tv QA with Scott Greenberger CSPAN October 1, 2017 11:00pm-12:02am EDT
next, q&a with author scott greenberger and the prime minister takes questions from the australian parliament. after that, british labour party meeting speaks at his party's conference. ♪ announcer: this week on "q&a," journalist scott greenberger discusses his book, "the unexpected president: the life and times of chester a. arthur." ♪ brian: your book, "the unexpected president: the life and times of chester a. arthur." who is the most interesting character in the book for you? scott: i think chester arthur is the most interesting character in the book. it is a story of redemption.
his father was a rigid evolutionist preacher. -- abolitionist preacher. he grew up in a very religious environment. shortly after college, he was a teacher and became a lawyer. he was involved in a very important case, the decentralization of new york city streetcars. -- desegregation of new york city streetcars. theas a quartermaster in union army during the civil war in new york city. a opportunities for learning his own pockets, which he did not do as many others did. that he became involved in the machine politics of that era. in particular, he became very close to the flamboyant new york boss. he is an extremely interesting
character. brian: the years he served as president? scott: he served as president from 1881, when garfield was shot and eventually died, until the end of his term in 1885. brian: who was president before and after him? scott: garfield before. grover cleveland was president after. brian: why did you want to write a book about chester a arthur? scott: every president has an interesting story. i think that chester arthur, he is one of the most obscure presidents. there is some sort of pull they take of college students and give them a list of names and ask them which is president.
he pretty much consistently ranks as a lesser-known president. the thing most people remember about him is his distinct sideburns, mutton chops. think it iss i interesting to focus on. it is the first gilded age. beginning with reconstruction leading up to teddy roosevelt and the progressives. it is a time a lot of people in americanhrift to history in school. we studied the civil war, reconstruction, then a quick fast-forward to teddy roosevelt and world war i. this is a time when a lot of what we think of as modern world, modern america, really starts to take shape. era in which americans for the first time "millionaire."
the country was formed from an agrarian country to an industrial country with large corporations that were beginning to exert power. brian: i am going to jump to page of your book to fill in the blanks. "on august 10, roscoe's long affair with kate sprague finally came to a head when her husband, senator william sprague returned home from a business trip to discover that kate had been hosting ."scoe conkling what was that about. scott: roscoe conkling attracted a lot of female attention. every time he spoke on before of
-- on the floor of the senate, the gallery was filled with ladies. his wife preferred to stay home and did a lot of gardening and charity work. he was free to roam in washington. and he did. sprague was the belle of washington. the two of them were an item. the worst-kept secret in washington. senator, iusband, a had finally had enough. conkling was also a senator. brian: kate was the daughter of the former secretary of the treasury? scott: right. chase sprague had become a
widower when kate was a teenager. she had helped him when he was governor. she was a valuable advisor to conkling. they had a political connection as he kind of rose through the ranks. brian: reading more from your book. -- in 30 seconds, he would blow his brains out. scott: conkling was incredibly arrogant. very confident in himself. very physically imposing and handsome. a very effective speaker. he rose quickly through the ranks in the senate and did not defer to his seniors. as might have been expected. -- withot even at the someone threatening them with bodily harm -- he was not the
type to run away. brian: i have to do some more here -- -- speaking softly to sprague and an effort to calm him. this only enraged the rhode island are. -- scott: it is a great story. it was on the front page of many newspapers that summer. it even attracted the attention of the president of the time, president rutherford b. hayes.
he was not the type to gloat about others'misfortunes but he definitely took satisfaction in conkling's comeuppance. brian: where was chester arthur ?hen garfield was shot scott: he was actually up in albany, trying to help conkling win back his senate seat. there was a fight. rutherford b. hayes was trying to institute reforms fighting back against machine politicians like conkling. when he insulted conkling by putting someone in the new york customhouse without consulting him, conkling and the other senator from new york resigned in protest, thinking that certainly the new york legislature would very quickly restore him to his seat.
