The Presidents of the United States, 1789-1914/Chester A. Arthur
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Chester A. Arthur
Chester Alan Arthur, twenty-first president of the United States, born in Fairfield, Franklin County, Vt., October 5, 1830; died in New York city, November 18, 1886. His father was Rev. William Arthur. His mother was Malvina Stone. Her grandfather, Uriah Stone, was a New Hampshire pioneer, who about 1763 migrated from Hampstead to Connecticut river, and made his home in Piermont, where he died in 1810, leaving twelve children. Her father was George Washington Stone. She died January 16, 1869, and her husband died October 27, 1875, at Newtonville, N. Y. Their children were three sons and six daughters, all of whom, except one son and one daughter, were living in 1894. Chester A. Arthur, the eldest son, prepared for college at Union Village in Greenwich, and at Schenectady, and in 1845 he entered the sophomore class at Union. While in his sophomore year he taught school for a term at Schaghticoke, Rensselaer County, and a second term at the same place during his last year in college. He joined the Psi-Upsilon society, and was one of six in a class of one hundred who were elected members of the Phi Beta Kappa society, the condition of admission being high scholarship. He was graduated at eighteen years of age, in the class of 1848. While at college he decided to become a lawyer, and after graduation attended for several months a law school at Ballston Spa, returned to Lansingburg, where his father then resided, and continued his legal studies. During this period he fitted boys for college, and in 1851 he was principal of an academy at North Pownal, Vt. In 1854, James A. Garfield, then a student in Williams college, taught penmanship in this academy during his winter vacation.
Photograph by Mora, N. Y.
In 1853, Arthur, having accumulated a small sum of money, decided to go to New York city. He there entered the law office of Erastus D. Culver as a student, was admitted to the bar during the same year, and at once became a member of the firm of Culver, Parker & Arthur. Mr. Culver had been an anti-slavery member of congress from Washington County when Dr. Arthur was pastor of the Baptist church in Greenwich in that county. Dr. Arthur had also enjoyed the friendship of Gerrit Smith, who had often been his guest and spoken from his pulpit. Together they had taken part in the meeting convened at Utica, October 21, 1835, to form a New York anti-slavery society. This meeting was broken up by a committee of pro-slavery citizens; but the members repaired to Mr. Smith's home in Peterborough, and there completed the organization. On the same day in Boston a women's anti-slavery society, while its president was at prayer, was dispersed by a mob, and William Lloyd Garrison was dragged through the streets with a rope around his body, threatened with tar and feathers, and for his protection lodged in jail by the mayor. From these early associations Arthur naturally formed sentiments of hostility to slavery, and he first gave them public expression in the Lemmon slave case.
In 1852 Jonathan Lemmon, a Virginia slave holder, determined to take eight of the slaves of his wife, Juliet — one man, two women, and five children — to Texas, and brought them by steamer from Norfolk to New York, intending to re-ship them from New York to Texas. On the petition of Louis Napoleon, a free colored man, on November 6, a writ of habeas corpus was issued by Judge Elijah Paine, of the superior court of New York city, and after arguments by Mr. Culver and John Jay for the slaves, and H. D. Lapaugh and Henry L. Clinton for the slave-holder, Judge Paine, on November 13, released the slaves on the ground that they had been made free by being brought by their master into a free state. The decision created great excitement at the south, and the legislature of Virginia directed its attorney-general to appeal to the higher courts of New York. The legislature of New York passed a resolution directing its governor to defend the slaves. In December, 1857, the supreme court, in which a certiorari had been sued out, affirmed Judge Paine's decision (People v. Lemmon, 5 Sandf., 681) , and it was still further sustained by the court of appeals at the March term, 1860 (Lemmon v. People, 20 N. Y. Rep., 562). Arthur, as a law student, and after his admission to the bar, became an earnest advocate for the slaves. He went to Albany to secure the intervention in their behalf of the legislature and the governor, and he acted as their counsel in addition to attorney-general Ogden Hoffman, E. D Culver, Joseph Blunt, and (after Mr. Hoffman's death) William M. Evarts. Charles O'Conor was employed as further counsel for the slave-holder, and argued his side before the court of appeals, while Mr. Blunt and Mr. Evarts argued for the slaves. Until 1855 the street-car companies of New York city excluded colored persons from riding with the whites, and made no adequate provision for their separate transportation. One Sunday in that year a colored woman named Lizzie Jennings, a Sabbath-school superintendent, on the way home from her school, was ejected from a car on the Fourth avenue line. Culver, Parker & Arthur brought suit in her behalf against the company in the supreme court in Brooklyn, the plaintiff recovered a judgment, and the right of colored persons to ride in any of the city cars was thus secured. The Colored People's Legal Rights Association for years celebrated the anniversary of their success in this case.
