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Arthur MacArthur

Gov. Arthur MacArthur

  • March 21, 1856 - March 25, 1856
  • Democratic
  • January 26, 1815
  • August 26, 1896
  • Other
  • Wesleyan University
  • Married twice--Aurelia Belcher, Mary E. Hopkins; one child


Born in Glasgow, Scotland, ARTHUR MACARTHUR was brought to Massachusetts by his mother after his father died. He attended schools in Uxbridge and Amherst, Massachusetts, and graduated from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. After studying law in New York City, he practiced in both New York and Massachusetts before moving to Milwaukee, where he was appointed City Attorney in 1851. In 1855 he was nominated for Lieutenant Governor to run with incumbent Governor William Barstow. MacArthur won his election easily, while Barstow’s slim margin of victory was challenged by the Republican Party, resulting in his resignation shortly after taking the oath of office. However, because Democrats held the certificate of election, MacArthur felt bound to take over the governor’s office, and one of his few official acts was to prevent violence resulting from the gubernatorial dispute by removing arms and ammunition stored in the state Capitol. On March 25, 1856, Coles Bashford, the Republican challenger, visited the governor’s office and informed MacArthur that he intended to assume the governorship, peacefully if possible but by force if necessary. Realizing that representatives of both sides of the dispute were in the Capitol and armed, MacArthur did not resist but declared that he was being virtually ejected by force. Having served as governor for just four days, he returned to his position as Lieutenant Governor. In 1857, he was elected judge of the Second Circuit, which included Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties, a position that he held until 1869. In 1867 he was appointed U.S. Commissioner to the Paris Exposition, and in 1870, President Grant appointed him to the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. While living in the District, he was active in civic functions, serving as president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Children, and president of the District of Columbia Associated Charities. He died in Atlantic City, New Jersey and was buried in Washington, D.C.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 13. New York: James T. White & Company.

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