spoils system

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spoils system,

in U.S. history, the practice of giving appointive offices to loyal members of the party in power. The name supposedly derived from a speech by Senator William Learned MarcyMarcy, William Learned,
1786–1857, American politician, b. Southbridge, Mass. He settled in Troy, N.Y., where he practiced law and, after serving in the War of 1812, held local offices.
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 in which he stated, "to the victor belong the spoils." On a national scale, the spoils system was inaugurated with the development of two political parties, the Federalists and the Democratic Republicans, and was used by the earliest Presidents, particularly Thomas Jefferson. The system soon became entrenched in state politics and was practiced more extensively on a national scale during the administration of Andrew JacksonJackson, Andrew,
1767–1845, 7th President of the United States (1829–37), b. Waxhaw settlement on the border of South Carolina and North Carolina (both states claim him). Early Career

A child of the backwoods, he was left an orphan at 14.
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, who declared (1829) that the federal government would be bettered by having civil servants rotate in office. He replaced incumbent officeholders with members of his own party. Nevertheless, during Jackson's eight years in office not more than one fifth of officeholders were replaced. The dispensation of offices by strict party allegiance was followed in succeeding years and critical opposition grew. The corruption and inefficiency bred by the system reached staggering proportions in the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, and reaction against this helped bring about civil servicecivil service,
entire body of those employed in the civil administration as distinct from the military and excluding elected officials. The term was used in designating the British administration of India, and its first application elsewhere was in 1854 in England.
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 reform, which was inaugurated by creation of the Civil Service Commission in 1871. The spoils system has, however, continued for many federal offices and is even more prevalent in state and local governments.


See A. A. Hoogenboom, Outlawing the Spoils (1968); W. d. Foulk, Fighting the Spoilsmen (1974).

References in periodicals archive ?
The challenger wanted to get rid of the patronage system, but in order to win the election he talked about the jail.
Masoud of Harvard University said the return of "local kingpins" to elected office would raise questions about Egyptian democracy, adding the patronage system is "not ideal.
This terror is closely tied to the economic oppression of the patronage system of international commerce, a reciprocal system including the benefits of patrons and loyalty of clients.
Angelo, took full advantage of an archaic public employee patronage system.
As Yemen's water and oil resources dry up, it has become increasingly difficult for Saleh, 69, to fuel the patronage system which kept his tribal and political supporters loyal.
But 40 years on, the policy has been accused of fostering a rent-seeking mentality among Malays, and critics say government contracts have become a patronage system where contracts are awarded to loyal supporters of the ruling party.
A decade ago, facing crisis, Prime Minister Koizumi cleaned out the banks, increased transparency, allowed some (not enough) old firms to die, globalized somewhat, and started to cut the taproot of the structurally corrupt patronage system (the Postal Savings Bank).
But in Italy, she said, while the fight had been conducted by law enforcement and the judiciary, the conditions that constitute the breeding ground for organised crime had not been tackled yet: the patronage system, clientelism, the underdevelopment of parts of the Italian south--with a significant youth employment--creates a "reserve army" of people who could enter criminal organisations.
To make matters worse, Karzai issued a decree on February 13 permitting him to appoint all of the ECCAEs members, a measure clearly designed to strengthen the patronage system and weaken opposition movementsAE prospects in future elections and a strong demonstration that his administration is not serious about establishing greater C government accountability.
According to Halsall, Justinian might have succeeded in holding on to the empire had he returned to the effective patronage system of the fourth century that connected the local elite of the border areas to the centre of Rome.
16) The patronage system was the basis of an economy in which a handful of elites controlled all the resources and others were depended on their "beneficence.