Chester A. Arthur
was the 21st President of the United States.
Served as President: 1881-1885 Vice President: none Party: Republican Age at inauguration: 51
Born: October 5, 1829 in Fairfield, Vermont Died: November 18, 1886 in New York, New York
Married: Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur Children: Chester, Ellen Nickname: Elegant Arthur
What is Chester A. Arthur most known for?
Chester Arthur is mostly known for becoming president when James Garfield was shot and killed by an assassin. He was chosen as vice president for political reasons and many people were shocked when he became president.
Chester was born in Fairfield, Vermont. His father was an immigrant from Ireland who worked as a preacher. Throughout his childhood, Chester's family moved quite a bit as his father moved from church to church. This was common for preachers in those days.
Chester A. Arthur Source: Library of Congress
A good student, Chester graduated from Union College in New York in 1848. He then studied law and worked as a teacher. In 1854 he passed the bar exam and became a lawyer.
Arthur was a strong abolitionist. This meant that he wanted the slaves to be set free and to see an end to slavery in the United States. He had a famous case as a lawyer where he represented an African American named Lizzie Jennings. Lizzie had been told she could not ride on a street car because she was black. He won the case and a new law was made in New York that said discrimination was not allowed on public transportation.
Before He Became President
In the 1850's Arthur became involved in politics. He didn't run for elected office, but was very involved with the Republican political party. He first worked as the quartermaster general for the troops of New York during the Civil War. Then he became the customs collector for the Port of New York City. As the customs collector he continued with the tradition of building up a powerful political base by awarding jobs to supporters.
Arthur was nominated by the Republicans for vice president. He got the nomination primarily because of political reasons and as a favor to Arthur's powerful friend, Senator Roscoe Conkling. Arthur had never before held an elected office. His lack of experience made some people nervous, and they hoped that nothing would happen to President Garfield.
Chester A. Arthur's Presidency
Unfortunately, many people's worst fears came true when President Garfield was assassinated shortly after becoming president. The inexperienced Arthur was now president of the United States. He would have to learn on the job.
Some events and accomplishments of Arthur's presidency:
Pendleton Act - This act created the Civil Service Commission which helped to hire people for government jobs based on ability rather than political support. Jobs were to be filled based on how people scored on an exam. This was a big change for Arthur who had been involved in the "spoils" system of politics for years where friends got the best jobs. Although it was the right thing to do, he made many of his past friends and political allies angry by supporting this law.
US Navy - Arthur worked to fund additional ships for the US Navy which had been in decline for years.
Native Americans - He worked to increase funding for Indian education. He also made the mistake of giving some Indian land away, which was later fixed by President Cleveland.
All things considered, Arthur did a pretty good job as president. Most historians rank him somewhere in the middle of U.S. presidents.
How did he die?
Arthur found out that he had a fatal kidney disease prior to leaving the office of president. This is probably why he did not run for a second term. He died of kidney disease less than two years later.
Chester A. Arthur by Daniel Huntington
Fun Facts About Chester A. Arthur
Some people claimed that Arthur was born in Ireland or Canada and wasn't a U.S. citizen.
Arthur liked to be fashionable and changed clothes for each occasion throughout the day. This earned him the nickname "Elegant Arthur".
He reportedly had over 80 pairs of pants.
He liked to stay up late and go for walks around Washington D.C. sometimes as late as 2 or 3 in the morning.
One of his favorite hobbies was fishing and he was an excellent fisherman.
Arthur wanted the White House redecorated when he became president. He auctioned off many priceless items that had been in the White House since the time of President John Adams.