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Able, Honest, and Thrifty

March 26, 2020

Chester Arthur was a loyal Yankee.  He had been born in Vermont and lived most of his early life there and in the state of New York.  During the Civil War he served with the New York State militia, receiving the rank of brigadier general a few months before Fort Sumter.  The following year he became inspector general and then quartermaster general.

Governor Edwin D. Morgan later said of Arthur: “During the first two years of the Rebellion he was my chief reliance in the duties of equipping and transporting troops and munitions of war.  In the position of Quarter Master General he displayed not only great executive ability and unbending integrity, but great knowledge of Army Regulations.”  The Governor added one more commendation: “He can say No (which is important) without giving offense.”

These remarks by Governor Morgan, sent to President Grant long after Arthur’s military service, probably gave Grant confidence that Arthur was the right man to be appointed Collector of the Port of New York.  Perhaps Grant even knew that Arthur had saved the government $43,174.13 by his wise management of taxpayer funds during the Civil War.  Surely here was a paragon of Yankee virtue.

But the Arthur who had been the able, honest, and thrifty quartermaster general during the 1860’s had in the 1870’s devolved into one of Senator Roscoe Conkling’s lieutenants.  Conkling was the leader of the Stalwart faction of the Republican Party, and neither Conkling nor Arthur wanted the kind of civil service reform that was coming.

 

 

 

 

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