Mr. Arthur became a Henry Clay whig, and cast his first vote in 1852 for Winfield Scott for president. He participated in the first republican state convention at Saratoga, and took an active part in the Frémont campaign of 1856. On January 1, 1861, Gov. Edwin D. Morgan, who on that date entered upon his second term, and between whom and Mr. Arthur a warm friendship had grown up, appointed him on his staff as engineer-in-chief, with the rank of brigadier-general. He had previously taken part in the organization of the state militia, and had been judge-advocate of the second brigade. When the civil war began in April, 1861, his active services were required by Gov. Morgan, and he became acting quartermaster-general, and as such began in New York city the work of preparing and forwarding the state's quota of troops. In December he was called to Albany for consultation concerning the defences of New York harbor. On December 24, he summoned a board of engineers, of which he became a member; and on January 18, 1862, he submitted an elaborate report on the condition of the national forts both on the sea-coast and on the inland border of the state. On February 10, 1862, he was appointed inspector-general, with the rank of brigadier-general, and in May he inspected the New York troops at Fredericksburg and on the Chickahominy. In June, 1862, Gov. Morgan ordered his return from the Army of the Potomac, and he acted as secretary of the meeting of the governors of the loyal states, which was held at the Astor House, New York city, June 28. The governors advised President Lincoln to call for more troops; and on July 1 he called for 300,000 volunteers. At Gov. Morgan's request, Gen. Arthur resumed his former work, resigned as inspector-general, and July 10 was appointed quartermaster-general. In his annual report, dated January 27, 1863, he said: “Through the single office and clothing department of this department in the city of New York, from August 1 to December 1, the space of four months, there were completely clothed, uniformed, and equipped, supplied with camp and garrison equipage, and transported from this state to the seat of war, sixty-eight regiments of infantry, two battalions of calvary, and four battalions of artillery.” He went out of office December 31, 1862, when Horatio Seymour succeeded Gov. Morgan, and his successor, Quartermaster-General S. V. Talcott, in his report of December 31, 1863, spoke of the previous administration as follows: “I found, on entering on the discharge of my duties, a well-organized system of labor and accountability, for which the state is chiefly indebted to my predecessor, Gen. Chester A. Arthur, who by his practical good sense and unremitting exertion, at a period when everything was in confusion, reduced the operations of the department to a matured plan, by which large amounts of money were saved to the government, and great economy of time secured in carrying out the details of the same.”
Between 1862 and 1872 Gen. Arthur was engaged in continuous and active law practice — in partnership with Henry G. Gardner from 1862 till 1867, then for five years alone, and on January 1, 1872, he formed the firm of Arthur, Phelps & Knevals. He was for a short time counsel for the department of assessments and taxes, but resigned the place. During all this period he continued to take an active interest in politics; was chairman in 1868 of the central Grant club of New York; and became chairman of the executive committee of the republican state committee in 1879. On November 20, 1871, he was appointed by President Grant collector of the port of New York, and assumed the office on December 1; was nominated to the senate December 6, confirmed December 12, and commissioned for four years December 16. On December 17, 1875, he was nominated for another term, and by the senate confirmed the same day, without reference to a committee — a courtesy never before extended to an appointee who had not been a senator. He was commissioned December 18, and retained the office until July 11, 1878, making his service about six and two thirds years.
The New York republican state convention, held at Syracuse, March 22, 1876, elected delegates to the national convention in favor of the nomination of Senator Conkling for president. The friends of Mr. Conkling in the state convention were led by Alonzo B. Cornell, then naval officer in the New York custom-house. A minority, calling themselves reform republicans, and favoring Benjamin H. Bristow for president, were led by George William Curtis. At the national convention at Cincinnati, June 14, sixty-nine of the New York delegation, headed by Mr. Cornell, voted for Mr. Conkling, and one delegate, Mr. Curtis, voted for Mr. Bristow. At the critical seventh ballot, however, Mr. Conkling's name was withdrawn, and from New York sixty-one votes were given for Rutherford B. Hayes, against nine for James G. Blaine; and the former's nomination was thus secured. At the New York republican state convention to nominate a governor, held at Saratoga, August 23, Mr. Cornell and ex-Gov. Morgan were candidates, and also William M. Evarts, supported by the reform republicans led by Mr. Curtis. Mr. Cornell's name was withdrawn, and Gov. Morgan was nominated. In the close state and presidential canvass that ensued, Messrs. Arthur and Cornell made greater exertions to carry New York for the republicans than they had ever made in any other campaign; and subsequently Gen. Arthur's activity in connection with the contested countings in the southern states was of vital importance. Nevertheless, President Hayes, in making up his cabinet, selected Mr. Evarts as his secretary of state, and determined to remove Messrs. Arthur and Cornell, and to transfer the power and patronage of their offices to the use of a minority faction in the republican party.
The president had, however, in his inaugural of March 5, 1877, declared in favor of civil service reform — “a change in the system of appointment itself; a reform that shall be thorough, radical, and complete; that the officer should be secure in his tenure so long as his personal character remained untarnished, and the performance of his duties satisfactory.” In his letter of acceptance of July 8, 1876, he had used the same words, and added: “If elected, I shall conduct the administration of the government upon these principles, and all constitutional powers vested in the executive will be employed to establish this reform.” It became necessary, therefore, before removing Arthur and Cornell, that some foundation should be laid for a claim that the custom-house was not well administered. A series of investigations was thereupon instituted. The Jay commission was appointed April 14, 1877, and during the ensuing summer made four reports criticising the management of the custom-house. In September, Sec. Sherman requested the collector to resign, accompanying the request with the offer of a foreign mission. The newspapers of the previous day announced that at a cabinet meeting it had been determined to remove the collector. The latter declined to resign, and the investigations were continued by commissions and special agents. To the reports of the Jay commission Collector Arthur replied in detail, in a letter to Sec. Sherman, dated November 23. On December 6, Theodore Roosevelt was nominated to the senate for collector, and L. Bradford Prince for naval officer; but they were rejected December 12, and no other nominations were made, although the senate remained in session for more than six months. On July 11, 1878, after its adjournment, Messrs. Arthur and Cornell were suspended from office, and Edwin A. Merritt was designated as collector, and Silas W. Burt as naval officer, and they took possession of the offices. Their nominations were sent to the senate December 3, 1878. On January 15, 1879, Sec. Sherman communicated to the senate a full statement of the causes that led to these suspensions, mainly criticisms of the management of the custom-house, closing with the declaration that the restoration of the suspended officers would create discord and contention, be unjust to the president, and personally embarrassing to the secretary, and saying that, as Collector Arthur's term of service would expire December 17, 1879, his restoration would be temporary, as the president would send in another name, or suspend him again after the adjournment of the senate.
