In politics and government, a spoils system (also known as a patronage system) is a practice in which a political party, after winning an election, gives government civil service jobs to its supporters, friends, and relatives as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for the party—as opposed to a merit system, where offices are awarded on the basis of some measure of merit, independent of political activity.
The term was used particularly in politics of the United States, where the federal government operated on a spoils system until the Pendleton Act was passed in 1883 due to a civil service reform movement. Thereafter the spoils system was largely replaced by a nonpartisan merit at the federal level of the United States.
The term was derived from the phrase "to the victor belong the spoils" by New York Senator William L. Marcy,referring to the victory of Andrew Jackson in the election of 1828, with the term spoils meaning goods or benefits taken from the loser in a competition, election or military victory.
Similar spoils systems are common in other nations that traditionally have been based on tribal organization or other kinship groups and localism in general.
Before 1828, moderation had prevailed in the transfer of political power from one U.S. president to another. Andrew Jackson's first inauguration, March 4, 1829, signaled a sharp departure from the past. A group of office seekers attended the event, explaining it as democratic enthusiasm. Jackson supporters had been lavished with promises of positions in return for political support. These promises were honored by a large number of removals after Jackson assumed power. At the beginning of Jackson's administration, fully 919 officials were removed from government positions, amounting to nearly 10 percent of all government postings. 328–33:
The Jackson administration aimed at creating a more efficient system where the chain of command of public employees all obeyed the higher entities of government. The hardest changed organization within the federal government proved to be the post office. The post office was the largest department in the federal government, and had even more personnel than the war department. In one year 423 postmasters were deprived of their positions, most with extensive records of good service. 334:
By the late 1860s, citizens began demanding civil service reform. Running under the Liberal Republican Party in 1872, they [ clarification needed ] were soundly defeated by Ulysses S. Grant.
After the assassination of James A. Garfield by a rejected office-seeker in 1881, the calls for civil service reform intensified. Moderation of the spoils system at the federal level came with the passage of the Pendleton Act in 1883, which created a bipartisan Civil Service Commission to evaluate job candidates on a nonpartisan merit basis. While few jobs were covered under the law initially, the law allowed the President to transfer jobs and their current holders into the system, thus giving the holder a permanent job. The Pendleton Act's reach was expanded as the two main political parties alternated control of the White House every election between 1884 and 1896. After each election the outgoing President applied the Pendleton Act to jobs held by his political supporters. By 1900, most federal jobs were handled through civil service and the spoils system was limited only to very senior positions.
The separation between the political activity and the civil service was made stronger with the Hatch Act of 1939 which prohibited federal employees from engaging in many political activities.
The spoils system survived much longer in many states, counties and municipalities, such as the Tammany Hall machine, which survived well into the 1930s when New York City reformed its own civil service. Illinois modernized its bureaucracy in 1917 under Frank Lowden, but Chicago held on to patronage in city government until the city agreed to end the practice in the Shakman Decrees of 1972 and 1983.
Modern variations on the spoils system are often described as the political machine.
Meritocracy is a political system in which economic goods and/or political power are vested in individual people on the basis of talent, effort, and achievement, rather than wealth or social class. Advancement in such a system is based on performance, as measured through examination or demonstrated achievement. Although the concept of meritocracy has existed for centuries, the term itself was coined in 1958 by the sociologist Michael Dunlop Young in his satirical essay The Rise of the Meritocracy.
The postmaster general of the United States is the chief executive officer of the United States Postal Service. Megan Brennan is the current postmaster general, having delayed her original January 31, 2020 retirement.
The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act is a United States federal law passed by the 47th United States Congress and signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur on January 16, 1883. The act mandates that most positions within the federal government should be awarded on the basis of merit instead of political patronage.
The civil service is a collective term for a sector of government composed mainly of career bureaucrats hired on professional merit rather than appointed or elected, whose institutional tenure typically survives transitions of political leadership. A civil servant or public servant is a person so employed in the public sector employed for a government department or agency. Civil servants work for government departments, and answer to the government, not a political party. The extent of civil servants of a state as part of the "civil service" varies from country to country. In the United Kingdom, for instance, only Crown employees are referred to as civil servants whereas country or city employees are not.
George Hunt Pendleton was an American politician and lawyer. He represented Ohio in both houses of Congress and served as the Democratic nominee for Vice President of the United States in 1864.
