With clean-shaven chin, good height, handsome face and side-whiskers, it is said that Chester Alan Arthur looked Presidential! Arthur was born in the house of a Baptist preacher who was originally from Ireland in 1829, Fairfield, Vermont. He studied in the Union College and graduated in the year 1848. After leaving college, he taught in a school for sometime, worked in a bar and then practiced law in the city of New York. During the early period of Civil War, Arthur served as the Quartermaster General of the New York State. He was appointed as the Collector of the New York Port in 1871 by President Grant. During his work here, under his supervision, he efficiently organized a large number of Custom House employees for Roscoe Conkling’s Republican machine.
Arthur was a honorable man, both in his public career and personal life. Nevertheless, he was a rigid believer of the spoils system which was under intense attack from the reformers. He was always dedicated to honest administration when it came to work. For Custom House, he employed for staff than what was actually required. This move made the staff feel more like party workers rather than like Government Officials. In 1878, during attempts of President Hayes towards reformation of the Customs House, Arthur was expelled from the job. Conkling and followers tried for the re-nomination of Grant during the Republican Convention of 1880. But they failed and had to accept the nomination of Chester Alan Arthur for the office of Vice President.He was elected as the Vice President and during the brief period in which he was the Vice President, he supported Conkling in his efforts against President Garfield. However, when Arthur became the President, he was more eager to prove that he was not into machine politics and wanted to work for the greater good.
He avoided his old friends in politics and became a man of fashion, both in his attire and his associates. More often than not, he was seen with the most elite of Washington, Newport and New York. The Stalwart Republicans felt the anger rightly, as the former collector of the New York Port became a hero of civil service reforms as the President. Assassination of Garfield increased the pressure from public and forced the clumsy congress to pay attention to the President.
The Congress passed the Pendleton Act in 1883. It established a dual party Civil Service Commission, created a classified system to make Government positions available only through written competitive examinations and prohibited levying of political assessments against any officeholder. This helped to protect the employees against political drama.
Arthur as President was acting independent from the party dogmas. He tried to decrease the tariff rates through the Tariff Act of 1883 to save the government from the embarrassment from annual surpluses in revenue. The infuriated Southerners and Westerners looked towards the Democratic Party now for redressing and tariff became an important agenda between the two parties.
Administration under President Arthur was the first to enact any form of a Federal law of immigration. A measure was approved in 1882 which excluded criminals, lunatics and paupers from immigration. Chinese immigration was suspended for ten years by the Congress and later was made permanent.Arthur was a great leader and as Publisher Alexander McClure said, “No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted, and no one ever retired ... more generally respected.”