm(s) of Office
PresidentChester A. ArthurSeptember 19th, 1881—March 4, 1885
Vice PresidentNone
PositionNameTerm(s) of Office
Secretary of StateJames G. Blaine
Frederick T. Frelinghuysen
March 7, 1881—December 19, 1881
December 19, 1881—March 6, 1885
Secretary of the TreasuryCharles J. Folger
Walter Q. Gresham
Hugh McCulloch
1881—1884
1884
1884—1885
Secretary of WarRobert T. Lincoln1881—1885
Attorney GeneralBenjamin H. Brewster1881—1885
Postmaster GeneralTimothy O. Howe
Walter Q. Gresham
Frank Hatton
1881—1883
1883—1884
1884—1885
Secretary of the NavyWilliam H. Hunt
William E. Chandler
1881—1882
1882—1885
Secretary of the InteriorSamuel J. Kirkwood
Henry M. Teller
1881—1882
1882—1885

Significant events during presidency

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