Chester A. Arthur “He isn’t Chet anymore, he’s the president”
Few accidental presidents have assumed office under more inauspicious circumstances than Chester Arthur. The association between Garfield’s assassin, Charles Guiteau, and the Stalwarts as well as his visibility as the Custom House official removed by Hayes, created rumors that he was culpable symbolically, if not literally, for the death of the president. Arthur as the “gentleman boss” was the poster child of political corruption and patronage for which, according to reformers, Garfield had given up his life. One memorialist blamed his death on partisan strife: “There were two parties; there were those, / in thine own party, called thy foe;? / There was a North; there was a South, / Ere blazed th’ assassin’s pistol mouth.” Another compared Garfield favorably with Lincoln.1 Arthur too was a person with limited political experience outside of New York. Even before Garfield’s death, Arthur received letters urging him to resign the presidency. One reminded Arthur that since “the day he was shot, the thought rose in a thousand minds that you might be the instigator of the foul act.”2 The new president even had to submit to a deposition during the long trial of the assassin who proudly announced that he had often met the man whom he put in office.
KeywordsCivil Service Republican Party Political Corruption Appointment Power Civil Service Examination
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