Today in History
History's Happenings for October 5
The twenty-first president of the United States was born on October 5, 1829 in Fairfield, Vermont, son of a preacher.
An ardent abolitionist, Arthur worked hard for the Republican party in New York state and, as a true machine politician, accepted a number of patronage jobs during the Civil War. President Grant posted him as collector of the Port of New York in 1871, and he nestled happily into that niche until removed in the name of reform by President Hayes in 1879.
The 1880 Republican national convention saw a battle between forces dedicated to the preservation of political patronage, and those which sought at least minor reforms. In the end, a compromise was reached with the nomination of reform Senator James Garfield for president, and Arthur, perceived as an indulger of patronage, as Vice President -- an honor which Arthur claimed he "never dreamed of attaining".
Nonetheless, he attained an even higher honor when, upon the assassination of newly-elected President Garfield, he succeeded to the presidency in a year which saw three serving presidents.
The short-lived Garfield administration represented the culmination of political patronage, the handing out of high offices as a reward for political service rather than for ability. In fact, the President had been killed by just such a disappointed patronage seeker. Perhaps shamed by his own immersion in the political spoils system, Arthur signed the Pendleton Act (1883) reforming the federal civil service.
Nonetheless political favoritism dies hard. A Democratic Congress resisted all of Arthur's other efforts and Republicans, in a huff over denied patronage, refused to nominate him for a second term in 1884.
After losing a New York Senate race, President Arthur died on November 18, 1886.
On this date in 1931 -- just four years after Charles Lindbergh's history-making transatlantic flight -- aviators Clyde Panghorn and Hugh Herndon completed the first non-stop flight across the vast Pacific.
Flying out of Japan, they arrived in Washington state 41 hours later.