[00:06.00]VOA Learning English presents America’s Presidents.
[00:13.55]Today we are talking about Chester A. Arthur. (The letter “A” is for Alan, his middle name.)
[00:21.84]Arthur took office because because of an unexpected event.
[00:26.08]He was sworn in as Vice President in March 1881 under James Garfield.
[00:33.13]But only 100 days into Garfield’s term, the president was shot. He suffered for months.
[00:40.96]Arthur was not close to Garfield.
[00:44.87]The two men belonged to the same party, but they had different ideas on the issues of the day.
[00:52.16]They publicly disagreed on a number of subjects.
[00:56.61]If Garfield lived, Arthur would probably not have much power in his administration.
[01:04.30]But Garfield eventually died.
[01:07.21]By this time, it was well-established that if the president of the United States dies in office, the vice president becomes the president.
[01:18.07]So, in September 1881, Arthur became the country’s chief executive.
[01:24.93]He served the remaining three and a half years of Garfield’s term.
[01:29.55]Historians say that, for the most part, Arthur performed ably and well.
[01:49.35]Chester Arthur was raised in the northeastern states of Vermont and New York.
[01:55.89]He was one of eight children in his family.
[01:58.91]Their father was a religious leader and anti-slavery activist.
[02:04.09]Arthur attended college in New York, then taught school and studied law.
[02:10.70]But he never wanted to stay in a small town and live modestly.
[02:16.14]He wanted to live in New York City, work as a lawyer and public official, become wealthy, and enjoy the lifestyle of a gentleman.
[02:26.27]And that is what he did.
[02:28.50]Arthur advanced from an entry-level job in a law office, to a leadership position in the military during the Civil War.
[02:37.03]After the fighting stopped, he worked in a good-paying job as a lawyer, and then accepted a top position in the government.
[02:46.61]For seven years, Arthur served as the collector of the port of New York.
[02:52.52]His job involved supervising 1,300 people.
[02:57.58]They collected large amounts of money that came from taxes on imported goods.
[03:05.63]The job had a political element, too.
[03:08.98]It was under the control of a U.S. senator from New York, Roscoe Conkling.
[03:15.66]Conkling was known as a Republican Party chief, who traded political support for financial and other benefits.
[03:24.75]Arthur was never found guilty of accepting money or gifts in exchange for the help of his office.
[03:33.01]But he was closely linked to Conkling’s political machine.
[03:38.19]When Rutherford B. Hayes became president in 1878, he tried to fight corruption in government jobs.
[03:46.94]He targeted Conkling and Arthur.
[03:58.82]Arthur’s position as the collector of the port of New York was one of the issues in the election of 1880.
[04:08.85]President Hayes had suspended Arthur from the job.
[04:12.87]To get it back, Arthur and Conkling supported an effort to re-elect former president Ulysses S. Grant.
[04:22.10]But another candidate won the Republican Party’s presidential nomination: James Garfield.
[04:29.74]Garfield and Arthur were not natural allies.
[04:34.13]Although they were both Republicans, they represented different points of view.
[04:40.75]Political leaders hoped to unite the party.
[04:43.99]So, when Garfield was chosen as the presidential candidate, they added Arthur as the vice presidential nominee.
[04:53.45]The effort to unite the party worked well enough to win the election.
[04:58.31]But relations between the two men were uneasy.
[05:02.82]One of Garfield’s first acts was to appoint someone for Arthur’s old job in New York.
[05:09.49]The new president wanted someone who was not loyal to Conkling.
[05:14.74]So he gave the position to one of his supporters, instead.
[05:19.73]In protest, Conkling resigned from the Senate.
[05:23.43]But then events took an unexpected turn. Garfield was shot by a mentally unbalanced man who believed the president owed him a government job.
[05:38.24]And Chester A. Arthur became president.
[06:04.32]When Arthur took office, he had the public image of being an experienced political operator.
[06:12.68]Most people believed he cared only about supporting the aims of a small part of the Republican Party.
[06:20.45]Instead, President Arthur took an independent position on several issues.
[06:26.50]In opposition to most of his party, Arthur supported legislation to reform the country’s civil service.
[06:34.36]It aimed to clean up corruption in government and took away some of the ability of politicians to give government jobs to their supporters.
[06:45.31](To be fair, in the short term, the act helped Arthur’s party.)
[06:50.22]Arthur also broke with the Republican Party leadership to support a reduction in tariffs.
[06:58.32]And he strongly argued to limit spending federal money on projects that helped only a few areas or businesses.
[07:07.74]Instead, he wanted to cut taxes so more people would profit from the government’s surplus.
[07:15.37]Finally, Arthur vetoed an anti-immigration act from Congress.
[07:21.59]The measure proposed banning Chinese immigrants for 20 years.
[07:26.02]Arthur argued that the Chinese had improved the American economy by helping build a railroad across the country.
[07:35.83]He also did not want to hurt potential trade with China.
[07:40.82]However, when Congress offered to ban Chinese immigrants for only 10 years, Arthur agreed.
[07:48.61]In addition, his administration banned immigrants who were considered poor, criminal, or mentally insane.
[07:57.38]Perhaps Arthur’s most memorable act as president, however, was to re-decorate the White House.
[08:05.07]He did not like its appearance inside.
[08:08.60]So he asked one of New York’s top designers, Louis Tiffany, to make the home brighter and more stylish.
[08:17.37]In the newly remodeled rooms, Arthur held parties, with fine food and drink, for elite guests.
[08:25.14]He was known as “The Gentleman Boss.”
[08:48.26]Observers then and now say that Arthur served well as president.
[08:53.32]He was a solid leader after the difficult years of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
[09:00.21]But Arthur did not live much beyond his presidency.
[09:05.42]Shortly into his term, he learned he had a serious kidney disease that would likely kill him.
[09:12.57]As a result, he did not try hard to get re-elected.
[09:17.43]Instead, after finishing his term he returned to his home in New York.
[09:23.45]Arthur tried to work as a lawyer, but he soon became too sick.
[09:28.45]His wife had died of malaria before he became president.
[09:32.42]And he liked to spend his free time fishing or with friends instead of with his children.
[09:38.55]But, in his last months, he could not enjoy those activities either.
[09:44.28]He died at home at the age of 57.
[09:53.04]I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.