Chester Arthur – Fairfield Vermont
Little remains of Chester Arthur, twenty-first POTUS who rose to the position in 1881 upon the death of President James Garfield. Arthur served out Garfield’s term and retired from political life. After leaving office in 1885, Arthur moved back to New York City to practice law in his old law firm. In November 1886 he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died within a day. Before he died he requested that all his personal papers be burned.
Arthur was born in Fairfield, Vermont. The image here is a reconstruction of what Arthur’s boyhood home may have looked like and is positioned based on information available to historians. Arthur spent most of his adult life in New York City.
The future president entered politics as a Stalwart Republican under the patronage of New York Senator Roscoe Conkling. At that time, political appointments were based on patronage and it was within the Conklin political machine that Arther served Collector of the Port of New York in New York. As part of the Stalwart wing of the Republican Party, Conklin and his caucus opposed Civil Service reform, a priority for the new president, James Garfield. Arthur was added as vice president to help balance the ticket (on the issue of civil service reform).
Interestingly while initially opposed to the Pendleton Civil Service Act, Arther became a key supporter of the measure which changed way government jobs were awarded. Arthur surprised his wing of the party by signing the bill in 1883 thereby starting the process of awarding government jobs based on merit, knowledge, and skill rather than patronage and party loyalty.