On January 21, 1879, Collector Arthur, in a letter to Senator Conkling, chairman of the committee on commerce, before which the nominations were pending, made an elaborate reply to Sec. Sherman's criticisms, completely demonstrating the honesty and efficiency with which the custom-house had been managed, and the good faith with which the policy and instructions of the president had been carried out. A fair summary of the merits of the ostensible issue is contained in Collector Arthur's letter of November 23, 1877, from which the following extract is taken: “The essential elements of a correct civil service I understand to be: first, permanence in office, which of course prevents removals except for cause; second, promotion from the lower to the higher grades, based upon good conduct and efficiency; third, prompt and thorough investigation of all complaints, and prompt punishment of all misconduct. In this respect I challenge comparison with any department of the government under the present, or under any past, national administration. I am prepared to demonstrate the truth of this statement on any fair investigation.” In a table appended to this letter Collector Arthur showed that during the six years he had managed the office the yearly percentage of removals for all causes had been only 2¾ per cent. as against an annual average of 28 per cent. under his three immediate predecessors, and an annual average of about 24 per cent. since 1857, when Collector Schell took office. Out of 923 persons who held office when he became collector, on December 1, 1871, there were 531 still in office on May 1, 1877, having been retained during his entire term. In making promotions, the uniform practice was to advance men from the lower to the higher grades, and all the appointments except two, to the one hundred positions of $2,000 salary, or over, were made in this method. The expense of collecting the revenue was also kept low; it had been, under his predecessors, between 1857 and 1861, 59/100 of one per cent. of the receipts; between 1861 and 1864, 87/100; in 1864 and 1865, 130/100; between 1866 and 1869, 74/100; in 1869 and 1870, 85/100; in 1870 and 1871, 60/100; and under him, from 1871 to 1877, it was 62/100 of one per cent. The influence of the administration, however, was sufficient to secure the confirmation of Mr. Merritt and Mr. Burt on February 3, 1879, and the controversy was remitted to the republicans of New York for their opinion. Mr. Cornell was nominated for governor of New York September 3, 1879, and elected on November 4; and Mr. Arthur was considered a candidate for U. S. senator for the term to begin March 4, 1881.
On retiring from the office of collector, Gen. Arthur resumed law practice with the firm of Arthur, Phelps, Knevals & Ransom. But he continued to be active in politics, and, in 1880, advocated the nomination of Gen. Grant to succeed President Hayes. He was a delegate at large to the Chicago convention, which met June 2, and during the heated preliminary contest before the republican national committee, which threatened to result in the organization of two independent conventions, he conducted for his own side the conferences with the controlling anti-third term delegates relative to the choice of a temporary presiding officer, and the arrangement of the preliminary roll of delegates in the cases to be contested in the convention. The result of the conferences was an agreement by which all danger was avoided, and when, upon the opening of the convention, an attempt was made, in consequence of a misunderstanding on the part of certain Grant delegates, to violate this agreement, he resolutely adhered to it, and insisted upon and secured its observance. After the nomination, June 10, of Gen. Garfield for president, by a combination of the anti-third term delegates, a general desire rose in the convention to nominate for vice-president some advocate of Grant and a resident of New York state. The New York delegation at once indicated their preference for Gen. Arthur, and before the roll-call began the foregone conclusion was evident; he received 468 votes against 283 for all others, and the nomination was made unanimous. In his letter of acceptance of July 5, 1880, he emphasized the right and the paramount duty of the nation to protect the colored citizens, who were enfranchised as a result of the southern rebellion, in the full enjoyment of their civil and political rights, including honesty and order, and excluding fraud and force, in popular elections. He also approved such reforms in the public service as would base original appointments to office upon ascertained fitness, fill positions of responsibility by the promotion of worthy and efficient officers, and make the tenure of office stable, while not allowing the acceptance of public office to impair the liberty or diminish the responsibility of the citizen. He also advocated a sound currency, popular education, such changes in tariff and taxation as would “relieve any overburdened industry or class, and enable our manufacturers and artisans to compete successfully with those of other lands,” national works of internal improvement, and the development of our water-courses and harbors wherever required by the general interests of commerce. During the canvass he remained chairman of the New York republican state committee. The result was a plurality for Garfield and Arthur of 21,000 in the state, against a plurality of 32,000 in 1876 for Tilden and Hendricks, the democratic candidates.
Vice-President Arthur took the oath of office March 4, 1881, and presided over the extra session of the senate that then began, which continued until May 20. The senate contained 37 republicans and 37 democrats, while senators Mahone, of Virginia, and Davis, of Illinois, who were rated as independents, generally voted, the former with the republicans and the latter with the democrats, thus making a tie, and giving the vice-president the right to cast the controlling vote, which he several times had occasion to exercise. The session was exciting, and was prolonged by the efforts of the republicans to elect their nominees for secretary and sergeant-at-arms, against dilatory tactics employed by the democrats, and by the controversy over President Garfield's nomination, on March 23, for collector of the port of New York, of William H. Robertson, who had been the leader of the New York anti-third term delegates at the Chicago convention. During this controversy the vice-president supported Senators Conkling and Platt in their opposition to the confirmation. On March 28 he headed a remonstrance, signed also by the senators and by Postmaster-General James, addressed to the president, condemning the appointment, and asking that the nomination be withdrawn. When the two senators hastily resigned and made their unsuccessful contest for a re-election by the legislature of New York, then in session at Albany, he exerted himself actively in their behalf during May and June.
