Thursday, September 20, 2007

September 20, 1881:

Chester A. Arthur Takes the Oath

Vice presidents have succeeded to the presidency exactly nine times in the 200-plus history of the office. The Gilded Age saw the unlikely accession of Chester Alan Arthur to the presidency after less than a year as vice president, some of which was spent out of the public eye. During President Garfield's slow decline, Arthur didn't want to seem to be to eager for his boss's demise, and so did very little.

Late in the evening on September 19, 1881, the end came for James Garfield. Arthur took to oath of office twice after that: once in private, a few hours into September 20 (pictured), and then in public two days later. On the occasion of the public swearing in, he gave his inaugural address:

"For the fourth time in the history of the Republic its Chief Magistrate has been removed by death. All hearts are filled with grief and horror at the hideous crime which has darkened our land, and the memory of the murdered President, his protracted sufferings, his unyielding fortitude, the example and achievements of his life, and the pathos of his death will forever illumine the pages of our history.

"For the fourth time the officer elected by the people and ordained by the Constitution to fill a vacancy so created is called to assume the Executive chair. The wisdom of our fathers, foreseeing even the most dire possibilities, made sure that the Government should never be imperiled because of the uncertainty of human life. Men may die, but the fabrics of our free institutions remain unshaken. No higher or more assuring proof could exist of the strength and permanence of popular government than the fact that though the chosen of the people be struck down his constitutional successor is peacefully installed without shock or strain except the sorrow which mourns the bereavement. All the noble aspirations of my lamented predecessor which found expression in his life, the measures devised and suggested during his brief Administration to correct abuses, to enforce economy, to advance prosperity, and to promote the general welfare, to insure domestic security and maintain friendly and honorable relations with the nations of the earth, will be garnered in the hearts of the people; and it will be my earnest endeavor to profit, and to see that the nation shall profit, by his example and experience...."

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