Chester Alan Arthur
President from 1881-1885
By Richard E. Noble
Chester Arthur is another one of those vice presidents put on to balance the ticket or appease party rivalries - like Harrison's running mate, Tyler, and Lincoln’s second mate, Andrew Johnson, so too Chester A. Arthur, and in our times Lyndon B. Johnson. Maybe there is a lesson for political parties to learn here.
Poor Garfield finally kicks the bucket after a number of months of medical malpractice and in comes "Chesty". Chesty looks like a million bucks. He's a fashion plate. His wife died the year before he got elected vice president, so we can’t blame her for the cost of the remodeling of the White House. Chester refused to move in before everything in the place had been auctioned off, some of it priceless antics. Twenty-four wagon loads of decorations and furniture out the door. He remodeled the mansion in late "Victorian" style. But before we consider Chester frivolous with our money, let it be known that he was responsible for reducing the national debt by some 400,000,000. It seems with all of the corruption going on in those days the government still managed a surplus. The surplus was primarily due to tariffs on imports. Funny, I never hear that fact mentioned when I hear talk of tariffs today. Raising tariffs seems to be in the same category as raising the minimum wage, universal health care, the positive influences of Socialism on our present day government, and beating your wife and children.
Chester was a loyal, faithful administrator in the powerful, Republican, New York political machine. A guy named Conkling was the big mucky-muck. The major political problem of the day was "corruption" and the favoritism of the spoils system. This problem looks to be comparable to our political fund raising reform of today.
If the early days of the Republic could be called the "Age of Idealism" followed then by the "Age of Expansion," I think we might be able to call this period after the death of Lincoln as the "Age of Corruption." Of course, if we name such an Age, we then might have the problem of stating specifically when it ended, or when it began for that matter. But it does seem that the government in both the North and the South during this period is operating in a state of failure and shenanigans. Though Mark Twain thought that Chester did fine and dandy.
Garfield was shot by a “Stalwart” Republican, Charles Guiteau. He claimed he did it to promote Chester Arthur and the Northeast Republican, hardball, rightwing machine. As one might imagine, Guiteau's trial became a major political farce. Guiteau was finally convicted and hung, but it is a wonder that he ever made it to the gallows. He got about as good police protection as Lee Harvey Oswald. Arthur, trying to side step conspiracy theorists and accusations from the opposition, did his best to distance himself from all of his old political buddies. This tactic worked for his present position but didn't do much for his chances in the next go around, which didn't much matter because just one year out of office and he died, anyway.
Discounting Andrew Johnson, the Republicans have now been in power for twenty years or more. The Negroes don't really seem to be doing all that well either. The KKK and the old plantation mentality have everything just about back to normal.