Chester Arthur

Chester Arthur in 1881 by Ole Peter Hansen Balling

Chester Arthur in 1881 by Ole Peter Hansen Balling

Chester A. Arthur was the twenty-first President of the United States. He served from 1881-1885. He was born on October 5, 1829 in Fairfield, Vermont. He was the son of a Baptist clergyman who had emigrated from Ireland. The family moved frequently as he grew up.

Arthur entered Union College in New York at the age of fifteen. He made Phi Beta Kappa and graduated at the age of eighteen. He then went to law school and taught school as well. In 1853, he joined a law practice in New York and as admitted to the bar to practice law.

Arthur’s father was an abolitionist and Arthur himself took on cases in support of these beliefs, defending fugitive salves. He became a Republican and campaigned for Fremont in 1856. He married Ellen Herndon in 1859 and they had three children, one who died in infancy. Mrs. Arthur died after twenty years of marriage, a year before Arthur became President.

Arthur had interest in politics and campaigned for Governor Morgan in 1860. He was rewarded with the honorary role of state engineer-in-chief, then when the Civil War began, he was made quartermaster general to help the state with war supplies. In 1862, he was appointed state inspector general of the militia. He returned to his law practice in 1863 with the election of a Democrat as Governor.

Arthur continued to work with the Republican Party rising to be the number two man. He campaigned vigorously for Grant for President in 1868 and was rewarded by Grant with appointment as Collector of the Port of New York, a very important post due to the patronage involved.

Arthur held the post for eight years and built a very strong political base loyal to him. President Hayes removed him from the position in 1879 as part of his efforts to reform the Civil service.

In 1880, Arthur went to the Republican convention as part of the “Stalwart” faction supporting the nomination of Grant to a third term. When Garfield was eventually nominated as the Republican candidate, Arthur was made the Vice President nominee to satisfy the Stalwarts. When Garfield won, Arthur became Vice President, the first office to which he had been elected.

As Vice President, Arthur enjoyed unusual power. The Senate was split evenly and, as presiding officer, he voted in case of ties. Garfield and Arthur were not close, and the split widened when Garfield appointed one of Blaine’s’ friends to the position Arthur had held; collector of the Ports of New York.

When Garfield was shot, Arthur remained very circumspect through the eighty days Garfield lay near death. He was particularly conscious of his role due to the assassin’s charge that he did it to put Arthur and the Stalwarts in power.

Arthur was sworn in as President in New York at his home by a New York Supreme Court Judge, and again two days later by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Washington. In his inaugural address, he praised both Garfield and the U.S. Constitution, saying that, as ordained by the Constitution, the orderly transfer of power had occurred for the fourth time in history.

One of Arthur’s first moves as President was to renovate the White House. He hired the famous designer, Louis Tiffany, to carry this out. He also encouraged the US to emerge from it’s somewhat isolationist shell and participate in international conferences around the world. One he himself called with the purpose of establishing standard time zones. Another sought ways to prevent war.

In this hemisphere, he encouraged all of North and South American to use the same currency in order to further trade. He also pushed for a treaty with Nicaragua to build an inter-ocean canal, but the effort was turned down by the Senate.

Arthur, the grand beneficiary of the patronage system when he was collector of the Ports of New York, proposed a complete revision of the civil service system in 1881. It was signed into law in 1883 as the Pendleton Civil Service Act.

To the consternation of the Stalwarts, Arthur was completely his own man during his term in office. He proposed a number of bills that went against the grain of the Republicans. He also vetoed other legislation when he felt that special interests were benefiting too much. Many of his suggestions were ignored by Congress, but, in later administrations, took shape and form similar to what he had proposed. He was the first to push for Federal aid to education, to reduce income taxes, among others.

This independence dashed his hopes of winning the office in his own right. Angered by his actions, the Republicans nominated his political enemy, James Blaine, who went on to lose to Grover Cleveland, Arthur returned to his law practice after inauguration of Cleveland in 1885, but was soon forced to retire due to illness. He died on November 18, 1886 in New York.[/tab]

Chester A. Arthur Facts

  • President No.: 21st
  • When did Chester Arthur serve? 1881-1885
  • What was Chester Arthur’s party? Republican
  • Where was Chester Arthur from? New York
  • Who was Chester Arthur’s wife? Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur
  • When was Chester Arthur born? October 5, 1829
  • Where was Chester Arthur born? Fairfield, Vermont
  • When did Chester Arthur die? November 18, 1886
  • Where did Chester Arthur die? New York, New York
  • Which college did Chester Arthur attend? Union College
  • What was Chester Arthur’s Jobs Before President? Teacher, Lawyer, Inspector General, Vice President
  • What was Chester Arthur’s height? 6 feet, 2 inches
  • What was the population when Chester Arthur was president? 50,155,783
  • What hobbies did Chester Arthur have? Billiards
  • What transportation did Chester Arthur use? Train, horse
  • How did Chester Arthur communicate? Letter, telegram


State of the Union Addresses

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