spoils system

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spoils system

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 Marcy 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 Jackson, 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 service 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).

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References in periodicals archive ?
* The failure of the patronage system demonstrated that the parties were not well designed to work for the good of the country.
Thomas bristles, with his "strung out and agonized" voice, against the facile interests and genre constraints of the patronage system. He struggles to reconcile his own desires as a poet more suited to writing for a secular but devotional audience with the social function of poetry among the aristocracy that serves as his patronage class.
His resentment was not of past governments that had mismanaged the country's finances and had to appeal to the IMF to keep the economy afloat, but rather the restrictions the IMF imposed on the Turkish economy that prevented Erdoy-an from quickly establishing his patronage system that would perpetuate his rule.
They said O'Brien ran a patronage system on steroids, creating a scheme in which he gave jobs to the friends of politicians, who in return routinely boosted the Probation Department budget.
"Unfortunately, we all share responsibility- and I'm referring mainly to the parties and successive governments- for the symptoms and disease of the patronage system present in the wider public sector, and which do not leave unaffected the National Guard (NG)," said Fokaides.
The state is still spending too much money on the patronage system. Worse, education and health care have been on the backburner.
Four years later another candidate ran our jail ads against us, won the race, and reinstituted the patronage system.
Significantly, power in Yemen comes from the bottom up from its patronage system, and not the top down where the same type of patronage system is weakened by power-hungry actors and greed.
Just across town, there is further evidence that masters of the patronage system are again dominating local politics.
Not all his efforts to find a patron were successful--his offer of service to Ferrante I, king of Naples, was not accepted--but in general the patronage system allowed him to make of his life a work of art that was inextricably intertwined with his poetry.