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The Mysterious Mr. Hinman

I was slumming over on Donofrio’s Native Born Citizen site trying to separate a little truth from fiction about our dearly departed President Chester A. Arthur and found that some of Donofrio’s information comes third hand from Mr. Arthur P. Hinman, who the New York times described back in the day as a “Democratic operative.” The times reported that Hinman came sniffing around Franklin County, Vermont (Arthur’s birthplace) looking for records.

ST. ALBANS, Vt., Dec. 21.–”A stranger arrived here a few days ago, and registered at the American House as A. P. Hinman, of New-York. Since then he has been very busy in the adjoining town of Fairfield, ostensibly collecting materials for a biography of Vice-President-elect Arthur. He has privately stated to leading Democratic citizens, however, that he is employed by the Democratic National Committee to obtain evidence to show that Gen. Arthur is an unnaturalized foreigner. He claims to have discovered that Gen. Arthur was born in Canada, instead of Fairfield; that his name is Chester Allen instead of Chester Abell [sic]; that he was 50 years old in July instead of October, as has been stated, and generally that he is an alien and ineligible to the office of Vice-President.

The New York Times, 1880

So we have a professional smearbot from the 19th century feeding into a 21st century controversy. Hinman published a little 90-paged book entitled How A British Subject Became President of the United States. One must greet Mr. Hinman with a good bit of skepticism because the thesis of his book was that President Arthur was born in Canada, which isn’t true according to Arthur biographers (including Thomas C. Reeves’ definitive biography Gentleman Boss).

How a British Subject became President of the United States (1844) is now available exclusively here at (3.5 Mb). A higher resolution version is available upon request.

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