|Carroll County IAGenWeb|
Transcribed by Sharon Elijah January 8, 2021
CHESTER ALLEN ARTHUR, the twenty-first Chief Executive of this growing republic, 1881-‘5, was born in Franklin County, Vermont, October 5, 1830, the eldest of a family of two sons and five daughters. His father, Rev. Dr. William Arthur, a Baptist clergyman, immigrated to this country from County Antrim, Ireland, in his eighteenth year, and died in 1875, in Newtonville, near Albany, New York, after serving many years as a successful minister. Chester A. was educated at that old, conservative institution, Union College, at Schenectady, New York, where he excelled in all his studies. He graduated there, with honor, and then struck out in life for himself by teaching school for about two years in his native State.
At the expiration of that time young Arthur, with $500 in his purse, went to the city of New York and entered the law office of ex-Judge E. D. Culver as a student. In due time he was admitted to the bar, when he formed a partnership with his intimate friend and old room-mate, Henry D. Gardiner, with the intention of practicing law at some point in the West; but after spending about three months in the Western States, in search of an eligible place, they returned to New York City, leased a room, exhibited a sign of their business and almost immediately enjoyed a paying patronage.
At this state of his career Mr. Arthur’s business prospects were so encouraging that he concluded to take a wife, and accordingly he married the daughter of Lieutenant Herndon, of the United States Navy, who had been lost at sea. To the widow of the latter Congress voted a gold medal, in recognition of the Lieutenant’s bravery during the occasion in which he lost his life. Mrs. Arthur died shortly before her husband’s nomination to the Vice-Presidency, leaving two children.
Mr. Arthur obtained considerable celebrity as an attorney in the famous Lemmon suit, which was brought to recover possession of eight slaves, who had been declared free by the Superior Court of New York City. The noted Charles O’Conor, who was nominated by the “Straight Democrats” in 1872 for the United States Presidency, was retained by Jonathan G. Lemmon, of Virginia, to recover the negroes, but he lost the suit. In this case, however, Mr. Arthur was assisted by William M. Evarts, now United States Senator. Soon afterward, in 1856, a respectable colored woman was ejected from a street car in New York City. Mr. Arthur sued the car company in her behalf and recovered $500 damages. Immediately afterward all the car companies in the city issued orders to their employes to admit colored persons upon their cars.
Mr. Arthur’s political doctrines, as well as his practice as a lawyer, raised him to prominence in the party of freedom; and accordingly he was sent as a delegate to the first National Republican Convention. Soon afterward he was appointed Judge Advocate of the Second Brigade of the State of New York, and then Engineer-in-Chief on Governor Morgan’s staff. In 1861, the first year of the war, he was made Inspector-General, and next, Quartermaster-General, in both which offices he rendered great service to the Government. After the close of Governor Morgan’s term he resumed the practice of law, forming first a partnership with Mr. Ransom, and subsequently adding Mr. Phelps to the firm. Each of these gentlemen were able lawyers.
November 21, 1872, General Arthur was appointed Collector of the Port of New York by President Grant, and he held the office until July 20, 1878.
The next event of prominence in General Arthur’s career was his nomination to the Vice-Presidency of the United States, under the influence of Roscoe Conkling, at the National Republican Convention held at Chicago in June, 1880, when James A. Garfield was placed at the head of the ticket. Both the convention and the campaign that followed were noisy and exciting. The friends of Grant, constituting nearly half the convention, were exceedingly persistent, and were sorely disappointed over their defeat. At the head of the Democratic ticket was placed a very strong and popular man; yet Garfield and Arthur were elected by a respectable plurality of the popular vote. The 4th of March following, these gentlemen were accordingly inaugurated; but within four months the assassin’s bullet made a fatal wound in the person of General Garfield, whose life terminated September 19, 1881, when General Arthur, ex officio, was obliged to take the chief reins of government. Some misgivings were entertained by many in this event, as Mr. Arthur was thought to represent especially the Grant and Conkling wing of the Republican party; but President Arthur had both the ability and the good sense to allay all fears, and he gave the restless, critical American people as good an administration as they had ever been blessed with. Neither selfishness nor low partisanism ever characterized any feature of his public service. He ever maintained a high sense of every individual right as well as of the Nation’s honor. Indeed, he stood so high that his successor, President Cleveland, though of opposing politics, expressed a wish in his inaugural address that he could only satisfy the people with as good an administration.
But the day of civil service reform had come in so far, and the corresponding re-action against “third-terminism” had encroached so far even upon “second-term” service, that the Republican party saw fit in 1884 to nominate another man for President. Only by this means was General Arthur’s tenure of office closed at Washington. On his retirement from the Presidency, March, 1885, he engaged in the practice of law at New York City, where he died November 18, 1886.
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