Dec. 18 (Tuesday)

The 21st U.S. President
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 Chester Alan Arthur
Ole Peter Hansen Balling’s 1881 portrait of Chester A. Arthur
Full Name: Chester Alan Arthur
Born: Oct. 5, 1829 in North Fairfield, Vermont
Died: Nov. 18, 1886 in New York City, New York

Chester Alan Arthur was elected U.S. Vice President as a Republican in 1880 but became the 21st U.S. president after President James A. Garfield was assassinated the next year.

Arthur was a lawyer in New York City who quickly became a general during the Civil War, though he never participated in any fighting. That record pretty much summed up his later presidency, which was relatively peaceful, with the Civil War over and the Indian Wars winding down.

Arthur’s term is associated with civil service reform and the rebirth of the U.S. Navy. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “As president, he [Arthur] confounded his critics and dismayed many of his friends among the Stalwart faction of the Republican Party by supporting the Pendleton Civil Service Act (1883), which provided for the open appointment and promotion of federal employees based on merit rather than patronage.

Journalist Alexander McClure wrote, “No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Chester Alan Arthur, and no one ever retired . . . more generally respected, alike by political friend and foe.”