Andrew Jackson and the Spoils System
Small “r” republican John C. Calhoun of South Carolina predicted the result when political victory became a license for partisan favors to be distributed to base and corrupt party men.
Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865
Andrew Jackson and the Spoils System:
“[For] the first forty years of our history were singularly free from the spoils system, with the coming of Andrew Jackson, “the man of perpetual fury,” all this had been changed. Jackson frankly divided the spoils of political victory with his fellow Democrats and established a precedent which successive administrations, Democrat, Whig and Republican alike, had eagerly followed, till slowly, but with terrible certainty, the partisan conception had grown into a system, generally accepted as an unavoidable incident of popular government.
There had, of course, always been indignant protestants. Calhoun, in 1835, declared:
“So long as the offices were considered as public trusts, to be conferred on the honest, the faithful and capable, for the common good, and not for the benefit or gain of the incumbent or his party, and so long it was the practice of the Government to continue in office those who faithfully performed their duties, its patronage, in point of fact, was limited to the mere power of nominating to accidental vacancies or to newly created offices, and would, of course, exercise but a moderate influence either over the body of the community or over the office holders themselves; but when this practice was reversed – when offices, instead of being considered as public trusts, to be conferred on the deserving, were regarded as the spoils of victory, to be bestowed as rewards for partisan service – it is easy to see the certain, direct and inevitable tendency . . . to convert the entire body of those in office into corrupt and supple instruments of power, and to raise up a host of hungry, greedy and subservient partisans, ready for every service, however base and corrupt.”
(Grover Cleveland, The Man and the Statesman, Volume I, Harper & Brothers, 1923, pp. 121-122)