Chester A. Arthur
Chester Alan Arthur (October 5, 1829 – November 18, 1886) was an American attorney and politician who served as the 21st president of the United States from 1881 to 1885. Previously the 20th vice president, he succeeded to the presidency upon the death of President James A. Garfield in September 1881, two months after Garfield was shot by an assassin.
Arthur was born in Fairfield, Vermont, grew up in upstate New York, and practiced law in New York City. He served as quartermaster general of the New York Militia during the American Civil War. Following the war, he devoted more time to New York Republican politics and quickly rose in Senator Roscoe Conkling's political organization. President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him to the post of Collector of the Port of New York in 1871, and he was an important supporter of Conkling and the Stalwart faction of the Republican Party. In 1878, President Rutherford B. Hayes fired Arthur as part of a plan to reform the federal patronage system in New York. Garfield won the Republican nomination for president in 1880, and Arthur was nominated for vice president to balance the ticket as an Eastern Stalwart. Four months into his term, Garfield was shot by an assassin; he died 11 weeks later, and Arthur assumed the presidency.
At the outset, Arthur struggled to overcome a negative reputation as a Stalwart and product of Conkling's organization. To the surprise of reformers, he advocated and enforced the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act. He presided over the rebirth of the US Navy, but he was criticized for failing to alleviate the federal budget surplus which had been accumulating since the end of the Civil War. Arthur vetoed the first version of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, arguing that its twenty-year ban on Chinese immigrants to the United States violated the Burlingame Treaty, but he signed a second version, which included a ten-year ban.
Suffering from poor health, Arthur made only a limited effort to secure the Republican Party's nomination in 1884, and he retired at the end of his term. Journalist Alexander McClure wrote, "No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Chester Alan Arthur, and no one ever retired… more generally respected, alike by political friend and foe."Arthur's failing health and political temperament combined to make his administration less active than a modern presidency, yet he earned praise among contemporaries for his solid performance in office. The New York World summed up Arthur's presidency at his death in 1886: "No duty was neglected in his administration, and no adventurous project alarmed the nation". Mark Twain wrote of him, "It would be hard indeed to better President Arthur's administration".