History Podcasts

Chester A. Arthur's Presidency Was a Colossal Accident… And a Huge Success

Chester A. Arthur's Presidency Was a Colossal Accident… And a Huge Success

Chester A. Arthur, America's 21st president, lands on the lists of the most obscure chief executives. Few know anything about him besides his trademark mutton-chop sideburns. Moreover, he fell into the position unexpectedly when Garfield was assassinated; the political pros though he would be a failure as president.

Maybe Arthur did also. After all, he was a flunkey in the New York political machine who spent his nights eating, drinking, and smoking cigars with the other good ole' boys and frequently didn't show up at work in the New York Customs House until 1pm. He only got on the Vice Presidential ticket of Garfield because Republicans were desperate to get support from New York and needed a native son on the ticket.

But Arthur shocked everyone by doing well as president. He went up against the very forces that had controlled him for decades. He implemented new rules requiring the federal government to hire workers based on their qualifications, not their political connections. He supported a civil rights act to bar racial discrimination, even though the public overwhelmingly supported it.

Scott Greenberger is today's guest to talk about these things. He is the author of The Unexpected President: The Life and Times of Chester A. Arthur.

RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

The Unexpected President