A branch of the Republican Party was called 'Stalwart.' Roscoe Conkling was a senator and the head of the Stalwarts. He got Chester Alan Arthur appointed to the position of customs collector in New York City. Chester was grateful and used his position to divert money to fill the party's coffers and help Conkling's agenda for the Stalwarts. Chester Arthur raised illegal fundraising money and wielded patronage and bribes. Later, he became the Vice-President to Garfield's Presidency.
Before being a customs collector, he had a law practice in New York City. A black woman, Lizzie Jennings, was removed from a streetcar as the company had a "whites only" policy. Mr. Arthur sued the streetcar company and won. For many years after, the Colored People's Legal Rights Association celebrated the victory.
Chester Arthur was in the New York Militia. His wife's brother was a southern army soldier and prisoner of war. Mr. Authur secured his release from a Yankee prison.
Because of corruption in the customs department, Chester Arthur lost his job. But the "Stalwart" Republicans got him on the ticket for Vice President for Garfield's nomination for President.
In my last post, I described how President Garfield was shot twice by Mr. Guiteau. So, Arthur became President. Mr. Guiteau said he was a Stalwart Republican, and he sent President Arthur a letter in which he stated, "My inspiration is a Godsend to you...It raised you from a political cipher to the President of the United States."
Arthur's wife, Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur, died before he became President. Later he placed a fresh bouquet beside his deceased wife's picture. His sister served as the White House hostess.
After becoming President, he enacted the Pendleton Act to undo most of the spoils system he had used before going to the White House. He based appointments based on the merits of the candidates. He appointed Dorman B. Eaton as the chair of the first Civil Service Commission. He then cleaned up the Post Office Department to stop the fraud and ordered party officials to stop seeking graft for future campaign funds. This angered his Stalwart Republicans, so they did not nominate him for President at the next Republican Convention.
President Arthur held huge feasts and was nicknamed Elegant Arthur. He had to employ a full-time valet, for it is said he had eighty pairs of pants. He rode in his carriage, which had gold lace curtains and his coat of arms on the sides.
He did not like the used furniture in the White House, so before he moved in, he had an auction. Twenty-four wagons of Presidential items were sold to a crowd on the White House lawn; an old pair of Lincoln's trousers and a hat that belonged to John Quincy Adams were mixed in with the other items of former Presidents and sold.
His term ended in 1885, and he went to Florida to fish.
Chester Alan Arthur had been diagnosed with Bright's disease, which he kept from the public. The condition got worse, and according to one source, he contracted malaria while fishing. Another source says Former President Arthur died of a stroke of apoplexy. He died in 1886, in New York City, just eight months after leaving the White House.
Note: Brights Disease was not too common in President Authur day, but there were several cases over the years. One theory was it was contracted through a mountain tick bite. In my historical fiction book that will come out this year, Texas Cakewalk, one of the characters was reported to have died from Brights Disease, but that was unusual. There was a rumor that it was really strychnine.
This is the last blog on Presidents of the United States for this year. I hope you enjoyed learning about some of our lesser-known Commanders in Chief.
References: America and Its Presidents by Earl Schenck Miers
First Ladies of the White House by Gertrude Zeth Brooks
Secret Lives of the U.S. presidents by Cormac O'Brien
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