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24 the New Democracy and the Spoils System

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24. THE NEW DEMOCRACY AND THE SPOILS SYSTEM. The use of the appointing power to secure, in addition to the execution of the functions attached to the various offices, other purposes such as the en richment of one's family, the building up of personal or party support, the carrying out of some general policy, is as old as government, is probably inherent in government. The term spoils system in United States history is more definite 'than this. It is generally used to refer to a particular method of employing this power which was introduced into national politics at the time of Jackson's Presidency, and which from that time until the eighty's was, after the Constitution, the most important feat ure of American political machinery. Few important movements in our history have secured their first triumphs in the national government. The spoils system had long been tried out in various States before it became national. In Pennsylvania in 1799, in New York in 1801, Republican victories had been followed by the wholesale removal of Fed eralists. The swiftly succeeding party changes brought retaliations, and both parties were soon oommitted to the practice. Popular approba tion confirmed it, and popular apathy allowed appointments to he made more and more ex clusively for political reasons. The New York constitution of 1820 embodied an attempt at reform. The spoils system was, however, too firmly intrenched to yield, and the Albany Re gency, a combination of politicians skiltul in making use of appointive offices for political purposes, and in controlling the minor elective offices by means of caucuses, became the dominant power in the State. The advantages of the spoils system in building up and holding together a political organization did not escape the attention of politicians of other States. Proscriptions were carried out in Rhode Is land in 1810, in Massachusetts in 1813, and, while they were unpopular and did not lead to a permanent introduction of the spoils system there, they indicate that in these States, and probably in others, there existed a class anxious to see the public offices turned over to the politicians. Debarred from using the State service for their purposes, such men naturally looked to the national salaries; nor in this were they alone. The more fortunate politi

cians of New York and Pennsylvania had al ready a little tinged with politics the national service in their States, but they would not rest satisfied until they could elect to the Presi dency a man who approved their principles and would make the spoils system national. The existing state of affairs was displeasing not to the politicians only, but to the people, particularly those of the frontier States. Thc wholesome distrust of life-tenure in execu tive and legislative office, which had been so keen during the Revolutionary period, had ex tended to administrative office; the reasons for regulation had been forgotten and limitation had come to be considered as an end in itself. State constitutions and laws began to substitute a fixed term for tenure during epleasurel) or behavior,* and in 1820 Congress limited to four years the tenure of the majority of United States officials. Such legislative action did not immediately lead, and was not intended to lead to, actual change; it was to give the people the power to make such change, if neces sary. In 1828 there was a popular feeling that the time had come. The long tenure, and in some cases too eminent respectability, the book learning, of the existing servants of the people, had made them for some time feared and dis trusted. In this situation the charge of ebar gain and corruption* against Adams and Clay seemed proof positive: the case against the civil service was complete. Joined to this dis trust of those in authority was a superb con fidence in the honesty and capacity of the peo ple. Jackson said in his first annual message: The duties of all public offices are, or at least admit of being made, so plain and simple that men of intelligence may readily qualify them selves for their performance; and I cannot but believe that more is lost by the long continuance of men in office than is generally to be gained by their experience? The frontier did not be lieve in the expert; the typical American was a eack of all trades.

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