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Arthur’s Almost Replacement

April 30, 2020

Although Chester Arthur was not officially removed from the Collectorship until 1878, President Hayes tried to appoint a replacement in December 1877.  The man Hayes chose had not been an officer during the Civil War, but he had done his part as a civilian to support the Union, and was a highly respected member of the reform wing of the Republican Party.

Hayes’s appointee was adored by those who knew him best, his family.  One of his sons would later write:  “I was fortunate enough in having a father whom I have always been able to regard as an ideal man…  he certainly gave me the feeling that I was always to be both decent and manly, and that if I were manly nobody would laugh at my being decent.”

But Senator Conkling did not want to have such an incorruptible man at the head of the Customhouse.  When he came up for a vote, the Senate rejected Hayes’s appointee.  It did not matter that during the Civil War the appointee had devised an allotment system which ensured part of a soldier’s pay would go to his family back home.  It did not matter that the appointee had, at his own expense, toured all the New York divisions of the Army of the Potomac to explain the allotment system.  It did not matter that the appointee had, in 1864, raised money to give everyone in the Army of the Potomac a decent Thanksgiving dinner.  All that mattered was whether or not he could be controlled by Senator Conkling.

The rejected appointee would not have served long anyway.  He died in February 1878.  His adoring son quoted above was none other than future President Theodore Roosevelt.



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