Useful Notes: Chester A. Arthur

I'm totally sure he was born in the Northeast Kingdom. Foreigner!

"I may be President of the United States, but my private life is nobody's damn business."
Chester A. Arthur

Chester Alan Arthur (October 5, 1829 — November 18, 1886) served between James Garfield and Grover Cleveland's first term, from 1881 to 1885. He was one of the most well-liked presidents of all time, a dapper, congenial schmoozer whom it was almost impossible to dislike. Even Mark Twain, a man who usually viewed all politicians with cynicism, once said that it would be "hard to better" the Arthur administration. His critics, though, claimed that he accomplished nothing other than banquets and parties during his term.

There were rumors that he wasn't a natural-born American citizen, which would've made him ineligible for the presidency, but the people behind this rumor needed a couple of tries to come up with a plausible country of origin, so they weren't terribly credible. (Sounding familiar yet?) In reality there is a 99.948% probability he was born in Vermont.

His political career was largely a product of the New York political machine, and he was a close, personal friend of its boss, Roscoe Conkling. The fact that Arthur went on to wage a war of reform against the patronage system is one of the lesser-known ironies of American history. Arthur felt it was his duty, given that Garfield was shot by a disgruntled office seeker after attempting similar reforms. A friend was said to comment, "He's no longer Chet Arthur, but the president."

Most modern references to Chester A. Arthur focus not on his presidency, but on his rather spectacular set of mutton chops.

He upgraded the US Navy, which would then be used by William McKinley to wage the Spanish-American War. He also refused to move into the White House until it was renovated by Lewis Comfort Tiffany. Truman Capote may have had Breakfast at Tiffany's but Chet Arthur had Tiffany for breakfast.

His wife, Nell, died 20 months before he became president and he vowed never to re-marry. This didn't stop him from getting four marriage proposals on his last day in office, though.

Tropes associated with Arthur:

  • Brilliant but Lazy: He only worked from 10 to 4 and would reportedly take naps during particularly long cabinet meetings. However, those 6 hours during which he worked were highly efficient and he managed to succesfully initiate the process of civil service reform that his predecessor, James Garfield, had devised.
  • The Charmer
  • The Dandy
  • The Fashionista
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Senator Roscoe Conkling. Arthur was Conkling's best friend, and it was this friendship that got him a political career due to Conkling's patronage. They had a split during Arthur's presidency due to his attempts to reform the corrupt system Conkling headed, but they still remained relatively friendly and somewhat made-up after Arthur left the White House.
  • Hot-Blooded Sideburns/Badass Moustache: His unusual facial hair tends to be the most remembered aspect of his presidency.
  • Short-Lived Big Impact: Much like James K. Polk, Arthur was a young (comparatively for a President) man who served only a single term in office, and managed to accomplish much more than the incompetent, aimless, or confused administrations that preceded and succeeded him. Also like Polk, Arthur died shortly after leaving office, Polk in 200 days, Arthur in little over a year.
  • Sleazy Politician: Subverted, to just about everyone's surprise the man whose only office was a politically motivated appointment actually took up his late predecessor's cause of reform, go figure.
    • A closer examination of Arthur's appointment to that corrupt office - Collector for the Port of New York - showed the office did run as efficient as possible for the time, and that Arthur didn't take more graft out of it - via the patronage kickbacks - than expected of him.
    • He served during the American Civil War as the quartermaster general for the New York volunteers, and developed a reputation for efficiency and reliability.
  • Vindicated by History: Much like Grant in despite his popularity in his own lifetime, his critics wrote the book on him after his death, and only recently is remembered for the early reform attempts he did, and as a consequence put into motion.

In Fiction

  • Chester A. Arthur middle school is the site of the bomb plot in Die Hard with a Vengeance.
    • The clue to this is "What is 21 out of 42?", there being 42 presidents at the time the movie was made.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Lisa the Iconoclast", Lisa Simpson admits to suffering from "Chester A. Arthritis".
  • Futurama: "Chester A. Arthur fall down."
  • In the Making Fiends web cartoon, Charlotte celebrates Chester A. Arthur's birthday.
  • The main school ChalkZone protagonists Rudy and Penny go to is named Chester A. Arthur Elementary.
  • Chester A. Arthur plays an important role in Max's election speech.
    Max: This election reminds me of a droll story. It seems Chester A. Arthur and the Pope were kayaking down the Amazon one day. Suddenly a tiny Candiru fish swims up the Pope's (censored) and lodges itself in his (censored). Arthur grabs the Pope's (censored) pliers and (censored) swelled up like a melon. And the Pope says, "Thanks! Last time that happened, McKinley wanted to (censored three times)!" (beat) No wait! Wait! Wait, I think I told it wrong.

Alternative Title(s):

Chester A Arthur