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February 24, 2016

When a social climber casts off old friends and cultivates new acquaintances, he may refer to this turn as “growth,” but it is usually only opportunism. When a President of the United States disappoints his old political faction and starts to consider the needs of all the people, his old friends may call this treachery, but it is really “growth.” This was the case with Chester Arthur, who became the 21st President upon the death of James Garfield.

Arthur had been appointed Collector of Customs at the Port of New York by President Grant in 1871 and was re-appointed in 1875. He became tainted by corruption and was removed by President Hayes in 1878. In order to unite the Republican Party, Arthur was nominated as Vice-President in 1880. He owed his success to his friendship with Senator Roscoe Conkling, the political boss of New York state.

When Garfield died, Conkling tried to control Arthur, but the new President would not listen to his old boss. Instead, he seems to have listened to someone he had never met, a woman who both scolded and encouraged him with her letters.

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