Arthur MacArthur Sr.

Arthur MacArthur Sr. (January 26, 1815 – August 26, 1896) was a Scottish American immigrant, lawyer, and judge. He was the fourth Governor of Wisconsin and was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. He was the father of General Arthur MacArthur Jr., and the grandfather of General Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur is the modern spelling used by his descendants, but in documents from his own time his name was spelled McArthur.

The Honorable

Arthur MacArthur Sr.
Arthur macarthur sr.png
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia
In office
July 15, 1870 – April 1, 1887
Appointed byUlysses S. Grant
Preceded bySeat established by 16 Stat. 160
Succeeded byMartin V. Montgomery
4th Governor of Wisconsin
In office
March 21, 1856 – March 25, 1856
Preceded byWilliam A. Barstow
Succeeded byColes Bashford
5th Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin
In office
January 6, 1856 – January 4, 1858
GovernorWilliam A. Barstow
Coles Bashford
Preceded byJames T. Lewis
Succeeded byErasmus D. Campbell
Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge
for the 2nd Circuit
In office
January 1, 1858 – Fall 1869
Preceded byAlexander Randall
Succeeded byJason Downer
Personal details
Arthur McArthur

(1815-01-26)January 26, 1815
Glasgow, Scotland, UK
DiedAugust 26, 1896(1896-08-26) (aged 81)
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Resting placeRock Creek Cemetery
Washington, D.C.
Political party
Aurelia Belcher
(m. 1844; died 1864)

Mary E. Willcut
MotherSarah McArthur
RelativesDouglas MacArthur (grandson)
Alma materWesleyan University
Professionlawyer, judge

Education and careerEdit

Arthur MacArthur was born on January 26, 1815, in Glasgow, Scotland.[1] His parents were both MacArthurs from the western Scottish Highlands, but his father died before his birth. His mother, Sarah, remarried to Alexander Meggett, and, in 1828, the family immigrated to the United States, settling near Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

MacArthur attended Uxbridge and Amherst, but left school to help the family during the depression of 1837. He eventually graduated from Wesleyan University, in Connecticut, in 1840. He studied law in New York, and was admitted to the New York Bar in 1841.[1] He also became interested in politics while in New York, joining the Democratic Party.

While in New York, he met and fell in love with Aurelia Belcher, who convinced him to move to Massachusetts. He entered private practice in Springfield, Massachusetts,[1] and, in 1843, was a public administrator in Hampden County.[1] Around 1844, he married Aurelia, and, with financial assistance from her father, expanded his law practice. He successfully practiced law in New York and Massachusetts for several years, and, in 1849, moved with his wife and son to Milwaukee, in the new state of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin public officesEdit

In Wisconsin, MacArthur continued practicing law from 1849 to 1851, and resumed his interest in politics with the Democratic Party in the city. In 1851, he became City Attorney for Milwaukee. In the 1855 election, MacArthur was the Democratic Party nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin, running alongside incumbent Governor William A. Barstow. He defeated Republican Charles Sholes, of Kenosha, to become the 5th Lieutenant Governor of the state.[2]

1855 election disputeEdit

The 1855 election, however, also produced a controversy with the apparent re-election of Barstow by a mere 157 votes. Barstow's Republican opponent, Wisconsin state senator Coles Bashford, claimed fraud and challenged the results. On January 7, 1856, both Bashford and Barstow were sworn in as Governor of Wisconsin in separate ceremonies.[3]

The outgoing Attorney General, George Baldwin Smith, filed quo warranto proceedings to have Barstow removed, and the case Atty. Gen. ex rel. Bashford v. Barstow soon reached the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Barstow initially attempted to challenge the jurisdiction of the court over election results, but eventually relented, and, on March 21, 1856, sent his resignation to the Wisconsin Legislature.[3]

MacArthur, therefore, became the acting Governor of Wisconsin. Four days later, the Wisconsin Supreme Court unanimously decided in favor of Bashford, ruling that the results from several precincts from remote northern counties appeared fraudulent. MacArthur, though he had at first decided to hold the governor's office regardless of the court's decision, reconsidered and relinquished the governorship to Bashford.[3][4][5]

He resumed his duties as Lieutenant Governor, and officially remained in this position until the end of his term, January 1858.[3]

Wisconsin circuit courtEdit

In 1856, Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Levi Hubbell had resigned his seat on the 2nd Circuit, covering Milwaukee and Waukesha counties. Alexander Randall had been appointed to temporarily fill the seat, but a new election was scheduled for April 1857 to fill the remainder of the term.[6] Randall did not run in the election for a full term; MacArthur, while serving as Lieutenant Governor, ran for and was elected to the position without opposition, taking office the following year.[7][8] He was re-elected in 1863 and resigned in the fall of 1869.[9][3]

