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Gentleman Boss: The Life of Chester Alan Arthur Hardcover – February, 1975


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Random House Inc (T); 1st edition (February 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394460952
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394460956
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,003,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 17 customer reviews
Given the subject matter, this is especially noteworthy.
Thomas A. Wheeler
The book tracks the turmoil's and tribulations of the Gilded Age political system.
Lehigh History Student
If you enjoy presidential history, add this book to your library.
Jeff Whitfield

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Whitfield on November 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
High school history books tell you Chester "Chet" Arthur was a "dandy," a machine politician and an accidental president, but little more. This highly readable, very informative and interesting biography adds much historical flesh to the bare-bones treatment Arthur gets in text books. A man who is all but a caricature to generations of students is made fully human, with all the positives and negatives that entails. And while chronicling the president's life the author also chronicles a fascinating era in American political history, the day when the party bosses ruled and presidential candidates were chosen in smoke-filled rooms and not in state primaries; primaries may be more democratic, but they sure are a lot less interesting to read about. If you enjoy presidential history, add this book to your library.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Rheumor on August 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
He is certainly one of the most obscure Presidents in American history. I enjoy reading about people who achieve high office, fame or fortune, probably because I want to find a link among them that predated their successes. In reading this excellent and very balanced biography, I came away with at least 3 lessons: 1) That blind luck can be the key ingredient in a man's success, for the early life and times of Chester Arthur no more predicted greatness than did those of Harry Truman (Truman, at least, was essentially honorable), 2) that is indeed possible for the Office to make the man, for once he became President, Arthur overcame many of his moral inadequacies, and 3) that for all we complain about American politics today, the state of the State in the late 19th century was more corrupt than most 21st century Americans would ever imagine possible. For these three lessons alone, the book is certainly a worthwhile read.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Thomas A. Wheeler on September 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Over the last several years, I've read more than 30 presidential biographies. I would rate Reeves' biography of Chester Arthur in the top ten. Given the subject matter, this is especially noteworthy. It's one thing to write an interesting biography of Teddy Roosevelt. It is something more to write a great book about Chester Arthur. Gentleman Boss is highly readable, well researched, and presents the corruption of the times in detail and in context.

Certainly the post-Civil Wars years were the low point in US politics in terms of the quality of our presidents, the corruption of the elections, and politicians' contemptible disregard for actually addressing any of the problems of the day.

Chester Arthur was probably the most corrupted politician to become President (but most biographies minimize this part of the story - so its often hard to tell). The first two-thirds of Gentleman Boss details Arthur's years prior to his becoming President. He was a spoils man in the New York machine, controlled assessments of public employees, and managed patronage for the Stalwart branch of the Republican Party for more than 20 years. The investigations of the New York customs house and stolen election of 1876 are presented in fascinating detail. As the spoils system got more and more unfavorable press, and various investigations began, Arthur lied again and again. He participated in large vote buying schemes and bragged of this in a famous speech at Delmonico's Restaurant following his election as Vice President. His nomination to be Vice President was an affront to anyone who was interested in cleaning up politics.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Pugwash on February 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Presidential history can be fascinating, in that each Chief Executive has contributed huge influence to our National story. Although Chester Arthur remains one of our more obscure Presidents, looking at his life and Presidency brings a vast understanding of the political culture of that time period.

Although eight have ascended to the Presidency as unelected, or "accidental" Presidents, Arthur and Gerald Ford are probably two whose Presidencies most paralleled each other. Whereas Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman went on to have storied terms as Chief Executives, and Andrew Johnson had an ignominious run, Arthur and Ford seemed to have an understanding of exactly who they were, and what their roles should be. They both steadied the course during turbulent times, despite having little support in their own cabinets at the onset of their presidencies, few people they could trust, and little popular support. both became respected statesmen after leaving office, although Arthur would not live long enough to see it.

Arthur became the intimate of New York's political fixer, Roscoe Conkling, and was appointed as a sort of Solicitor General for the most populated state in the Union. As such, he was a "fixer" who would delegate patronage in the form of jobs, and direct the flow of commerce in the State. He fell into the disfavor of President Rutherford Hayes upon the former's election into office, and was removed from this lucrative and prestigious position.

Arthur worked hard in the election of 1880 for the Republicans of New York state as an organizer, and when James Garfield was searching for running mate, getting the electoral votes for the Empire State became a priority. Arthur became Garfield's running mate. Upon Garfield's assassination, Arthur ascended.
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