this was before the direct election of senators, and that he would've made his point. but as it turns out, the legislature had had enough of conkling's antics and it was a tougher job than he had anticipated. and chester arthur, who was james garfield's vice president, went to albany to help conkling get his seat back. this was in direct opposition to what garfield was trying to do, which was to institute reforms. hayes also tried to do that. he was trying to take control of this massive patronage system. and so, it was widely noted that chester a arthur, although he was garfield's vice president, was in new york doing conkling's bidding and therefore opposing garfield at the time when garfield was shot. the tension between these two
between that was formed the republicans and the stalwart wing of the party was so great that when garfield was shot, there were many people who suspected that arthur and conkling at something to do with it. brian: what can you tell us about the man who shot james garfield, gateau? scott: he was probably mentally ill. lifematter of fact, his story bears some resemblance to a lot of the other characters throughout american history who ended up doing the same kinds of things that he did. i think it is fair to say modern medicine today would've judged him to be mentally ill. however, the direct instigator of this act was the fact he thought he was owed and office for the work he had done for the garfield-arthur campaign in 1880
and when he was rejected, he decided the problem was garfield and that if he removed garfield then the split in the republican party are referred to would be amended and the republic would be saved. he was not thinking clearly, but the fact was it was noted that the immediate reason for his act and he stated as much, was that he had been denied an office he thought was his due and he wanted to heal be split in the republican party. at six andas shot pennsylvania or six and constitution? b stream, which i am natural fit even exist anymore. street -- b street. which i'm not sure if it even
exists anymore. brian: in a train station. what happened to guiteau after he shot garfield? what happened to garfield? how much did garfield and arthur see each other before he died? scott: the whole reason that arthur ended up as vice president was an effort by the republicans to placate conkling and make sure that new york would throw it support behind garfield. arthur was an accidental vice president, who had no relationship at all with garfield. it was at a time when vice presidents didn't have close relationships with presidents. he was much closer to conkling than garfield. immediately after the shooting took place, police seized guiteau. guiteau said, i am a stalwart. and arthur will be president. that statement only added to the suspicion that arthur had something to do with the assassination. brian: stalwart. who came up with the name
"stalwart"? scott: it referred to the fact that when conkling's wing of the party wanted former president to serve a third term, which would have been unprecedented, the republicans who stood together at the convention and stuck with grant became known as the stalwarts. brian: you had grant, hayes, garfield, arthur, cleveland, harrison, cleveland. everybody talks about that time as a blur. i want to put on the screen a series of pictures to show the similarities. here is james g. blaine, and what he looked like back in the late 1800s. what was his role? scott: he was conkling's rival. the same age, both fighting to be the leader of the republican party and the president.
they had at very well-publicized spat in congress over an army reauthorization bill. but blaine thought that conkling had insulted him and so he stood up and leveled an attack at conkling that was remembered for years afterwards. he referred to conkling's "turkey gobbler strut." conkling never forgave him after that. brian: what offices did he have? scott: blaine was garfield's secretary of state and had offices in the senate. that caused tension between the garfield's reformer wing and the
conkling-arthur wing. because when blaine was named secretary of state, it became clear where garfield's loyalties were. brian: what are some other words it you have discovered, i know you said he did not like people. scott: i guess he was what we call a bit of a terminal file book. he did not like to be touched. he did not like smoke. people were often smoking. if people were smoking he would often just go over and throw open the window. he liked to cover the law books on his desk with paper so his opponents would not know the authority he was citing. when he was making a case, before the other side would make its case, he would just open a newspaper and start reading as if what he said was enough to sway the jury and there is not anything else enough important
being said. one of his physical characteristics was that corolla in the middle of his forehead. he fluffed out the hair on either side of his head to emphasize it. tell the story about how he died. scott: he died during the great snow storm that hit new york city and 1888. most of the city was closed down but he was supposed to argue a case that day. the judge canceled the case. he stayed downtown to do some uptownd tried to walk because he did not want to pay the exorbitant fares of the taxi drivers given the weather. he thought he was going to die. at one point he was stuck in a snow drift and according 20 told
the papers afterwards, almost gave up. he did soldier on. made it to a shelter. and was apparently ok, but then soon after he got a cold or pneumonia, probably pneumonia and never fully recovered and died. brian: james garfield, president of the united states. what did you learn about him. they all look kind of a light because of the beard. what did you learn about him as a person? scott: he is a fascinating eager. also served in the civil war. self-made almost lincoln type character and that regard. he grew up poor. he was very academically inclined. he ended up graduating from williams, i believe. he rose up pretty quickly through the ranks, i believe while he was still serving in
the civil war he was elected to congress. once he was in congress, and i quote people in my book, he managed to straddle both sides of the aisle. a formula for success at a time when there is a lot of corruption in congress. there was a little bit of a tapedof that to him -- a taint of that to him. he was very much of a choice in 1880 when there is a very genetic convention. he was the classic dark horse candidate when the convention was deadlocked and could not decide. they chose are filled as someone who would appeal to everybody and he did get the nomination and eventually one. brian: conkling, and new york. he was ohio, garfield. scott: that's right.
