The public was quite concerned that Roscoe Conkling's old friend and political henchman, Chester Arthur, one who very much approved of the patronage system, was now President. An interesting point about Arthur's becoming President was that he actually took the oath of office twice: "the first administered," notes John Sutherland Bonnell in his PRESIDENTIAL PROFILES, "as soon as news of the president's death reached him and the second when the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court presided. On the latter occasion, President Arthur opened the Bible at the Thirty-first Psalm and reverently kissed the page." He had selected this psalm, because the opening verses reminded him of the Te Deum which his wife often sang in the Episcopal choir, the opening lines of which are: "In thee, 0 Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed; deliver me in thy righteousness."
Although Arthur was the son of a Baptist preacher, he regularly attended the .Episcopal Church, but was never confirmed in it. As President, he attended St. John's Episcopal Church at LaFayette Square and in memory of his wife, who had died two years before he became Vice President, he provided a beautiful memorial window for that church.
It should be noted that Arthur turned out to be a rather good President. He continued the prosecution of the "Star Route" mail frauds, vigorously supported the Pendleton Civil Service Act (1883), which established the present federal civil service system, began the rebuilding of the Navy with steel-hulled ships, and vetoed a Chinese exclusion bill which, had it been adopted, would have been an insult to China.
In his most interesting book, PRESIDENTIAL GREATNESS : THE IMAGE AND THE MAN FROM GEORGE WASHINGTON TO THE PRESENT, Professor Thomas A. Bailey notes that "traditionally downgraded as a dandified mediocrity, Arthur was brushed aside by Professor Woodrow Wilson as "a nonentity with side-whiskers." Bailey continues his evaluation by noting that cultured, intelligent, charming, Arthur was an able administrator, if not an imposing leader. A sterling champion of sound money, he gave the country a sound administration and, Arthurian legend to the contrary, surely deserves to rank among the most effective Chief Magistrates. The experts rate him as low average, but in my view he deserves to rise a few notches higher.” And, with Bailey's evaluation I would agree.
Although Arthur may have wanted the Republican nomination in 1884, and to have been elected President in his own right, he was denied these honors. A recent biographer, Thomas C. Reeves, (GENTLEMAN BOSS; THE LIFE OF CHESTER ALAN ARTHUR, New York, 1975) thinks that Arthur knew as early as 1882 that he had Bright’s disease. He died in New York City on November 18, 1886.
Related albums • See other albumsReligion In The Lives Of The American Presidents
Related peoplePresident Chester Alan Arthur
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