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Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/United States/Arthur, Chester Alan

< Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition‎ | United States

Arthur, Chester Alan (1830-1886), president from 1881 to 1885, was born in Fairfield, Vt., October 5, 1830, his father being a Baptist minister who had immigrated from Ireland. After graduating at Union College in 1848, he was a teacher for several years, and was admitted to the bar in New York in 1853. He rapidly obtained repute as a lawyer, particularly by his management of the cases of fugitive slaves; and, as quartermaster-general of the State of New York during the first two years of the civil war, charged with the duty of arming, equipping, and transporting the troops of the State, he obtained a reputation even higher. He became an active political leader in the Republican organization of New York city, and was appointed collector of the port by President Grant in 1871. Refusing to abstain from active political work, he was removed in 1878 by President Hayes; and in 1880, when Garfield had been nominated by the Republican convention, Arthur was nominated for the vice-presidency, in order to propitiate the supporters of Grant. He was elected with Garfield in November and inaugurated in the following March, and became president when Garfield died (Sept. 19). He proved an exception to the rule that vice-presidents succeeding to the office of president have been failures. To him belongs the credit of a quiet, dignified, and successful administration of public affairs, and, above all, the inception of the reform of the civil service system. He carried out the Pendleton Act for that purpose with honest good-will, and gave it an impetus which it is not likely ever to lose. He quieted the growing ill-feeling between his country and others as to South American affairs. The presence of British representatives at the hundredth anniversary of the surrender of a British army at Yorktown had a certain awkwardness, until the president's tact and good feeling relieved the pressure by ordering that the ceremonies should close with a general salute to the British flag, as a special mark of American respect for the queen. He finished his term with the high respect of all parties, and in the Republican convention of 1884 was the leading competitor for the nomination, which finally fell to Blaine. He died in New York city, November 18, 1886.