Chester A. Arthur

Chester Arthur Event Timeline

September 20, 1881

Chester Arthur (21) Event Timeline

09/20/1881 03/04/1885




Announcement of the assassination of President James A. Garfield. Chester Arthur assumes presidency. Public sentiment strongly supports efforts to strengthen a non-partisan civil service system.


Proclamation 250—Day of Mourning for James A. Garfield. President Arthur issued a proclamation declaring September 26th a day of mourning for former President James A. Garfield.


Reads an Inaugural Address following a public ceremony to administer the Oath of Office in the Vice-President's room at the Capitol. "No higher or more assuring proof could exist of the strength and permanence of popular government than the fact that though the chosen of the people be struck down his constitutional successor is peacefully installed with shock or strain except the sorrow which mourns the bereavement."


Address at the Yorktown Centennial Celebration. Calls for preserving a precious legacy, "the love of liberty protected by law."


Executive Order (read aloud by the Secretary of State at the event) directing that upon the conclusion of ceremonies commemorating the centennial of the British surrender at Yorktown, the "British flag shall be saluted by the forces of the Army and Navy of the United States."


The murder trial of Charles Guiteau, the accused assassin of former president James A. Garfield, begins in disorder and controversy. Convicted on January 25, 1882, and executed on June 30, 1882.


Invitations sent to South American republics inviting them to a Pan American Conference in November 1882.


First Annual State of the Union Message.


It is reported that Secretary of State James G. Blaine will resign effective 12/19/1881. Arthur is not enthusiastic about the planned Pan American Congress, advocated strongly by Blaine. The conference is eventually realized under President Benjamin Harrison.

12/08/1881 The New York Times (12/09/1891, p 1) reports that Arthur has taken up residence at the White House.




Signs Act reapportioning the House of Representatives based on the 1880 census.  The total number of representatives was increased to 325 (22 Stat 5).


Accedes to the Geneva Convention of 1864 (22 Stat 940) relative to the protection and care of wounded war personnel. The accession is concurred in by the Senate on 03/16/1882 and proclaimed on 07/26/1882.


Signs Amended Antipolygamy Act (also known as the Edmunds Act) making it a felony for Americans to marry multiple spouses (22 Stat 30).


Vetoes the First Chinese Exclusion Act. The bill would have prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers to the United States for twenty years. Arthur believed that the suspension of immigration for twenty years was too extreme.


Sends Special Message requesting the opinion of Congress regarding the proposed Pan-American Congress. He cites persisting differences among the countries invited.


Proclamation 253—Law and Order in the Territory of Arizona. Troops used to suppress raiding Chiricahua Apache and outlaw gangs stealing cattle.


Signs Chinese Exclusion Act (22 Stat 59), suspending the immigration of Chinese laborers for ten years. Arthur signed the Act as it was a modified to respond to his objections to the bill he previously vetoed on 04/04/1882.


Signs bill (22 Stat 64) calling for the President to appoint a Tariff Commission, subject to Senate advice and consent, to report to Congress on revisions to existing tariff "upon a scale of justice to all interests." The Commission submits its report to the House on 12/04/1882.


United States signs peace treaty with Korea ("Kingdom of Corea or Chosen"). The treaty recognized the independence of Korea in light of military threats from surrounding nations. The Senate approves on 01/09/1883; the President ratifies on 02/13/1883; finalized treaty is proclaimed on 06/04/1883. (22 Stat 720)


Garfield assassin, Charles Julius Guiteau, is executed by hanging, two days before the first anniversary of Garfield’s assassination. It becomes apparent that Guiteau suffered from psychosis and claimed that God would offer protection over his action.


Vetoes Steamboat Safety Bill. Arthur vetoed the bill as he believed it was phrased incorrectly.


Conclusion of the U.S.-Mexico Convention of 1882. (22 Stat 986). Provides an international boundary survey to relocate the frontier line between the U.S. and Mexico territory to the west of Rio Grande. Ratified by President Arthur 11/07/1892. Treaty proclaimed on 3/5/1883. (Link to pdf of text of treaty.)


Vetoes River and Harbor Act. Arthur believed that the appropriations set out for the repairs of rivers and harbors were excessive.


Midterm Elections. Based on the recent 1880 census results, the size of the House increased by 32 seats. Democrats gain the majority in the House (going from 44% to 60%) but lose the majority in the Senate (going from 55% to 49%). So in terms of congressional support, Arthur's position in weakened.


Second Annual State of the Union Message. Arthur called on Congress to pass the upcoming Civil Service Reform Bill as he believed endorsing the bill would strengthen his political support.




Signs The Civil Service Reform Act (Pendleton Act). Arthur opposed civil service reform, although he still signed the Act after recognizing its importance. (22 Stat 403).


Mexico Treaty of 1883. United States signs peace treaty with Mexico under commercial and revenue considerations of goods traded between the U.S. and Mexico.


In United States v. Harris the Supreme Court hold that part of the Force Act of 1871 is unconstitutional. The Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment applied only to the acts of states, not of individuals (i.e., members of the Klan). The power to punish crimes like assault and murder is reserved to the States under the 10th Amendment.


Signs "An Act to reduce internal-revenue taxation" (22 Stat 488), also known as the Mongrel Tariff Act). Reduces taxes on an array of products including tobacco. A major portion of the law involves tariff changes, reducing rates on (chemicals, glassware, metals, wood, sugar, cotton, liquor, etc.). Observers subsequently noted that the act did not seem to increase trade. The Congressional procedures used were unusual and involved several lasting innovations.


