Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Chester Arthur's Birthday

Chester Alan Arthur, 21st President of the United States, was born on October 5, 1829, son of an Irish immigrant father and a mother from Vermont. Later in life, political enemies floated the idea than he was born a British subject -- in Ireland, or possibly Canada -- and thus not eligible to be president. Like later such claims about other presidents, it was nonsense.

Arthur did not attend the Republican National Convention in 1880 in Chicago to angle for the vice presidency. Rather, he came as a delegate from New York, a member of the Stalwart faction led by Sen. Roscoe Conkling and supporter of U.S. Grant for a third term. Unable to nominate Grant, the Stalwarts were nevertheless able to select the vice presidential nominee. Levi P. Morton, who later was Benjamin Harrison's vice president, declined to be considered. The convention then chose Arthur over his nearest competitor, Elihu B. Washburne of Illinois.

The convention did not know that it was selecting both the 20th and 21st presidents, nor that Chet Arthur, the "Gentleman Boss" and one-time Collector of the Port of New York, would one day sign the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act.

"No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Chester Alan Arthur, and no one ever retired ... more generally respected, alike by political friend and foe," wrote journalist Alexander McClure about Arthur.

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