|HOME OF CHESTER A. ARTHUR, 123 LEXINGTON AVENUE, N. Y. CITY, AS IT APPEARS TO-DAY. HERE MR. ARTHUR TOOK THE OATH AS PRESIDENT, SEPTEMBER 20, 1881, AND DIED NOVEMBER 18, 1886|
President Garfield was shot July 2, 1881, and died September 19. His cabinet announced his death to the vice-president, then in New York, and, at their suggestion, he took the oath as president on the 20th, at his residence, 123 Lexington avenue, before Judge John R. Brady, of the New York supreme court. On the 22d the oath was formally administered again in the vice-president's room in the capitol at Washington by Chief-Justice Waite, and President Arthur delivered the following inaugural address: “For the fourth time in the history of the republic its chief magistrate has been removed by death. All hearts are filled with grief and horror at the hideous crime which has darkened our land; and the memory of the murdered president, his protracted sufferings, his unyielding fortitude, the example and achievements of his life, and the pathos of his death, will forever illumine the pages of our history. For the fourth time the officer elected by the people and ordained by the constitution to fill a vacancy so created is called to assume the executive chair. The wisdom of our fathers, the foreseeing even the most dire possibilities, made sure that the government should never be imperilled because of the uncertainty of human life. Men may die, but the fabrics of our free institutions remain unshaken. No higher or more assuring proof could exist of the strength and permanence of popular government than the fact that, though the chosen of the people be struck down, his constitutional successor is peacefully installed without shock or strain, except the sorrow which mourns the bereavement.
“All the noble aspirations of my lamented predecessor which found expression in his life, the measures devised and suggested during his brief administration to correct abuses and enforce economy, to advance prosperity and promote the general welfare, to insure domestic security and maintain friendly and honorable relations with the nations of the earth, will be garnered in the hearts of the people, and it will be my earnest endeavor to profit and to see that the nation shall profit by his example and experience. Prosperity blesses our country, our fiscal policy is fixed by law, is well grounded and generally approved. No threatening issue mars our foreign intercourse, and the wisdom, integrity, and thrift of our people may be trusted to continue undisturbed the present assured career of peace, tranquillity, and welfare. The gloom and anxiety which have enshrouded the country must make repose especially welcome now. No demand for speedy legislation has been heard; no adequate occasion is apparent for an unusual session of congress. The constitution defines the functions and powers of the executive as clearly as those of either of the other two departments of the government, and he must answer for the just exercise of the discretion it permits and the performance of the duties it imposes. Summoned to these high duties and responsibilities, and profoundly conscious of their magnitude and gravity, I assume the trust imposed by the constitution, relying for aid on Divine guidance and the virtue, patriotism, and intelligence of the American people.”
He also on the same day appointed Monday, September 26, as a day of mourning for the late president. On September 23 he issued a proclamation convening the senate in extraordinary session, to meet October 10, in order that a president pro tem of that body might be elected. The members of the cabinet were requested to retain their places until the regular meeting of congress in December, and did remain until their successors were appointed, except Sec. Windom, who, desiring to be come a candidate for senator from Minnesota, resigned from the treasury October 24. Edwin D. Morgan was nominated and confirmed secretary of the treasury, but declined the appointment; and Charles J. Folger, of New York, was then nominated and confirmed, was commissioned October 27, and qualified November 14. He died in office September 4, 1884. The other members of the cabinet of President Arthur, and the dates of their commissions, were as follows: State department, Frederick T. Frelinghuysen, of New Jersey, December 12, 1881; treasury, Walter Q. Gresham, of Indiana, September 24, 1884; Hugh McCulloch, of Maryland, October 28, 1884; war, Robert T. Lincoln, of Illinois, March 5, 1881 (retained from Garfield's cabinet); navy, William E. Chandler, of New Hampshire, April 12, 1882; interior, Henry M. Teller, of Colorado, April 6, 1882; attorney-general, Benjamin H. Brewster, of Pennsylvania, December 19, 1881; postmaster-general, Timothy O. Howe, of Wisconsin, December 20, 1881 (died in office, March 25, 1883); Walter Q. Gresham, April 3, 1883; Frank Hatton, of Iowa, October 14, 1884. Messrs. Frelinghuysen, McCulloch, Lincoln, Chandler, Teller, Brewster, and Hatton remained in office until the end of the presidential term.
The prominent events of President Arthur's administration, including his most important recommendations to congress, may be here summarized: Shortly after his accession to the presidency he participated in the dedication of the monument erected at Yorktown, Va., to commemorate the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at that place, October 19, 1781. Representatives of our French allies and of the German participants were present. At the close of the celebration the president felicitously directed a salute to be fired in honor of the British flag, “in recognition of the friendly relations so long and so happily subsisting between Great Britain and the United States, in the trust and confidence of peace and good-will between the two countries for all the centuries to come, and especially as a mark of the profound respect entertained by the American people for the illustrious sovereign and gracious lady who sits upon the British throne.” On November 29, 1881, an invitation was extended to all the independent countries of North and South America to participate in a peace congress, to be convened at Washington November 22, 1882. The president, in a special message, April 18, 1882, asked the opinion of congress as to the expediency of the project. No response being elicited, he concluded, August 9, 1882, to postpone indefinitely the proposed convocation, believing that so important a step should not be taken without the express authority of congress; or while three of the nations to be invited were at war; or still, again, until a program should have been prepared explicitly indicating the objects and limiting the powers of the congress. Efforts were made, however, to strengthen the relations of the United States with the other American nationalities. Representations were made by the administration with a view to bringing to a close the devastating war between Chili and the allied states of Peru and Bolivia. Its friendly counsel was offered in aid of the settlement of the disputed boundary-line between Mexico and Guatemala, and was probably influential in averting a war between those countries.
