May 10, 2015 by Lorene
While he seemed to start out with great character and morals during his early time as a lawyer, he got caught up on the political battles. During the Civil War, Lincoln gave him a job in New York state’s quartermaster general’s office. He was responsible for the logistics of feeding, clothing, etc., new military recruits. He did so well that he was given the top job in the office responsible for logistics of all new recruits.
After the war, he went back to his law practice, but he stayed involved in party politics. He knew all of the leaders of New York politics and they eventually recommended him to President Grant for the appointment of running the customhouse. With this job, he and his party were able to hire a lot of their supporters. In return, these supporters were expected to donate part of their salaries to the party.
President Hayes was determined to end the ‘spoils’ system of hiring. One of his investigations was the customhouse. He found massive corruption and asked Arthur to resign. He refused. His political cronies could not muster enough support from Congress, however, so he had no choice but to leave his position.
Hayes was only going to serve one term, so in the 1880 election, there were two new candidates. James Garfield needed someone from upstate New York, so he asked Arthur to run with him. Arthur didn’t want to, but felt like it would be a good way to get his good name back after the customhouse scandal.
After President Garfield was shot, Arthur became overwhelmed at the idea of being President. He seemed to do a complete 180 on his stances on topics. He never intended to run for President. After Garfield died and Arthur was sworn in, he reassured the American people that he would follow through with what Garfield started.
Garfield signed a bill that would prevent the spoils system, which is a system he took part in mightily before his election to Vice President. Since 1866, the country had been taking in more than it was spending. In 1882, he vetoed a bill “for the improvement of rivers and harbors around the country,” because it was full of pork. Congress ended up passing the bill anyway.
At this time in the mid 1800s, the Navy was a mess. Their boats were still made of wood and none of them had a cannon. Arthur worked with the Navy to commission some modern war boats.
He presided over the dedications of the Brooklyn Bridge and the finally completed Washington Monument.