Spoils system

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In memoriam--our civil service as it was, a political cartoon by Thomas Nast showing statue of Andrew Jackson on a pig, which is over "fraud", "bribery", and "spoils", eating "plunder". Included in Harper's Weekly on 28 April 1877, p. 325. In memorium--our civil service as it was.JPG
In memoriam--our civil service as it was, a political cartoon by Thomas Nast showing statue of Andrew Jackson on a pig, which is over "fraud", "bribery", and "spoils", eating "plunder". Included in Harper's Weekly on 28 April 1877, p. 325.

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.

Politics refers to a set of activities associated with the governance of a country, or an area. It involves making decisions that apply to members of a group.

A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, often a state.

A political party is an organized group of people who have the same ideology, or who otherwise have the same political positions, and who field candidates for elections, in an attempt to get them elected and thereby implement the party's agenda.

Contents

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.

Politics of the United States Political system of the United States of America

The United States is a federal republic in which the president, Congress and federal courts share powers reserved to the national government, according to its Constitution. The federal government shares sovereignty with the state governments.

Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act 1883 law of the US Congress establishing the United States Civil Service Commission

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.

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.

The term was derived from the phrase "to the victor belong the spoils" by New York Senator William L. Marcy, [1] [2] 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. [3]

William L. Marcy American politician

William Learned Marcy was an American lawyer, politician, and judge who served as U.S. Senator, Governor of New York, U.S. Secretary of War and U.S. Secretary of State. In the latter office, he negotiated the Gadsden Purchase, the last major acquisition of land in the continental United States.

Andrew Jackson 7th president of the United States

Andrew Jackson was an American soldier and statesman who served as the seventh president of the United States from 1829 to 1837. Before being elected to the presidency, Jackson gained fame as a general in the United States Army and served in both houses of Congress. As president, Jackson sought to advance the rights of the "common man" against a "corrupt aristocracy" and to preserve the Union.

Similar spoils systems are common in other nations that traditionally have been based on tribal organization or other kinship groups and localism in general.

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Origins

Before 1829, 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. An unruly mob of office seekers made something of a shambles of the event, and though some tried to explain this as democratic enthusiasm, the real truth was Jackson supporters had been lavished with promises of positions in return for political support. These promises were honored by an astonishing 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. [4] :328–33

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The Jackson administration attempted to explain this unprecedented purge as reform, or constructive turnover, 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. [4] :334

Presidency of Andrew Jackson Office Occupation

The presidency of Andrew Jackson began on March 4, 1829, when Andrew Jackson was inaugurated as President of the United States, and ended on March 4, 1837. Jackson, the seventh United States president, took office after defeating incumbent President John Quincy Adams in the bitterly-contested 1828 presidential election. During the 1828 presidential campaign, Jackson founded the political force that coalesced into the Democratic Party during Jackson's presidency. Jackson won re-election in 1832, defeating National Republican candidate Henry Clay by a wide margin. He was succeeded by his hand-picked successor, Vice President Martin Van Buren, after Van Buren won the 1836 presidential election.

A command hierarchy is a group of people who carry out orders based on others' authority within the group. It can be viewed as part of a power structure, in which it is usually seen as the most vulnerable and also the most powerful part.

Reform

By the late 1860s, citizens began demanding civil service reform. Running under the Liberal Republican Party in 1872, they 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.

See also

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George H. Pendleton American lawyer, politician and businessman

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References

  1. "Andrew Jackson | The White House". The White House. Retrieved 2010-09-05.
  2. "1314. Marcy William Learned (1786–1857). Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989". Bartleby.com. Retrieved 2010-09-05.
  3. "spoils" dictionary definition
  4. 1 2 Howe, Daniel W. (2007). What hath God Wrought, The Transformation of America, 1815-1848. Oxford University Press, Inc. ISBN   978-0-19-507894-7.

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