On July 29, 1882, a convention was made with Mexico for relocating the boundary between that country and the United States from the Rio Grande to the Pacific, and on the same day an agreement was also effected permitting the armed forces of either country to cross the frontier in pursuit of hostile Indians. A series of reciprocal commercial treaties with the countries of America to foster an unhampered movement of trade was recommended. Such a treaty was made with Mexico, January 20, 1883, Gen. U. S. Grant and William H. Trescott being the U. S. commissioners, and was ratified by the senate March 11, 1884. Similar treaties were made with Santo Domingo December 4, 1884; and November 18, 1884, with Spain, relative to the trade of Cuba and Porto Rico; both of which, before action by the senate, were withdrawn by President Cleveland, who, in his message of December 8, 1885, pronounced them inexpedient. In connection with commercial treaties President Arthur advised the establishment of a monetary union of the American countries to secure the adoption of a uniform currency basis, and as a step toward the general remonetization of silver. Provision for increased and improved consular representation in the Central American states was urged, and the recommendation was accepted and acted upon by congress. A Central and South American commission was appointed, under the act of congress of July 7, 1884, and proceeded on its mission, guided by instructions containing a statement of the general policy of the government for enlarging its commercial intercourse with American states.
Reports from the commission were submitted to congress in a message of February 13, 1885. Negotiations were conducted with the republic of Colombia for the purpose of renewing and strengthening the obligations of the United States as the sole guarantor of the integrity of Colombian territory, and of the neutrality of any interoceanic canal to be constructed across the isthmus of Panama. By correspondence upon this subject, carried on with the British government, it was shown that the provisions of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty of April 19, 1850, can not be urged, and do not continue in force in justification of interference by any European power with the right of the United States to exercise exclusive control over any route of isthmus transit, in accordance with the spirit and purpose of the so-called “Monroe doctrine.” As the best and most practicable means of securing a canal, and at the same time protecting the paramount interests of the United States, a treaty was made with the republic of Nicaragua, December 1, 1884, which authorized the United States to construct a canal, railway, and telegraph line across Nicaraguan territory by way of San Juan river and Lake Nicaragua. This treaty was rejected by the senate, but a motion was made to reconsider the vote. Before final action had been taken it was withdrawn, March 12, 1885, by President Cleveland, who withheld it from re-submission to the senate, and in his message of December 8, 1885, expressed his unwillingness to assert for the United States any claim of paramount privilege of owner ship or control of any canal across the isthmus. Satisfaction was obtained from Spain of the old claim on account of the “Masonic,” an American vessel, which had been seized at Manila unjustly, and under circumstances of peculiar severity. From the same government was also secured a recognition of the conclusiveness of the judgments of the U. S. courts naturalizing citizens of Spanish nativity.
From the British government a full recognition of the rights and immunities of naturalized American citizens of Irish origin was obtained, and all such that were under arrest in England or Ireland, as suspects, were liberated. Notice was given to England, under the joint resolution of congress of March 3, 1883, of the termination of the fishery clauses of the treaty of Washington. A complete scheme for reorganizing the extra-territorial jurisdiction of American consuls in China and Japan, and another for reorganizing the whole consular service, were submitted to congress. The former recommendation was adopted by the senate. The balance of the Japanese indemnity fund was returned to Japan by act of February 22, 1883, and the balance of the Chinese fund to China by act of March 3, 1885. A bill that was passed by congress prohibiting the immigration of Chinese laborers for a term of twenty years was vetoed, April 4, 1882, as being a violation of the treaty of 1880 with China, which permitted the limitation or suspension of immigration, but forbade its absolute prohibition. The veto was sustained and a modified bill, suspending immigration for ten years, was passed May 6, 1882, which received executive approval, and also an amendatory act of July 5, 1884. Outstanding claims with China were settled, and additional regulations of the opium traffic established. Friendly and commercial intercourse with Corea was opened under the most favorable auspices, in pursuance of the treaty negotiated on May 22, 1882, through the agency of Com. R. W. Shufeldt, U. S. N. The friendly offices of the United States were extended to Liberia in aid of a settlement, favorable to that republic, of the dispute concerning its boundary-line, with the British possession of Sierra Leone.
The flag of the international association of the Congo was, on April 22, 1884, recognized first by the United States. A commercial agent was appointed to visit the Congo basin, and the government was represented at an international conference at Berlin, called by the emperor of Germany, for the promotion of trade and the establishment of commercial rights in the Congo region. The renewal of the reciprocity treaty with Hawaii was advised. Remonstrances were addressed to Russia against any prescriptive treatment of the Hebrew race in that country. The international prime meridian of Greenwich was established as the result of a conference of nations, initiated by the U. S. government, and held at Washington, October 1 to November 1, 1884. In response to the appeal of Cardinal John McCloskey, of New York, the Italian government, on March 4, 1884, was urged to exempt from the sale of the property of the propaganda the American college in Rome, established mainly by contributions from the United States, and in consequence of this interposition the college was saved from sale and virtual confiscation. On August 3, 1882, a law was passed for returning convicts to Europe, and on February 26, 1885, importation of contract-laborers was forbidden.
