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Chester Alan Arthur: The American Presidents Series: The 21st President, 1881-1885 Hardcover – June 21, 2004
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Top Customer Reviews
Karabell's challenge was made all the greater by the shadows surrounding Arthur's personal life. Not only did Arthur prefer it that way himself (p. 108), but most of his personal papers were destroyed shortly after his death. Consequently, Arthur the man is a little thin in these pages ("thin" being an adjective probably never applied to Arthur himself during his lifetime). But while anyone looking for People Magazine-style "hidden secrets" about our twenty-first president is bound to be disappointed, the author more than makes up for this with a fine capsule portrayal of the Gilded Age and its politics. This is important, for Arthur was very much a man and a politician of his time.
Indeed, the most noteworthy part of Arthur's term in office was his own transformation from "Gentleman Boss" to simply "Gentleman." Despite his history as the veritable poster boy of spoils-system, backroom machine politicking, Arthur "grew in office," as we'd say today, into perhaps one of the best men to help shepherd through important civil service reforms. Karabell argues, I think convincingly, that the new political culture Arthur helped create still affects us today.
Chester Alan Arthur wasn't a crusader or a firebrand. He wasn't driven by a lust for power or glory.Read more ›
Chester Arthur was one of the United States' "accidental presidents," thrust into office because of the assassination of James Garfield. This book, as others in the series, provides a thumbnail sketch of Arthur (text is 143 pages long). Born in Vermont, his family moved to New York when he was ten years old. He began his political work as a bureaucrat and patronage administrator. While he was enmeshed in the "spoils system," he was not corrupt and was generally pretty well liked. In 1871, he received a coveted position--collector of the New York customhouse. He earned plenty in that role.
Comes the 1880 presidential race. Garfield, a "dark horse," won the nomination and Arthur was selected as his V-P partner, as a result of torturous Republican politics. And he had never been elected to any office prior to that!
The Republicans won, Garfield was assassinated, and Arthur became president. One comment says a great deal, when someone said (Page 61): "Chet Arthur? President of the United States? Good God!" Against the expectations of many, he served without any great errors, and with some positive contributions. (1) While he did not take an active role, he did sign the Pendleton Law, providing Civil Service reform. (2) He did take steps to modernize the embarrassing United States Navy. (3) He was involved with reducing the tariff. (4) Etc.Read more ›
He ran as Garfield's vice president in 1880, a campaign notable for what it lacked; "It was a contest of organization and will, not a battle over the future direction of the country." Ideology was ignored with politicians viewing "order as the most important good." With Garfield's assassination, Arthur became president on September 20, 1881. The text notes "No one knew what direction the Arthur administration would take, not even Arthur himself" and observes "As it turned out, the qualities he did possess allowed him to rise farther than many others who were more intelligent, dynamic, and driven."
He was president in an era when "the White House had shed much of the power it had acquired during the Civil War" and each national election was a patronage contest. The assassination of Garfield placed the issue of civil service reform on the front burner. The response was the Pendleton Civil Service Act, the most memorable legislation to emerge from Arthur's presidency. Zachary Karabell's account of Arthur's presidency is brief but informative.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Karabell does an excellent job of taking a little known, or remembered, President and reintroducing him to the reader. Arthur turns out to be a very interesting person. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Bob Jenkins
This book will surprise many with its story of this fascinating man.Published 2 months ago by Richard Folsom
A pretty bland career, tough to make an interesting biography of, but worth reading. Good addition to The American Presidents Series.Published 10 months ago by ruth a. thomas
I find it inconceivable that someone would write about the life of Chester Alan Arthur and not mention his advocacy for Elizabeth Jennings, a black woman thrown off a trolley in... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Frank Tuerkheimer & Barbara Tuerkheimer
A good read. Aurthur was certainly our most accidental President who never dreamed of, or aspired to, the Presidency. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Stephen Bennett