Ballymena SDLP Councillor Declan O’Loan says more needs to be made of the local connection to President Chester A. Arthur.
Cllr O’Loan, who has been visiting Washington DC, says that the popular image of President Arthur, whose family lived in Arthur Cottage, Cullybackey, needs to be “revised”.
He said that Arthur was an interesting and successful politician who “deserves to be better known in the place which his father’s family left to make a new life in the United States”.
Mr O’Loan said: “I visited the Museum of American Art in Washington where there is a display of portraits of all the US Presidents. I noticed the very positive citation on the portrait of President Chester A. Arthur which contained information of which I was unaware.
“I had thought of Arthur as a man who became President by accident, who had a short and undistinguished term in office, and who was not re-elected. It is true that he was a Vice-President who became President only on the assassination of President Garfield. Even in that he showed quality for he did not grasp office when Garfield died a lingering death over two months. However, it was his stance when he assumed office that is interesting.
“Garfield was shot shortly after taking office so Arthur served nearly a full term. He had previously been a personal beneficiary of a system which gave substantial financial commissions to officials in addition to their salaries. There was now a wave of resentment against this system, and Arthur showed political courage and faced down opposition in his own Republican Party to bring in reforming legislation.
He also had a Presidential record in which he “did no harm” and when we look at the record of many Presidents, that is no small attribution,” said Cllr O’Loan.
He added: “President Arthur, as well as great success, suffered serious hardships. His wife died suddenly and he developed serious illness during his Presidency. That is probably the main reason why he was not a serious candidate for re-election and, in fact, he died a year after his term finished. I hope that we can do more in the rebuilt Arthur Cottage to promote this important connection we have with the American Presidency.”