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  MacArthur, Arthur
NameArthur MacArthur
, Wisconsin , United States
Born January 26, 1815
DiedAugust 26, 1896 (81 years)
Last ModifedSarnstrom
Jun 21, 2007 10:34pm
Tags Scottish -
InfoArthur MacArthur, Sr. (January 26, 1815–August 26, 1896) was an American lawyer, judge, and politician who served as the acting governor of Wisconsin for four brief days in 1856, in the midst of an election scandal.

MacArthur was born in Glasgow, Scotland, the descendant of Highlander nobility through his father, who had died just seven days before his birth in 1815. His mother remarried and moved the family to Uxbridge, Massachusetts in 1828. MacArthur attended school briefly at Wesleyan College in Connecticut, but dropped out to help his family through a severe economic depression in 1837. He worked as a law clerk in Boston and then New York, and was admitted to the New York bar in 1841. Around 1844, he married Aurelia Belcher (1819 - 1864), the daughter of a wealthy industrialist. With the help of his father-in-law, MacArthur established a very successful legal practice in Springfield.

Differences in politics between the immigrant Democrat MacArthur and his conservative Whig in-laws soon led him to move his family from their influence. He set up a law office in New York City in 1845, and finally settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1849. MacArthur quickly befriended the powerful in his new home state, and was elected as the city attorney of Milwaukee in 1851. In 1855, he was offered the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, as running mate to the incumbent, William A. Barstow.

The election ended in scandal. Though Barstow was initially declared winner by a mere 157 votes, the result was challenged as a fraud by Barstow's opponent, the Republican Coles Bashford, and it was substantiated that election returns had been forged from non-existent precincts. Barstow kept hold of the office anyway, and as the rivals' militia forces converged on the state capital of Madison threatening to start a civil war, Barstow and MacArthur were inaugurated publicly on January 7, 1856. Despite his promises to hold onto the office at all costs, Barstow eventually realized that he was fighting a losing battle both legally and in public opinion, and resigned on March 21, 1856, four days before the Wisconsin Supreme Court resolved the controversy in favor of Bashford. MacArthur became acting governor upon Barstow's resignation and initially repeated his predecessor's resolve to remain in office. On March 25, however, when confronted face to face with a threat to use force from Bashford, a county sheriff, and a throng of Bashford's followers, MacArthur and his supporters vacated the Capitol. MacArthur finished his term as lieutenant governor, leaving office in 1857.

The election scandal somehow left MacArthur's reputation relatively unscathed, and he won election for two terms as a judge on the Wisconsin Second Judicial Circuit, from 1857 until 1869. In 1870, President Grant appointed MacArthur as an associate justice on the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia,1 a position that he held until his retirement in 1887. MacArthur spent his remaining years in Washington moving in high society, accepting speaking engagements, and writing books. He died in Atlantic City, New Jersey and was buried in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington.

MacArthur had two sons, Frank, and famed General Arthur MacArthur, Jr., for whom he had first secured an appointment to the United States Military Academy and then as a first lieutenant in the 24th regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers. Arthur Jr. was himself the father of a general of even greater fame, the World War II commander, Douglas MacArthur.


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Son Arthur MacArthur, Jr. 1845-1912
Grandson Arthur MacArthur, III 1876-1923
Grandson Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964

  03/20/1856 WI Governor - Acting Won 100.00% (+100.00%)