The Unexpected President tells the life and times of Chester A. Arthur. No body thought he would reach the position he did as vice president after a career catering to the corrupt and crooked New York political machine boss Roscoe Conkling. Arthur himself didn’t think so either especially after President Hayes forced him to resign from his position at the Custom House. Yet despite his history, the Republican convention chose him to be James A. Garfield’s vice president. Although not widely liked, many came to believe Garfield would keep Arthur in check. Tragically two months later in 1881 a man shot Garfield. He lingered between life and death for two months before dying from his wound.
At once the newspapers, politicians and the public believed Arthur would be a puppet to Conkling and his cronies, making sure the Stalwart faction of the Republican party took over the Federal government. All of them underestimated Arthur and to help nudge him to be his own person as president was Julia Sands, a bedridden New Yorker, who wrote over twenty letters to Arthur during the course of his presidency.
With the addition of her influence, few Stalwarts held positions in Arthur’s government. His mentor Roscoe Conkling felt Arthur betrayed him and never forgave the president for this. Also, Arthur encouraged Congress to enact legislation to clean up political offices like the one he held, to pass Civil Rights Reform legislation to help minorities in the United States, and to modernize the Navy.
These and other feats changed the political perception of him quite a lot but it was not enough to bring together political factions of his party. Further, Bright’s Disease was slowly killing Arthur preventing him from running and being elected to his own term in office.
Scott Greenberger’s biography of Chester A. Arthur brings to life Chester A. Arthur, the political times of the United States back then, and of the remarkable Julia Sands, who gave the encouragement and valued friendship to a president who sorely needed a champion in his corner.
The Unexpected President: The Life and Times of Chester A. Arthur
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