and they needed conkling's helped to win that election. brian: six months into his term? scott: less than that. brian: name were inaugurated in march. scott: right. brian: what was the feeling about garfield? scott: people, the reformers, thought he was on the right track. certainly by taking on conkling and appointing someone to the house they considered to be clean. they thought that was a good sign. he was just getting started when he was shot. brian: you say at one point, when chester a. arthur was the collector of the custom house he was making a million dollars in today's of money? scott: there was no income tax. 70% of the revenues came through that customhouse.
importers paid duties on goods. there was a system, under which the collector was assigned an incentive for officials to find malfeasance. if someone was found to be shirking their responsibilities in terms of paying duties, they had to pay a fine. the officers in the customhouse, including chester arthur, got a cut. at ulyssess look grant a two-term president. again, there was a beard. did you do your research as to where the beard came from in those days? scott: i did not but it was a very popular fashion as it has also come back today and is. brian: what impact did he have on chester a arthur being vice president and president?
scott: he was appointed to the customhouse. he got arthur started. grant, during his second term, he personally wasn't tied to any corrupt activities, many members of his administration up to level were. he was tainted by that in his second term. it cleared the way for rutherford b. hayes. he was a reformer. people wanted something different. grantism, asred of it was called. brian: how would you describe grant? there's another biography coming out in november. why do people write so much about him? scott: his service during the civil war -- he was a man who saved the union. lincoln went through numerous generals before he landed on grant. he was a middling student at
west point. served in the mexican-american war. he failed in business after word. it looked like he was on the fast track to know where whitney civil war started -- when the civil war started. he distinguished himself in the war. and became the savior of the union. he was the great hero of the civil war. brian: why did conkling have so much clout with grant to get arthur appointed to be the collector in new york city? scott: well, conklin was the boss of the republican machine york. civil war in new the most populous state. yet tremendous political power. he pointed out to grant that if they had their admin in the customhouse it would be very
valuable to them. they would control the patronage. there were hundreds of jobs that could be given out to party loyalists so it was very valuable for the republican party. brian: there is another you have talked about, resident -- president rutherford b. hayes. and another man who looks like the rest. an ohioan. grant and garfield were born in ohio. what was it about the state of ohio during that time that was so attractive to the country? scott: i am not sure. now of course, ohio is known as a vital state politically. kind of a bellwether. i am not sure if there was something appealing about those men, or the state. hayes was in the civil war. a hero, he also pledged to serve only one term. the idea was he was going to reform the civil service, which
was the gigantic issue of the time and that by serving only one term it would be easier for him to do that. brian: why would the civil service need to be reformed? and what was that connection to roscoe conkling? scott: at the time, this was populated by people who were political loyalists. there was no thought given to who might be able to do the job, who had the proper education or qualifications. it was a way for the party to perpetuate its power. they also required people who had gotten jobs because of their party service to contribute to the party. they had what were called assessments, which were basically mandatory contributions that had to be made to the political party if you work for the government. do you know --
brian: to know how much? scott: it depended on what the salary was. hanover street, the workers at customhouse at used to call it hand-over street. they had to sign their checks over the to the republican party there. we talked about teddy roosevelt. later presidents wanted to instill the federal government with more power and have it take a more active role in everything, from safeguarding the safety of food and drugs, to the national parks. all of this needed to be overseen by people who know what they were doing the. were doing what they and the civil service reform played in the groundwork for the more expensive role of the
federal government. brian: people that have watched this network might have seen your face, and a familiar name. your father is a former wall street journal reporter. robert greenberger. we have some video of him and then i will ask you about him and what impact he had. -- begin videoip clip] >> pakistan's apparent bid to go nuclear is unlikely to spur u.s. retaliation. robert: a pakistani native was arrested for conspiring to illegally ship some material to pakistan to be used in its nuclear bomb program. we have specific laws of saying we cut off aid to any country caught doing such things. in this particular case though, pakistan is an extremely pivotal
ally, mainly as a funneling point for guerillas fighting against the soviet-backed regime in afghanistan. it poses a foreign policy dilemma for congress and the administration. [end video clip] brian: that was 30 years ago. what impact did your dad have on you? scott: first what i noticed about that footage is the beard, again. so it was the fashion. he had a tremendous influence. he was a journalist. he was the driving force behind my decision to go into journalism. he loved what he was doing. he had such a great time working for "the wall street journal" for so many years. it was easy to see that when he came home at night, that he enjoyed what he was doing. a little background, he had started out going into my grandfathers is this. my grandfather died shortly after my father graduated from college.
