Arthur Chester A. More Resources Chester A. Arthur Presidency Page. Arthur Essays Life in Brief. Life Before the Presidency. Campaigns and Elections. Domestic Affairs. Foreign Affairs. Life After the Presidency. Family Life. The American Franchise. Rise of a Stalwart His birth is a minor mystery: exactly where and when Chester A. Arthur was born to his Irish immigrant parents is something of a question mark.
Gilded Age Politics: 1877–1892
Some speculation abounds that he came from Canada, but Arthur never said yea or nay; so, as far as history is concerned, the gentleman president hailed from Vermont in either or Arthur joined the Psi Upsilon fraternity, studied law and became an educator in Vermont. When he moved to New York City to practice law, he vocally opposed slavery and supported equal rights for blacks in transportation.
Arthur joined the new Republican Party in the s. He married Ellen Lewis Herndon in Rumors of affairs sometimes dogged the Arthurs, but whether they were true or not never mattered. Their love for each other remained strong.
Chester A. Arthur - Lawyer, U.S. Vice President - Biography
Nell died of a pneumonia a year before Arthur became vice president. He never remarried. As a Radical Republican who took a harsh attitude toward the defeated South, Conkling was one of the most powerful men in the country. He also became an ally of Ulysses S. Grant, helping the wildly popular general secure the White House in Arthur, meanwhile, became quite active in state politics and stayed close to Conkling.
What made Arthur rise to prominence? Biographer Karabell postulates that nothing about Arthur made him presidential material; rather, his acceptable nature made him palatable as vice president. But president? Arthur never attracted the passionate allegiance that Blaine or Conkling did, but he avoided the passionate animosity they engendered. Much like Garfield, Arthur rose in because he was still standing. He was never the tallest reed, so he was rarely knocked down. Though he was a skilled organizer a more-than-competent politico, he lacked the x factor usually associated with leadership and greatness.
As it turned out, the qualities he did possess allowed him to rise farther than many others who were more intelligent, dynamic and driven. When he ascended to the highest office in the country, he was able to use those qualities to govern more successfully than many had expected. However, Arthur did not indulge in the underhanded nature of his position. There is no evidence whatsoever that he engaged in kickbacks, skimming, bribes, etc. In fact, Arthur was praised for his honesty, and when the Hayes administration went after the political patronage system, the office of the New York collector, and not Arthur himself was the target.
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Arthur was clean. Biographer Doenecke suggests that Arthur sometimes encouraged illegal activity, which may or may not be true, but he certainly tolerated it. Arthur became to use the modern phrase a political foot ball when Hayes suspended him in Senator Conkling, the Stalwart machine and friendly newspapers defended Arthur, for his term had brought efficiency to the customhouse and he himself was not corrupt. Arthur returned to practicing law. None believed it corrupt—none except a small but vocal minority both in and out of government, that is. Chet Arthur, who had benefited so handsomely from the spoils system, would find himself a strange, half-hearted cheerleader of reform.
When they realized that Grant would not get the nomination for a third term—and took solace in the fact that James G. Garfield, in what seemed to be a good bit of political peacemaking, offered the VP slot to Arthur. After all, the Republicans would have a difficult time winning without New York.
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A barren nomination would be a great honor. In a calmer moment you will look at this differently. Of course, Garfield and Arthur won the election but just barely. A reporter recorded the words at the private party, and the resulting story brought more shame on the men from Indiana, than Arthur, who was very well liked.
Nevertheless, the incident was remembered when Arthur became president. After the inauguration, Arthur and Garfield realized that they opposed each other on several issues. See last entry for full details. The president banished his vice president from the White House, and the two never worked together. When Garfield died thanks to doctor incompetence, Arthur took over an office he really never wanted. In addition, he had inherited a divided and factionalized party, with Blaine, [John] Sherman and other leading Republicans all hoping to receive the presidential nomination in The new president gets started While setting out to get a new cabinet, Arthur also sent his first message to Congress.
Naturally, the message spent some time on the late president. He also made several proposals, none of which came to fruition at that time because Congress was occupied with other matters; yet they merit a brief mention. His suggestions included the line-item veto, building a home for the Library of Congress, a smoother process for presidential succession, the regulation of interstate commerce Arthur charged railroads of conspiring on prices and discriminating on rates , and reforming the counting of electoral votes to prevent another Hayes-Tilden mess.
Old friends and strangers descended upon the White House looking for jobs. He soon dismissed the cabinet and got a new one. No realistically expected a Stalwart to keep James G.
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Blaine on as secretary of state. Blaine had served well, making movements toward furthering U. He would serve at that post again during the next Republican administration. He had a strong sense of fair play, and he did not have an exaggerated sense of self. He respected that other people of other parties and factions held strong beliefs and desires, and in the interests of order and national unity he intended to construct an inclusive administration. He seems to have come to come to that conclusion automatically, and it dictated his response to Conkling and the Stalwarts when they turned to him in October and expected an open door and a warm embrace.
Arthur before he became president: they knew he was wealthy and lived extravagantly. Arthur loved to live well. His wealth let him do so, both materially and gastronomically. Observers saw Arthur as always fastidiously dressed, but never outlandishly so. His carriage was the most handsomely appointed one in the capitol. And the White House witnessed a refurbishing it had never before seen. Arthur stripped the executive mansion of old furniture, heavy curtains, old gifts and more. His father, William, was born in in Ballymena, County Antrim, in what is now Northern Ireland, where the MacArthurs, as they were originally called, immigrated from Scotland.
In , at age twenty-two, William Arthur left Ireland forever and sailed from Derry to Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, in search of a better life.
William Arthur and Malvina Stone eloped. They ran away to East Berkshire, Vermont, and were married by a Methodist clergyman.
Chester Alan Arthur, 20th Vice President (1881)
In , the Arthurs set up housekeeping in Burlington, Vermont, and the next half-dozen years are a blur of moves to new pastoral duties William had become a Baptist and teaching positions. Given the sheer number of residences they had, it is difficult to pin down who of their six children was born where. Even the official arm of the U. Two other sources indicate that the actual year of birth was Records of the period were destroyed in a fire.
Could the future U. Arthur was born in Canada. I am strongly of the opinion that the son Chester Abell Arthur died in Burlington. There is no doubt that the son who died in Burlington is the one said to be born at Fairfield.
But well before his advance in politics, Arthur was claiming American citizenship. On being called to the New York bar, he swore before William A. Republican bosses insisted he provide proof of birthplace and citizenship. At first, he was unable to name his birthplace, but party leaders insisted he name a place before he wrote his acceptance letter.
He did not go fishing.
Instead, he went to Montreal with a friend to search records to see if any existed showing he was born in Canaria. Finding none, he deemed it safe to name some out-of-the-way place in the U. He chose North Fairfield where his deceased infant brother had been born and, thus, made it appear he was a native-born U. Americans like to place their presidents—especially dead ones—high on pedestals. But there is little doubt in some quarters that Chester Arthur was a venal person capable of committing any duplicitous deed to achieve his political ends.
In Arthur was appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant to one of the most coveted offices in all of government—collector of the port of New York. Arthur was fired by President Rutherford B. As president, however, he surprised his detractors and confounded his ward-heeling Republican backers. He turned out to be a reformer, which burned his bridges with backroom kingmakers.
He vigorously pursued prosecutions of post-office scandals in which several party supporters were implicated. In he signed the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, which all but eliminated patronage appointments and replaced them with civil service exams for most federal jobs. He also attempted to reduce tariffs, cut the federal debt, and modernize the U. He looked every inch the aristocratic father figure Americans looked for in their chief executives, too.