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Publisher's Summary

Despite his promising start as a young man, by his early 50s Chester A. Arthur was known as the crooked crony of New York machine boss Roscoe Conkling. For years Arthur had been perceived as unfit to govern, not only by critics and the vast majority of his fellow citizens but by his own conscience. As President James A. Garfield struggled for his life, Arthur knew better 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 brave, going up against the very forces that had controlled him for decades. He surprised everyone - and gained many enemies - when he swept house and took on corruption, civil rights for Blacks, and issues of land for Native Americans.

A mysterious young woman deserves much of the credit for Arthur's remarkable transformation. Julia Sand, a bedridden New Yorker, wrote Arthur nearly two dozen letters urging him to put country over party, to find "the spark of true nobility" that lay within him. At a time when women were barred from political life, Sand's letters inspired Arthur to transcend his checkered past - and changed the course of American history.

©2017 Scott S. Greenberger (P)2018 Tantor

What listeners say about The Unexpected President

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Exceptional

The presidents that served after the Civil War seem to have been forgotten. Therefore, I enjoyed Greenberger’s new biography of Chester A. Arthur (1829-1886). Arthur was an attorney who was part of Roscoe Conkling’s political machine in New York. Arthur became the vice president for James A. Garfield (1831-1881) and became president on Garfield’s assassination. Arthur served as our 21st president from 1881 to 1885. He was known as a corrupt politician but managed to rise above his reputation and was a successful president. Arthur enacted the first general federal immigration law. He reformed the civil service and modernized the navy. You might say he rose to the standard of the office.

The book is well written and meticulously researched. I am impressed with Greenberger’s research as Arthur is one of the presidents that had little information stored in the archives. The author also had access to Arthur’s papers held in a safe deposit box by a relative. Greenberger paints Arthur in a favorable manner but did not down play the corruption. The author reveals Arthur as a product of his time. I not only learned about Arthur but what life and politics were like at the time. This is an easy to read biography packed with lots of information. This is a great resource to learn about the post-civil war period.

The book is eleven and a half hours. Paul Heitsch does a great job narrating the book. Heitsch is a recording engineer and sound designer as well as an audiobook narrator.

10 people found this helpful

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unexpectedly great

Some presidential biographies are little difficult to get through when the narrator is too dry, but this narrator was fantastic. The book was also surprisingly interesting and a fascinating study of a fascinating man.

8 people found this helpful

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A Revelation

I've read 100's of presidential biographies. By the end, this book made me come to love Chester A Arthur. Job well done sir

12 people found this helpful

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Brings past president to life

I wish there were more biographies of the more obscure presidents. I had a negative view of Chester Arthur until I listened to this book. it gave me a good account of his whole life. it didn't seem sugar coated, but factual. The book kept me interested until the very end of the epilogue. I would recommend it to anyone interested in past presidents, and past American politics.

5 people found this helpful

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  • 04-14-18

An excellent look at a forgotten president

Sheds a whole new light on President Arthur, and how becoming president, and a “coach from the people” changed him for the better.

4 people found this helpful

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Interesting, informative biography

Narration: clear.

STORY; interesting and inspirational. Heartening to know that a leader an change for the better.

3 people found this helpful

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Must read!!!oops listen!!!!

I really learned a lot of new information about Chester Arthur. There was a magical feel to it



2 people found this helpful

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An unexpected pleasure

I enthusiastically recommend this well-researched book that tells the story of one of our less celebrated presidents, Chester A. Arthur. Anyone interested in 19th century America, and especially its political history, would enjoy this well-told story. At many points, the parallels between the political climate we now experience and that of the 1870s-1880s are hard to miss. The author’s even-handed treatment of the various political actors adds credibility to the narrative. The narration is also excellent.

1 person found this helpful

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Not very well written.

This book isn’t well written and the author weighs it down with extensive and minute detail. I was interested in the subject but disappointed in the book.

1 person found this helpful

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An excellent biography badly performed

The author explains that little original source material on Arthur is available, and perhaps this is an advantage because instead of providing dusty details, Greenberger often paints with a broad brush, providing a lively and colorful description of the extraordinary times in which Arthur lived and the context in which he became president. If you think the Republican Party seems fractured today, wait till you read what it was like in the Gilded Age!

Unfortunately, the performance often sounds like it was read by a voice synthesizer, detracting from the author's work.

2 people found this helpful