ran a business that had nothing to do with journalism but what my father love to do was right. but he loved journalism and writing. he got to fulfill his dreams and traveled all over the world. he wrote about all kinds of interesting issues. that inspired me to do something similar. brian: is he still with us? scott: he is. he lives in washington. there are three boys in my family. others in of the journalism? scott: they are actually both very good writers but not in journalism, on different paths. i went to yell and then i also went back later and got a masters in foreign affairs from george washington university. brian: where has your career taken usage you left school? scott: i worked for the
austin-american-statesman for about five years. "the boston globe" for about six years. i am now in a charitable trust where i run pew's journalism project. state policy from a national perspective. we give away our content to everyone and anyone. chicago tribune, washington times frequently run our stuff. the timell us about when you are trying to figure out what to write about and why did you want to do a book? chester a.ced you to arthur? scott: i had been looking for something to write about. i have been always fascinated by american history. i wanted to do something other
people haven't done it. ios think the worst feeling in the world is to work on the said nancy somebody who did the same thing and maybe got it out before yourself. somethingooking for that had not been done or maybe had not been done for a long time. i majored in history, read a lot of history but this was a time and person i did not know anything about. he was a very interesting figure during an interesting time in most people really had no idea about this story. one thing i should mention is a book, "destiny of the republic," 2011, mostly about the garfield shooting and the shoddy care he got from the doctor. that probably ended up killing him.
arthur was a machine politician and put on the ticket as an afterthought. and the book mentioned there were letters from a young woman who was in her early 30's, bedridden, or at least confined to her home in new york city. arthur and she didn't know each other. during that long summer when arthur was lingering on his deathbed when she started writing letters to him, urging him to return to his better self. the person he had been as a younger man. even though she had never met him, she seems to have a sense of where she was a psychologically. already been deeply affected by the shooting and the intense criticism he had faced. somehow he had been involved in that assassination attempt. at this point, he began to think
about his political career up to that point and the kind of politician he had been and if he were to become president, what sorts of responsibilities would be on his shoulders and what he had to do to meet those responsibilities. brian: in 1881 when he became president after garfield died, was his wife alive? scott: no. she had been dead for a short time. when he became vice president, she had died already of pneumonia. in fact, when she died, he had been in albany doing the usual wheeling and dealing. brian: he died shortly after he left the presidency. but when did he get brights disease and how were they able to keep it quiet? how did they keep it quiet? scott: he did die of it.
they managed to keep it quiet. he died in 1886, a year after he left office. he had a medical episode that i talk about in the book, where as president in savannah, he had gone to florida on vacation. a reporter was traveling with him and he had an attack of some sort while on board a ship outside of savanna. at the time, there were some early reports that somehow he might be seriously ill, but they were quickly denied by the white house and people around him. it was sort of forgotten. he did not want to make a big deal of it. he thought it would hurt his effectiveness as president and there was this victorian sensed that a man did not talk about his weaknesses he might be going through personally, it was not important or appropriate to talk about. brian: julia sand came from a family of eight children. arthur came from a family of nine children? one of them died, i think.
scott: i think it is fewer than that. brian: you say she wrote 23 letters. scott: 23 that we have. they are at the library of congress. he saved the letters which i think is interesting because we haven't talked about this but shortly before his death he ordered almost all his papers to be burned. he was ashamed of what he had done before his time in the white house, but he made very explicit instructions that the letters from julia sand were to theaved and they are at library of congress, 23 of them. brian: you were able to see the letters in person. what impact did they have on you? were you able to look through them all? scott: yes. you can look through them on microfilm. or whatever the modern equivalent is. the librarian there let me look at the actual letters.
