Thursday, September 25, 2008
Chester A. Arthur: Possibly Secretly Canadian-Born President of Civil Service Reform
Roscoe Conkling, a finely-bearded man and Republican operative. Old Roscoe got him an in with President U.S. Grant, who appointed Arthur to the position of Collector of Customs for the Port of New York. Apparently there was a lot of money in this job, but the future prez was far less corrupt than most of his predecessors had been. After Rutherford B. Hayes came to office in the late 1870s, he threw Arthur out of the Customs House and replaced him with one of his own guys. Arthur went back to practicing law while his pal Roscoe worked on getting Grant nominated to run for a third term. Well, shenanigans at the 1880 RNC ensued and James "Dark Horse" Garfield was nominated instead. Garfield's people wanted a Stalwart (someone from the pro-spoils faction) for VP, and Arthur was enthusiastic about being their second choice. A close election eked Garfield and Arthur into the White House in 1881, though apparently they were not friends. Roscoe kept calling Chet and being like, "Hey, when can we get our pals new government jobs, yo?" And Garfield was like, "STFU, asshole." But then in July some guy shot Garfield and claimed he had done it in the name of patronage and to make Arthur President. Chet really kind of felt bad about this, since the guy was crazy and had nothing to do with him. So once Garfield finally died of complications from his wounds, Arthur defied the Stalwarts (and the rest of his party for that matter) by pushing through serious civil service reform. Also, he was a good dresser. But totally like President Bartlett, Arthur found out he had a fatal disease** and didn't tell anyone. He was pretty blase about running for reelection because of it, and he actually ended up dying of a cerberal hemorrhage in 1886. Other facts about Chester Alan Arthur: -Because of his fancy clothes, he was known as "the Gentleman's Boss" or "Elegant Arthur." -He was a widower who vowed never to remarry. -Supposedly he had, like, 80 pairs of pants and would change into different pants multiple times a day. I speculate that this had more to do with an incontinence problem than a penchant for fashion, though there does not seem to be any historical basis for such claims--I just like making them. -Before moving into the White House, he insisted on getting rid of all the old furniture and totally redecorating. I don't want to stereotype, but Chester A. Arthur may have been gay. -He was an avid fisherman who caught big fish sometimes. Fish are gross. Objectively. *Except for by his party, the Republicans. Also, Democrats. But non-politicians totally thought he was the cat's pajamas. **Some kidney thing.