Messages and Papers of Chester A. Arthur

Author: Chester A. Arthur

Messages and Papers of

September 19, 1881, to March 4, 1885

CHESTER ALAN ARTHUR was born in Fairfield, Franklin County, Vt., October 5, 1830. He was the eldest son of Rev. William Arthur and Malvina Stone. His father, a Baptist minister, was born in Ireland and emigrated to the United States. Chester prepared for college at Union Village in Greenwich and at Schenectady, N.Y., and in 1845 entered the sophomore class of Union College. While in his sophomore year taught school for a term at Schaghticoke, Rensselaer County, and a second term at the same place during his last year in college. 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. After his graduation in 1848, at the age of 18, attended a law school at Ballston Spa, N.Y.; returned to Lansingburg, N.Y., where his father then resided, and continued his legal studies. Was principal of an academy at North Pownal, Bennington County, Vt., in 1851. In 1853 entered the law office of Erastus D. Culver in New York City 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. Having formed from early associations sentiments of hostility to slavery, as a law student and after his admission to the bar became an earnest advocate for the slaves. Became a Henry Clay Whig, and cast his first vote in 1852 for Winfield Scott for President. Participated in the first Republican State convention, at Saratoga, and took an active part in the Fremont campaign of 1856. October 29, 1859, married Ellen Lewis Herndon, of Fredericksburg, Va. January 1, 1861, was appointed on Governor Edwin D. Morgan’s staff as engineer in chief, with the rank of brigadier-general. 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, 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. Was called to Albany in December for consultation concerning the defenses of New York Harbor. Summoned a board of engineers on December 24, of which he became a member, and on January 18, 1862, submitted an elaborate report on the condition of the national forts bothon the seacoast and on the inland border of the State. Was appointed inspector-general February 10, 1862, with the rank of brigadier-general, and in May inspected the New York troops at Fredericksburg and on the Chickahominy. In June, 1862, Governor 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 June 28 in New York City. At Governor Morgan’s request, General Arthur resumed his former work, resigned as inspector-general, and on July 10 was appointed quartermaster-general. Retired from the office December 31, 1862, when Horatio Seymour succeeded Governor Morgan. Between 1862 and 1872 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, formed the firm of Arthur, Phelps & Knevals. Was for a short time counsel for the department of assessments and taxes, but resigned the place. Continued during all this period to take an active part 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. Was appointed collector of the port of New York by President Grant on November 20, 1871; was reappointed on December 17, 1875, and confirmed by the Senate on the same day without reference to a committee, a courtesy never before extended to an appointee who had not been a Senator; retained the office until July 11, 1878, when he was suspended by President Hayes. On retiring from the office of collector resumed the practice of law with the firm of Arthur, Phelps, Knevals & Ransom. Advocated in 1880 the nomination of General Grant to succeed President Hayes. Was a delegate at large to the Chicago convention, which met June 2, 1880. After the nomination of General Garfield for the Presidency a general desire arose in the convention to nominate for Vice-President some advocate of General Grant and a resident of New York State. The New York delegation indicated their preference for General Arthur, and he was nominated on the first ballot. Was elected Vice-President November 2, 1880; took the oath of office March 4, 1881, and presided over the extraordinary session of the Senate that then began, which was very exciting. That body being equally divided, he was frequently called upon to exercise the right of casting the controlling vote. 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 in New York City 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. President Arthur’s name was presented to the Republican Presidential convention which met at Chicago June 3, 1884. On the first ballot he received 278 votes against 540 for all others, 276on the second, 274 on the third, and 207 on the fourth, which resulted in the nomination of James G. Blaine. In the canvass which ensued Mr. Arthur rendered all possible assistance to the Republican cause and candidates. Died suddenly at his residence in New York City November 18, 1886, and was buried in Rural Cemetery at Albany.


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Chicago: Chester A. Arthur, "Title Page," Messages and Papers of Chester A. Arthur in 4619–4620. Original Sources, accessed November 28, 2022,

MLA: Arthur, Chester A. "Title Page." Messages and Papers of Chester A. Arthur, in , pp. 4619–4620. Original Sources. 28 Nov. 2022.

Harvard: Arthur, CA, 'Title Page' in Messages and Papers of Chester A. Arthur. cited in , , pp.4619–4620. Original Sources, retrieved 28 November 2022, from