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Only One Man

April 7, 2016

Chester A. Arthur became President a few days before the end of summer 1881.  By Thanksgiving the Treasury Secretary had resigned.  Just before Christmas the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Postmaster General resigned.  Shortly after Easter 1882 the Secretaries of the Navy and Interior resigned.


The Treasury Secretary was an old political foe who had supported President Hayes’s decision to remove Arthur from the New York Customhouse in 1878.  The Secretary of State was Roscoe Conkling’s worst enemy, and Arthur had been Conkling’s lieutenant.  The Attorney General was an advocate of civil service reform, and Arthur had been a spoilsman.  Arthur’s political background now left him with a succession of Cabinet vacancies during his first seven months as President.


Only one man from Garfield’s Cabinet stayed with Arthur to the end of his term in 1885.  He was the sort of man who was acceptable to all factions.  He knew something about the loneliness of the Presidency because his father had been President.  This department head who stuck it out, Secretary of War to both Garfield and Arthur, was none other than Robert Todd Lincoln.

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