i think it is always, and i think other people who write history are also struck by this, it can be moving to read somebody's personal letters, to think about the person who wrote it and the person who is reading it. to actually see the ink on the page, to see if words are crossed out or emphasized. and i wonder how future generations will write about the public figures of our times without that resource. we are writing far fewer letters than we ever did. you lose something in email and certainly in a phone call. you don't get much of that at all. unless you are the president and the phone call is being recorded. brian: you talk about arthur having a house on lexington avenue but julia sand living on east 74th street. have you been to her house?
you can get a picture off of google maps. scott: i do not know if that is the same house. chester arthur's house is the same house. it is there and there is a middle eastern spice store there. very little that would tell people that it is the only existing site in new york city where a president took the oath of office. brian: did julia ever marry? why did she call herself the little dwarf? scott: she never married. she called herself the little or theecause the dwarf court jester was the one person who could speak truth to the king. she saw herself as the one person who could speak truth to chester arthur. she spoke her mind and was very bold with the guy, considering
he was the vice president and then president of the united states. ryan: how sick was she? scott: it is hard to tell how sick she was, this was the victorian era. she refers to the time where she could not do much more than lie on the couch. it is not clear what her medical problems were. there were times where she was doing much better, writes him from saratoga, goes out riding for the first time in some time. it would be incorrect to say she was an invalid, but she did have some health problems that limited her ability to get out and about. brian: you reference tom reeves. this is an old program that we do with tom reeves. it is just a couple seconds, i want to hear what he said.
clip] >> this is the only modern book on a president. i do not know if any research has been done since 1975. [end video clip] brian: do you know if there has been any research in a book about garfield? scott: just a few short books about arthur. the book he wrote in 1975 is the most extensive. he did a lot of research. because arthur burned his papers, there is not a lot left. he mined everything that was there. i mentioned the julia sand letters there are some from chester arthur to his family when he was a young man. some family papers, and reeves also donated his own papers to the library of congress, so that future writers could consult that. his book is a different kind of a book.
some of the chapters are more thematic rather than a narrative. i wanted to tell the story in a way that would be accessible to people who are coming to the story without knowing much about chester arthur, but are interested in american history and want to read a good story. brian: his grandson sold these 23 letters to the library of congress in 1958. do you know how much they paid? scott: i do not know. they were buried in a trunk for a long time. the grandson's father, the son of chester arthur, he kept these letters in a trunk and denver i believe in someone and for a long time and they were discovered many years later. found out about this and published a query basically asking if anybody knew julia sand or what happened to
her. and somebody, a nephew of hers who is living in miami beach in the mid-1930's said, guess that was my cat. i remember when chester arthur came to visit. that is something i should mention as well. during this time which is writing to him, as she became more and more comfortable with him, she kept inviting him to visit. noting there are both new yorkers. she said, we could go for a ride you could stop by and see me. he did come by and paid her a surprise visit. her nephew was there during the visit. he was president. he showed up unannounced which is pretty extraordinary. it was that visit, combined with the fact that many of the specific bits of political advice she gave him in her letters he ended up following, have convinced many people that julia sand really did have an
impact on chester arthur. brian: she writes him first when he was fisa president. here is one she writes, she says little woman who has always been the youngest of her family, who consequence trolley, if she lives to be fd-years-old, will always be treated like a child, who would have no comfort in life if she could not occasionally schooled some very big man." that was written in september of 1881. scott: the letters are extraordinary. i quoted long passages in the book because they are so interesting. not only did she give him political advice, but she advised him on his health. and sort of teased him about his weight because he gained a little weight. she jokes that writing is very
good exercise but be conscious it is not really fair to the horse if it has to carry too much weight. so the letters are very entertaining. brian: before i read more, the hour that he spent in her home at east 74th street sounds a little strange. did you get any information on how she hid behind a drape? scott: she did not have any time alone with him. her whole family was there. some people talk about this that she was behind some sort of a curtain. she laments the fact that if he, just about any other time she would have been alone but as it of her nieces and nephews were there. wererother and sister there. so, it was, most of -- because arthur did not address this meeting between the two of them
and any of his letters and it is not addressed by anybody else, what we have to rely on his julia's own recounting of the visit and subsequent letters. she goes through a lot of detail and sort of laments the fact she was nervous and that her family was there, she felt she could not speak freely. it seems like she was very shy, as you might be when the president of the united states shows up on your doorstep. it also seems like, again, judging from her recounting of the episode, that chester arthur sort of teased her little bed and suggested, well, you expect me to be better than the angels i think is the phrase he used. in time just a human being, if you understood all the pressures a president faces you would understand some of the decisions i made a little better. letteras sounds like a president ronald reagan wrote to
a lady in pennsylvania, turns out he wrote her a whole lot of letters. but let me go back to what she said. this is her first letter. " the hours of garfield's life were numbered. before this meets your eye, you may be president. the people about it in grief, but do you realize it? not so much because he is dying but because you are his successor. what other president entered under circumstances so sad?" scott: that is from the first letter, i think. it is amazing because she really seems to have some insight into his psychology. we have other reports of how distraught he was that summer. these charges in the newspapers that somehow he had something to do with it were deeply wounding.
