Jackson Introduces the Spoils System.— The election of Jackson was brought about by the combination of these two elements. Van Buren had brought the support of the organized Democracy of the North and East, of the politicians and the people that they represented. Jackson himself stood for the frontier democ racy, with its confidence in itself and distrust of those it did not understand. The enormous crowd of office-seekers at Washington on 4 March 1829 left no doubt as to what course the government was expected to pursue. It is use less to discuss the personal responsibility of Jackson and Van Buren for the subsequent course of the administration. They were but carrying out a policy in which they believed and which the people had elected them to put into effect.
Of 610 officers of the Presidential class, that is, those appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, 252 were re moved during Jackson's administration. This number is not large, but there are facts which make this proscription the most noteworthy in our history. The majority of the removals were made in the spring and summer of 1829 and so attracted more attention than those of Jefferson, which were scattered through several years. Among those changed, moreover, were Included nearly all the important officers, many of whom controlled large numbers of subor dinates and carried on proscriptions of their own. In addition, the removals were to some extent localized, for few were made in the old South. In the North and West, then, by far the greater proportions of the salaries and influence of the national service changed hands. The specially distinguishing feature of this pro scription, however, was the nature of the quali fications for office demanded. Up to this time, ability to perform the duties of the office, geographical fitness, good local standing and political opinions in sympathy with the appoint ing power had been required with varying emphasis. 'Service to the party was sometimes rewarded, but incidentally, at no time being actually' essential. Under Jackson, ability be came incidental, and party service the main re quirement, not only past service but future use fulness as well. Newspapers were then not generally self-supporting and many editors received offices to enable them to pay their debts and improve their papers. Nor was loyalty to party alone sufficient. Unless one were a friend of Jackson or could obtain his ear, it was decidedly advantageous to belong to the Calhoun faction, and have his friend, Gen. Duff Green, editor of the United States Telegraph, press one's suit; or to advo cate the succession of Van Buren and receive the aid of the powerful interests he represented. By 1831 the salaries of office-holders were oc casionally assessed for party purposes, and, by the close of the administration, this practice was well recognized. The spoils system had been introduced into the national service: the question of its continuance remained.
The Whigs Establish the Spoils System. —The opponents of Jackson seized upon his administration of the civil service with avidity. They could not conceive that the people would endorse a practice that appeared so impolitic and wasteful. The Senate did not reject many of his nominations, but in 1831 several resolu tions were introduced to show its disapproval and in 1835 an elaborate plan to regulate the control of the patronage was formulated. Web
ster, Clay, White and Calhoun delivered able speeches filled with high ideals of public serv ice. When examined, however, the plan pro posed is found to be purely an attempt to limit the power of the executive. The President was to present to the Senate the reasons for removals. Jackson refused to yield. His friends defeated the Senate's proposal, those whose nominations were rejected received componsa don in other ways, and on 10 Feb. 1835 he peremptorily refused to send to the Senate any information concerning the removal of Gideon Fitz, asserting, that that body had no right whatsoever to investigate removals. While no tangible results were obtained by this senatorial opposition, the patronage was to play a prom inent part in the campaign of 1840. The crisis of 1837 struck a staggering blow at the civil service. Public servants who had speculated with government funds were caught without property to pay their loans: of 67 land officers, 64 were said to have been at one time in de fault. This condition was partly due to down right dishonesty, as in the case of a Samuel Swartwort, collector at New York; more, and especially in the West, to lack of business edu cation. A treasury agent wrote of ea certain looseness in the code of morality, which here does not move in so limited a circle as it does with us at home? Some such experience was inevitable in so great a crisis. Its extent was due to the carelessness with which appoint ments had been made, and the Van Buren ad ministration suffered as if alone responsible for the spoils system and the breakdown in the civil service. Reform became one of the most popular issues of the campaign, and the method of dealing with the situation proposed by the Whigs, the limiting of the power of the execu tive, was one that appealed strongly to their Southern States rights supporters. To nothing did the election of Harrison so strongly commit his party as to the abolition of the spoils sys tem. Having come into power, they failed to enact their legislation planned in 1835, although in full control of Congress, and although the subject was brought up. To remove many of the incumbent officers was necessary to their reform, but in filling the vacancies thus created they were pledged to return to the pre-Jack sonian qualifications for office. Instead, while insisting upon ability somewhat more than Jackson had done, they continued to make party service the chief essential. The man appointed collector at New York was described to Peter B. Porter by Thurlow Weed as follows: ((Although not personally popular, [he] is repre sented as possessing an extraordinary share of tact or stratagem, and as being able, by his skill in planning and combining, and his un tiring industry in executing, to produce the most astonishing political results. That with the office of collector [which Weed considered as second only in importance to that of Post master General] he could on all important occasions, command the vote of the City of New York, and, per consequence, of the State.'" In 1841, then, the spoils system had been recognized by both parties and might be con sidered established.