President Chester Arthur

President Chester Arthur

Easton Press Chester Arthur books

Chester Arthur - A Quarter Century of Machine Politics - George Frederick Howe - 1987

President Chester Arthur biography

Chester Alan Arthur (1830-1886), twenty-first President of the United States, born in Fairfield, Vermont. His father, the Reverend William Arthur (1796-1875) was a Baptist minister, and a native of the north of Ireland. Chester Arthur was educated at Union College, Schenectady, New York, and was admitted to the bar in 1853. He achieved prominence as a lawyer by his work in the Lemmon Case, which involved the validity, under certain conditions, of the Fugitive Slave Law. Chester Arthur secured from the highest court of New York State a ruling that a slave brought into New York while in transit form one slave State to another was, ipso facto, free. He continued the practice of law in New York City, and engaged in politics, becoming prominent in local Republican activities.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Chester Arthur was inspector general of the New York State militia, and served through the war as quartermaster general. In 1871 President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him collector of the Port of New York; this post was the most desirable in the Federal patronage system. Because of his advocacy of the spoils system, and his opposition to the program for civil service reform of President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878, Chester Arthur was removed form his post by President Hayes. In the Republican Party convention of 1880, Arthur, as head of the Grant supporters in the Republican Party, was nominated for the Vice Presidency of the United States, in the interests of party harmony. Chester Arthur was elected with James A. Garfield. In 1881, Arthur's life took an unexpected turn when President James A. Garfield was assassinated, thrusting Arthur into the presidency. As Vice President at the time, Arthur was an unlikely successor, and his political affiliation had been at odds with Garfield's faction within the Republican Party. Despite initial skepticism, following the death of President Garfield, Chester Arthur became the twenty-first President of the United States on September 22, 1881.

During his presidency, Arthur faced the challenges of a nation still healing from the Civil War and grappling with issues of civil service reform. Surprisingly, Arthur championed civil service reform, signing the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act into law in 1883. The act sought to end the "spoils system" and establish a merit-based system for federal employment.

During the administration of President Chester Arthur a bill dealing with the Mormon question, and declaring polygamy illegal, was enacted; a protective tariff bill was passed, and several commercial treaties were ratified. In spite of his former support of the spoils system, Chester Arthur extended and enforced the civil service rules, and his administration was free of patronage scandals.

Arthur's presidency also witnessed efforts to modernize the U.S. Navy, and he approved the construction of new warships, laying the foundation for the country's naval expansion in the years to come.

However, as the 1884 election approached, Arthur's bid for re-election faced obstacles within his own party.
Due to internal dissensions in the party, President Chester Arthur was not nominated to succeed himself. The Republican nomination ultimately went to James G. Blaine, and Arthur retired from politics after serving a single term.

Chester A. Arthur's presidency is often viewed as a surprising departure from expectations. Despite his initial ties to machine politics and a lack of high-profile accomplishments during his term, Arthur left a lasting legacy with his support for civil service reform. After leaving office, he returned to New York City, where he succumbed to kidney disease on November 18, 1886. Today, Arthur is remembered as a president who exceeded the expectations set by his early career, leaving a mark on American politics through his commitment to reform and governance.


A Quarter Century of Machine Politics

Chester Arthur: A Quarter Century of Machine Politics by George Frederick Howe is a seminal biography that illuminates the life and political career of one of America's most enigmatic presidents. Written with meticulous research and keen insight, Howe's biography offers a comprehensive exploration of Chester A. Arthur's rise from obscure beginnings to the pinnacle of power, shedding light on the complex intersection of politics and governance in the Gilded Age. Born on October 5, 1829, in Fairfield, Vermont, Chester Alan Arthur embarked on a journey marked by ambition, intellect, and a knack for navigating the intricacies of New York's political landscape. Howe delves into Arthur's early years as a lawyer and political operative, tracing his ascent through the ranks of the Republican Party and his eventual appointment as Collector of the Port of New York, a position that catapulted him into the heart of the city's political machine. Central to Howe's biography is Arthur's unexpected ascension to the presidency following the assassination of James A. Garfield in 1881. Howe meticulously examines Arthur's presidency, challenging conventional narratives that depict him as a mere puppet of party bosses. Instead, Howe presents Arthur as a pragmatic leader who skillfully navigated the competing interests of his party while also pursuing his own vision for reform and modernization.

At the heart of Howe's biography is an exploration of the machine politics that defined Arthur's era. Howe offers a nuanced analysis of the patronage system, party rivalries, and the influence of powerful political bosses such as Roscoe Conkling. Through Howe's narrative, Arthur emerges as a figure who both benefited from and grappled with the complexities of machine politics, ultimately leaving a legacy that defies easy categorization. Published in 1935, Chester Arthur: A Quarter Century of Machine Politics remains a landmark work in Arthur scholarship, praised for its meticulous research, balanced perspective, and engaging prose. Howe's biography offers a compelling portrait of a president whose legacy continues to intrigue scholars and readers alike, providing valuable insights into the dynamics of power and politics in the Gilded Age.


Chester Arthur quotes

"Men may die, but the fabrics of free institutions remains unshaken."

"I may be president of the United States, but my private life is nobody's damned business."

"The extravagant expenditure of public money is an evil not to be measured by the value of that money to the people who are taxed for it."

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