- NAME: Chester A. Arthur
- OCCUPATION: Lawyer, U.S. President, U.S. Vice President
- BIRTH DATE: October 05, 1829
- DEATH DATE: November 18, 1886
- EDUCATION: Union College
- PLACE OF BIRTH: North Fairfield, Vermont
- PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
- Full Name: Chester Alan Arthur
- AKA: Chester Arthur
- Nickname: "Chet"
Best Known For
Chester A. Arthur was 21st president of the United States. Arthur was vice president at the time President Garfield was assassinated, and acceded to the presidency thereafter.
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Chester A. Arthur was born on October 5, 1829, in North Fairfield, Vermont. Elected vice president on the Republican ticket of 1880, Arthur acceded to the presidency upon the assassination of President James A. Garfield. As president, he supported the Pendleton Civil Service Act (1883), which provided for the open appointment and promotion of federal employees based on merit rather than patronage. Arthur died in New York City on November 18, 1886.
"The extravagant expenditure of public money is an evil not to be measured by the value of that money to the people who are taxed for it."
"I may be president of the United States, but my private life is nobody's damned business."
"Men may die, but the fabrics of free institutions remains unshaken."
Chester Alan Arthur was the second son of Malvina (Stone) Arthur and the Reverend William Arthur, a passionate Baptist abolitionist preacher, who emigrated from Ireland. Born in Fairfield, Vermont, his family moved throughout New York and Vermont, as his father preached in various towns and villages. Throughout Arthur's political career, it was rumored, though never proven, that he was born in Bedford, Quebec, Canada.
Chester A. Arthur attended school in Union Village, New York, and later Union College in Schenectady, where he showed more interest in extracurricular activities and politics than his studies. After graduating in 1848, he taught school for a while. He was later admitted to the bar and practiced law in New York City. In 1859, he married Ellen Herndon. The couple would have three children, one of whom died at age 3.
After the Civil War, Chester A. Arthur became an associate of Republican Party boss and U.S. Senator Roscoe Conkling, who used political patronage and party discipline to advance his power and the Republican Party in New York. Arthur, with his superb organization and administration skills, helped deliver support to the Conklin political machine. As collector of the New York Customs House, he overstaffed positions with political operatives who were loyal to Conklin.
In 1878, President Rutherford B. Hayes attempted to reform the patronage system and ousted Chester A. Arthur from office. As payback, Conklin arranged for Arthur to be on the Republican ticket with presidential nominee James A. Garfield in 1880. Six months after his inauguration, Garfield was assassinated, and Arthur subsequently became the 21st president of the United States.
Arthur spent more time on his social life and political career than with his family. His wife, Ellen, died in 1880, and Arthur entered the White House a widower. He became a bit of a dandy in his dress and his social circle in Washington, D.C. He lamented the dilapidated condition of the White House, and hired Louis Comfort Tiffany to remodel it into a show place.
Arthur kept the secret that he was suffering from fatal kidney disease for several years, and he declined to run for a second term as president. In 1885, he returned to his law practice in New York City. As his health declined, he ordered that all of his papers, both personal and professional, be burned.
Arthur died on November 17, 1886, at the age of 57, after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage.
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The first U.S. president, former military leader George Washington, took his oath of office on April 30, 1789, on the balcony of Federal Hall. From that moment onward, the United States' highest office has been filled regularly by elected officials who aim to serve the people under the guidance of the U.S. Constitution. Learn more about the 43 men who have served as America's chief executive.
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