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Portraits: Chester Arthur   Leave a comment

This 1881 painting is currently in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

The 21st President of the United States, 1881 – 1885

AKA: Chet, Gentleman Boss, Prince Arthur, The Dude President, Walrus

From: Vermont, New York

College: Union College

Married to: Ellen Herndon

Children: William, Chester, Ellen

Party: Whig, Republican

Previous Jobs: teacher, principal, lawyer,

In His Words:  “I trust the time is nigh when, with the universal assent of civilized people, all international differences shall be determined without resort to arms by the benignant processes of civilization.”

“The office of the Vice-President is a greater honor than I ever dreamed of attaining.”

“Men may die, but the fabric of our free institutions remains unshaken.” – said upon the death of President Garfield.

“I love the autumn.  The crispness in the air, the changing of the leaves, and the changing of my wardrobe to winter-weight wools.”

“Madam, I may be President of the United States, but my private life is nobody’s damn business.”

Not true: Arthur’s father was born in Ireland, and he moved frequently with his young family.  That led to Chester Arthur’s political opponents starting a rumor that he was foreign born and not eligible to be Vice President in 1880.  The rumors first swirled that he was born in Ireland, and then in Canada … but neither rumor took hold.  Isn’t this all of the proof we need to see that history does repeat itself?

True: Arthur owned at least 80 pairs of pants, which may not be a lot by today’s presidential standards, it was quite the extravagance back then.

His nomination as Vice President was a compromise.  Republicans were fighting between the Stalwarts and the Half-Breeds, with Garfield’s nomination only happening after 36 ballots.  Arthur was the 2nd choice for Vice President.

He refused the duties of the office of President while President Garfield was incapacitated and unable to perform those duties.  The nation was rudderless during the two months of Garfield’s decline.

His nomination was secured due to the sentiment that he would not upset the patronage system that prevailed in the Washington of his day.  In the end, however, he did institute reforms, and his administration was not marred by the scandals that tarred so many of this era.

The Official Portrait: Daniel Huntington painted the official portrait of President Arthur in 1885.  It would prove to be his last significant painting.

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