President Chester Arthur Accomplishments

Chester A. Arthur served as the 21st President of the United States from 1881 to 1885. Prior to his presidency, he was the Vice President under President James A. Garfield, and he assumed the presidency after Garfield's assassination.
President Chester Arthur
Arthur's presidency was marked by several notable accomplishments and events including the following.

Civil Service Reform

Chester A. Arthur's role in civil service reform was a significant aspect of his presidency. Before becoming president, Arthur was the Vice President under President James A. Garfield. He assumed the presidency in 1881 after President Garfield's assassination. At that time, the spoils system, a system of political patronage where government jobs were awarded based on political loyalty rather than merit, was prevalent.

Arthur surprised many by supporting civil service reform, which aimed to address issues of corruption, inefficiency, and political favoritism in the federal government. His key contribution to civil service reform was the signing of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act into law on January 16, 1883. The Pendleton Act represented a crucial step toward transforming the nature of federal employment in the United States. The following are some key points related to Chester A. Arthur's involvement in civil service reform.

Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act (1883)

The Pendleton Act established the merit-based system for federal employment. It mandated competitive examinations for certain government positions, ensuring that appointments were based on qualifications rather than political connections.

The Pendleton Act created the United States Civil Service Commission, a bipartisan body tasked with overseeing the implementation of the merit system. The Commission was responsible for conducting examinations, maintaining employment records, and enforcing the new regulations. The Act marked a departure from the patronage system by introducing merit-based hiring. Positions within the federal government were to be filled based on candidates' qualifications, as determined by competitive exams.

The Pendleton Act aimed to reduce the influence of political patronage in federal appointments, helping to professionalize the civil service and create a more efficient and accountable government.

Chester A. Arthur's support for civil service reform was initially unexpected, given his earlier ties to political machines. However, as president, he embraced the cause and played a pivotal role in enacting legislation that laid the foundation for a more modern and professional civil service system in the United States.

Naval Expansion

Arthur's naval expansion was a significant aspect of his administration. Arthur recognized the importance of a strong navy for protecting American interests and projecting power internationally. Arthur was a proponent of modernizing the U.S. Navy to ensure it remained technologically advanced and capable. The modernization efforts included the construction of new warships equipped with the latest technology. Arthur sought to expand the size of the U.S. Navy by adding new vessels. This expansion was driven by a desire to have a more formidable naval presence, both to protect American interests abroad and to secure maritime trade routes.

The emphasis on naval expansion was influenced by strategic considerations, including the need to protect American commerce, ensure the security of overseas territories and interests, and project strength in international relations. Arthur's administration actively promoted the idea that a powerful navy was essential for a nation's security and global influence. This perspective reflected the broader navalism movement of the late 19th century, which advocated for the strategic importance of navies in international affairs.

It's important to note that while Arthur supported naval expansion, his presidency did not witness a revolutionary transformation of the U.S. Navy. However, the groundwork for subsequent naval expansion was laid during this period, and the importance of a strong navy continued to be recognized in subsequent administrations.

Overall, Chester A. Arthur's efforts in naval expansion were part of a broader trend during the late 19th century, where the United States began to recognize the significance of maintaining a powerful navy as it expanded its global presence.

Chinese Exclusion Act

Arthur's presidency played a crucial role in the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, a landmark piece of legislation in the history of U.S. immigration policy. The Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law on May 6, 1882, and it marked the first significant restriction on immigration based on nationality. In the late 19th century, there was growing anti-Chinese sentiment in the United States, particularly on the West Coast. Chinese immigrants, who had come to the U.S. in significant numbers during the mid-1800s, were often targets of discrimination and viewed as competitors for jobs. The Chinese Exclusion Act suspended the immigration of Chinese laborers for ten years. It also explicitly denied Chinese immigrants the ability to become naturalized U.S. citizens. The act was initially intended as a temporary measure but was later extended and expanded.

President Chester A. Arthur played a central role in the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. While there was pressure from some quarters to address the issue of Chinese immigration, Arthur's decision to sign the act into law demonstrated his willingness to respond to popular sentiment and political pressure. The motivations behind the Chinese Exclusion Act were complex and multifaceted. Economic concerns, cultural differences, and racial prejudices all played a role. The act was seen by some as a response to economic anxieties and a desire to protect job opportunities for American workers.

