The Significance of the Spoils System.— The continuous progress of the spoils system from a few States to the nation, from the nation into other States, from one party to the other, until it became a thoroughly national institution, indicates that it possessed some prin ciple of vitality. The reasons thus far offered are insufficient to explain its growth. No prac tice could become so firmly fixed unless it served some fundamental lasting use. The spoils sys tem was in fact a concomitant and probably a necessary one, of the democratic revolution which made Jackson President in 1829 and es tablished the rule of the people in the United States. The people cannot govern unless organ ized. They may overthrow old leaders in a revolution, they may elect new leaders by a plebiscite, they may even determine the policy of the government in moments of great national enthusiasm, but they cannot exert a steady con trol of the details of adminstration unless their lagging interest is kept up and their views given a means of expression by organization. Organ ization, however, requires leaders, not only lead ers of ten thousands, who receive a reward of glory, but humble leaders of tens, ward-heelers, who enjoy little honor. Public interest attracts some to perform this function, but a sensitive democracy requires that these men shall be of the not men of wealth; it would not have politics a business of class, as it largely is in England. Now, however public-spirited a poor man is, he has to earn a living. Such motives, moreover, would not attract a sufficient number. Material inducements are necessary and some substantial means of supporting party organization must be found. To supply this is the function of the spoils system. The civil list becomes the pay-roll of the party and the recipients of public salaries are expected to serve the nation in the double capacity of work ing officials and party organizers. The rise of the spoils system was, then, inextricably joined with the rise of party organization and of demo cratic government and this connection has con tinued to the present day (1916), although it has ceased, since the 80's, to be the controlling factor in national politics and in most localities.
The Struggle for the fol lows from this inter-relation of the spoils sys tem and party organization that the control of the patronage would often mean control of the party. Hence the struggle to secure this control became very bitter, and raged not merely be tween the two parties but also between the different branches of the government. The Constitution gives the House of Representatives no share whatsoever in the appointing power. In 1826, however, it was proposed that the dele gations select the newspapers to be given the printing of the laws. In 1862 each member was allowed the appointment of two cadets at An napolis and in 1899 General Grosvenor proposed that all government offices be divided equally among the Congressional districts and that the recommendations of the congressmen he requisite for appointment. The Senate, on the other hand, possesses rights under the Con stitution and has always fought to have them respected. In 1789 Congress decided that the Senate had no power over removals. This in terpretation was continually attacked, but for a long time unsuccessfully. The House of Rep resentatives did not sympathize and a two-thirds majority would be necessary to override the almost inevitable veto of the President. Under Johnson, however, circumstances were favor able. The executive power had grown abnor mal during the war ; the patronage had become so extensive that it was feared even before the death of Lincoln; the actual President was hated, and his opponents had a two-thirds ma jority. In 1867 the Tenure of Office Act was passed, providing that Presidential officers could be removed only with the advice and consent of the Senate. The friends of Presi dent Grant procured the modification of this act in 1869, but, in spite of protests and with little to say in its defense, the Senate main tained the law until 1887, when finally it was repealed and the interpretation of 1789 restored.
The Machinery of the Spoils System.— While legally the President has maintained his power except for this short period, in actual practice he has long been greatly restricted. It is of course impossible for him to be personally cognizant of the conditions and the qualifica tions of candidates for all the positions scattered over the country. Assistance has always been necessary and it has been natural to consult the members of Congress best acquainted with the locality. This was done from the founda tion of the government, but with the develop ment of the spoils system, the requests for ad vice became more a matter of routine and the obligation to accept it became more binding ; the discretion of the central government became a smaller factor. All representatives in sym pathy with the party in power began to expect as a matter of course to control the appoint merit of minor officers, as rural postmasters, within their districts. Lincoln's correspondence shows that in 1849 he considered this a well established rule, and as President he abided by it. Often courtesy extends this privilege to congressmen of an opposing party, notably to those from the South, and in cases where a fixed number of new offices is created for every Congressional district, as in the census appoint ments for 1900. With regard to all local offices of the Presidential class, the senators from the State in question expect to be consulted. In the early history of the spoils system, the delegations composed of all members of Con gress from the several States settled such ques tions; under Pierce, they dictated nearly all important appointments. Lincoln wrote that the two Rhode Island senators, the two old repre sentatives, and one of the new ones, combined in favor of one candidate, and added: °While under peculiar circumstances a single member or two may be overruled, I believe as strong a combination as the present never has been?) After the passage of the Tenure of Office Act, the senators waxed in power at the expense of the representatives, their assumption reach ing its height when Conkling and Platt in 1881 retired from the Senate because they were not allowed to control the New York appointments. The repeal of this law, however, has not re stored the delegation to its former position; Senatorial courtesy) still gives a senator. a practical veto on appointments from his State, as the other senators, disregarding party lines, will generally vote with him against a nominee whom he considers personally objectionable. General and foreign appointments are often times divided pro rata among the States and assigned in the same way as the local offices. This was understood in 1849, was a fixed rule under Pierce and has been the general practice ever since. The extension of the influence of members of Congress curtailed that of the sec retaries of departments, and the limits of their respective powers have always been a source of difficulty. Under Pierce, it seems to have been the practice to allow the secretary at least a nominal veto on all nominations to offices within his department. Lincoln was in clined at first to overlook this, and had much difficulty with Secretary Chase in regard to it. The personality of the secretary has much to do with his influence, but few of them exert very much at present, except as advisers of the President. The latter dispenses comparatively little patronage directly, but as the final arbiter in disputes between senators and representa tives, holding in his hands the whole situation and adjusting the various interests, he has a power which makes even a weak man powerful and a strong man party dictator. The boss exerts his influence through some of these agen cies: as the friend of the President, as a mem ber of Congress or as the political mentor of congressmen. The whole is now highly system atized; the Treasury Department can tell in a moment by its card catalogue how many men every congressman has recommended, how many have been appointed and what congress man recommended every appointive officer.