Arthur, Chester Alan

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Arthur, Chester Alan

Chester Alan Arthur, 1829–86, 21st President of the United States (1881–85), b. Fairfield, Vt. He studied law and before the Civil War practiced in New York City. In the war he was (1861–63) quartermaster general of New York State. In 1871, President Grant appointed him collector of the port of New York. Although Arthur was a loyal party man and a believer in the spoils system, he administered this office honestly and efficiently. President Hayes, bent on civil service reform, displaced Arthur in 1878, thus defying Senator Conkling and the New York Republican machine. At the Republican national convention of 1880, Garfield was nominated for President, and the Conkling "Stalwarts," who had supported Grant, were placated by the nomination of Arthur for Vice President. Garfield's assassination soon after his inauguration made Arthur President. He came into office handicapped by a record in machine politics and grave doubt as to his ability and integrity, but his administration proved honest, efficient, and dignified. He effectively supported the civil service reform act of 1883, vetoed a Chinese exclusion bill that violated a treaty with China, and vigorously prosecuted the Star Route trials, in which several prominent Republicans were found guilty of swindling the Post Office Department. Serious illness kept Arthur from actively seeking renomination in 1884.

See biographies by T. C. Reeves (1975) and Z. Karabell (2004).

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