Arthur, Chester Alan
Age: 0, credited to Fairfield, VTVITALS
Birth: 10/05/1829, Fairfield, VTADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Alias?: None notedDESCENDANTS
Albany Rural Cemetery, Menands, NY
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Chester A. Arthur
Arthur, Chester A., late President of the United States, was born in Fairfield, Oct. 5, 1830, the son of Rev. Dr. William Arthur. The educational antecedents and scholarly tastes of Dr. Arthur induced him to give his elder son, Chester A., a thorough course of instruction in the best schools of Union Village and Schenectady, N. Y. Classical preparation for college he made his own especial care, and with such success that the future President was fitted for matriculation at Union College when only fifteen years old. Honorably graduating with the class of 1848, young Arthur selected the profession of law for his future activities, and began the requisite studies in Fowler's Law School at Ballston Spa. In 1853 he repaired to the city of New York, entered the law office of ex-Judge E. D. Culver, was admitted to the bar in the same year, and commenced professional practice.
Mr. Arthur's earliest opportunity of legal distinction was in connection with the famous slave case of Jonathan Lemmon of Virginia. Lemmon had attempted to carry eight slaves through New York on his way to Texas. His right to do this was disputed on the ground that they were free because of his voluntarily bringing them into free territory. The case was tried on a case of habeas corpus before Judge Payne who ordered the slaves to be released. The judge affirmed that they could neither be held to servitude in New York, nor relegated to slavery under the provisions of the fugitive slave act. The Supreme Court of New York sustained his decision, as did the Court of Appeals. Not less honorable to Mr. Arthur was the defence of the legal rights of the colored people in 1856, when he was counsel for Lizzie Jennings, a colored girl who had been forcibly ejected from a street car after she had paid her fare. A verdict against the company was obtained.
Mr. Arthur's genius was naturally inclined to the science and art of politics -- in the true sense of that much abused phrase. His first active associations were with the Henry Clay Whigs. Of the Saratoga convention, which founded the Republican party in New York, he was a member. Military affairs also interested him. Prior to the outburst of the secessionist rebellion he held the office of judge-advocate of the second brigade of the state militia. Under Governor Morgan he was raised, in 1860, to the position of engineer-in-chief of the staff. Subsequently he was made inspector-general, and next quartermaster-general of the state militia. This latter office he held until the close of Governor Morgan's magistracy in 1863. In performance of his official functions he equipped, supplied and forwarded the immense number of troops demanded from his state. Intelligent, sagacious, vigorous and always incorruptible, his military administration was notably brilliant and successful.
General Arthur returned to legal practice in 1863. His business was largely that of collecting claims against the government. In legislative affairs he was also greatly influential. Many important enactments were drafted by him, and to his labors their adoption at Albany and Washington was mainly due. For a brief period he acted as counsel of the New York board of commissioners. In local politics he soon became an efficient factor. By President Grant he was appointed collector of customs at the port of New York on the 20th of November, 1871. A second appointment to the same office followed in 1875, and was at once confirmed by the Senate, without the customary formality of reference to a committee. Difficulties between himself and President Hayes occurred in 1877, in consequence of an order issued by the latter, which prohibited persons in the civil service of the general government from personal activity in political management. This injunction was specially onerous on General Arthur, who was then chairman of the Republican central committee of New York City, and also on Naval Officer A. B. Cornell, who was chairman of the state central committee. Both refused to comply, and both were suspended from office in July, 1878. The successor to General Arthur, appointed after his suspension, was confirmed in the ensuing session of the United States Senate. A previous attempt to effect Arthur's removal had failed, through refusal on the part of the Senate to confirm the nominee of President Hayes. No official dereliction could be detected by either of two special committees who investigated the administration of the office. The probity of his official acts was unquestionable, and was freely acknowledged by the superiors who sought to oust him from office. The public desired his retention. All the judges of the New York courts, most of the leading members of the bar, and nearly all the mercantile importers in the city signed a petition asking that he might be continued in office. But he himself suppressed the petition. The only accusation against him was that he had disregarded the President's injunction to refrain, in common with all civil servants of the public, from active political management. In a letter addressed to Secretary Sherman he showed that during the six years of his administration as collector at New York he had removed only two and three-fourths per cent. of the whole number of subordinate officials, while the percentage of removals under his three immediate predecessors average no less than 28 per cent. He also showed that in ninety-seven out of one hundred appointments to important positions, having a salary of $2, 000 or more, he had raised the incumbents from the lower grades of the service on the recommendation of the heads of the several bureaus. His fidelity to the best interests of the public could scarcely have been more apparent.
Source:Jacob G. Ullery, compiler, Men of Vermont: An Illustrated Biographical History of Vermonters and Sons of Vermont, (Transcript Publishing Company, Brattleboro, VT, 1894), Part III, p. 7.