The suspension of the coinage of standard silver dollars, and the redemption of the trade dollars, were repeatedly recommended. The repeal of the stamp taxes on matches, proprietary articles, playing cards, bank checks and drafts, and of the tax on surplus bank capital and deposits, was recommended. These taxes were repealed by act of congress of March 3, 1883; and by executive order of June 25, 1883, the number of internal revenue collection districts was reduced from 126 to 83. The tax on tobacco was reduced by the same act of congress; and in his last annual message, of December 5, 1884, the president advised the repeal of all internal revenue taxes except those on distilled spirits and fermented liquors. Congress was advised to undertake the revision of the tariff, but “without the abandonment of the policy of so discriminating in the adjustment of details as to afford aid and protection to American labor.” The course advised was the organization of a tariff commission, which was authorized by act of congress of May 15, 1882. The report of the commission submitted to congress December 4 was made the basis of the tariff revision act of March 3, 1883. On July 12, 1882, an act became a law enabling the national banks, which were then completing their twenty-year terms, to extend their corporate existence. Over due five per cent. bonds to the amount of $469,651,050 and six per cent. bonds to the amount of $203,573,750, were continued (except about $56,000,000 which were paid) at the rate of 3½ per cent. interest. The interest-bearing public debt was reduced $478,785,950, and the annual interest charge $29,831,880 during the presidential term. On July 1, 1882, “An act to regulate the carriage of passengers by sea” was vetoed because not correctly or accurately phrased, although the object was admitted to be meritorious and philanthropic. A modified bill passed congress, and was approved August 2. The attention of congress was frequently called to the decline of the American merchant marine, and legislation was recommended for its restoration, and the construction and maintenance of ocean steamships under the U. S. flag. In compliance with these recommendations, the following laws were enacted: June 26, 1884, an act to remove certain burdens from American shipping; July 5, 1884, an act creating a bureau of navigation, under charge of a commissioner, in the treasury department; and March 3, 1885, an amendment to the postal appropriation bill appropriating $800,000 for contracting with American steamship lines for the transportation of foreign mails. Reasonable national regulation of the railways of the country was favored, and the opinion was expressed that congress should protect the peo ple at large in their inter-state traffic against acts of injustice that the state governments might be powerless to prevent.
The attention of congress was often called to the necessity of modern provisions for coast defence. By special message of April 11, 1884, an annual appropriation of $1,500,000 for the armament of fortifications was recommended. In the last annual message an expenditure of $60,000,000, one tenth to be appropriated annually, was recommended. In consequence, the fortifications board was created by act of March 3, 1885, which made an elaborate report to the 49th congress, recommending a complete system of coast defence at an ultimate cost estimated at $126,377,800. The gun-foundry board, consisting of army and navy officers, appointed under the act of March 3, 1883, visited Europe and made full reports, advising large contracts for terms of years with American manufacturers to produce the steel necessary for heavy cannon, and recommending the establishment of one army and one navy gun factory for the fabrication of modern ordnance. This plan was commended to congress in a special message March 26, 1884, and in the above-mentioned message of April 11; also in the annual message of that year. In the annual message of 1881 the improvement of Mississippi river was recommended. On April 17, 1882, by special message, congress was urged to provide for “closing existing gaps in levees,” and to adopt a system for the permanent improvement of the navigation of the river and for the security of the valley. Special messages on this subject were also sent January 8 and April 2, 1884. Appropriations were made of $8,500,000 for permanent work; and in 1882 of $350,000, and in 1884 of over $150,000, for the relief of the sufferers from floods, the amount in the latter year being the balance left from $500,000 appropriated on account of the floods in the Ohio. These relief appropriations were expended under the personal supervision of the secretary of war.
On August 1, 1882, the president vetoed a river-and-harbor bill making appropriations of $18,743,875, on the ground that the amount greatly exceeded “the needs of the country” for the then current fiscal year, and because it contained “appropriations for purposes not for the common defence or general welfare,” which did not “promote commerce among the states, but were, on the contrary, entirely for the benefit of the particular localities” where it was “proposed to make the improvements.” The bill, on August 2, passed congress over the veto by 122 yeas to 59 nays in the house, and 41 yeas to 16 nays in the senate. In connection with this subject it was suggested to congress, in the annual messages of 1882, 1883, and 1884, that it would be wise to adopt a constitutional amendment allowing the president to veto in part only any bill appropriating moneys. A special message of January 8, 1884, commended to congress, as a matter of great public interest, the cession to the United States of the Illinois and Michigan canal in order to secure the construction of the Hennepin canal to connect Lake Michigan by way of Illinois river with the Mississippi. Unlawful intrusions of armed settlers into the Indian territory for the purpose of locating upon lands set apart for the Indians were prevented, or the intruders were expelled by the army. On July 2, 1884, the president vetoed the bill to restore to the army and place on the retired list Maj.-Gen. Fitz-John Porter, who, on the sentence of a court-martial, approved by President Lincoln January 27, 1863, had been dismissed for disobedience of orders to march to attack the enemy in his front during the second battle of Bull Run. The reasons assigned for the veto were, (1) that the congress had no right “to impose upon the president the duty of nominating or appointing to office any particular individual of its own selection,” and (2) that the bill was in effect an annulment of a final judgment of a court of last resort, after the lapse of many years, and on insufficient evidence. The veto was over-ruled in the house by 168 yeas to 78 nays, but was sustained in the senate by 27 to 27.
