TWENTY-ONE

Chester A. Arthur
1881-85

When Garfield died and Chester A. Arthur ( 1830-86) became President in September 1881, one prominent Republican exclaimed: " Chet ArthurPresident of the United States. Good God!"1 His chagrin was understandable. Arthur had never held elective office until he became Vice President; he was known largely as a "Gentleman Boss" closely associated with Roscoe Conkling's New York political machine. " Arthur for President!" former President Hayes wrote, almost in disbelief, in his diary. "Conkling the power behind the throne, superior to the throne!" 2 For the New York Times Arthur was "about the last man who would be considered eligible to that position, did the choice depend on the voice either of a majority of his own party or of a majority of the people of the United States." 3

Arthur, who liked to be called "General" after his Civil War rank, was a "spoilsman's spoilsman." 4 A few months before Garfield's assassination, speaking at a Republican banquet in New York, he had shocked reformers by his levity about politics. The banquet was in honor of Stephen W. Dorsey, Secretary of the Republican National Committee, and Arthur began his speech by teasing the Republican notables there about the methods used during the 1880 campaign, especially in Indiana. "I don't think we had better go into the minute secrets of the campaign, so far as I know them," he said playfully, "because I see the reporters are present, who are taking it all down; and, while there is no harm in talking about some things after the

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