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Chester A. Arthur
21st U.S. President
Chester Alan Arthur was an American attorney and politician who served as the 21st President of the United States; he succeeded James A. Garfield upon the latter's assassination.
Born: October 5, 1829, Fairfield, VT
Died: November 18, 1886, Manhattan, NY
Presidential term: September 19, 1881 – March 4, 1885
Party: Republican Party
Previous offices: President of the United States (1881–1885),

Chester Arthur (1829-1886), the 21st U.S. president, took office after the death of President James Garfield (1831-1881). As president from 1881 to 1885, Arthur advocated for civil service reform. A Vermont native, he became active in Republican politics in the 1850s as a New York City lawyer. In 1871, an era of political machines and patronage, Arthur was named to the powerful position of customs collector for the Port of New York. He later was removed from the job by President Rutherford Hayes (1822-1893) in an attempt to reform the spoils system. Elected to the vice presidency in 1880, Arthur became president after Garfield died following an assassination attempt by a disgruntled job seeker. While in office, Arthur rose above partisanship and in 1883 signed the Pendleton Act, which required government jobs to be distributed based on merit. Suffering from poor health, he did not run for reelection in 1884.

Although Chester Arthur had risen to power through machine politics, once in the White House he surprised Americans (and alienated Conkling and other supporters) by moving past partisanship. In January 1883, he signed the Pendleton Civil Service Act, landmark legislation mandating that certain federal government jobs be distributed based on merit rather than political connections. The act also forbade workers from being fired for political reasons and prohibited compulsory political donations from employees. Additionally, the Pendleton Act allowed for the establishment of a bipartisan Civil Service Commission to enforce the law.

In addition to civil service reform, Arthur tried–with limited success–to lower tariffs. He vetoed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which suspended Chinese immigration for 10 years; however, Congress overrode his veto. Arthur’s administration also fought fraud in the U.S. Postal Service and pushed for the modernization of the U.S. Navy.

In the White House, Arthur became known for his sartorial style and taste for fine furnishings. Nicknamed the Gentleman Boss and Elegant Arthur, he reportedly owned 80 pairs of pants.

Sometime around 1882, Arthur learned he was suffering from Bright’s disease, a serious kidney ailment. He kept the condition a secret from the public; however, his poor health prevented him from actively seeking reelection in 1884. Instead, the Republicans chose Secretary of State James Blaine as their presidential nominee. Blaine was defeated by Democrat Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) in the general election.

After exiting the White House in March 1885, Arthur returned to New York City to resume his legal career. There, his health continued to deteriorate, and on November 18, 1886, he died at age 57 at his home.Following a funeral in Manhattan, the former president was buried beside his wife in the Arthur family plot in the Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands, New York.