The Mugwumps were Republican political activists who switched parties from the Republican Party by supporting Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland in the presidential election of 1884. They switched because they rejected the financial corruption associated with Republican candidate James G. Blaine. In a close election, the Mugwumps supposedly made the difference in New York state and swung the election to Cleveland. The jocular word "mugwump", noted as early as 1832, is from Algonquian mugquomp, "important person, kingpin", implying that they were "sanctimonious" or "holier-than-thou" in holding themselves aloof from party politics.
The merit system is the process of promoting and hiring government employees based on their ability to perform a job, rather than on their political connections. It is the opposite of the spoils system.
Patronage is the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another. In the history of art, arts patronage refers to the support that kings, popes, and the wealthy have provided to artists such as musicians, painters, and sculptors. It can also refer to the right of bestowing offices or church benefices, the business given to a store by a regular customer, and the guardianship of saints. The word "patron" derives from the Latin: patronus ("patron"), one who gives benefits to his clients.
The United States Civil Service Commission was a government agency of the federal government of the United States and was created to select employees of federal government on merit rather than relationships. In 1979, it was dissolved as part of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978; the Office of Personnel Management and the Merit Systems Protection Board are the successor agencies.
The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, (CSRA), reformed the civil service of the United States federal government, partly in response to the Watergate scandal. The Act abolished the U.S. Civil Service Commission and distributed its functions primarily among three new agencies: the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), and the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA).
Historians and political scientists consider the Second Party System to be a term of periodization to designate the political party system operating in the United States from about 1828 to 1854, after the First Party System ended. The system was characterized by rapidly rising levels of voter interest, beginning in 1828, as demonstrated by Election Day turnouts, rallies, partisan newspapers, and high degrees of personal loyalty to parties.
The United States federal civil service is the civilian workforce of the United States federal government's departments and agencies. The federal civil service was established in 1871. U.S. state and local government entities often have comparable civil service systems that are modeled on the national system, in varying degrees.
The George H. Pendleton House is a historic house at 559 Liberty Hill in the Prospect Hill Historic District of Cincinnati, Ohio. It was built in 1870 in the French Second Empire style. From 1879 until his death in 1889, this was the residence of Senator George Hunt Pendleton (1825-89). As a U.S. Senator (1879-1885), Pendleton spearheaded civil service reform, meeting here in 1882 to draft the Pendleton Act, which created the Civil Service merit system. The building, now in mixed commercial and residential use, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.
The "Half-Breeds" were a political faction of the United States Republican Party in the late 19th century.
The presidency of Chester A. Arthur began on September 19, 1881, when Arthur became the 21st President of the United States upon the assassination and death of President James A. Garfield, and ended on March 4, 1885. Arthur, a Republican, had been Vice President of the United States for only 199 days when he succeeded to the presidency. In ill health and lacking the full support of his party by the end of his term, Arthur made only a token effort for the Republican nomination in the 1884 presidential election. He was succeeded by Democrat Grover Cleveland.
Chester Alan Arthur was an American attorney and politician who served as the 21st president of the United States from 1881 to 1885. Previously the 20th vice president, he succeeded to the presidency upon the death of President James A. Garfield in September 1881, two months after Garfield was shot by an assassin.
U.S. civil service reform was a major issue in the late 19th century at the national level, and in the early 20th century at the state level. Proponents denounced the distribution of government offices—the "spoils"—by the winners of elections to their supporters as corrupt and inefficient. They demanded nonpartisan scientific methods and credential be used to select civil servants. The five important civil service reforms were the two Tenure of Office Acts of 1820 and 1867, Pendleton Act of 1883, the Hatch Acts and the CSRA of 1978.
Human resource management in public administration concerns human resource management as it applies specifically to the field of public administration. It is considered to be an in-house structure that ensures unbiased treatment, ethical standards, and promotes a value-based system.
According to the United States Office of Government Ethics, a political appointee is "any employee who is appointed by the President, the Vice President, or agency head". As of 2016, there are around 4,000 political appointment positions which an incoming administration needs to review, and fill or confirm, of which about 1,200 require Senate confirmation.
Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347 (1976), is a United States Supreme Court decision regarding political speech of public employees. The Court ruled in this case that federal employees may be active members in a political party, but cannot allow patronage to be a deciding factor in work related decisions. The court upheld the decision by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the respondent.
|Look up spoils in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|