Signs Act increasing Naval appropriations. (22 Stat 472).


Signs Act Reducing internal-revenue taxation (22 Stat 488).  The Act eliminated excise taxes on most items, excluding tobacco and liquor products, and repeal the "stamp taxes" on bank checks, drafts, orders, and vouchers.


Signs Act (22 Stat 453) providing increased pension benefits to any pensioner who has been "otherwise so disabled as to be incapacitated for performing any manual labor." The law did not specify that the incapacity arises from military service nor did it define the meaning of "performing manual labor." This generated an increased demand for pension benefits and controversial bureaucratic decisions.


Attends the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, the first bridge connecting New York City and Brooklyn.


A jury returns a result of “not guilty as indicted” against twelve who had been accused of conspiracy and fraud in the “Star Route” corruption trial. (New York Times, 06/15/1883, p 1). The New York Times editorialized that this was “justice defeated.”


Issues Executive Order reducing Internal Revenue collection districts from 126 to 83. APP has not located the official text of this order, although it was prominently noted in the Annual Message, Reports of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, and newspapers (e.g., in New York Times 6/26/1883, and again 6/27/1883). The case is interesting because of the apparently high degree of personal presidential involvement in consolidation decisions, and the fact that the reduction in previously filled patronage positions made this an action of real partisan significance.


Executive Orders relating to Indian reserves.


Pursuant to the ratification of the Peace Treaty of 05/22/1882, greets the Corean (i.e., Korean) Ambassador on an official visit to New York.


Third Annual State of the Union Message.


Issues Executive Order amending the civil service act approved 01/16/1883. The order ensures that all regular civil service applicants provide proper certificates of mental and physical aptitude and sets the age limit for admission to classified postal and customs service.  


Proclamation 257—100th Anniversary of the Surrender by George Washington of His Commission as Commander in Chief.




Sends Special Message to Congress recommending additional financial support for improvements of Mississippi River.


Signs Act to establish a standard of time in the District of Columbia. (23 Stat 4).


Special Message to Congress, requesting additional funds for reconstruction of Navy.


Sends Special Message to Congress recommending annual appropriation of $1.5 million for armament of fortifications.


Congress passes bill (23 Stat 21) repealing the "Ironclad Oath" specified in law on 07/02/1862. Rather than requiring an oath that the individual has not previously engaged in disloyal conduct (i.e., "the rebellion") the new oath only requires a promise to "support and defend the Constitution. . . "


Signs First Organic Act, which created the first civilian government in Alaska. (23 Stat 24).

06/03/1884 -06/06/1884

Former Secretary of State James G. Blaine defeats President Arthur on the fourth ballot for the nomination of the Republican National Convention. This is the last time an incumbent President seeking renomination is denied by his party.


Remarks of Republican Nominee James G. Blaine on official notification of his nomination.


Signs Act establishing Bureau of Labor as part of the Department of Interior. (23 Stat 60).


Proclamation 259—Prohibition of Non-Indian Settlement of Oklahoma Lands in the Indian Territory.


Vetoes relief of Fitz John Porter Bill. Arthur believed that the bill was an attempt by Congress to intrude on the authority of the Executive branch.


The Statue of Liberty ("Liberty Enlightening the World" by the sculptor Bartholdi) is presented, in Paris, to United States, represented by the U.S. Ambassador. The Ambassador reported that the ceremony was "interesting and imposing." The Statue arrives in New York Harbor on June 17, 1885.


Signs Act creating Bureau of Navigation as part of the Treasury Department. (23 Stat 118).


Signs Act creating Central and South American Commission. (23 Stat 262).


Democratic National Convention of 1884 meets in Chicago. Nominates Grover Cleveland and Thomas A. Hendricks for President and vice president, respectively.


Letter of Republican nominee James G. Blaine formally accepting the nomination.


Remarks of Democratic nominee, Grover Cleveland on receiving notification of his nomination.


Letter of Democratic nominee Grover Cleveland accepting the Democratic nomination.


Democrat Grover Cleveland wins presidential bid against Republican and former Secretary of State James G. Blaine.


Conclusion of the U.S.-Mexico Convention of 1884. Settles boundary line between the U.S. and Mexico territory along the bed of Rio Colorado. Ratified under President Grover Cleveland 6/23/1886. Treaty proclaimed on 9/14/1886. (Link to pdf of text of treaty.)


Fourth Annual State of the Union Message.




Announces expiration of Treaty of Washington with Great Britain due July in the Third Annual Message, suggesting to Congress to create a special commission dedicated to the handling of rights in fisheries.


The Washington Monument is dedicated to George Washington in Washington, D.C. On the monument grounds, Arthur Addresses the dedication ceremony, remarking that “I do now ... in behalf of the people, receive this monument ... and declare it dedicated from this time forth to the immortal name and memory of George Washington.”


Signs Act to prevent and provide penalties for illegal occupancy of public lands (23 Stat 321).


Signs Contract Labor Act. The Act prohibited contracting migrant workers to perform labor in the United States. (23 Stat 332).


Proposes listing Ulysses S. Grant to be general on the retired list of the Army and eligible for the appropriate pension. Arthur had on this same date signed legislation authorizing the president to appoint "one person" with rank and full pay (23 Stat 434). This provided pension support for Grant who had fallen into penury.


Issues Executive Order closing several Executive Departments for Inauguration Day ceremonies.


Chester A. Arthur, Chester Arthur Event Timeline Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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