spoils system

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Related to spoils system: Rotation in office

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 study relates to the use of the merits-based employment system, in which competences, qualifications and knowledge are key requirements for hiring, versus the spoils system, in which different criteria are employed, such as kinship, party membership, bribe, acquaintances.
28) From this perspective, when Senator Marcy unintentionally named the spoils system by bruiting that he perceived "nothing wrong in the rule that to the victors belong the spoils of the enemy," he was not justifying might-makes-right but rather the contrary: He was pointing out that in a Jacksonian democracy the "victor" would be the people and that their use of "spoils" would protect democracy from illegitimate power generated in sinecures previously beyond popular reach.
The civil service system was built as a bulwark against excessive political partisanship and the spoils system.
Flake's mission now, as he outlines it to me, is nothing less than the dismantling of DeLay-ism, the spoils system by which the former majority leader achieved and retained power.
Jackson's embrace of the spoils system bolstered his power further.
In turn, important state institutions that determine how these resources may be allocated and utilized include the electoral system, the framework of central-local relations, and the spoils system in civil service appointments.
Not only does this open the way for the return of the spoils system, it sets a precedent for busting government employee unions.
The bonuses for political appointees reek of the 19th century spoils system, in which presidents rewarded political supporters with jobs.
The government's program is the systematic application of a spoils system, neglecting any kind of merit evaluation or analysis of the situation in favor of a simple political division of key positions," commented Barbera, echoing widespread criticism.
I oppose this bill, my fellow colleagues, because I remember what it was like before we created a system that sought to reduce partisanship and take our judges out of the spoils system.
Political historians and scientists maintain that the spoils system did not confine itself to cycling office-holders through the federal bureaucracy with each presidential election; those office-holders, however temporary, were expected to work actively on behalf of the local party, including kicking back a part of their salary to the party coffers, canvassing constituencies for votes during and after elections, and generally using the office to advance the party's agenda at the local level.