Chester Alan Arthur
Burial Location Visited President Grave #
Menands, New York April, 2004 6th Visited

Chester A. Arthur died in 1886, a year after
his tenure as the twenty-first president
ended. His burial spot in Section 24, Lot 8,
is topped with an ornamental granite
sarcophagus and a bronze angel, designed
by Ephraim Keyser. The late president's
friends raised $10,000 to pay for the
elaborate monument.

A plaque on the base of the president's
 memorial states his birth year as 1830
as opposed to the correct year of 1829.
At some point between 1870 and 1880,
Arthur began to maintain that he was
born a year after he actually was. In
all likelihood, this was an attempt to
appear more youthful.

Fast Facts *

- First Lady: Mary Arthur McElroy
- Spouse: Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur (m. 1859-1880)

- Political Party: Republican Party

- Term: 1881-1885
- Vice President: None

- Born: October 5, 1829

- Died: November 18, 1886

- Age:

- Cause of Death: Stroke

Cemetery: Albany Rural Cemetery, Menands, New York
- GPS Coordinates: 42°42'27.0"N 73°44'01.3"W

* * * Background on Chester A. Arthur * * *

* Born in Fairfield, Vermont, to Free-Will Baptist parents, Chester Arthur enrolled in New York's Union College in 1845. After his graduation, he proceeded to teach school and establish a Manhattan law practice. Years later, he affiliated himself with Republican governor Edwin D. Morgan, who assigned Arthur to his staff and then elevated him to quartermaster general during the Civil War. In 1867, Senator Roscoe Conkling enlisted the help of Arthur and other conservative New York Republicans to wrest control of the GOP from an inter-party opponent. They succeeded, and Conkling steadily built a political machine that fed off of patronage and bribery. Conkling threw his support behind General Ulysses S. Grant's White House bid in 1868, and three years later, President Grant nominated Conkling's lieutenant, Arthur, to head the New York custom house. The New York custom house was one of the nation's most critical financial institutions - it accounted for one third of the country's revenue and took in seventy percent of its imports. Conkling voted with the Senate to confirm Arthur as custom house collector. For years, Arthur simultaneously did Conkling's bidding and lined his own pockets, which enabled him to maintain his extravagant lifestyle. Things started to unravel for Arthur in 1877, when President Rutherford B. Hayes launched an initiative to reform civil service. The president ordered Arthur to pare down the custom house payroll and bar employees from engaging in the partisan work that fueled Conkling's machine. When Arthur refused, Hayes ordered him to resign. No resignation was forthcoming, and the Senate was not cooperative in replacing Arthur, but Hayes eventually got his way: he fired Arthur in July 1878 while Congress was in recess.

* After his dismissal, Arthur continued to work as a mover and shaker in the Republican Party under Senator Conkling's purview for two years. In 1880, Conkling's anti-reform Republican Stalwarts backed former President Ulysses S. Grant for a non-consecutive third term. At the June convention, Grant's supporters were at a stalemate with Senator James G. Blaine's reform-minded Half-Breeds, until a majority of delegates switched their allegiances to Congressman James A. Garfield. The electoral votes in Conkling's home state of New York were likely to be pivotal in the general election, so Republicans aimed to obtain the senator's support by offering the vice presidency to one of his Stalwarts. Chester Arthur was put on the ticket - despite the fact he had never held elected office - and Conkling's political machine delivered New York for the Republicans in November. Arthur continued to work in Conkling's best interest as vice president, even after the political boss resigned his senate seat in May 1881. Arthur's responsibilities changed dramatically in July, once mentally ill office-seeker Charles Guiteau shot President Garfield. Upon his capture, Guiteau professed, "I am a Stalwart of the Stalwarts... Arthur is president.” Guiteau's actions and proclamation brought great distress to Arthur, who had no desire to be chief executive and was now suspected by some to be in league with the assassin. He secluded himself for much of the next eleven weeks as the president lay bedridden, but was forced to step back into the public eye after Garfield's death on September 19th. Early the next morning, Arthur was administered the presidential oath of office at his residence on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. The new president arrived in Washington, D.C., the following day.

* Scant weeks after Arthur came into office, former Senator Conkling met with the new president to express his wishes for the administration's agenda. In a stunning rebuke to his mentor, Arthur rejected Conkling's demands. As president, Arthur wished to establish himself as a leader, free of machine politics. Civil service reform gained traction after the Garfield assassination - the result of the widespread impression that Guiteau acted solely because he did not receive the patronage post he desired - and Congress passed the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act in early 1883. The legislation called for the creation of a Civil Service Commission and the institution of exams for certain government posts. Arthur signed the bill into law on January 16th, thereby helping to dismantle the spoils system that he benefited from for so long. A year prior, the president approved another significant piece of legislation: the Chinese Exclusion Act - the first U.S. law that restricted immigration based on race. It stemmed from anger among white Americans about labor competition with Chinese nationals, who often worked for lower wages and were regarded by some as threats to American society. Its language also barred immigrants of Chinese ancestry from ever becoming U.S. citizens. The president vetoed an earlier version of the bill, which proposed a twenty year ban, but subsequently approved a ten year embargo. The major laws that were passed during Arthur's administration originated in Congress, as the office of the presidency had lost much of its legislative influence during Andrew Johnson's tenure. Yet presidents still advocated for causes in their annual written congressional addresses, and Arthur's wish that the navy be enhanced was realized in 1884, when the U.S. Naval War College opened in Newport, Rhode Island. That same year, the Republicans nominated James Blaine - now secretary of state - as their presidential nominee. For several years, Arthur had suffered from Bright's disease, a fatal kidney ailment, and he declined to actively seek the opportunity to be elected president in his own right. He died in Manhattan in November 1886, twenty months after his term expired.

Sources Consulted                                                                                                                                                     

American Experience. "The Chinese Exclusion Act." Directed by Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu. PBS, 2018.

American Experience. "Murder of a President." Directed by Rob Rapley. PBS, 2016.

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These Exalted Acres: Unlocking the Secrets of Albany Rural Cemetery. Albany: Times Union, 2013.

Lamb, Brian, and the C-SPAN Staff. Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?: A Tour of Presidential Gravesites. New York: PublicAffairs, 2000. Reprinted. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003.

"Life Portrait of Chester A. Arthur." C-SPAN video, 2:12:44. August 6, 1999. 151431-1/life-portrait-chester-a-arthur.

The Presidents. "Andrew Johnson to Arthur (1865-1885)." History Channel, 2005.

Reeves, Thomas C. "The Mystery of Chester Alan Arthur's Birthplace." In 
Vermont History XXXVIII, no. 4, 291- 304. Barre, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1970.

The Ultimate Guide to the Presidents. "Executive Retreat 1865-1901." History Channel, 2013.

Vorenberg, Michael. "Rutherford B. Hayes." In The Reader's Companion to the American Presidency, edited by Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer, 228-37. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

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