Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Hall of Forgotten Presidents - Chester A. Arthur

Hall of Forgotten Presidents - Chester A. Arthur. Biographical sketch asks readers not to forget this President.

From the site:

Have you ever in your life heard a reference to President Arthur ??

We thought not. Neither have we.

Perhaps the most unknown of the unknown, President Chester Arthur came from relative obscurity, became President by way of a heinous event, accomplished little and never had a chance to seek a second term.

Born in Fairfield, Vermont in 1830, and a lawyer noted for civil rights work on behalf of slaves, Arthur was a high ranking Union staff officer during the Civil War. Because he had been a loyal Republican, President Grant appointed him to the powerful position of collector of the Port of New York in 1871. Several years later President Rutherford B. Hayes, a fellow Republican from Ohio with renowned integrity, fired Arthur, alleging that he had used tax money to reward his political supporters. Although there was no doubt of Arthur's connections with the incredibly powerful and corrupt New York political machine of that era, Arthur's direct involvement with any illegal act could not be established with certainty [doesn't that sound familiar??]. As a result, sympathy within the Republican party for what was considered unfair treatment of Arthur by Hayes contributed to Arthur receiving the Republican Vice Presidential nod to run with James Garfield in the election of 1880, which the Garfield/Arthur ticket won.

In July 1881, after only four months in office, President Garfield was mortally wounded at the Washington railroad station by gunfire from a disgruntled office seeker and died 80 days later, leaving Chester A. Arthur as President of the United States and the third President to have served as President within a 12 month period.

Specters of the tainted past greeted Arthur when he assumed office as the political pundits of the day predicted a flood of corruption and graft. However, that never occurred and Arthur ran the presidency in an honest and upright fashion. In fact, he showed great political courage by vetoing a graft-laden "rivers and harbors" bill, by breaking relations with his former New York political boss and by vigorously prosecuting fellow Republicans accused of defrauding the government. Legislatively, though, little of any consequence was achieved during his term except for the creation of the modern Civil Service system with its competitive examinations and non-political merit system. It became law because, in another display of exceptional political courage, Chester Arthur went against the will of his own party and supported it.

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