Chester A. Arthur, 21st President of the United States of America, b. 1829, d. 1886.

When the tally is taken for the most forgotten President of the United States, Chester A. Arthur certainly ranks up there. Who was this man of mystery and what was he doing in the White House?

Chester was born in 1829 in Vermont. Seems that there is a difference of opinion on where in Vermont he was born, but suffice it to say he was born there. He attended Union College in Schenectady, New York, moved to New York City after graduation and was admitted to the bar in 1854.

Mr. Arthur's career in politics began with his membership in the Whig party and the taking of an anti-slavery position. He was a charter member of the Republican party and served in a number of capacities on the staff of the governor of New York's military staff during the American Civil War. After the war, Arthur became the collector for the Port of New York (which would one day evolve into the Port Authority) and became a big player in the political machine of Roscoe Conkling (no relation to Roscoe P. Coltraine). Two-thirds of the United States' tariff revenue flowed through the Port of New York at that time, and that made Chester A. Arthur a rather influential man. The system of political spoils at the time allowed Arthur to use his influence within the tariff laws for the benefit of the Republican party, which lead to President Rutherford B. Hayes removing him from his position with the Port of New York.

This only led to greater political spoils for Arthur, who the Republicans thanked by making him the chairman of the New York Republican State Committee. In 1880 he was nominated for the vice presidency by the Republicans to ride on the ticket with James Garfield. Garfield was assasinated the following year, all part of that problem with presidents elected in a year ending with zero thing, and Chester A. Arthur slipped into the presidency.

Arthur was heavily criticized. He was seen as a "machine politician" who rose to power through partisan favoritism. He was also a dapper dandy kind of fellow who liked to dress all cute and ruffley (no, that is not a word) and always ate as if it was his last meal, enjoying gourmet foods in quality and quantity. He lacked anything resembling charisma, but on the flip side he was a man with very able administrative skills with great experience in running large federal offices. Basically, he neither dropped the ball, nor did he run with it.

The most important piece of legislation passed during the King Arthur presidency was the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883, but only after Republican defeats in congressional elections convinced him his party was under siege. He also signed into legislation the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which excluded Chinese laborers from the United States, refurbished the White House to make it more palatial, and failed in his efforts to pursuade Congress to reduce tariffs by twenty to twenty-five percent.

The tragic side of Chester A. Arthur came with the death of his wife in 1880, before he became president, and his affliction, Bright's disease. While his supporters worked to support his re-election in 1884, he stayed out of the public eye to hide his deteriorating condition. Those efforts failed and Arthur was lost to history, caught between being a spoils politician and an effective administrator. Torn between those two identities is the irony of the Chester A. Arthur presidency.


Most of this rewritten from a twenty year old college term paper.
The rest was verified through that Encarta Encylopedia thingy
and heresay from a slightly drunk guy at the train station
who claimed he voted for Arthur in 1884.

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