and, i think he recognized that he really was not qualified for the job. he had sort of ended up on the ticket by accident. was surprised to be there. he never imagined that he would be president. then all of a sudden, he is on the threshold of office. there are reports that right after he got the news that garfield had finally succumbed to his wounds, that his doorkeeper says a reporter comes to the door and he says, he can't come to the door right now, he is in his office, sobbing. he was a really emotional man and she really gets him. i think that is why he saved these letters. brian: more from the first letter. your kindest opponents will say, arthur will try to do right, he will not succeed though. making a president can't change him. but it can change them, she writes. great emergencies awake and generous traits which have laid dormant half a life.
if there is a spark of true nobility in you, now is the occasion to let it shine. faith in your better nature forces me to write you, but not to beg you to resign. do what is more difficult and brave. reform. reform what? scott: civil service reform is the major issue at the top of the agenda. it is at the top. civil service reformers are holding meetings in major american cities. they write songs about the cause. the amount of emotional toachment is hard for us imagine today. she is asking him to do that. to sort of return to the person he once was, the idealistic lawyer that helped desegregate new york city street cars. as he takes office and starts to do some of the things she wanted
him to do, specifically to push civil service reform, she says and subsequent letters encouraging him to carry on. saying, look, people say this is just window dressing, you don't mean it. i know better. you are surprising people but i am not surprised. i know who you really are. it is an extraordinary letter. brian: if you do not have these letters, what would your book be like? scott: my entry point into my book had to do with learning about these letters. learning about julia sand from the malarkey book. i thought i could build the book on the letters. people who had written books like this advised me it was too thin of a read to support the madee book and that it more sense to really tell the whole arthur story. you write a narrative, but also one that would be more of a traditional biography.
i think that was the right approach because you cannot really understand the julia sand letters and put them into context without knowing about chester's father who was this rigid preacher and abolitionist and moralist. and as about his career as a teacher and young lawyer in the civil war. he is a guy who started down a certain path and then veered off that path onto kind of a darker path in search of power and that happensme and to a lot of people. then he sort of got turned back. brian: before we run out of time, at what point did arthur do something about civil-service, and what impact did it have? what impact did have on conkling ? we talked about the stalwarts and the half-breeds who were for i believe.on
they go back to this scenario of , when did arthur do what she wanted him to do? his firsthe put it in annual message which we now call the union address. presidents did not go before congress then and deliver their address. and he called for civil service reform which surprised a lot of people given his history. it did not go anywhere. congress, no one in had an interest in pushing this thing because everyone and offended from it. they all did. and it was only after the election and 1882 when the got beaten pretty badly that there was a general sense among politicos that this had been a reaction against machine politics and against the status quo, and that really this momentum had now gotten to a point where it was time for
congress to do something. the did something called pendleton act which had been lingering for some time. and, arthur signed it which was nice but people noted at the time that as the executive he would have the ability to short-circuit this iffy wanted to. to stall, to not appoint the members of the new civil-service commission, etc. he surprised everybody and vigorously pursued these reforms groundwork for future reforms and a more expansive role for the federal government. he really does not get much credit for that, he really is not remembered at all. how many people when they go to madison square park in new york city, where you say there is a statue of chester arthur. i'll many people who walk by that statue have any idea what he did? scott: very, very few. i went there not too long ago
and it was deserted. thatnteresting thing about statue, a terrific bit of color is on the opposite corner there is a statue of conkling. typical, he had this kind of glaring look on his face, almost as if he is glaring at arthur, at the man in his view who was disloyal to the machine and was one of his old new york friends. as far as the country was concerned, he really did a great service. ryan: more from julius and, who was in her early 30's when to what these letters. have?ch education did she scott: i am not sure. one thing i was able to find out what she had a brother died in the civil war and when she makes reference to the entry getting ready to mourn garfield and many families are used to morning, ship personal experience.
