21 - Chester A. Arthur
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Chester Alan Arthur by Zachary Karabell
Arthur sold twenty-six wagons full of White House furniture for about eight thousand dollars. What he did not know was that the furniture was priceless.
Arthur changed his pants several times a day. He had over 80 pairs!
Arthur was the first president to take the Oath of Office in his own home.
Arthur's citizenship was questioned when political opponents alleged that he was born across the Vermont border in Canada. Arthur denied this and continued on with his term.
Arthur destroyed all of his personal papers before his death.
He often took his friends on late night walks around Washington D.C. as early as three or four in the morning. He seldom went to bed before two o'clock.
Nominated to the Vice Presidency at conference by Senator Roscoe Conkling’s Stalwart Republican machine after it failed to get U. S. Grant re-nominated, Mr. Arthur was “deeply shocked” when a disgruntled job-seeker shot President Garfield. That may have been the catalyst that converted Mr. Arthur from a champion of the spoils system to a tireless rehabilitator of the civil service. He became a reformer; against spoils and pork-barrel politics. He helped bring the Navy up-to-date with modern ships. He signed a bill creating a system of government for Alaska. He helped make the postal system cheaper and more effective. He dedicated the Washington Monument. He helped usher in the “electrical age”. In short he was a President for the people. That got him into disagreement with all factions of his party and they failed to re-nominate him for a second term.
This book shows him in a positive light but, sadly for me anyway, nothing was told of his life and/or contributions in the two years between the end of his presidency and his demise.
by Zachary Karabell
This one's a small biography about a small president. Chester Alan Arthur was a man of little ambition who happened to be an able lieutenant in the Republican political machine of the 1870s. Through no fault of his own, he was given the Republican Vice-Presidential nomination in 1880. He was elected with James Garfield and when the latter was assassinated months later, he found himself President of the United States. To hear Mr. Karabell tell it, Arthur was "neither great, nor terrible, nor remarkable" as president. He simply did the job as best he could in a time of relative social "calm and prosperity". As biographies go, this book is a bit lighter than I prefer to read, but it was the best complete biography the local libraries had to offer. While I didn't get a good picture of the times Chester Arthur lived through, I did get a competent picture of the man himself and his term in the White House.
by Justus D. Doenecke
In an effort to supplement the scant biography of Chester A. Arthur I had read, I picked up this book as well. It focuses specifically on the terms of each, as per the title. It's informative, albeit a little dry. It's a book about politics and since I'm more looking for personalized view of history, it's not surprising that I found it less than ideal. As presented by Professor Doenecke, the administrations of Garfield and Arthur were notable not for what they accomplished but for how they laid the groundwork for future accomplishments, mostly civil service reform and the modernization of the American Navy.