[ Fac-simile letter from Chester A. Arthur to James Grant Wilson ]
A new naval policy was adopted prescribing a reduction in the number of officers, the elimination of drunkards, great strictness and impartiality in discipline, the discontinuance of extensive repairs of old wooden ships, the diminution of navy-yard expenses, and the beginning of the construction of a new navy of modern steel ships and guns according to the plans of a skilful naval advisory board. The first of such vessels, the cruisers “Chicago,” “Boston,” and “Atlanta,” and a steel despatch-boat, “Dolphin,” with their armaments, were designed in this country and built in American work-shops. The gun foundry board referred to above was originated, and its reports were printed with that of the department for 1884. A special message of March 26, 1884, urged continued progress in the reconstruction of the navy, the granting of authority for at least three additional steel cruisers and four gun-boats, and the finishing of the four double-turreted monitors. Two cruisers and two gun-boats were authorized by the act of March 3, 1885. An Arctic expedition, consisting of the steam whalers “Thetis” and “Bear,” together with the ship “Alert,” given by the British admiralty, was fitted out and despatched under the command of Commander Winfield Scott Schley for the relief of Lieut. A. W. Greely, of the U. S. army, who with his party had been engaged since 1881 in scientific exploration at Lady Franklin bay, in Grinnell Land; and that officer and the few other survivors were rescued at Cape Sabine June 22, 1884. On recommendation of the president, an act of congress was passed directing the immediate return of the “Alert” to the English government.
The reduction of letter postage from three to two cents a half ounce was recommended, and was effected by the act of March 3, 1883; the unit of weight was on March 3, 1885, made one ounce, instead of a half ounce; the rate of transient newspapers and periodicals was reduced, June 9, 1884, to one cent for four ounces, and the rate on similar matter, when sent by the publisher or from a news agency to actual subscribers or to other news agents, including sample copies, was on March 3, 1885, reduced to one cent a pound. The fast-mail and free-delivery systems were largely extended; and also, on March 3, 1883, the money-order system. Special letter deliveries were established March 3, 1885. The star service at the west was increased at reduced cost. The foreign mail service was improved, the appropriation of $800,000, already alluded to, was made, and various postal conventions were negotiated.
Recommendations were made for the revision of the laws fixing the fees of jurors and witnesses, and for prescribing by salaries the compensation of district attorneys and marshals. The prosecution of persons charged with frauds in connection with the star-route mail service was pressed with vigor (the attorney-general appearing in person at the principal trial), and resulted in completely breaking up the vicious and corrupt practices that had previously flourished in connection with that service. Two vacancies on the bench of the supreme court were filled — one on the death of Nathan Clifford, of Maine, by Horace Gray, of Massachusetts, commissioned on December 20, 1881. For the vacancy occasioned by the retirement of Ward Hunt, of New York, Roscoe Conkling was nominated February 24, 1882, and he was confirmed by the senate; but on March 3 he declined the office, and Samuel Blatchford, of New York, was appointed and commissioned March 23, 1882.
Measures were recommended for breaking up tribal relations of the Indians by allotting to them land in severalty, and by extending to them the laws applicable to other citizens; and liberal appropriations for the education of Indian children were advised. Peace with all the tribes was preserved during the whole term of administration. Stringent legislation against polygamy in Utah was recommended, and under the law enacted March 22, 1882, many polygamists were indicted, convicted, and punished. The Utah commission, to aid in the better government of the territory, was appointed under the same act. The final recommendation of the president in his messages of 1883 and 1884 was that congress should assume the entire political control of the territory, and govern it through commissioners. Legislation was urged for the preservation of the valuable forests remaining upon the public domain. National aid to education was also urged, preferably through setting apart the proceeds of the sales of public lands.
A law for the adjudication of the French spoliation claims was passed January 20, 1885, and preparation was made for carrying it into effect. Congress was urged in every annual message to pass laws establishing safe and certain methods of ascertaining the result of a presidential election, and fully providing for all cases of removal, death, resignation, or inability of the president, or any officer acting as such. In view of certain decisions of the supreme court, additional legislation was urged in the annual message of 1883 to supplement and enforce the 14th amendment to the constitution in its special purpose to insure to members of the colored race the full enjoyment of civil and political rights. The subject of reform in the methods of the public service, which had been discussed by the president in his letter of November 23, 1877, while collector, to Sec. Sherman, and in his letter of July 15, 1880, accepting the nomination for vice-president, was fully treated in all his annual messages, and in special messages of February 29, 1884, and February 11, 1885. The “act to regulate and improve the civil service of the United States” was passed January 16, 1883, and under it a series of rules was established by the president, and the law and rules at all times received his unqualified support, and that of the heads of the several departments. The final distribution of the moneys derived from the Geneva award among meritorious sufferers on account of the rebel cruisers fitted out or harbored in British ports was provided for by act of June 5, 1882. In the annual message of 1884 a suitable pension to Gen. Grant was recommended, and, upon his announcement that he would not accept a pension, a special message of February 3, 1885, urged the passage of a bill creating the office of general of the army on the retired list, to enable the president in his discretion to appoint Gen. Grant. Such a bill was passed March 3, 1885, and the president on that day made the nomination, and it was confirmed in open session amid demonstrations of approval, in a crowded senate-chamber, a few minutes before the expiration of the session.
The president attended, as the guest of the city of Boston, the celebration of the Webster Historical society at Marshfield, Mass., and made brief addresses in Faneuil Hall, October 11, 1882, and at Marshfield, October 13. He recommended the Southern Exposition at Louisville, Ky., by a letter of June 9, 1883, attended its opening, and delivered an address on August 2. He aided in many ways the World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition at New Orleans; and on December 16, 1884, in an address sent by telegraph from the executive mansion in Washington, he opened the exposition, and set in motion the machinery by the electric current. On September 25, 1883, he was present at the unveiling of the Burnside monument at Bristol, R. I. On November 26, 1883, he attended the unveiling of the statue of Washington on the steps of the sub-treasury building in New York city; and February 21, 1885, he made an address at the dedication, at the national capital, of the Washington monument, which had been completed during his term.
