Saturday, 14 October 2017

The Unexpected President: Chester A. Arthur

From humble beginnings Arthur rose to the heights of New York politics and society via a law degree and political advancement in an era of corrupt politics. Chester A. Arthur was a prime player in the corrupt Roscoe Conkling -New York political machine. He was placed on the 1880 Republican ticket with James Garfield only to win New York state in the electoral college. After Garfield's assassination, newspapers printed horror at the thought of Chester Arthur as President. Arthur embarked on a surprising Presidency, signing reform legislation giving birth to the civil service. This was a repudiation of his own political past and the corrupt agenda of his longtime allies. Arthur's political turn even drew the admiration of a tough critic like Mark Twain, and is a lesson today that a man may rise above his political and personal past to lead a nation an fulfill the office of President.
  • When President James Garfield was shot, no one in the United States was more dismayed than his Vice President, Chester Arthur. For years Arthur had been perceived as unfit to govern, not only by critics and his fellow citizens but by his own conscience.
  • Chester Arthur became the Vice President of the United States as a pawn in a game, but surprised the game’s players when Pres. Garfield was shot and killed and he became the President.
  • Arthur knew better even than his detractors that he failed to meet the high standard a president must uphold. Arthur was a product of his time, was nothing of a visionary, had no agenda but himself for most of his life, but gave the presidency his best shot when it literally fell into his lap.
  • Arthur became a leader in the corrupt New York political machine and partied while while his wife stayed home with the family. There is evidence that he wasn’t faithful to her.
  • The moment President Arthur took office, he proved to be not just honest but courageous, going up against the very forces that had controlled him for decades.
  • Roscoe Conkling wanted Garfield’s Custom House appointee fired and his own man put in, so he could use the patronage to fuel his political machine. Arthur refused. “For the vice presidency I was indebted to Mr. Conkling,” Arthur explained. “But for the presidency of the United States, my debt is to the Almighty.” 
  • Arthur surprised everyone--and gained many enemies--when he swept house and courageously took on corruption, civil rights for blacks, and issues of land for Native Americans. His short presidency proved to be a turning point of American history, in many ways a preview of our own times, and is a sterling example of how someone can "rise to the occasion."
  • He succeeded by embracing the cause of civil service reform. His advocacy for, and subsequent enforcement of, the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act was the centerpiece of his administration.
  • Chester Arthur was not one of the great presidents. But he was a competent and honest one, and his corrupt past made his reformation all the more impressive. 
  • The New York World summed up Arthur's presidency at his death in 1886: "No duty was neglected in his administration, and no adventurous project alarmed the nation."
  • Mark Twain wrote of him, "It would be hard indeed to better President Arthur's administration."
  • Journalist Alexander McClure later 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."
  • Arthur adopted [a code] for his own political behavior but subject to three restraints: he remained to everyone a man of his word; he kept scrupulously free from corrupt graft; he maintained a personal dignity, affable and genial though he might be. These restraints ... distinguished him sharply from the stereotype politician.

The health of the people is of supreme importance.

Men may die, but the fabric of our free institutions remains unshaken.

The extravagant expenditure of public money is an evil 
not to be measured by the value of that money to the people who are taxed for it.

There are very many characteristics which go into making a model civil servant. 
Prominent among them are probity, industry, good sense, good habits, good temper, 
patience, order, courtesy, tact, self-reliance, many deference to superior officers, 
and many consideration for inferiors.

Arthur did good job as his divine duty. Ambedkar feared in 1946 that constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated. Democracy in India is only a top-dressing on an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic. Modi is proving Ambedkar's fears are correct. In India, corruption was a social stigma some 50 years ago and corrupt people face societal isolation. Today corruption acquired so much wide spread societal acceptance, the biggest corrupt fellow becomes a celebrity and acquire VIP status automatically. Our Modi failed to emulate Chester Alan Arthur and missed a great opportunity. Instead Modi pursued Congress style of ruling the nation and destroyed himself and the nation much faster. He never walks the talk. The more one analyses Modi, one will discover chilling similarities with fascist Mussolini. India has long way to go.

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