When President James Garfield was shot, no one in the United States was more dismayed than his Vice President, Chester Arthur. For years Arthur had been perceived as unfit to govern, not only by critics and his fellow citizens but by his own conscience.
From his promising start, Arthur had become a political hack, a shill for Roscoe Conkling, and Arthur knew better even than his detractors that he failed to meet the high standard a president must uphold. And yet, from the moment President Arthur took office, he proved to be not just honest but courageous, going up against the very forces that had controlled him for decades.
Arthur surprised everyone–and gained many enemies–when he swept house and courageously took on corruption, civil rights for black people, and issues of land for Native Americans. His short presidency proved to be a turning point of American history, in many ways a preview of our own times, and is a sterling example of how someone can “rise to the occasion.”
This beautifully written biography tells the dramatic, untold story of a virtually forgotten American president, a machine politician and man-about-town in Gilded Age New York who stumbled into the highest office in the land only to rediscover his better self, right when his nation needed him.