President Arthur's name was presented to the republican presidential convention that met at Chicago June 3, 1884, by delegates from New York, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Louisiana. On the first ballot he received 278 votes against 540 for all others, 276 on the second, 274 on the third, and 207 on the fourth, which resulted in the nomination of James G. Blaine. He at once telegraphed to Mr. Blaine, “As the candidate of the republican party you will have my earnest and cordial support,” and in the canvass which ensued he rendered all possible assistance to the republican cause and candidates. The national convention, in its resolutions, declared that “in the administration of President Arthur we recognize a wise, conservative, and patriotic policy, under which the country has been blessed with remarkable prosperity, and we believe his eminent services are entitled to and will receive the hearty approval of every citizen.” The conventions in all the states had also unanimously passed resolutions commendatory of the administration.
Mr. Arthur married, October 29, 1859, Ellen Lewis Herndon, of Fredericksburg, Va., who died January 12, 1880, leaving two children, Chester Alan Arthur, born July 25, 1865, and Ellen Herndon Arthur, born November 21, 1871. Their first child, William L. H. Arthur, was born December 10, 1860, and died July 8, 1863. Mrs. Arthur was the daughter of Commander William Lewis Herndon, of the United States navy, who, in 1851-'52, explored the Amazon river under orders of the government. He perished in a terrific gale at sea, September 12, 1857, on the way from Havana to New York, while in command of the merchant-steamer “Central America.”
In person, Mr. Arthur was tall, large, well-proportioned, and of distinguished presence. His manners were always affable. He was genial in domestic and social life, and warmly beloved by his personal friends. He conducted his official intercourse with unvarying courtesy, and dispensed the liberal hospitalities of the executive mansion with ease and dignity, and in such a way as to meet universal commendation from citizens and foreigners alike. He had a full and strong mind, literary taste and culture, a retentive memory, and was apt in illustration by analogy and anecdote. He reasoned coolly and logically, and was never one-sided. The style of his state papers is simple and direct. He was eminently conscientious, wise, and just in purpose and act as a public official; had always the courage to follow his deliberate convictions, and remained unmoved by importunity or attack. He succeeded to the presidency under peculiarly distressing circumstances. The factional feeling in the republican party, which the year before had resulted in the nomination of Gen. Garfield for president as the representative of one faction, and of himself for vice-president as the representative of the other, had measurably subsided during the canvass and the following winter, only to break out anew immediately after the inauguration of the new administration, and a fierce controversy was raging when the assassination of President Garfield convulsed the nation and created the gravest apprehensions. Cruel misjudgments were formed and expressed by men who would now hesitate to admit them. The long weeks of alternating hope and fear that preceded the president's death left the public mind perturbed and restless. Doubt and uneasiness were every where apparent.
The delicacy and discretion displayed by the vice-president had compelled approval, but had not served wholly to disarm prejudice, and when he took the murdered president's place the whole people were in a state of tense and anxious expectancy, of which, doubtless, he was most painfully conscious. All fears, however, were speedily and happily dispelled. The new president's inaugural was explicit, judicious, and reassuring, and his purpose not to administer his high office in the spirit of former faction, although by it he lost some friendships, did much toward healing the dissensions within the dominant party. His conservative administration of the government commanded universal confidence, preserved public order and promoted business activity. If his conduct of affairs be criticised as lacking aggressiveness, it may confidently be replied that aggressiveness would have been unfortunate, if not disastrous. Rarely has there been a time when an indiscreet president could have wrought more mischief. It was not a time for showy exploits of brilliant experimentation. Above all else, the people needed rest from the strain and excitement into which the assassination of their president had plunged them. The course chosen by President Arthur was the wisest and most desirable that was possible. If apparently negative in itself, it was positive, far-reaching, and most salutary in its results. The service which at this crisis in public affairs he thus rendered to the country must be accounted the greatest of his personal achievements, and the most important result of his administration. As such, it should be placed in its true light before the reader of the future; and in this spirit, for the purpose of historical accuracy only, it is here given the prominence it deserves. His administration, considered as a whole, was responsive to every national demand, and stands in all its departments substantially without assault or criticism.
The ex-president died suddenly, of apoplexy, at his residence, No. 123 Lexington avenue, New York, Thursday morning, November 18, 1886. The funeral exercises were held on the following Monday, at the Church of the Heavenly Rest. President Cleveland and his cabinet, Chief-Justice Waite, ex-President Hayes, James G. Blaine, Gens. Sherman, Sheridan, and Schofield, and the surviving members of President Arthur's cabinet, were present. On the same day a special train conveyed his remains to Albany, N. Y., where they were placed by the side of his wife in the family burial place in Rural cemetery. In June, 1889, a monument was erected over his grave. It is a polished granite sarcophagus, and on one side stands a beautiful bronze figure of Sorrow.
Mary Arthur McElroy, born in Greenwich, Washington County, N. Y., in 1842. She is the youngest child of the Rev. William Arthur and the sister of Chester A. Arthur. Her education was completed in Troy, at the seminary of which Mrs. Emma Willard was principal. In 1861 she married John E. McElroy, of Albany, and since that event she has resided in that city. During the administration of her brother she made her home in Washington in the winter season, and dispensed the hospitalities of the White House with rare social tact, the place being one for which she was peculiarly fitted by her personal character and previous associations.
- Arthur was an Episcopalian, as were Washington, Madison, Monroe, William Henry Harrison, Tyler, and Taylor; Buchanan, Lincoln, Johnson, Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, and Wilson, Presbyterians; Polk, Grant, and Hayes, Methodists; John Adams and his son, Fillmore, and Taft, Unitarians; Jefferson was accused of being an atheist; Van Buren and Roosevelt, Dutch Reformed; and Garfield was a preacher of the Church of the Disciples. — Editor.