Born in 1829, Chester Alan Arthur is the only president
who didn’t have a last name. The son of poor Irish immigrants, they were forced to leave it behind
when they came to America.
Arthur eventually became
a lawyer, as lawyers often do, and, after practicing a few years, was appointed Collector of the Port of New York Customs
House. Upholding the Republican tradition of appointing everybody he knew to work under him, whether they
were really needed or not, he soon angered then President Hayes (great-great grandfather of Shaft), who was upholding the
Democratic tradition of disliking everything any Republican did. Unable to have him thrown out of a petty
office for what many saw as rampant corruption and cronyism, they did the next best thing and had him nominated for Vice President
under James Garfield, the only cat to successfully run for president.
Arthur then became the vice president when James Garfield beat General Winfield Scott Hancock
for presidency in 1880. However, a small, group of disgruntled comedians who had already written four years’
worth of jokes based on Hancock’s name alone, had Garfield assassinated in 1881, and Chester became the 21st
In 1882, Arthur became the first president
to enact a Federal immigration law. The law sought to exclude paupers, criminals, and lunatics.
Unfortunately, it was doomed for failure since these individuals blended in too easily with those people who were already
here. In an effort to save the law, Chinese immigrants were successfully added to the list.
As President, Alan sought to be truly bi-partisan, though no
one is certain why. He succeed in getting Congress to pass the Pendleton Act in 1883, which created the
Civil Service Commission. The Pendleton Act made many government positions obtainable through an examination
alone, and then made it impossible for those individuals to be fired...ever. It is estimated that there
are currently over 400 government employees who continue to be paid even though they are technically dead.
Also in 1883, Chester signed the Tariff Act, which sought to get
rid of the extra money the government had at the time. For some reason, this was seen as embarrassing to
the government. For whatever other reason, this ticked off people out west and in the south, and that was
good enough to rally them against him in his re-election attempt.
The Republican Party failed to get him renominated for President in 1884, and his kidneys, also Republicans, failed
him in 1886 as well. Arthur was followed in office by Grover Cleveland, the only president named after a Sesame Street character and a city.