to mourning, she had personal experience. brian: here is one she wrote near the elections in 1882. go back to washington. forget new york. remember that you are president. work only for the good of the country. bear in mind that a free country and bear in mind that in a free country, the only bulwark of power worth trusting is the affection of the people. scott: people thought he was meddling as president in the local and state campaigns. that sparked a backlash. people think many voters acted out in protest. after the election, there is a consensus that the voters had said loud and clear, we want reform. brian: she apparently noticed earth or look ill when he
visited and she remarked, you ought not to keep your malaria a secret and endure it so patiently. >> he was probably suffering from the bryce disease. and she noticed that. another bit of it advice that he took, a river was a giant earmark vehicle for members of congress. it started out as a way to fund improvements in the waterways. over time, in capitol hill, it became a christmas tree and everybody hung their personal pet projects on it. in some cases these senators and congressmen voting for it personally profited from the projects on it. so he personally vetoed the
bill, saying this has gotten out of control. the new york times and others praised him for that decision and said it was a terrific thing that he did. brian: here is another letter from april of 1882. she said, do you feel flattered how surprised people are when you do anything good? go on surprising them. i am never surprised because i expect it of you. had you done otherwise i would've been dismally disappointed. why did he pay any attention to her letters? there are some very strong criticisms of her. but why did he pay attention? scott: she touched something in him. she seems to have insight into his character and psychology that struck him. after he got the first letter, he did a little bit of research and found out her brother was theodore sand, he found out where he was and jotted it on a card. he was immediately struck by her tone, insight, boldness.
i would have loved, it would have been wonderful to have had some evidence, a diary, something where he could tell us in his own words what these letters meant to him. instead all we have is these bits of evidence. he followed a lot of the advice. he visited her to thank her out of nowhere. and when he died and asked that everything to be burned, he said he wanted these letters saved. we can only conclude these had meaning for him. brian: in his horse driven carriage, he did show up outside her door without any announcement.
what was the hardest part of doing this book? scott: i think the hardest part was that because he burned his papers, with the exception of the letters he wrote as a younger man, there is not a lot of written material that gives you insight into what he was thinking. you have to rely on the memories of the people around him. you have to rely on the newspapers of the time, which fortunately had vivid descriptions of him. once he became vice president, president, even before. ioa debt of gratitude to the reporters from the 19th century. we talk about my love of journalism. there were so many papers, particularly in new york, they job oft such a wonderful describing scenes, describing people, describing the way people thought. i mean, this was a time before interviewing. this was a new term.
but even so, they managed to really paint portraits that are just and valuable to someone years later. brian: and he other characters you saw at that time you might want to write the next con? scott: blaine is a great character. conkling is a wonderful character. there have been biographies that about him, not for a while but he is a larger-than-life figure. it is hard to imagine somebody like that in today's washington. civil service would not be what it was today without chester a. arthur? scott: i don't think it would be. he also started the rebuilding of the navy. which teddy roosevelt also accelerated as president. but i think that is his lasting legacy.
he was a creature of that time. it was the last thing people would have expected. brian: the name of this book is "the unexpected president: the life and times of chester a. arthur." our guest hass been scott greenberger. we thank you very much. scott: thank you. ♪ [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] announcer: to give us your comments about this program, visit us on q&a.org. our programs are also available as c-span podcasts. ♪ announcer: if you enjoyed this q&a, here are some other programs you might like. candace miller on her book, the
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