Washington, D.C.Edit

Federal judicial serviceEdit

MacArthur was nominated by President Ulysses S. Grant on July 15, 1870, to the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia (now the United States District Court for the District of Columbia), to a new Associate Justice seat authorized by 16 Stat. 160.[1] He was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 15, 1870, and received his commission the same day.[1] He served on the court for 17 years, and retired on April 1, 1887.[1]

Later lifeEdit

MacArthur remained a prominent member of Washington, D.C., society in his later years. He was a strong supporter of the National University, and served as a trustee, president of the Board of Regents, and Chancellor of the university. He was also President of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Children.[10]


Around 1844, MacArthur married Aurelia Belcher (1819–1864), the daughter of a wealthy industrialist.[10] They had two sons, Arthur Jr., born in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, in 1845, and Frank, born in Wisconsin in 1853.[10]

At the outbreak of the American Civil War, Arthur Jr., then sixteen, became passionate about the Union cause. MacArthur appealed directly to President Abraham Lincoln to secure an appointment for Arthur Jr. to the United States Military Academy, but the boy was so eager to join the Union cause, he deferred the academy to volunteer for service. MacArthur assisted his then-seventeen-year-old son in obtaining a commission as an adjutant and first lieutenant in the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, under Colonel Charles H. Larrabee.[4] Arthur Jr. went on to win the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Civil War, and pursued a career in the Army, eventually rising to the rank of Lieutenant General (three star), and serving as American Governor-General of the Philippines. Arthur Jr. was also the father of American five-star General and World War II hero Douglas MacArthur.[4]

After the death of his wife, Aurelia, MacArthur married Mary E. (Willcut) Hopkins (1824–1899), the widow of Benjamin F. Hopkins.[10]


MacArthur died on August 26, 1896, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.[1]

Electoral historyEdit

Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor (1855)Edit

Wisconsin Lieutenant Gubernatorial Election, 1855[2]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
General Election, November 6, 1855
Democratic Arthur MacArthur 38,040 51.97% -5.67%
Republican Charles Sholes 35,160 48.03%
Plurality 2,880 3.93% -11.83%
Total votes 73,200 100.0% +31.13%
Democratic hold

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "MacArthur, Arthur - Federal Judicial Center".
  2. ^ a b "The Official Canvass". Daily Free Democrat. December 19, 1855. p. 2. Retrieved December 18, 2020 – via
  3. ^ a b c d e "McArthur, Arthur 1815 – 1896". Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Perret, Geoffrey (1996). Old Soldiers Never Die: The Life of Douglas MacArthur. New York City: Random House, Inc. p. 3. ISBN 9780679428824. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  5. ^ 3 governors held office within weeks, Dennis McCann. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 10, 1998.
  6. ^ "April Session of the Circuit Court - Meeting of the Bar - A Pleasing Occasion". Wisconsin State Journal. April 22, 1857. p. 2. Retrieved December 18, 2020 – via
  7. ^ "Janesville Standard". The Daily Milwaukee News. March 29, 1857. p. 2. Retrieved December 18, 2020 – via Lieut. Gov. McArthur has consented to be a candidate for Circuit Judge in the 2d Judicial Circuit; of course he will be elected...
  8. ^ "Free Democrat". Richland County Observer. April 15, 1857. p. 2. Retrieved December 18, 2020 – via Arthur McArthur, by default of the Republican party, has been elected without opposition, Judge of the 2d Judicial Circuit, for the next six years.
  9. ^ "Democratic Nominee for Circuit Judge". Semi-Weekly Wisconsin. March 31, 1863. p. 4. Retrieved December 18, 2020 – via
  10. ^ a b c d Reed, Parker McCobb (1882). The Bench and Bar of Wisconsin: History and Biography, with Portrait Illustrations. P. M. Reed. pp. 128–130. Retrieved June 9, 2019.

Further readingEdit

  • Beaton, D (2002). "Douglas MacArthur's Ancestors — a new Perspective". Journal of the Clan Campbell Society (North America). 29 (4): 48.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
James T. Lewis
Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Erasmus D. Campbell
Preceded by
William A. Barstow
Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Coles Bashford
Legal offices
Preceded by
Alexander W. Randall
Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge for the 2nd Circuit
Succeeded by
Jason Downer
Preceded by
Seat established by 16 Stat. 160
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia
Succeeded by
Martin V. Montgomery