American Presidents

Chester Arthur American Presidents Teacher Guide

The life and presidency of Chester A. Arthur
August 6, 1999 on C-SPAN
Recommended Use:
Secondary Level

Developed by 1999 C-SPAN Teacher Fellow Steven Vetter who teaches reading at West Hernando Middle School in Brooksville, Florida. C-SPAN is provided to his community by Time Warner.

Goal: To explore the life and presidency of Chester A. Arthur


1. To learn about the United States 21st President

2. To discuss the accomplishments and challenges of President Chester Arthur's presidency.

3. To discuss the challenges facing a vice-president who oversees the executive office after the death of a president


  • C-SPAN's American Presidents programming featuring President Chester Arthur
  • C-SPAN's American Presidents web site

    Before Viewing American Presidents

    Part 1
    Discuss the following with your students:
    What qualities or characteristics should a candidate possess in order to be a successful president?

    What challenges does a vice-president face when he enters the presidency upon the death or assassination of a president?

    What experiences would you want a vice-president to have in order to be prepared for the presidency?

    Instruct students to respond to the following statement:
    After the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, modern presidents have given their vice-presidents a more active role in the administration.

    Do you agree with this statement? Why? How do the experiences of Harry S Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson support or refute this need to have active and involved vice presidents?

    Part 2
    Several presidents have lost a wife prior to or during their term of office. In what ways has the death of a spouse affected the presidency of:

    While Viewing American Presidents
    Directions: Using the topics below, create a chart detailing the life and presidency of Chester Arthur.

    1. Childhood

    2. Education

    3. Early Career

    4. Political Experience

    5. Experiences as Vice President

    6. White House Years

    7. Accomplishments

    After Viewing American Presidents
    Using the charts they created in the preceding activity, ask your students to answer the following questions based on what they learn from the American Presidents segment on President Chester Arthur.

    Early Years

    1. What experiences did Chester Arthur have during his early careers as a teacher and a lawyer?

    2. What was Chester Arthur's job as Collector of the Port of New York? Why was Chester Arthur's career in the Customs House controversial? In what ways was Chester Arthur a supporter of the spoils system?

    3. How was Chester Arthur able to use his position at the Customs House to support the Stalwart Republicans?

    Presidential Years
    1. What was the reaction of the public to the succession of Chester Arthur to the presidency?

    2. What was the political establishment's reaction to his succession? Why do you think that a Republican Party Boss responded in the following way:

    "Chet Arthur, President of the United States? Good God!"

    3. How did President Arthur's relationship to the party change after he became president? What was the reason for this change?

    4. What were the results of the Pendleton Act? Why was it ironic that President Arthur supported this legislation despite his involvement with the political spoils system?

    5. In what ways was President Arthur active in foreign affairs? What influence did President Arthur have regarding immigration policy?

    6. Why was President Arthur called "Elegant Arthur"?

    7. President Arthur was reserved about providing information about his private life. He once told a visitor: "Madam, I may be President of the United States, but my private life is nobody's damned business." Why is it difficult for a political person to deny the public information about his or her private life? What might be the advantage of providing information about one's private life? Why might a candidate be reluctant to reveal details about his or her private life?

    8. What affect did the death of his wife have on Chester Arthur? How did President Arthur express his love for his wife after her death?

    9. What conditions led President Arthur to refuse re-nomination to the presidency?

    10. President Arthur once joked that "there doesn't seem anything else for an ex-President to do but go into the country and raise big pumpkins." How have recent ex-Presidents attempted to remain active in public life after leaving office? How have ex-Presidents used their post-White House years to positively affect their political and historical legacy?

    11. Shortly before his death, President Arthur "had virtually all of his personal papers destroyed." What might have been President Arthur's motivation for destroying his personal papers? How might this action affect the ability of historians to evaluate Chester Arthur's presidency?

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