The Chinese Exclusion Act had a profound impact on Chinese immigration to the United States. It significantly limited the number of Chinese laborers entering the country and created a restrictive immigration precedent. The act was extended with the Geary Act in 1892 and was only repealed in 1943, during World War II, when China became an ally of the United States. The Chinese Exclusion Act remains a controversial and historically significant piece of legislation, reflecting the immigration policies and prejudices of the time. While Chester A. Arthur was not the initiator of anti-Chinese sentiment, his decision to sign the act into law contributed to shaping immigration policies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Economic Policy

Chester A. Arthur's economic policy during his presidency was marked by efforts to address issues related to tariff reform. The key piece of legislation associated with his economic policy is the Tariff Act of 1883, often referred to as the "Mongrel Tariff Act." Chester Arthur advocated for changes to the existing tariff system. The tariff is a tax on imported goods, and during Arthur's time, the tariff was a significant source of federal revenue. Arthur supported reforms aimed at adjusting the tariff rates.

The Tariff Act of 1883, signed into law by President Arthur, aimed to lower certain tariffs and adjust others. While it did not represent a comprehensive overhaul of the tariff system, it was considered a step toward reform. The act also addressed specific issues related to the assessment of duties on various imported goods. The Tariff Act of 1883 was a compromise measure that aimed to address competing interests. It reflected the challenges of finding a balance between protectionism for certain industries and the desire for more open trade. While the Tariff Act of 1883 did bring about some changes, it did not represent a comprehensive or radical restructuring of the tariff system. The complexities of economic interests and political considerations often made tariff reform a challenging issue to address.

The economic context of Arthur's presidency included a desire for tariff reform to balance the interests of manufacturers, consumers, and the federal government. The tariff was a contentious issue, with manufacturers often seeking protective tariffs to shield domestic industries from foreign competition, while consumers and some businesses called for lower tariffs to reduce prices. It's worth noting that economic policy during Arthur's presidency was not solely focused on tariff reform. Other economic factors, such as civil service reform and broader efforts to address economic challenges facing the nation, also played a role in shaping his administration's economic policies.

Preservation of Civil Rights

Chester A. Arthur took steps during his presidency to address issues related to civil rights, particularly concerning the protection of civil rights for African Americans. One notable action in this regard was his signing of the Edmunds Act in 1882. While the primary focus of the Edmunds Act was on addressing the practice of polygamy among Mormons in the Utah Territory, it had broader implications for civil rights and political rights, especially in relation to African Americans.

The 1880s were a period when civil rights for African Americans were a significant national issue. The aftermath of Reconstruction and the rise of segregationist policies in the South created challenges for the protection of civil rights.

Edmunds Act (1882) named after Senator George F. Edmunds, was primarily designed to suppress polygamy within the Mormon community in the Utah Territory. Polygamy was seen as a practice contrary to American values and laws. One of the provisions of the Edmunds Act was the disenfranchisement of individuals practicing or advocating polygamy. This meant that those who engaged in or supported polygamous marriages were denied the right to vote. While the main target of the act was the practice of polygamy, its enforcement had broader implications. The disenfranchisement provisions affected not only Mormons but also individuals in other communities who engaged in polygamy. Additionally, the act indirectly addressed issues related to civil rights and the political rights of certain groups.

Mormon Church Influence

The Edmunds Act was also seen as a way to curtail the political influence of the Mormon Church, which was perceived by some as being in opposition to civil rights, particularly in the context of race relations.

It's important to note that while the Edmunds Act had provisions related to civil and political rights, its primary focus was on polygamy. The broader civil rights movement and efforts to address racial inequality in the United States continued to evolve in the decades that followed Arthur's presidency.

Chester A. Arthur's presidency is often considered a time of transitional leadership, as he unexpectedly became president following Garfield's assassination. Despite initial doubts about his ability to lead, Arthur's accomplishments demonstrated a commitment to reform and governance.

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