Was Chester Arthur a good president?

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Chester Arthur was perhaps a better President than many would have expected, if for no other reason he showed his willingness to rise above Party politics.

Arthur became President when James A. Garfield was assassinated. He had been placed on the ticket with Garfield after a contentious nominating process at the Republican convention in which two factions, the Stalwarts and Half-Breeds bitterly disagreed. Arthur had previously been political boss of the New York Republican machine, a fact that created some discomfiture among many. Particularly disquieting was his association with Roscoe Conkling, the Republican party boss who was elected to the Senate.

Upon his assuming the Presidency, he worked for and succeeded in seeing Congress pass the Pendleton Civil Service Act which provided for competitive exams for non-appointive government offices rather than the "spoils system" that had previously existed. He vetoed the Chinese Exclusion Act (but the veto was overridden) and also worked for passage of the twenty fifth Amendment to the Constitution which provides for presidential succession. The first steel navy also came into being during his presidency.

Arthur proved to be more principled than his former political cronies would have expected or appreciated. As a result, he was denied renomination at the end of Garfield's first term. As a result he was a short term (and little known) President who was quite effective in his brief term in office.

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